Expectations vs Reality part 1….

“Pregnancy wasn’t as bad as I thought so breastfeeding will be fine, it’s natural after all” Brooke. Circa May 2014. (Yes, I want to give myself a bloody good shake for that comment too!)

So, breastfeeding didn’t go well. I’m a big girl in the booby department at the best of times, and a milk filled, rock hard boob was about three times the size of my baby’s head. I couldn’t actually see if he was latching properly.

3 days in to my newborn sons life, the weighing scale lady came with her scales and informed me that he had dropped from 8lb 1oz to 6lb 13oz. In 3 days. Gulp. If i lost that weight in a week I’d be happy and I have a LOT more to play with. She said I’d better repack my hospital bag pronto (actually I’d never unpacked it, so that was one positive!) and get back to that there hospital, where I was convinced social services would come and say “nice try love, but he’s ours now.”

I KNEW he’d lost weight of course, I could literally see it falling off his tiny limbs. So off back to hospital we went for a 48 hour stay. I said I wanted to bottle feed, the midwife said something along the lines of “I don’t bloody think so!” and off we went on a strict 3 hour feeding cycle. That’s 3 hours between the start of each feed and not the end by the way. So every 3 hours I had to;

  • Offer him each boob for 30 mins
  • Express each side for 15 mins
  • Top up feeds with formula out of a tiny cup
  • Change his and mine entire outfits due to the messy nature of feeding a baby from a cup
  • Write it all down
  • Store my milk and sterilise everything
  • Eat, wash, wee
  • Sleep (ha!)

FOR 48 HOURS. At best I think I got a 45 minute nap once, and when I cried about how exhausted I felt to the midwife, she said something about it not really being about me and that I needed to get my boy back to birth weight.

I’d been told, and so I continued breastfeeding for entire days at home for another week, only to find he’d lost weight again. Argh! At breaking point, I gave him a bottle of formula (gasp!) and he gulped it straight down.

Now, I have huge respect for those who do manage to breastfeed, but for me personally? I think I was teetering on the edge of post natal depression, so I made the decision to just stop. My baby thrived on formula and I knew I’d made the right decision. However, I still felt a lot of pressure to defend my decision. Not to family, they were hugely supportive, but to total bloody strangers. In a cafe once, a lady I didn’t know asked me why I’d chosen to not feed him myself. She’d get a different response now, but back then, I felt like I’d failed so I spent a lot of time justifying it to myself and them. Turns out that this lady had never even had kids herself, so where she got off judging other people on something she had no experience of, I do not know!

I get that breastfeeding is supposed to be the most nutritious food I can give my baby, but surely it’s also important that the baby gains weight and the mother doesn’t spiral off into PND?

Anyway, it didn’t traumatise me too much as I had another baby, 2 years later. A girl this time. It might be easier with a girl, I told myself (amazing what the mind comes up with!)

However, my daughter stopped growing when I was 34 weeks pregnant and after a few weeks of monitoring, the docs decided she’d fare better outside than in, and induced me 2.5 weeks early. She was a tiny 5lbs 12oz and blood tests revealed she had no ‘reserves’ as my placenta hadn’t been getting enough nutrients to her. So I simply wasn’t going to mess around trying to do something that I had no confidence in my ability to do. She needed food and I needed to see that she was getting it. Not one health professional questioned my decision this time. But still, I was challenged and questioned by people who had been able to do it. “Why hadn’t I at least tried?” Well I did ok? In the hospital and I knew it was going to go the same way as before. “Did I know that it wasn’t too late to stimulate my milk production and try again?” I didn’t, but I was happy with the decision I had made, thank you!

I’m not saying my decision is the right one for everyone. It’s personal. And I have lots of friends and acquaintances who do or have breastfed and have been met with criticism or judgmental looks for feeding in public, which is also shocking (the criticism I mean, not the feeding!!)

I guess my point is this; just back off ok, breast, bottle or a mixture of both, we’re all doing our best for our babies and the main thing is that we’re FEEDING them, right?


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