Let me begin by saying there is absolutely no right or wrong way of feeding your baby. It might be your choice or not your choice. But as long as your baby is fed, in my opinion, that is all that matters. No woman should be made to feel ‘bad’ for the way that they feed their own child.
I always wanted to give breastfeeding a go if I was able to do it. I didn’t want to get my heart set on it as I didn’t know what challenges would face me, or whether it would work for us. As soon as Theo was born he was placed onto my chest, and around an hour or so after he was born, the midwife and I attempted to latch Theo onto me. This worked pretty much straight away, so I continued that evening while in hospital to feed him.
Once I was home that night, I carried on breastfeeding him. When people tell you about cluster feeding and the constant feeling that your baby is on you – they are not exaggerating! During the first few days I felt like Theo was constantly on me feeding. At times, this was exhausting and pretty emotional. I would literally feed every hour during those first few nights – Sean was an absolute godsend and tried to help in any way he possibly could, but ultimately it was my responsibility to feed him.
The midwives were really encouraging when visiting me at home, saying attachment and positioning was fabulous. I was also expecting weight loss from Theo when he was weighed on day 5 – as this is normal to an extent. However, when he was weighed, he remained the same weight as he did at birth. This encouraged me to continue with what I was doing – I must have been doing something right!
I never disliked breastfeeding, however I didn’t feel like I loved it. Theo latched onto me really well and seemed to enjoy it, so this made me want to continue. To begin with, your boobs feel tender and sore, but once you push through those first few days they feel one hundred times better! This, along with learning which clothes are appropriate for breastfeeding and the constant fear that you haven’t got any breast pads with you (leaky boobs are not fun!).
Once the first week or so had passed and my hormones and emotions had settled down (a little bit anyway), I felt confident breastfeeding. I had practised my technique of being discrete and felt comfortable feeding while out and about in cafes or at other people’s houses. I found breastfeeding during those first few weeks really tiring, especially at night when your supply is the highest (which babies know of course). I will be honest and say that I definitely did drift off a few times and would wake up with Theo still breastfeeding (oops).
I continued to exclusively breastfeed for around 8 weeks, but at Christmas time, both Theo and I got poorly which meant we both felt awful and had temperatures making breastfeeding really stressful and unenjoyable. It was at this point that I felt I needed help and support to feed him. I had expressed on occasion, but this became pretty time consuming sitting and pumping my boobs for hours on end, just to get a couple of bottles of breast milk to feed Theo. I didn’t feel like expressing was something that I wanted to do every day.
I started introducing bottles, so to begin with I was mixed feeding. At first, Theo wasn’t keen on the bottles at all, he would pull a face, but reluctantly took it once he realised that was his feed! I cannot stress how much it is YOUR decision on how you feed your baby, but I felt this was the best option for me at the time. The thought of having someone to help me feed, even just one feed a day, was such a relief.
Sean was able to go to work while I breastfed during the day, and then was able give Theo his evening feed from a bottle. I was also able to have a night out and Theo stayed at my parents house where he was bottle fed with formula. Theo got used to both bottle and breast and didn’t seem to have a problem with either. My boobs also got used to mixed feeding and would never leak or get uncomfortably full.
I continued to mixed feed until Theo was just over three months old. It was around this time that I felt Theo had ‘weaned’ himself off breastfeeding. He would get quite agitated and cry if I put him in a cradle position – he still does to this day. I persevered for a few days, however he continued to get upset and cry each time I attempted it. I still don’t know what made him start doing this and have never heard of anyone else having this problem?!
It was then that I decided to start formula/bottle feeding all of the time. I was always worried that when I stopped breastfeeding, my boobs would become really full and uncomfortable, but this never happened. I think because I was mixed feeding beforehand, my boobs had gotten used to the reduced amount of feeds that Theo was having.
Theo is now formula fed 100% of the time – and this works well for us. I never pressurised myself, and just wanted to take each day as it came with feeding Theo. I was lucky that I was able to feed Theo how I wanted to in the beginning, but felt that once it became stressful for the both of us, there was no point continuing.
Sometimes I look back and wonder whether I should have attended support groups when Theo started to be fussy, but this point was mostly over Christmas time and many groups weren’t on. I was fairly confident in my decision to mix feed and then gradually formula feed, and this was one of the easiest decisions I made.
Our feeding journey wasn’t the easiest, but definitely not the hardest by far. We are both happy and Theo is fed. I think women are put under far too much pressure either way. Women are often looked down upon for bottle feeding their baby. However, on the other hand, publicly breastfeeding can also be frowned upon (still!!). I think my point is, whatever you do, whatever you choose – it is what is best for you and YOUR baby. And that is all that matters!