I have had a lonnnnng break from writing here, but I have had my hands full with a new baby and then more recently a flooded home and unplanned move…but today’s announcement from the Royal College of Midwives has been the thing to swing me back into action.
When I saw it on the news this morning I just thought “finally!” although I do wonder how long this change of approach will take to filter through properly on the ground when the attitude has been so anti-formula feeding for so long?
In hindsight I put myself through unnecessary physical and emotional distress and we spent quite a bit of money too, trying to achieve what for us was really the impossible.
With my second baby I tried every possible option to improve my supply, and I fed her on demand whenever she wanted for the first week of her life – she was still starving throughout.
When I say starving I really mean it, as having learned from the experience I had with my son where we wound up at the doctors on day 3 with severe dehydration after midwives in hospital had told me to give him nothing but breast (in answer to my question about his tongue tie, and would he need a little water or formula or whatever because he would struggle to feed?) I knew I needed to top her up with formula but the amounts I was allowing myself to give her (again based on midwife advice) were so meagre she was constantly upset because she was hungry.
I look back on that week and feel a bit sad to be honest; why did I have to put us both through that? Why didn’t I just give her a bottle when she was clearly starving?
I’ll tell you why, because I had been made to feel like if I did I was not doing the best by my baby, that I was being selfish and thinking only of myself and my needs, that I was lazy/a bad mother/a failure/*insert your own shitty feeling here*
When I made the decision to move on to formula after a week (with nipples so damaged a specialist feeding consultant gasped when she saw them) I based my decision solely on my daughter’s wellbeing but I had also put myself and my family – because let’s be real, a hormonal and emotional woman trying and failing to breastfeed affects the whole house – through enough.
Tilly was being put through a process of being pretty much starved to avoid her becoming reliant on the formula top ups she was being given TO KEEP HER ALIVE, and it dawned on me how ridiculous it was when the whole point of this for me, was to do the best thing for her.
I wanted her to have the best start in life but she was distressed and hungry, and I was in constant wincing agony (and I’m not talking ‘oh it’s a bit uncomfortable when she’s feeding’ I am talking constant pain all day and all night – even when I lay still and she was nowhere near me, which would become excruciating should my nipples so much as skim the fabric of a top or a towel after a shower – oh and I was still being told to carry on by various people I had gone to for advice at that point). Forcing us both to carry on with that horrible experience was not the way to bond, and I am so glad we stopped.
Don’t get me wrong, I still agree that breast milk is amazing food for babies because it is natural and what they were intended to have; I am also very aware that for some women it isn’t possible and that for others it’s not something they want to do, and I am pleased that these women will all now be supported to feed their babies in a way that works for them.
My daughter is not long 8 months old and has been exclusively formula fed from the age of one week old. She is in robust health & a perfect weight; she is crawling, pulling to standing and starting to cruise; she’s ahead of schedule, happy and intelligent.
So if even just one person reads this, and is worried that formula is failure or anything similarly ridiculous – let me assure you it’s done a lot less harm to my healthy, clever children than forcing the agenda of breastfeeding when it isn’t working.
I applaud the RCM for acknowledging reality, and I feel happy for all the women who will now hopefully enjoy a less judgmental and more supportive feeding journey than some of the mothers who went before them.