This week’s #bottlefeedingstories comes from Rebecca @ The Sparkle Nest – she has a slightly different story in that she moved to bottle feeding when her eldest was 5 months old
I’m Rebecca and I blog at The Sparkle Nest. I breastfed my first baby, who is now nearly two, for five months before we started bottle feeding. My second baby, who is now three months old, was breastfed for about a week, and then was bottle fed with my expressed milk for the first two months before we switched to formula. In an ideal world, I would have breastfed both my boys for as long as they needed / wanted milk, I was hoping to breastfeed for at least the first year.
Had you given much thought to breastfeeding before/while you were pregnant?
Not too much, I just knew it was something that I wanted to do.
What was your opinion of bottle feeding?
I didn’t have a negative opinion of bottle feeding, it just wasn’t something I didn’t feel was going to be for me.
Were you offered any classes on breastfeeding by your healthcare team/midwives? Did you take any classes of your own ie. NCT?
When I was pregnant with my first I took NCT classes. There was one breastfeeding session as part of the course. From what I remember of that session, it explained and showed us the benefits of breast feeding, how amazing breast milk is, how babies are born instinctively knowing what to do and that we would all be just fine. I also remember disparaging comments being made about bottle feeding. We all came out of the session feeling really confident that we would all be able to breastfeed our babies, and that was, in our mind, the only option for all of us, which was great in a way, but months later, after our babies were born, I remember us all saying, ‘She never told us how hard it would be! Why weren’t we told it would be so hard?!’
What support did you receive to start and continue breastfeeding? What support would you have liked?
I wouldn’t have managed to even start breastfeeding, let alone last five months, without the support from my midwife and health visitor. I had quite a traumatic birth and my milk didn’t come in for days and days. I was so determined to breastfeed that giving formula just wasn’t going to be an option for me. My midwife supported me with this and visited us at home every day until my son was 15 days old to make sure we were doing ok. It took days and days before my son latched on and fed properly, he lost too much weight after his birth, and it was just as my midwife said that we really should give him some formula now that he latched on for the first time. That was a pretty amazing feeling, that we’d finally got there! Of course, it was only the very beginning of the journey!
Did you have a personal breastfeeding goal?
Just to feed for as long as I possibly could. Which I hoped to be for at least a year.
What triggered your move to bottle feeding? Would you consider it a choice or a necessity?
My experience of breastfeeding was that it was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done.
My baby seemed to be constantly hungry, he fed hourly, day and night. The health visitors wanted to see us at baby clinic every week so he could be weighed, and although he was gaining weight, he dropped from the 75th centile down to the 9th. Baby clinic was on a Friday, and I remember one Friday, before a bank holiday weekend, being told by the health visitor that I needed to take my baby to see a GP urgently because he was failing to thrive. I asked what I should do if I couldn’t get an appointment and she said, ‘Just tell them it’s urgent’. Of course I was unable to get a same day appointment, and had to wait until the following Tuesday. That was a very stressful and worrying weekend! When I did get to see the GP, he looked at the weight chart and asked what the problem was, he couldn’t see one.
There were days when my baby would just refuse to feed from me, but would still be constantly hungry. I bought a breast pump and started expressing milk for him when he wouldn’t latch, and also started topping up with what I called my ’emergency’ mini bottles of formula. I did everything I could to try to increase my milk supply, supplements, teas, and pumping after every feed.
At 5 months old, I almost feel as though my baby decided enough was enough, and he completely refused my breast. It was pretty heartbreaking. I kept trying, I didn’t leave the house, just spending all day in my nursing chair trying to feed my baby, reading website after website on my phone. In the end, I had no choice but to move to formula. I wasn’t producing enough milk to express to meet his needs. My friends still talk about the change in my baby after I started bottle feeding. He suddenly grew. he went from being the smallest baby in our group to one of the biggest. Because he was finally being fed.
How did moving to bottle feeding make you feel?
It made me feel a lot of things. Ashamed, embarrassed. When I first started topping up I remember hiding the little bottles of formula in the bottom of the bin so my partner wouldn’t see them when he got home from work. I even laughed to myself about it at the time as it felt like a terrible secret, as though I was hiding mini bottles of vodka, not bottles of baby formula!
I had never been confident at breast feeding in public, but the first time I took a bottle out and fed my baby with that in a cafe, I felt just as embarrassed, thinking that I would be judged for that.
I also felt relieved – so relieved that it was over, and my baby was finally happy and gaining enough weight.
Did you experience any backlash for bottle feeding?
Not really, I remember a few comments from family members about my ‘giving up’ and I’m not sure I was completely believed when I explained about my son refusing to feed from me, but most of the backlash was from myself!
Do you have any advice for other new mums in your situation?
My biggest piece of advice is to relax, and don’t WORRY so much. Firstly, all that stress isn’t good for your milk supply, and the most important thing is that you and your baby are happy, and that your baby is fed. If you have tried to breastfeed and it just isn’t working for you, then that’s ok. It really is ok.
With my second baby, my main concern is that we weren’t going to go through the same thing again. I wasn’t going to let my baby go hungry this time because I didn’t have enough milk. So after the first week, I began to express milk for him so I could see exactly how much he was getting. Unfortunately, having a newborn and a toddler to look after and expressing milk every three to four hours day and night wasn’t very practical, and as I started to miss a few pumping sessions as the days got so hectic, so inevitably my supply went down again. I’m now formula feeding my second son, and I feel absolutely fine about it. I know that both my babies got the best of my milk and that I tried my very best.
Where Rebecca talks about hiding her formula bottles left me absolutely heartbroken. Feeding our babies formula shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of! When you’ve worked so hard to make sure you’re doing the very best for your child you should be able to feel proud.
You can check out Rebecca here: