I’ve been seeing lots of new mums on Instagram talking about how people are judging them for formula feeding their babies.
I haven’t personally had any of these ‘abusive’ messages from randoms on my social media, but that is probably because I don’t have a massive following and I don’t post many photos or videos while I’m feeding Emily.
However, I have felt very judged, and not supported at all from people who are meant to help me when it comes to breastfeeding.
Emily was born via c-section, which I knew before having her can mean that it takes a little longer for the body to produce milk, as it hasn’t had a baby naturally it needs a moment to process that the baby is out. Which was fine.
She had no problems latching on at all, in fact the first midwife to look after me after I had her was very impressed with how naturally we both seemed to get the hang of it (it’s all very blurry in my memory, probably from the anaesthetic still wearing off).
A little backstory- when it actually came to having Emily, she was an emergency c-section, thanks to my mum realising something was wrong and we were very lucky, as waiting any longer probably would have meant she may not have made it. I ended up becoming extremely ill, one of the problems being preeclampsia (due to COVID, my midwife appointments were all over the phone so they did not see how amazingly unwell I hadn’t become). I had gained so much weight within a few days (which didn’t make much sense looking back on it as I was eating well and exercising up until the end of my pregnancy) that’s I had actually become so swollen that I was purple and even my eyes were so puffy that they had closed over a little and I couldn’t see properly. Now, because of this, I ended up having problems post having Emily that the hospital needed me to stay longer.
I had always planned on Emily being a mixed fed baby anyway (mainly breastfed though), and I knew that it was important to get her used to a bottle ASAP, so when I found out I had to stay longer, I asked a midwife for some formula to get her used to it. This particular midwife agreed with my decision to mix feed, however another midwife disagreed with this approach and really made me feel bad about it (I wanted to mix feed as I knew I would be going back to work shortly after having Emily and having formula would be a lot easier than spending ages pumping for enough milk for her to have all day as well as cluster feeding her at night).
Anyway, some time during the night / early morning with the midwives changed over, it was flagged in my records that I had asked for formula, and because I had to stay longer in hospital, they had a special Lactose Consultant come to visit me.
She asked me lots of questions, I felt as though she was trying to trip me up or something to find a ‘problem’ with me - but it was all fine, Emily had latched on well and I knew how to hold her... I was just waiting for the milk to come in (which I knew could take a few days, so I was not worried about this).
The LC hooked me up to a machine to pump the rest of the colostrum out and bring my milk in (which made me very uncomfortable and rather upset) and she almost made me feel like I was already failing as a mother. This on top of the roller coaster of emotions that is child birth PLUS I was still a bit out of I think from the pain killers they had me on PLUS the overwhelming sudden problems I had that weren’t picked up on during pregnancy PLUS COVID restrictions meaning I couldn’t see my parents/ have them meet Emily in hospital (thank goodness my partner was allowed in for a few hours each day), I felt a bit of a mess. I was angry, actually. And tired. I just wanted to go home.
My milk finally came in the night before I was allowed to leave, so I filled a spare bottle with that to give Emily so that I wouldn’t be flagged again as having other ‘problems’.
At 4 weeks, I was finally able to take Emily to the Child Health Nurse. I had to feed Emily while I was there so she could also make sure the latching and feeding was okay (again, was absolutely fine). However, I told her that my partner gives Emily a bottle of formula just before bed at night (the only formula she has a day) and the CHN immediately told me off and made me feel terrible like I was being cruel and said to pump extra instead. I left that appointment feeling quite sad as I tried to explain to her that we were giving Emily that one formula bottle at night because it seems to help her get a couple of hours sleep and I’m also drained from (what I thought was) cluster feeding. Apparently I should have been pumping too- which seemed almost impossible as Emily was spending almost all day stuck to my boob and would fall asleep in my arms and wake up the second I put her down.
I had spent the first 4 weeks with Emily thinking that this is going to be absolutely exhausting (so much worse than I expected) and I even had mastitis for a bit which made it even more painful to feed her. After all, I thought babies were meant to sleep most of the time? Why wasn’t mine? She was constantly needing my boob!
Just before she was 5 weeks old, we had a COVID scare. We thought we were okay, but just to be on the safe side, I decided not to breastfeed for the 3 days we were waiting for the results (otherwise I could have been literally feeding her coronavirus).
During this, I would pump every time she was given a bottle. I would pump for about 20 minutes on each side- however that was much too long. It was then that I realised that Emily was so cranky and attached to me because I was not supplying her enough milk- in fact, I was LUCKY to get 50-60mls during my 40 minutes of pumping.
I was rather upset about this. I wanted to breastfeed. Even now, at 6 and a half months old, I’m still TRYING to breastfeed... even though I know nothing is happening anymore, I’m really trying to force it.
My next appointment with my CHN was over the phone again (more COVID restrictions) and I told her about how I’m not supplying enough milk so I’ve had to make her a more formula fed baby. Well, I definitely felt judged and like I was being lazy (trust me, choosing bottle over boob is definitely not the lazy option). I asked what I can do to get my supply up. All the advice that I got was ‘keep breastfeeding and then pump between feeds and try not to give formula unless you have to’. (.... ummm pretty sure I had to give formula, otherwise Emily wouldn’t eating?). As it was, she was a small baby when she was born, and at 5 weeks old, she had still not gotten any fat rolls. Gosh, she was skinny!
I was already trying to force more milk anyway, I always started off my breastfeeding until she became fussy and would move onto the bottle to fill her up. I would wait a few minutes and then try to trick my body to thinking she was hungry again and needed more food... but no more milk would come out. Gosh, it hurt so much trying to pump with nothing coming out! It wasn’t as though I did it for a couple of minutes, I would spend half an hour on each side waiting. I actually started to get anxious over trying and my heart sank more and more each time I pumped and nothing was coming out.
With no help from the CHN (only judging comments that i need to pump more), i took things into my own hands and bought special boobie bikkies. You know what- I actually noticed a difference in my supply after my first one! However, I needed to have 2-3 a day to maintain supply and I needed to be consistent every day. Unfortunately, after a week or so, I was struggling. I physically couldn’t eat them anymore and it had reached a point that it was no longer increasing my supply, no matter how many bikkies I had (not to mention they are expensive to buy, especially over a long period of time).
So I went to my GP. She told me I had to make sure i was comfortable, properly hydrated (I drink a lot of water anyway so I just made sure to try to increase that too) and most importantly she told me I need to stress less as it may be my anxiety that is controlling it - so don’t think about how much she’s getting and just let it happen.
Well, that didn’t work. I would feed Emily in bed, while relaxing on the couch, drinking more water, distracting myself from worrying about how much milk i was supplying by reading to Emily... yet it wasn’t working.
Around came my next CHN phone appointment. I said supply is decreasing rapidly. I got the same lecture. Not to give Emily the option of formula and to pump.
THAT DID NOT WORK
It just made me feel worse.
Then it was Emily’s 4 month injections and I said to GP still having trouble feeding. Again was told to relax.
Still not helping.
Then I came across breastfeeding supplements, which, like the bikkies, helped to boost supply for about a week or so, but then I was just talking them with no impact.
Now, nearly at 7 months, I don’t even try anymore. It breaks my heart. I lay beside Emily in bed giving her a bottle and all I feel is sadness that I’m missing out on a special bond with her. And you know what, that is hard enough. When I see other mums on Instagram that are getting a hard time over it from people they don’t know with snide remarks like ‘isn’t thar baby a bit young for a bottle?’ Well, a baby is never too young to have a full tummy! Because, after all, that’s what is most important, that the baby is getting fed.
So to everyone out there who is judging a mum for relying on formula- go away! Keep that to yourself because it’s hard enough being a mum and beating yourself up over not being able to FEED YOUR CHILD!!
If you’ve made it to here, thank you for reading my rant ❤️.
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