Edit: I know this is a rambing stream of consciousness, but it’s late, and I never said I was a good writer.
Just to clarify, David now has a mixture of defrosted breast-milk, formula, and solids. That child loves his veggies, and would clear out the entire greengrocer if we let him. He also has the occasional chocolate biscuit. (See picture at end!)
Reading this made me think about the battle that David and I had with breastfeeding.
When David was born, he was born very quickly, and with the help of pethidene. As a result, he was dopey and didn’t feed for almost 36 hours afterwards. He’d make a vague attempt and then decided that sleep was far more interesting than food. I was also ill: I had the typical winter bug, plus anaemia from giving birth. The hospital kept me in for two nights: the first night was standard practice, and the second I had to stay because David wouldn’t feed. It got to 3am, he still hadn’t fed, and the midwives were getting worried. I was told he’d have to have a heel prick test for glucose, and if his blood sugar wasn’t high enough he’d have to have formula. I agreed to anything. Well, the heel prick woke him up enough to feed, and feed, and feed some more. He was permanently attached to me, and we were discharged the next day (Christmas Day.)
I struggled with breastfeeding over the Christmas period, and then mentioned to the health visitor that I’d like to express milk and bottlefeed, so at least I could have the occasional night off. I still had a fever, which a good night’s sleep would probably have cured. I was told to wait until he was a month old: fair enough, or so it seemed at the time. Of course we didn’t want him to get confused between breast and bottle and only take the bottle.
As soon as he reached four weeks, we bought an electric pump. I had a surplus of milk, so we managed to freeze a decent amount as well. He took to the bottle so well, and within a few days he was having mostly expressed milk, contrary to the advice of the health visitor, who was determined that I should breastfeed for all but one feed a day. I didn’t dare tell her that breastfeeding was contributing to the depression, that I felt I couldn’t take my medication in case it affected David, and that I would sit up crying in the middle of the night while I was trying to feed him. He was awake and squirming from two weeks on: why feed when there are interesting things to look at?
I (foolishly) attempted to go back to work when David was two weeks old, taking him with me. We had huge issues with getting him fed and fitting visits to clients around feeds and nap-times: I couldn’t very well “whip a boob out” (as one client referred to it) and feed him in the middle of a meeting. IT is a very male-dominated industry, and it was getting difficult to be taken seriously.
He eventually moved on to completely expressed milk, with the occasional breastfeed for comfort. It was nice to keep the habit, make sure he still knew how to do it, and know that I didn’t have to do it. We started supplementing with formula when I got ill again, and gradually moved him onto mostly formula. Being big, he was constantly hungry, and I couldn’t keep up with his demands. It was still nice to keep feeding him for comfort, and we kept on with that until the other day, when he bit so hard I cried. I persisted, and he kept biting. So… we’ve stopped.
I think the hardest thing was knowing that I was trying to do the right thing for David, but hearing so many conflicting opinions. I haven’t dared tell my mother, my mother-in-law or the health visitor that I’ve stopped, for fear of hearing about the latest study that proves that breastmilk is “so much better” than formula. I realise that it has benefits, but he is thriving on formula, and I don’t want to change that. I know that formula is expensive, and that sterilising bottles is a pain in the arse, and that having cool boiled water handy doesn’t always happen: I don’t need to be told it on a daily basis and told that that’s why I should deal with cracked nipples, leaking breasts, backache, depression, worry that I was putting antidepressants into his system…
The final irony occured when I was giving him a bottle in his sling the other day, and was asked to refrain from breastfeeding in public. I was told that I could feed him in the disabled loo, and that the police would be called if I refused. I removed the bottle, let David scream, and then breast-fed him. The next day, he bit, and we were done. I’m glad we had that chance to make a point, though.