I started this post a few days ago and it had been on the “blog” list since I started a few weeks back. I’ve ummed and arrrd about posting it now as it feels a bit ill timed given the recent relaunch into the public domain of the breast v bottle argument which never ever seems to grow old, and with the the “tree of life” pictures gracing the social media platforms. I’ve thought about it and decided I don’t care and I’ll stick with my plan of posting this, as at the heart of this post is freedom. Freedom to do what we want, to do what is best for us and to feel free and strong enough to voice our own opinions, in what I am led to believe is democracy that we live in.
Admittedly this post has evolved slightly since I started writing it, however fundamentally this is about feeding. Oat is nearly one and I can’t believe it quite honestly. Where has the year gone? There are lots of things I find hard to remember from before she was here, and already I find it difficult to remember all the details of those early days and weeks. I especially find it difficult watching her munch away on her dinner and how she eats anything in site, and remember how tiny she was and how we battled to get any milk into her when she was five days old and we were readmitted to hospital for three nights.
We had a rough time. And it was tough for a while but we’ve made it and ultimately Oat is well fed, and happy and healthy and how we got there and the choices we made surely don’t, or shouldn’t matter. I barely know any new parents out there who haven’t had some difficulty with feeding – breast, bottle, reflux, dairy intolerance, won’t feed, only wants to feed, percentile too high, percentile too low…so the list continues. What I do know is that a good deal of the people I know, bar their antenatal group and close friends, have had varying levels of “helpful” support and advice from our health professionals.
I could write screeds about my own story, about my friends story, about my friend of a friends story. But what does it matter – to me they’re all the same and all end up in the same place. With new parents upset, miserable and being made to feel like crap because no matter what you do you’re damned – you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Damned if you successfully breastfeed but weight is an issue, damned if you don’t breastfeed and told “don’t hold your baby like that or you’ll confuse it”.
Looking back I’m just angry, angry that no one health professional was honest before Oat was born. That no one said “yes it will hurt” (I have friends who have very successfully breastfed, but I still don’t know anyone who didn’t find those first few days tough – anyone??), that no one said “do you know what for some of you this really might not work and these are the warning signs you need to watch out for to ensure that you’re baby doesn’t get sick”. That no one said “do you know that actually using a nipple shield might be the only way that you manage to successfully breastfeed and that’s fine”.
That politics and policy meant my midwife could not give me advice on bottle feeding when I voiced concerns on day four about my milk supply, that my baby only wanted to feed and wouldn’t settle, and all she could tell me was to discuss it with my husband if it was something we felt we should do. Well thank goodness that some mother instinct kicked in and we did give her a bottle. By the time she was readmitted to hospital 24 hours later she had lost 15.2% of her body weight, was dehydrated and jaundice. And that was after she had been topped with four bottles after we decided she needed it.
My point? I strongly believe that baby fed is best. How – who cares?? For those of you who successfully managed to breastfeed – RESPECT! Respect that you made it through those tough first few days (weeks…months?), respect that your body did what it was meant to do, and respect that it was your decision to feed your baby that way. For those of us who didn’t, also RESPECT! Respect that you’re that baby’s parent and how you feed it is up to you.
For me the decision was taken out of my hands – it wasn’t going to work. Three weeks down the line, still on a 3 hour feeding schedule, still not quite at birth weight, my day was spent breast feeding, topping up with expressed breast, bottle feeding (which would take around an hour), then waiting 45 minutes and expressing again for at least half an hour to only achieve a maximum of around 30ml. It was then pretty much feed time again.
I wasn’t moving from the sofa. I wasn’t living. I wasn’t enjoying my baby. So started to reduce the expressing so I could leave the house and a week later I stopped all together. Enough was enough, there was no milk, and nothing appeared to be making it better. We needed to start to live. I made that decision and I finally felt ok about it. Not good – but ok. Not good because no “health professional” was prepared to say do you know what you’ve done well. It’s ok and you’ve tried and she’ll be totally fine on formula. No one really comes out and says that.
Thankfully friends and family have your back and support you and several of my antenatal group had issues too and we supported each other through those tough few weeks, bouncing thoughts and ideas off of each other, always encouraging each other and reminding one an other that we’re doing an amazing job.
So really all I want to say is be honest. Be realistic. Stop judging. Respect each and every parent with their decision. Concentrate on your baby, and your family. Screw what anyone else thinks. We are free to make our own choices.