Ann is a SEND Blogger. She offers stories, information and some opinion about parenting her three kids, some of whom happen to have autism (plus a few other things).
It’s 1.59pm and the midwife is coming to see me at 2pm. I’m still half naked in bed and I hear the knock at the door.
“I’ll let her in, are you ok to come down the stairs?” my hubby yells from the kitchen.
“I’m coming!” I shout back.
I carefully lay Anthony on the bed and whilst not taking my eyes off him for fear of something happening, I pull on a crumpled dressing gown and scrabble around on the floor looking for the belt. I can’t find it and grab a tie from one of the maternity tops that is also lying on the floor next to my bed.
I come down the stairs carrying Anthony and see the midwife taking a seat on the sofa. I sit opposite her.
“How are you?” she asks.
I burst into tears.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed.”
I’d never really thought properly about breast feeding or not. In the antenatal classes they had talked about breast and bottle feeding. I guess I’d always assumed I would breast feed my children as it seemed to be what breasts were for. Amongst the other mums in the group it appeared to be the favoured idea.
I was asked “Are you planning to breast feed?”
“Err, yes I guess so.” was my response.
Everyone else had opinion and had thought about this – I had not. I was working and didn’t think duplicating classes with the NCT was something I’d have time for. I wondered if the expectant mums there would also have strong opinions.
All I knew was that things don’t always work out as you plan. I’d heard more stories of birth plans not happening than happening and figured breast feeding may be another one of these. I had no specific goal, although breast feeding for a year seemed to be mentioned by a few of the other mums. In the week before I was due I bought a starter bottle/pump/sterlizer set, just incase. My baby didn’t appear to be sleeping or feeding – I was beside myself. Within 24 hours of being home I’d been into the set to get the dummy that came with it. I hadn’t really got an opinion on dummies either. Just as well really. Turns out my kids would need me to flexible and adapt to their needs for the rest of their lives.
At that first home visit, where I’d so obviously been ‘overwhelmed’, the midwife squeezed my nipples – that was weird. But she confirmed I was producing milk and I was doing ok. Anthony wasn’t about to expire in my arms. As the days turned into weeks Anthony gained some of weight, but feeding didn’t go great. Life became a series of pillow propping exercises to get everything just right. After the midwife was happy I was producing milk, our health visitor suggested I could check in at a breast feeding clinic if I wanted to. At the clinic, they watched me feed Anthony for five minutes, said his latch was good and that he was feeding. They pointed out all the things I already knew to look for that indicated he was feeding properly.
By the time Anthony was three months old we were keeping a detailed feeding diary to see why he wasn’t gaining weight like he should. He was just not feeding for long enough – ‘a snacker’ the health visitor called him. He wasn’t sleeping well either. I honestly thought some of the mums were fibbing when they said their baby was sleeping through the night. Anthony was up every few hours. The health visitor suggested supplementing Anthony’s milk with a bottle at bedtime. to help him sleep and gain weight.
So out came the kit. I bought a couple of types of formula. It was like something out of 3 men and a baby. Anthony had been breast fed so we didn’t know how he’d take to formula. Initially he didn’t. It all came out. It all went everywhere. It bounced off the walls and created a pool in the bassinet on front of me. I was horrified and in instant tears… again.
Anthony then refused to take from me or the bottle. We had to feed him from a tea spoon for a few days – it was awful. The health visitor also bought around a tiny syringe to feed him with.
At this point I didn’t care how Anthony got milk. From me was fine, from a bottle of expressed milk was fine, formula was fine. Just please son, drink.
I expressed when I needed to for the next few months as we tried to encourage Anthony onto formula by eventually mixing it half and half in a bottle. Then as time went on I let my supply dwindle until I was only pumping a single bottle’s worth at night while watching TV on the sofa. By 6 months or so, Anthony was a formula fed baby. He drank, he gained weight.
I never experienced any backlash for the transition and honestly I’ve not told that many people about why we moved from one to the other. Of our antenatal group, 20% were bottle feeding after a week of having their babies. At least one felt the need to explain why. Another 20% were still breast feeding nearly a year later, some with pride, some just so happened.
Three years later Anthony was diagnosed with autism and looking back I wonder if this had been why some things were difficult for him. But I will never know for sure. My other kids followed a similar pattern – breast to bottle. All I really know is that I was ready to do whatever it was that would work for us. That’s still the case today. And that’s probably the only bit of advice I’d give. If it works for you, if you think it’s what’s best for you and your baby, then that’s what to do.
A massive thank you to Ann for sharing her story! Please go and check out her blog at Rainbows Are Too Beautiful and you can follow her here: