So seeing as this is a hot topic at the moment, thanks to Mr. Jamie Oliver, I thought I would write a little about my feeding experience and the way I'm feeling now.
So whilst I agree that if possible breast-breastfeeding is best for you and your baby, that it can actually be an enjoyable experience and can be heck of alot easier (I've now experienced both sides) then that's all great. I think the problem with this whole Jamie comment is that it's making a very generalising sweep of people who are not breastfeeding, labelling them all perhaps as uneducated rather than simply unable to, or those who have made an educated decision not to. Whilst I agree that our attitudes towards breastfeeding still need to change, it needs to be normalised in the public eye and be seen as an option for everyone, not just the 'middle classes'. What isn't great is someone telling you what you should be doing without taking situation into account, however much they are trying to help. Especially if that person telling you is a man.
I had a great breastfeeding experience first time around with Theo. We had an initial tricky first week because of a difficult latch but with the help of nurses in hospital we were finally on our way. I didn't really experience any cracked nipples and certainly didn't have anything close to mastitis, I feel pretty lucky about that. I breastfed Theo for over 18 months, it just worked out well and I didn't really have a reason to stop. But that didn't stop to comments about it, once I got past 9 months people would ask me when I was going stop. But it was easy, Theo did well on it, there was no sterilizing, the milk was always there and the right temperature and I wasn't keen to end that relationship with it. We did however stop the feeds at night before the ones in the day as by that point the night wakings were starting to take their toll. Although we did try Theo on a bottle in the early months he refused to take one and we just sort of gave up on the idea as it wasn't necessary. Eventually I was sad that our journey had come to an end, but I was looking forward to doing it all over again with the next baby.
Five years on and now that next baby is here, but it isn't at all as straightforward as that. I can't breastfeed Rohan. It's one of the hardest parts of all our journey with him. I so longed to do it, I still do. Rohan was nil by mouth in hospital for the first week or so of his life, we had no skin to skin or that first feed post birth as he was whisked off to NICU. I started to express to help my milk come in. Rohan then moved onto a nutrient feed, through a drip and still remained nil by mouth. Eventually my expressed breastmilk (EBM) was being added to the feeds slowly, still by a drip then an NG tube. Eventually there was an exciting day when they told me he was being exclusively fed just on EMB, but still not actually from my breast. Whilst still in hospital at about 4 or 5 weeks I did start to try and offer him the breast, but 5 weeks of not having to suck and missing that window definitely made a difference. We're also not sure whether his condition makes it difficult for him to feed. We tried to introduce a bottle, from which he did actually take a little amount. That's still the set up today, nearly 11 weeks old. I'm still expressing milk, not as often as I was before, but still enough to supply him with most of his daily feeds. We start off with a bottle and put the rest down the NG tube when he's too tired to suck any longer.
And I hate it. Even though I know he is being fed the exact same milk as he would if he was actually breastfeeding, it's not the same. However great it is for Rob to be able to feed him, to share the nights and for me to be able to leave Rohan for a whole day and know he will be fed all the same, I wish it wasn't like this. The constant sterilizing, the lack of physical bond, the time restraints on scheduled feeds, the expressing and carrying around all the equipment is annoying. So whilst there are plus sides, I know which I would choose, and it hurts.
It hurts because I didn't make that choice, like so many women who start out with the best intentions of feeding, it isn't as always as straightforward as deciding to breastfeed or not. Some people long to be able to do it, some are happy not to. What women especially don't need is to feel pressured or judged on the choices they do make, or the ones they can't make for themselves. So whilst my journey this time isn't anywhere near what I had imagined, it is what it is, and with already having to go through so much in Rohans short life so far, the last thing I would want is to be to made to feel like a failure for not being able to breastfeed. I agree there needs to be a conversation about breastfeeding and what's best, but it shouldn't have to come from a celebrity chef. People need to be made aware that whilst breastfeeding is a good option for some, it's not for all, for a multitude of reasons that shouldn't really have to be explained or justified. I know for me I would choose breastfeeding, and will happily explain the benefits and my experience of both, but I'm not going to judge you on what you decide is best for your baby and you.
I was sent through some information about combining breastfeeding and bottlefeeding that actually makes sense, and doesn't put pressure on to exclusively feed and gives some really helpful tips.
“10 Feeding Tips for Combined Bottle and Breast Feeding
Developed by Vicki Scott, Midwife and Parenting Expert
1. If you have problems with low milk supply, or have twins then it can be difficult to meet your baby’s demands. Seek help from a breastfeeding advisor to help get your milk supply up, but as an alternative supplementing your baby’s breastfeeds may be necessary. Using some formula milk does not mean the end of breastfeeding, it is quite possible to do both and continue to give baby the benefits of your milk.
2. In the early months it is a good idea, and sometimes necessary, to express milk at the same time you are giving your baby a bottle. This is to prevent engorgement and to protect your milk supply.
3. Having all of your feeding equipment ready in advance makes things much easier. Breast pumps, milk storage containers and bottles can all be sterilized in advance, assembled and ready to go for up to 24 hours before being sterilized again for the next use.
4. It is important to correctly sterilize all your baby’s milk feeding equipment to reduce the risk of milk bacteria related tummy bugs or gastroenteritis. Before each use wash all pieces separately using a separate brush, rinse in clean water and sterilize. Steam sterilization is easy and efficient.
5. Your breastmilk can be frozen, which makes having a supply of milk ready to use much easier. Express straight into a breastmilk storage container and once the milk has cooled it can then be frozen and stored for up to 3 months in your home freezer.
6. Always keep breastmilk chilled until your baby is ready to feed, then warm it to body temperature by using a bottle warmer or standing the container in warm water. Take a small flask of warm water if you are out & about and carry milk in a ThermaBag to keep it cool.
7. Be sure to use the correct teat size for your baby’s needs. If the teat is too slow your baby may become bored or frustrated during his feeds. A teat which is too fast may mean your baby struggles to keep up with the flow of milk, taking in a lot of air as he gulps. The flow should be steady and your baby relaxed during the feed.
8. If your baby is having a bottle feed then it is a lovely opportunity for dad, or another family member to be involved. Of course bonding happens in many ways but feeding is a very nurturing and special way to interact with baby.
9. When bottle feeding, hold your baby close in a more upright position than you might for a breastfeed. Hold the bottle at an angle which keeps the teat full of milk, and your baby’s head in a slightly backward tilt so that he can feed comfortably. He will be looking at you intently as you feed him so enjoy this special nurturing time.
10. When taking a bottle some babies are good at knowing when they need to burp and will push the bottle away with their tongue, or with their hands if they are older! Other babies keep drinking and then are sick so you may need to stop your baby at times during the feed to sit up for a burp.”