E is 10 and a half weeks old, and for the last week and a half has been completely formula fed (barring one or two times).
Giving up breastfeeding wasn’t something I did lightly, but it appears to be for the better for both me and my little man. He had been screaming in hunger even after full on feeds, and waking up after half an hour starving. After every meal. I was having to supplement him with formula in order to get his weight up anyway, under strict orders. We had just managed to wean him off the nipple shields – rubbery, finicky things which made every feed a million times messier than it should have been – to his initial horror at having to work at this feeding thing. One doctor had turned to me at six weeks post partum and asked why I felt the need to “put myself through it” after my pregnancy, which was a barrel of laughs in itself. And yet it wasn’t until the bar taps started running drier and drier that I considered actually going full time on formula and closing the Booby Bar for business.
I didn’t find breastfeeding easy – for the first few days it was grand, didn’t see the big deal, until day three or four, when he stopped eating and refused to try feed – even the top up bottles were being ignored, but in particular he had a vendetta against my right boob. He’d eventually latch on to the left one but hell or high water, there was no way he was going near the right one. The hospital’s solution was the shields – which did work, but made him lazy, and dependant on them to feed – he completely gave up caring about going without them. Cue panicked night time feeds where I couldn’t find them, with screaming infant wondering why I won’t feed him and why I’d expect him to attempt the natural way. Not the most fun experience of my life, I can tell you. On top of this, we were told he hadn’t gained any weight in ten days, and then a week later had only gained a very small amount, so supplementing with formula was a must for us. One nurse suggested two ounces after every feed. We were barely able to keep him awake to feed for more than 15 minutes as it was – that wasn’t really realistic. I tried pumping, using electric and manual pumps. Had porridge oats for breakfast every single morning and tried the fennel tea and fenugreek supplements. All the while, my brain was telling me it would be easier on him and me to just make the switch, but the mammy guilt complex kicked in. I would be a terrible mother if I gave up now, sure everybody else can do it, why couldn’t I? The sheer amount of tears about the issue, mine and his, is mind boggling, especially as this is coming from the girl who had approached breastfeeding (and a lot of parenting things really) with a “Sure I’ll try it and see what happens, no big deal” attitude. Now when it came to giving it up there had been a shift in my view – and not an altogether healthy one.
So, nine weeks in and little man isn’t sleeping properly for us, he’s waking up every hour and a half and I’m wrecked. This sleep when the baby is sleeping thing is a load of crap, when your baby will only sleep when you’re pushing him around in the buggy during the day, and only in tiny stints at night time. I went home for a week and got minded by my own Mammy. Keeping the promise to the health nurse down here that I’d get him weighed at home, we tottered along to the clinic to celebrate a massive weight gain (we had been upping his amount of formula at this point to after nearly every bottle upon health nurses advice), and happened to discuss with her that I was thinking of giving it up and going on formula full time. She asked me about my pregnancy, and about my milk and how he fed, and then told me that it was likely that he wasn’t getting the fat content he needed from my milk, potentially related to the medication I was on in pregnancy and after the birth. This is something I’d asked the doctors already and had been told no, to keep trying and just feed him more often. She congratulated me on my nine weeks of feeding him, and advised that I was likely doing the right thing. This is exactly the approach that I needed, since I’d basically already made up my mind and didn’t need to be made feel more guilty about it. It was in almost direct opposition to the paeds doctor we’d seen a few weeks earlier, who used the phrase ” one or two bottles won’t do too much harm to him”, as if it was poison I was feeding my gorgeous little man.
Its been a week and a half, and he’s like a new child. He’s a lot happier, sleeps for longer, and seems to have turned a total corner about sleeping in his cot (yay). I’m like a new woman, getting a bit more sleep, not questioning myself about whether or not I’m giving him enough, since I can now see exactly how much he’s taking. I’m also now able to eye up pretty new bras that don’t have to have nursing capabilities – though theres a serious market out there for affordable pretty nursing bras which if I had a fashion design bone in my body I’d be running away with and making my fortune. I can leave the house in clothes that don’t have flaps, or without a vest under my top for easy breastfeeding. I can drink caffeinated coffee guilt free, which is a plus for everyone around me. And I’m able to see my happy little man gaining weight and feeling full and sleeping well, which is the best bit of all.
I would have liked to be one of those mammies who could keep it up for the full six months, but I don’t feel like I’ve failed at it, I gave it a good try and lasted for a lot longer than I thought I would. The important bit is that he’s healthy, he’s eating enough and that he now has a mammy who isn’t spending her time guilt ridden and wondering why her little man is so unhappy so can spend that time playing with him and getting massive smiles. And really I think thats what matters.