We’re back with #bottlefeedingstories! It’s been a little while, so I do apologise if you’ve been keeping an eye out for them. Now that National Breastfeeding Week is behind us for another year, it’s time to check out some real life stories about the realities of what happens when breastfeeding doesn’t go to plan. This week, we have the lovely Mrs Lighty from All Things Spliced…
Hi, I’m Nicola, or as I’m better known, Mrs Lighty from All Things Spliced. Baby Lighty is now 21 months old, and we started bottled feeding and switched to formula when he was just one month old. I’d originally set out to breastfeed, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be for a variety of reasons.
Had you given much thought to how you’d feed your baby before/while you were pregnant?
I remember being asked by my midwife at one of my routine appointments whether I intended on breastfeeding. I told her that I definitely wanted to try, but that I didn’t want to beat myself up if I couldn’t manage it for any reason. I’ve always suffered from anxiety, and didn’t want to give myself added stress if things didn’t go to plan, yet I also knew that I wanted to try to do what was considered best by my much longed-for baby. Boy did the ‘not beating myself up’ idea change once Baby Lighty arrived!
What was your opinion of bottle feeding?
I didn’t really have an opinion of bottle feeding; I certainly didn’t think anything negative about it. My Mum bottle fed me, as did my mother-in-law to Mr Lighty and Sister-in-Law Lighty, and Sister-in-Law Lighty in turn bottle fed our Nephew and Niece, so I guess it was just the norm to me.
Were you offered any classes on breastfeeding by your healthcare team/midwives? Did you take any classes of your own ie. NCT?
I was offered two antenatal classes on the NHS, but I was poorly with a pregnancy migraine and nausea so I missed the session on breastfeeding. As I was booked to do NCT classes, my midwife told me that I didn’t need to bother to attend an NHS one too to make up for the one I’d missed.
I did attend the NCT breastfeeding class, and as much as the teacher was lovely, she had a really hard job to cover everything in a two hour session on a boiling hot night in a stuffy Church hall with the buzz of a fan whirling nearby. Looking back, it only scratched the surface of what breastfeeding entails, and certainly didn’t cover the likes of cluster feeding or the emotional side of breastfeeding, and there was no time to cover bottle feeding at all.
What support did you receive to start and continue breastfeeding? What support would you have liked?
Unfortunately for us, Baby Lighty was born during a baby boom, and so the poor midwives were run off their feet, chasing their tails trying to see all of the new mothers in the area. Indeed, I regularly had to walk the half hour each way to appointments with a two week old baby, rather than the midwives coming to see us at home, and those appointments literally covered the basics: baby’s weight, a quick check over of Mum and that was pretty much it.
Even though I kept telling the midwives that Baby Lighty was feeding constantly, more excessively even than the norm for cluster feeding I’m sure, they just didn’t have the time to speak to me about it properly. It was only when I turned up to an appointment with a screaming, inconsolable Baby Lighty that a midwife asked when I’d last fed him. “Well,” I replied, “I’ve been feeding him since 4am this morning, stopped for 20 minutes to have a shower, and then stopped half an hour ago to come here for this appointment.”
“But when was the last time you fed him?” she replied, and was totally shocked when I turned round and said that I’d been feeding constantly for that time period mentioned, from 4am till midday. At that point her immediate response was to suggest formula.
I don’t think they had the time to do anything other than suggest formula; I would have liked someone to have checked how normal it was for Baby Lighty to be feeding as constantly as he was, to have checked him for tongue tie, and also to talk to me about the emotional and mental health side of breastfeeding. I’m convinced now, whether rightly or wrongly, that my anxiety affected my milk supply, but I just couldn’t help how I felt under the influence of hormones.
Did you have a personal breastfeeding goal?
Yes, in my mind I wanted to feed for six weeks, which perhaps doesn’t say a lot about my expectations of breastfeeding! I don’t know whether this was because I had in the back of my mind that everyone says that the first six weeks are the hardest, or whether I just thought that this was the norm before switching to formula!
What triggered your move to bottle feeding? Would you consider it a choice or a necessity?
After the initial formula incident with the midwife as described above, and everyone saying how much more content Baby Lighty was on formula, we took the decision to move to formula feeding when this was coupled with the midwives saying that he wasn’t putting on enough weight and there were fears that he was dehydrating. My mental health had also got to a stage whereby I didn’t want to pick Baby Lighty up any more. Every time I picked him up, he would want to feed, and it got to a point where I would dread having to pick him up because I associated it with his constant need to feed.
It’s a cliché, but happy mum, happy baby; had I not switched to formula I dread to think what sort of an emotional place I would have been in, and what would have happened to my bond with Baby Lighty, not to mention to Baby Lighty’s health if he wasn’t gaining enough weight.
How did moving to bottle feeding make you feel?
Guilty. I felt incredibly guilty, because technically I could breastfeed, but Baby Lighty wasn’t gaining enough weight. Couple this with how I felt, and of course it made sense to move to formula and bottle feeding, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t feel like a complete failure of a mother after just a month.
Did you experience any backlash for bottle feeding?
A little; someone on a Facebook group told me that I’d given Baby Lighty reflux because of ‘the poison I was giving him’, and there were times when strangers would comment on things like “oh you didn’t want to even try to breastfeed?”, or “Perhaps you should think about trying him on soy formula if you’re not willing to breastfeed.” These are just an odd few incidents that stick out, however; on the whole most people aren’t worried nowadays, I think.
Do you have any advice for other new mums in your situation?
You’ve got to do what’s right for you and your baby. If that means bottle feeding – with breastmilk or formula – so be it. As long as your baby is getting fed, you’ll be a happy mum, and as I’ve already said, happy mum equals happy baby. Don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing just great.
There’s more on my breastfeeding story over on All Things Spliced at: http://allthingsspliced.co.uk/feeding/missing-the-breastfeeding-gene/