30 June 2017

The Confidence to Choose

I’m just going to warn you now that this is a post about feeding your baby in the first 6 months of their lives. It’s not a rant about how if you don’t feed your baby breast milk that they will have an ear infection until they are 18. It’s just a post about my experience of feeding my 3 babies in the first few months of their lives and what I have learnt from each experience. I was inspired to write this by Sophie from @Bad_Mum_ magazine who posted a beautiful illustration by @memyselfandernest (to see click here.) 

Now I love Instagram and many blogs and Selfish Mother and I love to see everyone’s posts and read their blogs as much as I can and I always try to comment and like if it feels right and genuine. BUT I tend to hold back on certain issues as there is just so much bloody opinion out there and so many feels like theirs is the most important. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to an opinion and it’s their decision to express it exactly as they want but social media for me is all about positivity, support, love and humour and not getting on my soap box.

I was actually moved to comment on this little pic, because I had 3 very different experiences of feeding my babies and I have actually covered most feeding bases with each child and I'm proud of each one. Purely because I had enough courage to follow my gut instinct on each baby. So, here goes….. here is my story. I will try and keep it sharp but apologies in advance if its deathly dull and I won’t be offended if you stop reading. But I also hope that someone somewhere might take comfort or confidence from this post.

With my first son Bobby, like a lot of others with their first baby I was determined to breastfeed him. I did all the text book NCT classes and I was also lucky enough to get free antenatal classes through the midwife team I was assigned to. This was in 2009 and that time, Breast was MOST definitely best. To the point that if you chose to formula feed your baby in hospital you had to provide the formula and bottles etc.

After 52 hours of induced labour Bobby was born by C section at 38 weeks weighing 8lb 13. Labour and birth choices is a whole other bag of worms… sorry blog post, maybe I might write about that one day.

Anyway, he latched on within 10 minutes in recovery. I was elated. After that he slept for 24 hours. The midwives and breastfeeding consultants were not happy with this. They kept waking him up and forcing my dustbin lid nipples in his mouth and he was having none it. They were forcing him to cry to apparently ‘open his lungs’ so he would latch on. After a lot of breast feeding bullying, at 4am when no one was about I quietly latched him on and all was good. Until the next morning when I was told I had done it wrong. Done it wrong? Apparently I had to hold my massive nipple like a cookie….. a giant fat boy Millie’s cookie. Otherwise it was unhygienic. What the F***? Unhygienic??? I can say that now as I’m 3 babies down the line. I just couldn’t understand as he was latching on perfectly and was actually feeding and not crying. 

We were sent home and all was good, I was feeding my baby, my way. Then the pain started. At NCT classes, no one told me that a few days later it would feel like someone was pushing red hot pokers through my massive tits every time he latched on. I understand where the term ‘toe curling pain’ came from because that pain certainly is toe curling. My poor nips had taken a beating from a very sucky baby so I googled what I could do to get through this. Nipple shields….. ‘oh no, you should never use these’ I was told. Nipple shields saved my titties. Its official. (maybe one of the parenting brands should do a sweatshirt with this on) Also expressing and letting my hubby do a feed after a week also saved my titties and my sanity. I found it really hard to deal with the fact that this precious tiny human being was completely dependent on broken me to stay alive so I let my hubby help. I was also told I shouldn’t do this either. So, to sum up, baby number one was happily combination fed for the first 6 months of his life. He had breast milk and formula every single day and is now a strong, happy and healthy 8 year old.

My second son, Jesse, was born by planned c section at 39 weeks and weighed 9lb5. He also latched on within 5 minutes in recovery and basically never let go unless I had a dummy to swap for my boob. He was born and we were home in just over 24 hours. It was a dream birth experience. I had had some reflexology at the end of the pregnancy and she had told me this baby would be a sucky baby who would need a soother quick smart. He fed so much in the first 12 hours that my milk came in after 24 hours. It was so fab, I had expected it to be the exact same experience as bobby and had even invested in a fancy electric pump. It was just so different. He was so easy to feed, I was so lucky. I didn’t bother with expressing. I felt confident I could keep this baby fed by myself. He even had a tongue tie which some voluntary breastfeeding biddy tried to persuade me I needed to get cut. ‘But he is latched on?’ She told me it would affect his speech. Maybe it would for some but in my heart, I knew it was ok as he was feeding so well. My GP agreed with me. So, Jesse was purely fed breast milk for the first 6 months of his life. I loved feeding him, it was so easy and convenient. Ironically, he has had the most ear infections out of all my kids.

Finally, there was Charlie, born by planned C section at 37 weeks. He was booked in at 39 weeks but I got the Noro virus which bought on early labour so he was delivered. Weighing a healthy 9lb4. Again, he latched on after 10 mins in recovery and in my head, it would be just like Jesse and we would be home the next day in time for tea. Hell no, we were sentenced to baby prison for almost two weeks as he was poorly! I had had diabetes in pregnancy with all 3 and it was the worst with Charlie, after birth he couldn’t control his own blood sugar and was taken down to neo natal where he was then diagnosed as severely jaundice with a calcium difficiency. Whoever says big babies are always healthy babies are wrong my friends.

He was like a hairy giant in SCBU compared to all these tiny little birds. Jaundice is pretty common in new born babies so I’m sure you know the way to treat it is light therapy and feeding them. They literally have to poo and wee it out their systems. So, he had formula within the first 8 hours of his life. I carried on feeding him myself but the colostrum just wasn’t enough. It also took too long. I couldn’t have him off the lights for more than 20 mins at a time if there was any way we were going home before his first birthday, So I decided it was bottles all the way. Every other feed was formula, then my milk. This was 2016 and they had an endless supply of these tiny pre-made bottles of aptimel and I could pump as I was in hospital, with nothing else to do. Someone else was looking after my other two kids and someone else was washing my clothes and cooking my tea. In hospital, I decided that I wasn’t going to feed to my baby when I got home much to everyone’s surprise.

We finally went home and I prepared myself for a fight with any medical professional who came near me. I didn’t have to; my midwife and health visitor were amazingly supportive. My health visitor even said, ‘at the top of his CV it’s not going to say he was breastfed, is it?’ this has stayed with me. I also suffered from perinatal depression in my pregnancy with Charlie and was keen to get back on my medication for depression so I could be a balanced happy mama in the sleep deprived, tough times ahead. Happy mum equals happy baby.
Charlie is now 15 months and if you follow me on Instagram you will know he is a bonny, happy baby just like the others. I have never ever regretted NOT feeding him myself. But I’m not going to lie I have felt defensive when people have asked me. Why do people ask? Why do they care? Why did I feel defensive?

I have bored you all with story so I can highlight how all my babies were fed different ways and they are all happy, healthy children. What’s important in all this is that any new Mum is given clear balanced choices. She should also be made to feel confident enough to make the right choices for HER. If she is happy then the baby will be happy. I know mums who couldn’t breastfeed and it still haunts them now. It shouldn’t. They should be proud that they have raised a beautiful child. Why does our society insist on laying guilt on mums? It’s none of society’s business is it? Why is feeding our babies such a contentious issue? The only message that should be hammered home is #FEDISBEST. Amen. 

Written by Lucy @lucyand4boys 


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