Breastfeeding. Formula feeding. Bottle feeding. Why isn’t it called Baby feeding? Or just feeding? I mean, I can understand why people may differentiate between the different ways of feeding, for say medical purposes. If you’re trying to determine if your child has an allergy, then you need to be specific. It is also nice to show a general interest in your friends baby, and part of that may include discussing how you feed. Yes, there are reasons why you may use those terms, but generally speaking, shouldn’t the important thing be that your baby is fed?
When you’re expecting your baby, you’re lead to believe that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and everywhere you look, every class you go to, every book you read, breastfeeding is there.
Of course, it is natural, it is 100% the natural way to feed your baby, in the sense that it is the way babies are intended to eat, and through the miracle (ha!) of hormones and our amazing bodies, our boobs are just supposed to do it.
However – and this is a big however – it doesn’t come naturally to all women, and it isn’t easy for all babies. And even when it does, a mother might not necessarily want to breastfeed. Its a very personal choice, one that I was reluctant to choose prior to becoming pregnant. I did gradually change my mind, but not everyone does. And that should be okay.
The Royal College of Midwives has recently announced that bottle feeding is a woman’s right, and that that choice should be respected. The full article can be found here. I’ve seen many discussions across social media platforms about whether or not this statement is right. Basically, what they are saying is that women should be informed of their choices, and from that they should then be able to make their choice and not be judged.
I think this is a wonderful statement. The pressure to breastfeed, and the fear of judgment if you don’t is huge, and to be quite honest, its ridiculous.
Its an ongoing debate – breastfed vs formula fed, and you don’t seem to be able to win either way. Its become such a bitter, twisted argument and no one seems to be able to just settle on fed is best. Yes, breast milk does have more benefits than formula, but at the end of the day, a baby needs to be fed to survive, so it shouldn’t matter which option you choose, so long as you aren’t harming your baby.
Whilst I do think it would be good for everyone to try it, if someone doesn’t want to, that’s not my business, and I would never EVER turn my nose up at someone who says its not for them without trying.
So yes, I think the RCMs new statement is wonderful. But I feel that there is one option that is being overlooked.
As previously mentioned, when I found out I was pregnant, I gradually came round to the idea of breastfeeding. By the time my baby was born, I was actually excited about it. I was also very well prepared to switch to bottle feeding if it didn’t work out, and not only that, I would be happy to do it because all I wanted was for my baby to bed fed.
Bottle fed. What do you think of when you see or hear those words? For a lot of you – and until recently I would be included in this – it will be boiled water and powdered milk mixed together, otherwise known as formula milk. For some of you, that idea is horrifying – although I can’t think why, as there are plenty of healthy formula fed babies around, and I would just like those people to put themsevles in the shoes of those that can’t breastfeed, because it does happen. I’ve heard people say “there’s no such thing as can’t” and it makes me really angry. I digress.
Back to my point… a small percentage of you – and hopefully soon a bigger percentage – might think of expressed breast milk in a bottle.
Its quite common for a mother to express some breast milk so there other half can do a night feed, or they can leave their baby for a few hours for a night out, or so they can be fed whilst they are at work. I didn’t realize however, that there are actually women out there who exclusively feed their babies expressed breast milk.
When my baby was born, we tried to get him to latch pretty quickly, but he wouldn’t. He was jaundice and as a result was very sleep – despite being incredibly alert during his awake periods – and this meant that almost every time we tried to get him to latch on, he would fall asleep either before he got on, or soon after latching. This meant he wasn’t taking much. On the odd occasion that he did latch, he struggled to do it correctly, and this caused me a lot of pain and discomfort.
Because of this issue, we were in hospital for 3 nights. He didn’t actually feed for 48 hours, and this meant he struggled to flush out the jaundice, it was a bit of a vicious circle. To get home from the hospital, we needed two things – the jaundice levels to have gone down, and an idea of how exactly we intended to feed him. Of course for his jaundice levels to go down, he would need to feed to flush it out. It was a sort of vicious circle. So after 48 hours without any food – which I now get outraged about after being told many different timescales for how long they can go without food – the midwives started feeding him formula out of a cup, to avoid nipple confusion. I must say that seeing a newborn baby drink out of a cup was so strange. I had no idea they could do that, and who would have thought that a baby that struggled to latch, would be natural at cup feeding?
Alongside cup feedings, we continued to try to get him to latch, but he would just get really stressed out and cry a lot. I started – with some help from the midwives, everyone sees your boobs once you’ve had a baby – to hand express colostrum into a syringe and he would have that as a sort of starter.
By our 4th and last day, his jaundice levels had dropped, and the night before – in our private room, as my fantastic midwife recognized I needed my husband to stay in over night with us – we came to an agreement on a feeding plan, meaning we would be able to go home. We would combination feed, with me trying to get him to latch at every feeding time, knowing it wouldn’t take us long once we were home and in a comfortable environment, and until then, I would hand express into the syringe so he was definitely getting the colostrum. Once the correct amount of time had passed, I would introduce a pump so help with my supply, and allow us to reduce the formula whilst he was still getting the hang of direct nursing. Great! Easy peasy.
We had to wake him every 2 – 3 hours to feed whilst his jaundice levels were being monitored. This meant that we would wake him and try to get him to latch, which we would attempt for 10 – 15 minutes – by this point we could sometimes get him on, with nipple shields, at which point he would feed for about 40 minutes but still be hungry, and he would then get angry at my boob – unless he got particularly distressed before hand, which he often did. We would then give him whatever we had in the syringes – by this point I was filling 2 – 3 10ml syringes – and then the formula. We did this every feed. It was so intense, and so stressful.
We then introduced a single electric pump, and would express for about 5 minutes at a time, to get a teeny amount of breast milk to give him on top of the syringes. which we gradually cut out. We continued pumping, latching and combining this with the formula.
Its all a bit of a blur now, but I can say that it felt horrendous at times. Trying three different types of feeding meant I didn’t get to enjoy my baby. I worried about it constantly – he was quite small, and struggled to gain his birth weight back. In fact in the first 8 weeks, he only gained 7oz.
Slowly, the attempts at latching got few and far between, until I made the decision to stop altogether. I didn’t stop breastfeeding though, just direct nursing. I did continue to express. I invested in a better pump, and although I struggled to stick to a good pumping schedule, I am still expressing to this day. I don’t quite exclusively express, as I combination feed, but I was just never able to get my supply up enough to fully keep on top of how much he eats. Some days he has two to three bottles of breast milk, some days he only has one.
I honestly would have been happy to exclusively formula feed by baby, and one day, I will probably will as I am starting to think about decreasing my pumps so that I don’t have to pump when I go back to work. When that day comes, it will be fine. I only started to express and then keep up with it due to the encouragement I received from my midwife and health visitor. From my understanding, not many people are quite that lucky, and its not commonly recognized as a way to feed your baby.
However, it is possible and there is help out there. I found wonderful Facebook group, and those ladies are absolute gems! If you do want to breastfeed but either don’t like the thought of direct nursing, or have problems with latching, then I encourage you to explore expressing. If you want to formula feed your baby, then I encourage you to do so. If you want to combination feed, then I encourage you to do so. If you want to, and are able to direct nurse, I encourage you to do so.
Feed your baby. It doesn’t matter how, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks and it doesn’t matter how your best friends aunts cousin feeds her baby.
I’m really curious to find out about how other people have gotten on with feeding, so please feel free to leave me a comment with your story, or fill out the survey attached below. Alternatively, please don’t hesitate to contact me via one of the social media buttons. And be sure to follow me to see a full blog about my personal feeding journey, coming soon.