Being an imperfect Mother .. the great feeding debate

Before a woman embarks on the journey of motherhood, most have an idea of how they would like to give birth to their child, how they plan on feeding and generally how they are going to raise them. I can assure you, as all mothers reading this will agree, it often goes out the window when you realise how little power you have when it comes to how your baby arrives and how you will feed them.

As a mother who is just shy of 13 years on the job, I have been blessed to have experienced this whirlwind threefold.

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I am pro breastfeeding, I am pro bottle feeding, I am also not pro the pressure to do either.

When I gave birth to my first child, Noah, I was only just 25 years old, which, when I look back, was so very young. I was the perfect mother who had not yet given birth. I was going to have a natural, drug free birth, with as little intervention as possible and I was going to breast feed my baby.

Unfortunately, after discovering I had placenta previa, the option for a natural, drug free birth was taken out of my hands. I was determined that I would be able to breastfeed and at least part of my dream of motherhood would come true.

Lucky for me, I persevered through the initial teething problems and was able to feed Noah successfully for 12 months. Now, whilst this is what society deems ‘perfect’, I still encountered opinions from pro bottle feeders.

‘He’s unsettled, top him up with a bottle, he’s still hungry’ .. ‘How do you know your milk has enough, give him a bottle of formula a day’ .. they said of my 97th percentile monster.

Round two, and I’m ready, I know what it feels like to breastfeed, I know about attachment, I know the cues.. I know it all .. ahh no.

Holly had a mind of her own with feeding, she disliked me immensely, and after trying for 1 month and my wee poppet down 500 grams from her birth weight, my clinic nurse gently tells me she will need to be bottle fed. I remember making up my first bottle of formula and feeling like the biggest failure to my child. How could something so natural not work?

So, then comes my last baby, our Harrison. I found my journey to conceive him and my pregnancy a complete miracle. In the 12 year gap between my first and last baby, I had learnt so much. I was so grateful that I had been given this child, that I had been blessed enough to have 3 children and so very aware of all the loss and heartache of so many friends who had not been as blessed, or had found the journey to motherhood so much harder.

After breastfeeding and bottle feeding before, and feeling the pressure of society’s expectations I made a decision to do whatever worked, and to be comfortable with my decision, whatever that would be.

Easier said than done.

Due to Harrison’s respiratory complications at birth, I was unable to feed my baby, well to be frank, no one fed him in the beginning. As I enjoyed feeding Noah so much, I decided to express every three hours and freeze my milk until I could feed Harrison myself. So, I vigilantly set my alarm every three hours so I could express, just as if my baby was with me, even though we were separated.

My milk came in beautiful abundance, with the doctors and nurses in awe of my supply when I was having no physical contact with my baby. The stocks in the hospital freezer were looking quite impressive and I felt like I was doing the only thing in my power to care for him.

Once Harrison was well enough to be able to tolerate food, the doctors starting to feed him small amounts of my expressed milk through a tube. Eventually, we taught him how to suck from a bottle (easier and we needed to measure the quantity) and finally, the tube was removed.

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We came home from hospital with Harrison being fed my expressed milk through a bottle. After the hospital visited us at home and declared Harrison a 10/10, I was allowed to start offering Harrison his feeds from the breast.

I was thrilled, feeding a baby every three hours from a bottle which took around 30 minutes, to then settle him, then sit for 40 minutes and express my milk, then tend to my other children, businesses and life in general and you know, maybe the odd hour of sleep, was truly leaving me a withered and emotional mess.

Unfortunately, Harrison had other ideas, he much preferred the bottle, it was easier, he was used to it and quite frankly, he didn’t want me.

After persevering for a bit, becoming more exhausted and starting to feel like one or more of my ever juggling balls was about to drop, I decided to talk to a clinic nurse. She was ever so supportive … in a pro breastfeeding way. She offered a lactation consultants details and point-blank told me to persevere, because they don’t recommend bottle feeding. I sat there on my couch, shattered, having a total of 3 hours sleep a night, still feeling emotionally bruised and battered from the ordeal of having my baby so ill, talking to a trained professional, who was telling me that no matter what, I should breastfeed.

Guilt.

Guilt for knowing that it wasn’t working. Guilt because I didn’t have the time to invest in just breastfeeding my baby. My life was and is, hectic, but knowing that I was ultimately choosing to make sure our life as a whole family was working, rather than letting every ball drop except his, meant my guilt was overpowering. I felt selfish, I felt tired and I choose my sanity and my whole families happiness over persevering with breastfeeding.

The next day I decided to look at formula options, so I googled the best brands available and clicked on this website. Here is what displays itself on the home page –

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Now, if you click the ‘no thanks’ box, you are taken to a breastfeeding website. I have to click that I understand that breast is best before I am ‘allowed’ to look at formula options for my baby. Considering my mental and emotional state at the time, this was not only unappreciated but tripled my already sky-high guilt.

As an educated, mature woman, I am well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. I understand that formula, as advanced as it now is, cannot and will never contain the same amazing molecules as breast milk. I am also well aware of post natal depression, of the pressure that hovers around you, scolding you if you don’t tick every box that makes you the mother society expects. I’m not sure where as women, we have gotten to the point where breast is best overrides a mothers mental, physical and emotional health.

Thankfully, that same day I had an appointment with my obstetrician. A beautiful, kind, soft and gentle man, whom I had grown so fond of during my pregnancy. I sat down at his desk and his first question was, ‘So how is the feeding going?’. I burst into tears, huge, shoulder shaking tears, and somehow spluttered out how it wasn’t working and that I was such a selfish mother and after how sick Harrison had been, I should be doing more. He stood, engulfed me in a huge hug and said, ‘I’m going to write you a script to dry your milk up. This is the formula brand I recommend .. It’s ok.’

God bless that wonderful man.

So, I gave it up, Harrison became a bottle fed baby and is the picture of health. A big, bouncing boy who is ticking along his milestones, with a huge appetite and glows with health.

And me, the mother who thought by number 3 she should know it all, is fast realising, with each year that passes, that I know nothing really, and that, well, that is completely ok with me.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! There’s a nifty little comment field below! Much love xK

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7 thoughts on “Being an imperfect Mother .. the great feeding debate

  1. Be encouraged! Breast works well for some, and for others it simply doesn’t. What amazes me is how much emphasis and hurt we throw around at new mothers – for when the child is a toddler, feeding debates are rarely even mentioned. Health is the goal, and it looks different for every child.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post. I recently experienced the same with my twins- people kept adding more steps to the process- offer the breast (x2) then pump for 20 mins, every two hours. Then, “try this syringe to feed,” etc. Not sure when I was supposed to sleep during that routine. The bottle made it all better. I love your message! Moms and dads need to not be insane and if taking the pressure off is the key, so be it.

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    1. Oh Anne, hats off to you for even attempting breastfeeding twins! Absolutely, a rested and happy Mumma will raise a happier and healthier baby, no matter what your feeding choice. Thank you for taking the time to share your story, the more we talk and share, the more we can support each other in this crazy thing called motherhood xx

      Like

  3. I absolutely loved that piece.
    I battled on for 9 weeks with breastfeeding, then being told to combination feed as my baby wasn’t gaining weight.
    I switched to formula completely after expressing after feeds and being a first time mum.
    The guilts set in and have never actually left! I feel reassured that I am not alone and I really appreciate you sharing this. Thank you you amazing Mother!

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    1. Thank you so much for your reply and taking the time to read my post. You are absolutely not alone and the more mums you speak to the more you realise how much trouble so many have with feeding. Being a first time Mumma is such hard and unknown territory, I wish you so much luck and love on your Mumma journey! xx

      Like

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