With Reunah sicking up all of the prescription and Cow and Gate formula I hit a wall with my breast feeding. I didn’t want to “mess” with his body with more formula as I was convinced this was making him worse.
I would cry all the time (if you’re reading this having not had a new baby I feel it sounds a lot more dramatic than maybe it was – I think it’s just part of the deal), be snappy with James, feel like I was ruining my own new mummy experience and just generally felt like it wasn’t entirely the experience I had pictured in my head.
One day I decided that I would no longer breast feed given how stressful and painful (I didn’t even get mastitis or anything horrendous like that either) it had become but still felt a real pressure to give Reunah my milk so began expressing literally day and night.
I’d like to say at this point that I think when you are a new mummy you have a selective memory as every couple of days I would say to my self “you know what I’m going to give breast feeding another go, it wasn’t that bad and it would be best for Reunah”. Wrong, it was that bad, and whenever I tried again all of the emotion would come flooding back and I would go back to feeling like my shit was well and truly not together.
In order to provide enough milk for Reunah (he was about 4 weeks old) I had to pump first thing in the morning, feed him, pump again straight after to have enough milk for the next feed a few hours later, and again and again until it was morning again. This was so so so exhausting and pretty lonely, especially when I was pumping in the middle of the night and when I look back now I can’t believe I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself, just so Reunah could have my milk.
I would sit in front of the tv in the evenings, (and if you don’t know, a breast pump (mine anyway) makes a noise similar to say a broken washing machine- a loud whirring sound pumping on and off) just pumping one boob, then the other, then back to the other for literally hours at a time to get about 4oz of milk (not even a new series of “Death in Paradise” made to pumping fun). I never seemed to be able to build up a stock of it as Reunah’s appetite was only getting greater so it was just an uphill struggle to make sure I had enough ready to go at each moment in time. I would feel worried in the night that I’d run out and if James spilled even a drop when he helped transfer it into the storage bags I literally went bucky on him – poor guy.
In addition to this, constant pumping throughout the day made it impossible to make plans, so not only are you a slave to the pump you feel guilty making plans as you know you will most likely have to pump at that time and if you don’t you’ll be one feed behind 😰 (Reading this in hindsight I really can’t believe I pinned so much pressure on myself – I imagine anyone reading without a baby will think it’s ridiculous, but in that moment I thought it was the only option and definitely the best one for Reunah).
So despite having a healthy flow to begin with, it got to a point when Reunah was about 6 weeks old where I just couldn’t pump enough milk. He’d gone from needing 2/3 ounces per feed to at least 4 meaning I’d need to pump double what I was in order to keep him full.
In my head I’d wanted to get to 8 weeks of feeding him my milk as this was when his first injections were, I’m not sure why I thought this was so important – and despite my mum and friends telling me that I had done really well to pump for so long and to just try some formula again I just felt like it was my duty as his mummy to give him my milk – and if I didn’t I was being a bad one.
However, now that I wasn’t pumping enough we had no choice but to try formula again (already dreading vom on my mattress topper at this point) and decided to try another off the shelf formula before going back to the doctors about allergies, as we figured that Reunah may just have needed time for his tummy to develop a bit and that the so called milk allergy may just have been him having a sensitive tummy. A friend recommended Hipp Organic first infant milk formula which is described as a gentle organic breast milk substitute. We bought a tub along with some variflow teets and tentatively gave some to Reunah – drumroll…he guzzled it down, and omg he wasn’t sick 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼
I actually felt like a new woman! Not only was Reunah happier, James and my family could also get involved (which they were dying to do) and help with the feeding. James and I were able to go on date nights, my parents could baby sit and have some quality Reu time and my brother even got involved with a few feeds. A weight well and truly felt like it had lifted off my shoulders, and whilst I was still exhausted from lack of sleep I felt I had my shit back together and could be the super mummy I’d always imagined myself to be #whatadifferenceabottlemakes
I did keep expressing and combination feeding up until my 8 week goal but was able to manage it much better and no longer spent my nights pumping on my own.
Unfortunately, the new formula made poor Reu constipated and we went a full four days without a poop one week (the absolute joy when that poo came I liken when you find £20 in an old purse you thought was empty 👌🏼). Yet again my guilt reared its head as I thought if I’d continued to breastfeed he would be pooing just fine. It got to the point where it was clearly painful for Reu to have a number 2 and he wouldn’t settle well at all so we decided to try yet another formula. This time we went for the Aptimel comfort which is specifically design for colic and constipation (it’s £13 a tub though) and almost instantly Reunah seemed to be a calmer, happier baby….ps when I was having issues I scoured the Internet for tips on the best formula, what I would say is one size does not fit all so don’t presume this will work for you and pin loads of hope like I did – just keep trying (said like Dory from finding Nemo).
When I finally gave up expressing at 8 weeks I felt really worried that I’d regret it, as once you stop making milk altogether you really can’t go back. In reality though, when my milk finally stopped completely, I was so much happier in myself it was actually a relief when I no longer had the choice to pump (or wear breast pads, or my maternity bra, etc. 🙌🏼).
I remember a few occasions post giving up breast that upset me (make me angry now):
I visited a facility (I won’t say what or where) near my home and the lady enquired how my feeding was going and so I said I had moved to fully formula feeding and she said:
“oh that’s a real shame”
At the time I half wanted to cry half wanted to punch her in the face (I obv would never hit anyone, I say this for dramatic effect (thought about it tho)). Who was she to make me feel bad!! In hindsight I should have said:
“what’s a shame is people like you making perfectly fabulous mummy’s feel like a failure, you nob 🖕🏼”
Another occasion I was feeding in a cafe and an older lady (out with her daughter who also had a baby and was a breastfeeder) said to me:
“ahhh, the easy option” (referring to my bottle – I mean use your brain woman, 1.) I’m clearly a new mum therefore my emotions could implode at any point and 2. Are you for real you utter moron)
Now to be fair, her daughter looked mortified and clearly understood the offence I had taken and quickly corrected her mum saying “I wish I’d introduced a bottle, I’m stuck on the boob now and she won’t take one” – that said my mum did have to practically hold me back from throwing my, now cold, coffee all over her!
I do have a couple of friends who really wish they had introduced a bottle sooner as they are having a real struggle getting them off the boob, meaning (unless your baby sleeps from 7-7) your evenings are pretty restricted. I think at this time of life too it’s really important (for me anyway) to be able to have some you time (or you and partner time) in order to be the best you can be for baby – but yet again this fear of nipple confusion and pressure to breast feed gets in the way for loads of mums (I mean it is a faff having to sterilise so granted I can see why you wouldn’t bother of breastfeeding was easy for you).
As a sort of conclusion to my story I want to say how utterly ridiculous I think the pressure to breast feed is. I was lucky that my doctor and health visitor didn’t judge me at all when I finally moved to formula but I have heard awful stories of real judgement from those who are, at the end of the day, supposed to be looking out for you and your babies health. I am in no way anti breast, I just believe a baby will strive whether on formula or breast milk, at the end of the day they just need feeding and loving. I have heard far too many stories of women continuing to breast feed and their baby losing weight or it just generally breaking them, so for me breast is definitely not best, feeding is best and a happy mummy makes for a happy baby.
FYI (my post on rage aside) I am the happiest mummy now, and I’m sure if Reu could talk he’d tell me how tasty the formula was and how happy he is that I’m happy 😊