Love them or hate them… we all have them.
Breasts can do both..
The breastfeeding vs formula debate has been around for years. Some feel strongly and it becomes their passion to carry the breastfeeding or formula feeding flag. To me it really doesn’t matter anymore.
Your breasts are such an important part of knowing yourself as a woman. I remember the day my mum told me that it was time to be fitted for a bra at the tender young age of 11. It felt like I had gone from a child to a ‘more grown up’ child overnight as I stood there in my new, front clasping bra from Ethel Austins looking at my new self in the mirror that first evening.
The next 25 years led to me loving my breasts for what they were. A part of me that made me feel like a confident and sometimes, sexy woman.
We all know women were blessed with breasts so we were able to feed our babies but until the days of motherhood arrived, we have used them to our advantage (and don’t deny it ladies).
I was always going to breastfeed, until..
In October 2017 I found out I was expecting my first born and was over the moon! I never really thought about the whole breastfeeding vs formula milk debate if I’m being completely honest. I just automatically knew that I would breastfeed, even if it was only for the first 3 or 4 months.
However, fast forward to June 2018 where I had just experienced a very traumatic emergency c section and my daughter was receiving 24/7 support in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and things did not go to plan.
I was in labour for 3 days and as a result of ‘I’m not sure what’, I ended up very poorly with Sepsis. I had her at 11.44pm and was pushed in my hospital bed to visit her at 9am the following morning. By this point they were feeding her through a tube but asked if I was fit enough to express milk for her, so that she could get the Colostrum. Now, if you are not aware of what Colostrum is and what the benefits are for your baby then I will give you my knowledge on the matter. Colostrum is the fluid that your breasts produce in the first few days after giving birth, it is a thick golden colour and is full of nutrients and immunity-boosting compounds that support your baby in their first few days on earth.
Sheer willpower of a new mum..
I was determined to get this for her! She had wires EVERYWHERE and I was scared. If I could do this one thing, then it would make me feel useful.
I pumped and pumped for so long, but only managed a small amount. The nurses at SCBU were so positive with me and said that even the small amount that I had produced would be a great amount for my daughter, which made me feel better about the whole sorry situation. I was wheeled back to my room at the maternity ward, where I was giving more medication and slept for another few hours before being woken up and asked if I could go back to SCBU and try and feed my daughter. Of course I said “yes”, this was my chance to hold my baby girl finally!
By this point, my mum, dad, partner and mother in-law were in SCBU visiting my little girl. Which was so lovely and comforting for me, but also quite crowded. I remember feeling very disoriented, in excruciating pain, having a high temperature and sweating profusely (See image below as proof) but I didn’t care about any of that and told them that they would have to step out for a bit or see my breasts, as I was going to pump for my baby ‘come what may’.
Nothing was happening.. my boobs were broken!
I was devastated!
Why weren’t my breasts producing the milk that they were quite evidently full of?
“It could be the medication you are on”, “It may take some time” and “We’ll feed her for now, you rest and we’ll try again later”.
Off I was wheeled, back to my room on the maternity ward where once again I collapsed in an exhausted heap until I was woken up an hour later and informed I would be taken up again to try and pump or feed my daughter!
But she didn’t latch on and it was so complicated with all my wires, her wires, an audience and also the fact that I was now sweating what felt like buckets! No, No, this wasn’t working. I was getting so upset thinking that I was failing at motherhood already and my daughter wasn’t even 24 hours old. They said they would feed her again, whilst I got some rest. I left feeling more of a failure than I had before. I did manage to feed her a little through her feeding tube though, which made me feel so happy.
It just wasn’t meant to be
Whilst on the maternity ward I was sent to have 1-2-1 care as my condition became worse. But during the middle of that night Ffion, my little girl was discharged and we were finally reunited!
The midwives would take Ffion every night that week I was in hospital as I was so ill. Ffion was taking the formula milk really well and was thriving! I learnt very quickly to let go of the fact that I had not been able to breastfeed as it was becoming very obvious that our main goal was for me to fight this virus and get home to Daddy, who was missing us like mad! I did try to put her to breast during the day times, but it was not working for either of us and I didn’t want to spend that time frustrated (as I witnessed with many of the other mums on the ward were).
Second time round: Bottle feeding from the start
With my second daughter, Veronica that joined our little family in October 2020 we agreed instantly that we would not be breastfeeding her at all. This ended up being the right decision for us, as yet again we experienced another problematic pregnancy and birth and we both ended up in hospital for a week too (I talk about my lockdown pregnancy and Veronica’s birth in my previous blog ‘Having a Baby during a Global Pandemic’. She had swallowed liquid during the c section operation and was admitted to SCBU, where she stayed for 3 days. I had told them straight away that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding and they were more than happy to feed her formula through her feeding tube).
Once discharged from SCBU she was then diagnosed with Jaundice so was booked in for a sunbed holiday for a day and a half (poor little mite had it all going on that week, but she’s absolutely fine now). When we finally got home, my partner took over the night feeds so that I could recover some more and spend quality time with Ffion as I hadn’t seen her for well over a week!!
pros and cons to both
There are pros and cons to bottle feeding I know. But there are also pros and cons to breastfeeding.
Yes, I never got that skin contact, bonding experience and I’ve spent an absolute fortune on formula milk over the years I know. But having Phill help me, especially when I was so weak physically was amazing! Also, it meant that he felt more involved too and he really did bond with our two girls those first few weeks whilst he was on paternity leave. Oh and lets not forget, if you bottle feed you can finally enjoy that glass of wine you have been longing for for the last 9 months!!
Special Treatment for Breastfeeding mums at hospital
I will add something here that I feel quite strongly about. There is a ‘push’ to breastfeed in the maternity ward and they will ask you and ask you if you are breastfeeding your baby and offer you continuous support to help you do that. However, bottle feeders do not seem to get that same service. Which is fine really, as your baby will take to the teat quite easily and you just need to remember to wind them more.
But, my biggest gripe is the experience I had when I was admitted to the maternity ward over night, 2 weeks after having Veronica (complications due to the c section) and they asked me if I was breastfeeding. When I said that I wasn’t they said “Ahh, that’s a shame. Because if you were you could have your baby with you here overnight”. Now, I just couldn’t understand why bottle feeding mothers were being penalised for this. Why couldn’t the breastfeeding mothers express and deliver their milk home to their babies? Or, even better… Allow ALL mothers to have their babies with them, regardless of their situation!? I know we are in the middle of a pandemic and rules are rules, but this just seemed like a real kick in the teeth to me. Just so unjust.
Just do you. Honestly, You know what is best for your baby
I’ll finish by stating that whatever you decide to do or whatever you have to do, just do it!
The most important thing is that you are there for your baby, you give them eye contact when you feed them and that you talk to them too. They’ll love you whatever you do… Breast or bottle, they really don’t care. As long as you are there with them, that’s all those babies seem to give a damn about. My mum breastfed my big sister and I, but had to bottle feed my brother and sister (premature twins) and even she says there is no difference.. Other than breastfeeding was quicker and cheaper, but no effect on the mother/baby bond.
Good luck on whichever journey you take… Either are beautiful ladies, Enjoy 🙂
Lots of love xx
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