Parenting and all things Baby usually spark massive debates and people form very, VERY strong opinions about a huge variety of subjects and scenarios. As a result, I thought I had better just put in a little disclaimer that the following post and those linked to it are simply my own personal experience and not to be taken in a manner of ‘my guide to breast/bottle feeding’. As always with this little corner of the Internet, I am just sharing what I have learnt in my own little life’s workings. If any of the following ramble helps you then that’s fantastic, if not…. then with the utmost of respect to you dear reader, you know where the little cross is in the corner of your screen.
Now, there is a lot to cover so I am going to break this all down into three separate parts, this being the first with my overall experience and then I will dedicate one separate post each to both Breastfeeding and Bottle feeding, covering my personal findings with each method plus any tips you may deem helpful. As the saying goes ‘Every little helps’, and that goes for knowledge as well as pennies!
For as long as I can remember, I was always set on the fact that when I had a baby, I would just skip breastfeeding and go straight to bottles and formula. After all, myself and my sister were bottle fed and turned out just fine, so why not?
Then I became pregnant, and I found myself having a change of heart and starting to consider the idea of breastfeeding. I was aware of becoming too adamant on any decisions because I felt that setting my heart on something (or even anything) that was so subject to change was an unwise thing to do. That’s the funny thing about pregnancy and motherhood…. you can’t truly plan how it will go. As a control freak, this has probably been the hardest lesson to learn and consider!
A great example of said unpredictability is the fact that, as most of you lovely readers know, Teddy turned up 5 weeks early. I found myself gravitating towards breastfeeding even more, if anything it gave me focus and ‘a job’ whilst Teddy was in the Special Care unit. I worked at pumping (aka milking) my boobs wherever and whenever possible and was chuffed when they actually ‘worked’. Teddy was tube fed formula at some intervals and then as I began to produce more and more, he was tube fed my expressed milk before becoming strong enough to breastfeed. That was our cue to be discharged, yay!
We all came home and we continued to breastfeed, every 1.5 – 2 hours and all seemed fine. But gradually I began to notice that Baby Bear was hard to settle… especially on his back. He would be fast asleep in my arms but as soon as he was on his back, he would flinch, arch his back, shriek and then project his last meal all over himself before letting out the most horrific cries. Then, upon being calm again, he would notice his empty tummy and need more milk so I would be called up to feed again. We went to see the GP and Teddy was diagnosed with GORD (Gastrointestinal oesophagus reflux disease) which means that the muscular valve at the top of Teddy’s stomach causes its acid to leak back up into the throat, causing acute heartburn and vomiting…. poor baby bear!
We were given some antacids and sent on our merry (ha!) way. He continued to gain weight but he just never seemed settled and content like he had in the beginning. He was constantly grumpy and looking around the place in what seemed like desperation. The only time he settled was upon being so exhausted from his eat/puke/cry repertoire that he would practically pass out. Either that or he would only sleep whilst being held upright on my chest or my shoulder.
Which is where things began to reach breaking point. The antacids (infant gaviscon) could only be administered by mixing them in with his milk, so I was desperately expressing enough to give him a dose in a bottle as well as breastfeeding to feed his hunger. There was a whole worry over ‘nipple confusion’… a term which even now makes me giggle and think ‘what the flip is my life coming to??’. We even tried mixing the antacids with water but he had the worst gripe ever and became super constipated! On top of all this, I wasn’t able to put him down for barely any time at all…. I couldn’t, he would wake up in pain every time. It meant I couldn’t eat proper meals, take a bath or shower.. even brush my teeth! I know you make sacrifices as as parent, especially as a mother, but that was all verging upon ridiculous. We weren’t miserable, far from it, but things just ‘felt wrong’. A bit like we were wearing a new pair of shoes on the wrong feet y’know?
So, one night, after 48 hours straight of no sleep, expressing myself every hour and then having Baby Bear soothing his heartburn by ‘grazing’ on my boobs for 2 hours straight… I just had a moment of calm clarity and found myself saying to him ‘Right Kid, we have reached a crossroads. This road sucks (literally) so let’s go down another road huh?’.
I made him up a bottle of formula and he downed it within a few minutes. He then winded fine, brought up a smidgen of milk but nothing like before… And then promptly fell asleep for 4 hours.
Now, this is simply our experience therefore I am not ‘bashing breastfeeding’. I loved nursing my son and I actually miss it everyday. But I had to put my feelings second and his welfare first. He is more settled, content and in far less pain now that his tummy feels more full. As a result, we are still formula feeding, and have since changed from regular formula to a special anti reflux one which is thicker in consistency and stays down a lot better than regular formula. There are still bad days where he really struggles to keep things down. We find ourselves contemplating the idea of wearing rain coats and making a permanent baby walker type structure suspended from the ceiling to keep him upright so we can sleep! But on the whole, life has been better since making the switch and I’m glad we went down that road….
And my boobs continued to be expressed for almost 2 weeks before realising that they weren’t being used by a Baby Bear, resulting in them revolting and going on strike. As a result, we have a whole freezer drawer full of my own brand of ‘mini milks’ which will keep for 6 months and that can be defrosted and given to Teddy as soon as his tummy is stronger… so I at least feel that my efforts weren’t in vain after all.
Feeding has been… And still is…. A big ole’ roller coaster ride that can have you feeling all sorts of emotions ranging from euphoria at ‘cracking the case’ to complete frustration and loneliness when the whole world sleeps and nothing you do is right. I have fast realised that each mother and baby duo have their own individual feeding story to tell. But as individual and unique as they are, the fact we all have one means there is no need to feel alone, for we are all together in that fact. And that always provides a little comfort.