This week’s #bottlefeedingstories isn’t from a blogger – Naomi got in touch through my Facebook page and asked if she could share her story, having read the stories shared in this series.
My name is Naomi, former Midwife and mum to my beautiful ABW. I started bottle feeding when my son was 14 days old after a difficult first couple of weeks. I had planned to breastfeed.
Had you given much thought to breastfeeding before/while you were pregnant?
I had just qualified as a Midwife at the time I found out I was pregnant so was lucky to have some knowledge of the mechanics of breastfeeding, and had helped lots of women with feeding during my training. I knew that breastfeeding is not always easy in the early days and had a mixture of friends who were all doing various things, but that said I was breastfed as a baby and it was something my Mum always talked passionately about so I think I had already decided I was going to breastfeed even before I fell pregnant! I had also lost my Mum to breast cancer in 2013 and knew there was a potential link between breastfeeding and breast cancer prevention, so I had a personal drive because of this. Ultimately I knew that if I successfully managed to breast feed it would be a positive thing for me and my baby, and my husband was hugely supportive of this.
What was your opinion of bottle feeding?
I knew that there was a perfectly valid place for bottle feeding in lots of scenarios. I had seen plenty of women struggling with the breast/bottle dilemma and knew what an emotion fuelled subject it can be. I had always struggled with the attitudes and arguments that social media would drive where feeding was concerned and as a professional I had always been supportive of women’s choices. But I knew I was already, privately, putting a pressure on myself that ‘breast was best’.
Were you offered any classes on breastfeeding by your healthcare team/midwives? Did you take any classes of your own ie. NCT?
I joined an NCT group with my husband and went to their session on breastfeeding. I wanted desperately the just be ‘another Mum’ and knew that there was every chance any training I had had as a Midwife was going to go out the window when it was me, holding that little baby and wondering how we were going to master feeding. The session was very relaxed, and it was clear from our group that most people had already planned how they were going to feed their baby and there was a fairly limited amount of information provided about bottle feeding.
What support did you receive to start and continue breastfeeding? What support would you have liked?
I had planned to have a home birth but midway through my son had other ideas, turning out to be an undiagnosed breech and I ended up having a caesarean under general anaesthetic. His arrival ended up being very traumatic and when I came round I was in an incredible amount of pain and very disorientated from the anaesthetic drugs. I have a photo of the midwife holding him to my chest during his first feed but I don’t actually have any recollection of these early hours. I was on a lot of pain medication and he was sleepy in the beginning. I had help passing him to me from my partner and the midwives but the first 24 hours passed in a blur. By the next morning we were both more awake and I was determined to try and crack the feeding. I had milk and he was hungry – how hard could this be?! I was still in a lot of pain and he was a hungry little man, as they can be in the early days when your milk starts to come in. He fed what felt like constantly, and I was getting sore. The midwives kept coming to check his positioning and telling me it looked good but he never seemed settled. I was in hospital for 3 nights and in the end was desperate to get home. I knew the feeding wasn’t right but thought if I got home I’d stand a better chance of getting help when the midwives came to see me.
It transpired that my little boy had a tongue tie, a very high and narrow palate and was weak in his neck on one side from his position in the womb. As I soldiered on at home I was becoming more and more sore but I was desperate to get it right as I felt like I had failed to give him a gentle entrance in to the world. We went to a breastfeeding drop in clinic and I wept on the midwife there. I took him to see a craniosacral therapist and I wept on her too! Every midwife that visited me at home also mopped my tears, as did my poor husband and as the days went on I knew that my determination to breastfeed was stealing my chance to enjoy those early days with my husband and son. The midwives that visited me at home were amazing; hugely supportive and spent as much time as they could trying to help us get it right, but it just got worse. I think I almost wanted someone to tell me that I’d done the best I could and that moving over to bottle feeding was ok. But no-one can ever tell you that.
Did you have a personal breastfeeding goal?
I had hoped I could breastfeed for at least the first year, maybe 18 months.
What triggered your move to bottle feeding? Would you consider it a choice or a necessity?
My lowest point came when I found myself on antibiotics with and wound infection and mastitis, stuck in a 3 hourly regime of expressing milk by pump for my husband to feed by bottle as I was too sore to feed my baby myself. What became my final attempt to breastfeed involved such a tirade of swear words from the pain for the duration of the feed, followed by an epic vomit from my baby son which included my own blood from my poor, sore boobies. I knew at the point I had hit my wall. My son was 14 days old and my husband was due back at work and I had no idea how I was going to survive on my own. In a flood of tears I asked my husband to get some formula and sitting and watching him feed our tiny baby son, whilst the pump sat idle on the side next to me I felt the relief wash over me. I guess I could have somehow carried on pumping until I was comfortable enough to try again and I did consider paying for a private lactation consultant but on that day, at that time I was so tired, sore and unwell that I think psychologically I sold it myself as a necessity rather than a choice.
How did moving to bottle feeding make you feel?
It was a real mixture of emotions. I was hugely relieved in one sense as the pain from feeding was causing me to dread what should have been a lovely experience. But at the same time was flooded with guilt on so many levels! Why couldn’t I manage the most natural thing in the world? I was a Midwife, surely I had a head start on most and yet I still couldn’t get it right?
My son is 21 months old now and I still don’t think I have balanced my feelings about our personal experience. He still has 1 bottle at night so I’ve got a daily reminder of the choice I made, but ultimately he’s a healthy little boy and it hasn’t done him any harm, I just know that it’ll always be something I feel guilty about.
Did you experience any backlash for bottle feeding?
Not particularly, the backlash was more my criticism of myself! I was the first in my NCT group to move over to bottle feeding and I really struggled with it when we’d all get together with the babies. I used to feel almost ashamed getting my bottle of formula out when they were all breastfeeding. Interestingly another followed shortly after me and came straight to me for bottle advice, we felt like we’d ended up in our own secret sect and we laugh about that now! My close friends were supportive, they’d all got their own feeding stories to share and they’d seen what a state I’d been in in those early days. My lovely husband was so supportive, he knew how much it had meant to me but it was lovely that we could share some of the feeds together, I know he really used to enjoy those sleepy, milky, baby feeds and I used to love watching them together. Only a couple of people questioned my decision and I tried to let their comments wash over me – after all they had no idea how hard I had tried.
Do you have any advice for other new mums in your situation?
It’s such a personal thing, the choices we make as mothers and the things that lead us there!
I think that if breastfeeding is something you want to do, then giving up will be the hardest thing. My ‘wall’ was certainly further down the road than I thought it would be if you’d told me my story before I’d had my son. But when you hold that baby in your arms you will move heaven and earth to do the right thing for them and sometimes when things don’t go to plan you have to consider the alternatives. I never planned to be a bottle feeding mum but now I’m here, 21 months later, doing my thing, I realise in hindsight it was the best thing for my little family, at the time.
If you’re in those early days it’s really hard to make any kind of sense of your life; hormones, sleep deprivation and the cataclysmic change having a baby brings mean any kind of logic goes out the window. If you need help with feeding then don’t be afraid to seek it, don’t suffer alone, there’s plenty of support out there. At the end of the day you are all your baby needs and feeding that little person will be a huge part of those first few months, so you need to be happy and feel confident with the choice you make, whatever that may be.
I was so touched when Naomi got in touch and asked to share her story – not only because she’s not a fellow blogger, just a fan of my blog (yes, I have one!!!), but also because she is a former Midwife. It is really interesting to read the views from a health professional when they’re the patient! So thank you again, Naomi, for the story and for your support!
Would you like to share your bottle feeding story? Please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org