Wednesday, 3 October 2012

breastfeeding or bottle feeding?

I wouldn't usually blog about something like this, some people may think that it's a bit of a taboo subject, but I thought I would share my experience. Maybe no one cares, or maybe someone will find it interesting but I have personally found it really helpful to know of other people's experiences of feeding.

We all hear about "breast is best" don't we? I fully intended to breastfeed Caleb. I had no other thought of anything else. When he was born, I didn't own a single bottle or a steriliser as I didn't think I would need it. After all, I'm a woman who just had a baby, breastfeeding should be easy shouldn't it? Perhaps I was naive to think that, or maybe I just wasn't taking into account all eventualities. Because I had bled a lot following giving birth to Caleb, my iron was extremely low and as a result of that, my milk was slow to come in, ie. I had nothing for the first week. I was told to give him formula top ups so on one of the nights I was in hospital, Seth went out to buy everything that was needed and that we didn't already have. I gave Caleb the formula top ups but still carried on trying to breastfeed.

A couple of weeks in, breastfeeding was still a struggle. Caleb was latching on properly and everything but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be! The midwife and health visitor told me that everything for me was delayed as my milk had only just come in. I found it difficult and painful too (I was doing everything correctly but it just hurt!), but I was adamant that breast was best and that I would continue to breast feed.

About a week or two later again, everything was going swimmingly. I was able to breastfeed, the milk was most definitely there! He had one formula top up a day but other than that, he was just being breastfed. Caleb wasn't putting on weight as fast as the doctors, etc. thought he should. He was also suffering with reflux and colic and so I was told to give Caleb 3 formula top ups a day. Being a first time Mum, I didn't think to disagree and to say that I just wanted to breastfeed my baby, I was doing whatever I was told to do. Which wasn't always easy as on more than one occasion I was given conflicting advice about what to do. But I gave Caleb the 3 top ups a day and gave him the medication that was prescribed. I was then told to put him on a different formula only available on prescription which was supposed to help his reflux and help him to gain weight, and he was given different medication. Long story short (I know, you're thinking, this is the short story? You've been going on for long enough! But indulge me!), when he was on the new formula top up, he wouldn't want to eat at any other time. I'm not sure if it filled him up too much or what, but every time I tried to breastfeed, it was a battle to get him to feed and even when he did, it was only for a few minutes at a time. I told the doctor about this and was informed that maybe it was best just to put him back on what he had been having before, both in terms of formula top ups and medication. So, that we did! Everything should be fine, shouldn't it??

Caleb decided that he didn't want to breastfeed anymore. I tried every trick in the book to try and get him to breastfeed but he just decided that he didn't want to. He would scream every time I even attempted to breastfeed him. He went on complete hunger strike. We both shed a lot of tears over it, but in the end I decided to bottle feed.

What was that, bottle feed??! What a crime!

I know that's what some people might be thinking. I never actually thought like that about any mother who chose to bottle feed as it was their decision. I had a hard time with it though. I had really wanted to breastfeed. I felt like I was letting myself and Caleb down, and I guess I felt like a bit of a failure. It also made me sad because I felt like I had gone through so much to be able to breastfeed in the first place and having got over so many obstacles, I now wasn't able to. Plus, as silly as it may sound,  I almost felt like Caleb didn't really need me anymore, as breastfeeding was something that only I could have done for him and now anyone could bottle feed him. I was going through a whole host of emotions. After just over a week of bottle feeding, this is what I think now....

The decision not to breastfeed was Caleb's, not mine. I didn't expect him to be bossing me around at such an early age! I would have loved to have been able to continue, but what with my little one absolutely refusing and going on a hunger strike, I didn't have a huge amount of choice.

Because I'm not breastfeeding doesn't make me a failure as a mother, it just means that I have to take a different approach to feeding than I was expecting to.

Breast is best. But only in as far as the baby and the mother are happy. The main thing for me is that I am doing everything I can to look after my baby and take care of him in any and every way I can.

What anyone else thinks of my decision to breastfeed or bottle feed doesn't matter. Everyone's experiences are different and everyone needs to do what they feel is right for them and their baby.

My baby is happy. He is smiling and chatty and putting on weight. And if he's happy, then I'm happy too.


  1. I once read: "It's not "good mothers breastfeed their child", it's "good mothers FEED their child". Props to you for blogging about it. No shame, you've done the absolute best for Caleb (and you're right- what a cheeky thing to be making his own decisions already!)

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I was fortunate enough to have no problems breastfeeding. I bought bottles etc, but didn't use them. Lorenzo refused to take a bottle of expressed milk for 8 months, which was actually hard in some ways because it meant I couldn't be apart from him for more than 3 hours throughout that time, sometimes less and it was easier to be with him all the time. Of course I love my son, but I felt like I needed me time. Eventually when someone looked after him for a few hours so I could do some decorating I felt completely lost without him! Motherhood isn't always what I expected.

  3. It's such an emotional business when you are battling with the option of going to the bottle, why? We don't have any struggles about having sugar puffs for breakfast, do we.... It's such a roller - coaster ride. I can see what a lovely Mummy you are, breast feeding or not, truly, that is not what makes a good parent is it now.

  4. Gold star for trying. It's so hard Kirsty. We had the same battles with Holly and the bottle. I was so ill feeding Holly we had the same emotional rollercoaster trying to get Holly to take a bottle do I could rest. Noone should ever judge a mum who is trying! The reason you care is because you are already a good mother. If only we could all be perfect. (on a less socially acceptable note, I have no boobs left after six months feeding... So you've escaped that one ;)

  5. Kirsty, there are a wealth of mum and baby mags waiting for an article like this one.

  6. When I got home last night, there was a documentary on breastfeeding on BBC 3.
    I am in favour of all new mothers TRYING to feed their babies, but ultimately not all new mothers are able to , whether it be because there is insufficient milk production, Poor attachmentment or congenital issues which prevent adequate feeding (cleft lip, Tongue tie). What I object to is militant breast feeding mothers who subject others to scrutiny because they are bottle feeding their child. Inabilty to breastfeed is not a new concept; before we had the technology to produce healthy formula milk, nurse maids were employed to feed babies. If you lived in poverty and you couldn't feed, your baby died. Bottle feeding is not a crime. Yes, breastfeeding is a lovely experience IF it is successful for you AND your child, but you can equally bond with your child with bottle feeding. It is the love, attention and time you give your child that dictates their success in life not their source of infantile nutrition.
    Take heart and be strong and know 1) you are not alone in your struggle 2) you have made the right decision for you. A happy mummy= healthy, happy baby

  7. I had a similar experience with my first baby Leia. She wasn't gaining weight as quickly as the doctors wanted and so I had to supplement with formula. And then she would accept nothing but the bottle. I also was completely oblivious to the challenges of breastfeeding beforehand. After 4 children I still have not breastfed beyond three months. I always longed for that blissful feeding relationship between my babies and me but it never happened. I am telling you though, that I have the most fun and happy children, who have a serious zest for life. I think the mothering community needs to strengthen and encourage each other more and I see your post as helping to do that. I think we all want to do our best for our children and sometimes that best is something outside the accepted wisdom.

  8. Love becky's comment and agree with it completely!!

    I too had to supplement with both of my boys and the experience was different with each of them. Admittedly neither of them were underweight, in fact they were the opposite, but i couldn't keep up with them, hence the supplementing. Noah didn't want to go back to breastfeeding at all once he got a bottle....he would cry a lot till he gave in because he was still hungry. Roman on the other hand was much better and would take either. Whatever the case I still haven't breastfed my boys more han 4 months. I think that its nice bonding time for father and son if daddy can have a feeding time with them too! ;) Glad things are going well now!!

  9. Your experience sounds so similar to mine. I was on iron tablets and my milk supply was delayed. BF was a huge battle. We eventually adapted a combo approach which worked well for us.
    I know exactly what you mean about feeling like a failure though. 18 months on, and I've long stopped breastfeeding, yet I still feel a little guilty about giving Elizabeth the bottle (even when I read post like these). The whole 'breast is best' puts a huge emotional pressure on mums.
    I think the biggest grievance I have, and struggled with most, was when my HV told me that Elizabeth had 'inadequate weight gain'. She might as well have slapped me in the face and told me I was a bad mother. As it turns out, Elizabeth was perfectly proportioned. She just happens to be a little short which is no surprise considering I'm only 5ft.

  10. I love this article Kirsty, and I have found that it is almost an 'unspoken issue' that many mothers have a hard time breastfeeding. Mothers don't generally talk about it due to the pressures of feeling like a failure. I had issues breastfeeding both my girls due to latching issues, and they both received supplementation with formula. I am grateful that formula exists, as I am that lactation consultants also exist, as both have helped me. I also agree with Mim's comment about militant breastfeeding mums. Unless you know the whole story - then don't judge.