The Breast vs Bottle feeding debate is a tale as old as time. There’s no denying that breastfeeding is best for baby but is it best for mum? Well, here’s my story and why I choose to Combination Feed.
When I found out I was going to be a mum I was determined to breastfeed because of the heap of benefits that come with it. Lottie was unexpected and I was quite young so we hadn’t saved up a lot of money. We were both working full time but we still had to find cheaper alternatives and since formula is so expensive and breastfeeding is not, the decision was made. Other advantages included the skin to skin bonding time I would get with our bundle of joy, the oxytocin release which would keep my mood in check and the unbelievable weight loss.
The moment I gave birth to Lottie she latched perfectly on to my nipple. She was so keen. Although, I didn’t know what was to follow. Throughout my pregnancy, nobody really told me how to breastfeed or what to expect in regards of breastfeeding. Not even my midwives went over this. They just encouraged breastfeeding and told me the benefits.
The Realities of Breastfeeding Lottie
The next 24 hours in the hospital included a breastfeeding consultation followed by regular checks to make sure we were both feeding okay followed by each midwife having their tuppence worth. It actually got to the point where I was convinced the NHS had a policy where midwives had to mention feeding each time they pass.
It was already daunting enough being a new mum but now the pressure was building to be the perfect feeder. We got home and the first week was great: natural, relaxed. My tummy was “flat” again, my aches and pains had eased, my skin was glowing and my hair was nice and shiny. You’d have thought I was on some super serum. That was just the affects of breastfeeding.
The second week was a disaster. I had a “Breastfeeding Team” come and visit me without my prior knowledge. They showed me positions by controlling me like a doll. There was 3 of them pecking away at any little thing I did wrong. Lottie was starting to cluster feed and I had no idea what cluster feeding was or that it was natural. I started to get too stressed, always worrying if she was in a good position and if she was getting enough milk. So, I started adding in bottles of formula to her diet. This was working well but when my midwife found out she gave me a telling off and made it out to be the worst thing anybody could do. After two and half weeks, I gave up breastfeeding and moved Lottie on to formula.
In January 2019 I gave birth to Kieran. Again I was sure I wanted to breastfeed because of the amazing benefits I had experienced with Lottie. However, my state of mind was very different this time. Looking back I realised that I hadn’t been true to myself. I let others interfere with feeding that felt right to me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s to go with your instinct. So, this time instinct was leading the way. The first couple of days feeding Kieran was great, my milk supply was full and heavy and ready to be used.
Unfortunately for the first week of Kieran’s life we were in and out of hospital due to jaundice. He needed treatment and at 5 days old we were kept in for 36 hours. Treatment for jaundice called phototherapy requires baby to be strapped to a small UV surf board…the FULL time. The doctors and midwives encourage you to continue breastfeeding but as you can imagine it’s really hard to hold baby on the board up to your chest and feed so I expressed for a couple of feeds.
The NHS recommend that you don’t introduce combination feeding until your baby is 6 weeks old but this clearly was the only way for us. However, I didn’t hold out much hope for the breastfeeding side of things because of this knowledge. I think they recommend the 6 week mark because it can take roughly 6 weeks to establish a feeding routine and flow. As they say the first 6 weeks are the hardest.
I didn’t plan on combination feeding after our time at the hospital. I fully prepared to go back to exclusively breastfeeding (except for the night of my friends 30th because I was damned if I was missing that! Yes, I thought of myself. You’ll realise it’s okay to do that.) but after our 2 and 3 week appointments with the Health Visitor we learned that Kieran wasn’t gaining much weight. He was quite poorly to be fair but we thought it best we try and catch up on some weight so that we didn’t have any more hospital trips! That’s when we added in the formula. Within 1 week Kieran gained 10oz just by adding one bottle of formula a day.
This worked out perfectly because it also meant I could get a little break and Stuart could feed him. However again we came to a hurdle. This time it was mum guilt. As Kieran started to cluster feed in weeks 3 and 4, poor Lottie was having to occupy herself more and more as she wasn’t at nursery yet. This was something I was not prepared to let happen. My poor baby was only 2 and missing out on mummy time because Kieran was constantly feeding. To combat the cluster feeding I added in another bottle of formula during the day.
Making The Right Decision
Kieran is almost 3 months now and the combination feeding is working well for everybody! It means during the night I don’t have to get up and make a bottle, I can just pop him on my boob lying down in his co-sleeper. It also means that Lottie still gets vital education and play time with mummy and Daddy gets bonding time with bottle feeds. Finally, it keeps my mental health in check!
Breastfeeding can be stressful in the first couple of months and it may seem like baby isn’t satisfied. My advice is to go with your gut. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed because a lot of us mothers are in the same boat. If you feel like it’s a phase and you can power through it…great, just remember to drink plenty of water. Maybe you are tearing your hair out and want to stop breastfeeding, then do that! If you can’t breastfeed but want to then don’t feel guilty! You are not a failure and formulas are good for baby, I recommend Aptamil. If you don’t want to breastfeed because you don’t have a clue about it then do some research and then decide. Whatever the case as long as baby is getting fed make the best decision for you.