I know that breastfeeding (and formula feeding) are topics which can stir up a lot of controversy and feelings, so I want to start off by saying while I am absolutely 100% pro-breastfeeding, I am also 100% not against formula feeding. Two out of three of my children (Harrison and Ben, if you’re interested) were formula fed. I intended to breastfeed Harrison but he struggled to latch, and looking back, I feel like I did give up way too quickly. I was tired, and there wasn’t a great deal in the way of support from the midwives, who to be honest, were brilliant but overstretched. I managed to express a syringe full of colostrum for his very first feed and then he had formula. With Alex, I went into hospital determined I was going to breastfeed and if we struggled, I would be more forceful about getting help and support. We were successful immediately, and I went on to feed him for almost two years when he self-weaned. I was seven months pregnant with Ben when he stopped, and I felt I needed to give myself a break, so I decided to use formula. He had one breastfeed at the beginning and latched beautifully, so I have no doubt that had we carried on, we would have been successful. I have absolutely no regrets about not breastfeeding though – I made the decision based on what was right for him and me, and the rest of my family, at the time.
This time around, I have the same urge and determination to breastfeed as I did with Alex. I am 99.99% confident that we will be successful, so I haven’t even considered buying any baby bottles. The free baby bottles I’ve been given as freebies with various baby packs have been donated because we won’t use them – I’m sure of it. It may not be easy and plain sailing, but if we have any struggles, I have a close friend who is a trained breastfeeding adviser, and I will get help from wherever I can get it.
Whenever the discussion of babies comes up, one of the first questions I have been asked is what brand of formula or bottles I am going to use, and a look of surprise when I explain I am going to breastfeed. I think formula is often seen as the default, which is quite sad when you think about it. Most people I know haven’t breastfed and so are interested and ask questions about it, so I thought I’d share some of them.
Why are you going to breastfeed?
Because it’s better for baby – again, I’m not against formula feeding in any way, but there is no denying that breastmilk is individually tailored to your baby so is going to meet exactly what they need. When baby is poorly, your milk changes to give them the extra nutrients or whatever that they need at the time. This website (click here) shows you how and why. I’m also lazy. I can’t be arsed to faff about sterilizing bottles and making them up. I’m too disorganised to have any system ready, and if you think I’m leaving my nice warm bed in the middle of the night to fetch a bottle, you’ve got another thing coming. I also can’t be doing with spending ridiculous amounts of money on bottles and formula and all the equipment when I have two free tits.
Isn’t it painful?
It can hurt, but it shouldn’t. Not really, anyway. If it hurts, there is a reason, and it can be dealt with. It might be because the baby isn’t latching quite right, and an advisor, midwife or health visitor should be able to help you with this. There are also issues such as tongue tie, which are easily resolved once identified. Your nips can get a bit sore at the beginning, but once they’ve got used to, it eases off. Having a good nipple cream to hand (Lansinoh is amazing) can help that. When baby is overdue a feed, your boobs can get a bit heavy and full, but it isn’t (shouldn’t be!) painful, and eases as soon as you begin to feed. The worst pain – and I only had it once, is if you get mastitis. That is an infection which does need treating, usually with antibiotics.
How do you do know how much milk they’re getting?
You don’t need to know how much milk they are getting. Your boobs automatically adjust and produce the milk that they need. If they’re gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies, they’re getting enough. At the beginning especially, when they are cluster feeding for what feels like hours, many people think that it is a sign they aren’t getting enough, but that’s not true. Cluster feeding is TOTALLY normal. I am embracing the fact that for a couple of hours each evening, I will be stuck on the sofa feeding a baby – BRING IT ON!
What if you don’t produce any milk?
It is thought that only around 1%-5% of women don’t produce enough milk to breastfeed. Again, there is a misconception that at the beginning, when you only produce a small amount of milk, that you don’t have enough and so people turn to formula. Newborn babies have a tiny tummy and only need a tiny amount. The liquid that you produce in the first few days is called colostrum and is magical stuff. It’s about three or four days in when your ‘proper’ milk comes in and believe me; you’re more than likely going to have enough when that happens. And – TMI -I’m also suffering from leaky tits already, so it’s not something that’s worried me!
What about sleep? Won’t you have to do all the nightfeeds?
Yes. Sadly, unless Graham grows a pair of lactating breasts before she’s born and I think that’s probably unlikely. Breastfeeding babies do tend to wake up for more feeds in the night because the milk isn’t quite as dense as formula, but it’s so much easier. We have one of those side cots (or will co-sleep), so it’s a case of a quick sleepy feed with no need of leaving the bed. Oxytocin (the anti-stress and love hormone) produced by breastfeeding makes it easier to go back to sleep afterward.
What about the dad? How will he bond with baby if he can’t feed?
I have to admit this one made me laugh a lot. Seriously, if you think that feeding a baby is the only way a dad can bond with their baby, there is something a bit wrong! Graham is a huge hands-on dad, even when I have breastfed. They don’t feed for every second of the day, leaving plenty of time for cuddles, playing, bathing, chatting, reading and everything else you do with a newborn baby.
What about your other children? Isn’t it weird them seeing you feed?
Um. No. Not at all. Boobs are for feeding babies. It’s a completely natural and normal process. They already know that Elizabeth will have boobie milk and they are all fascinated by how it happens.
What happens if she wants feeding when you are out?
Then I feed her, the same way I would if she had formula. I’ve never had any issues with feeding in public because it’s a totally natural thing to do. If someone sees me doing it and is offended, that’s their problem and fuck anyone who ever suggests I feed my baby in a toilet. I don’t make a big song and dance over it, just get baby latched on and feed. No one sees any more than they would if I was wearing a low cut top, and if they did happen to glance a bit of nip, well, they shouldn’t be looking so closely.
How do you stop feeding when you have had enough?
I don’t actually know the answer to this one. Alex self weaned at 22 months and I’m letting Elizabeth do the same. I guess if we got to three, which is my cut off point and was still feeding, I would need to find a way, but we will cross that bridge if/when we get to it.