By Victoria Brant
Without turning this into War and Peace, a short introduction if you will; My name is Victoria Brant, I am an author and blogger from North Lincolnshire and I had my first baby, a little boy named George Patrick, on Thursday 12th December four weeks premature. *rolls eyes* Here is my story about how breastfeeding pressure affected me in the early days of my child
I will also add a short disclaimer in here too, I am NOT an expert in parenting, nor anything else for that matter. I speak (rather swear-ily) from my personal experiences and if you have any concerns with your mental health or baby’s wellbeing, please don’t leave it to stagnate – it will NOT get better festering in your brain.
The Nitty Gritty
So, my waters broke in Homesense at 34 weeks pregnant (video link HERE), and after a short stint in hospital for steroids and antibiotics, I went home and waited for my induction date at 36 weeks. I was induced on the Wednesday afternoon and gave birth to a happy (screaming) baby boy at 2.30am the following morning. NB: I am being quite vague here as I am yet to record/write about the whole sh*t storm that is induction and labour!
On delivery of my 6lb4oz baby, I was, of course, encouraged to breastfeed, which I did under the supervision and instruction of a very skilled midwife. He fed so well and stayed on the boob for almost 45 minutes. The part that followed was just the most awful experience out this whole chapter in our lives, one that could have been so easily avoided.
2 hours later when my tired, confused baby wouldn’t latch onto my non-milk filled bosom, I was left with the choice of cup feeding or tube feeding, delivered by the neo-natal team. I watched as they tried to cup feed him resulting in choking and spluttering formula milk all over everyone involved before they took him away to insert a feeding tube. I was absolutely not aware that I could have tried to bottle feed him at this point and the reason this was not offered to us was because I had murmured something in my notes that I wanted to try and breastfeed.
It’s as though bottle and combination feeding are governed by Satan in the pits of hell by the way SOME nurses and midwives discourage mixing the two feeding methods. I understand that babies can get confused and their latch *might* be affected but not as affected as I am without a single memory or photograph of my beautiful new baby without a tube in his face. That aside, I persevered with the breastfeeding attempts and he latched very well the next time he woke. In fact, although the tube stayed in 2 more days, they only did one more feed into it because of my serial dedication to the boob.
And that is the word of the moment my friends, dedication!
I was informed that because my baby was pre-term, I HAD to breastfeed on demand for the first stage of his life at the very least. This meant that in the first 2 days of hospital stay, I fed my baby from my (still non-milk filled) breast, every 45 minutes, day and night. Exhaustion was rife and I was becoming very tearful, frustrated and on the verge of trying to escape – with or without him. I felt immense pressure to get it right, to not let him down, to feed as much as I could, and it was hard bloody work.
Behold my swollen bosom
My milk finally came in and it got slightly easier, but the exhaustion was still taking over my ability to function as a regular human. It took a very savvy midwife to sit with us for 10 minutes and deliver some very frank talking to turn this around. She knew.
She recognised that ‘end of tether’, desperate look in my tear-filled eyes and I will always be eternally grateful to her. She asked if I had tried a formula bottle, I explained how I felt that if I did, I would let so many people down and my baby wouldn’t do as well.
She gave him a bottle.
George slept for 2 hours after that bottle….I slept for 2 hours after that bottle.
When he woke I breastfed him and topped up his tummy with a formula bottle until he fell asleep… for another 2 HOURS! We continued this way of feeding for the remainder of our stay and when we got home. I combination fed for the first month and also expressed milk which I fed from a bottle without any effect on his ability to latch.
To add insult to my nicely healing injury, George also has a tongue tie that wasn’t picked up in those first few days. It didn’t affect his nipple sucking expertise though, and I really felt combination feeding was so downplayed but yet worked SO well for us in ensuring he got what he needed in those crucial early stages.
My parting shot
I have felt the need to air this topic in an open forum now that I have spoken to so many people who feel the pressure to solely breastfeed. Heck, I lied to my health visitor about it… I concealed the grubby little bottle habit I had from a professional health worker because it felt exactly that, grubby, and it bloody well shouldn’t! It should be ok, it should be talked about and normalised and, quite frankly, it should be more obvious to professionals in hospital that factual, unbiased advice is far more useful than their opinion of what’s ‘right’.
I hope this helps anyone that is struggling with those similar emotions, and I hope you can be strong enough to make the right choices for YOU, not the ones that keep others happy. You are doing your best and that’s all that matters.
Love and very best wishes
Vic and George