I have two beautiful daughters, both of whom are happy, healthy and thriving. I am truly blessed. One is 28 months old, the other is 9 weeks. I have spent a combined total of 9 days of their lives breastfeeding.
When Rose was born I was planning to exclusively breastfeed, in fact I was quite excited about it, I’d purchased an electric pump and fully expected I would become a full-on milk machine in no time at all. Well, she was brilliant, she latched on with no bother at all, and the only pain came from the milk drawing down when she feasted on me (Oof, the memory of that pulling sensation dragging down from my armpit won’t ever leave me *shudder*) Then, on day 6, I was told to stop. I had a very bad infection and needed to take two lots of antibiotics, rest when I could, have a blood transfusion and basically I was told breastfeeding wasn’t an option. I was crushed. I’m not one for public tears, but I balled my eyes out as I walked through the doctor’s waiting room and out into the street to meet my other half and an almost-hungry-again Rose.
It occurred to me that I didn’t even know how to make a bottle of formula. I turned to one of my superb Mummy friends for advice (thank you, Lotty, you are an angel and I will never forget it 😘) and I raced around Tesco with my puffy eyes and saddened heart, feeling like a total failure, and worrying how Rose was going to cope with this sudden change and this below-par source of nutrition.
Well, like most things in life since then, she nailed it. Daddy stepped up to give her bottle #1 and she loved it, which only made me more sad. I felt a sense of loss, I was no longer unique to her feeding needs – anyone could step in and take care of her now, not just me.
The days passed and as I saw her growing, smiling and sleeping more and more I realised that formula-feeding wasn’t the end of the world at all, and the main thing was that Rose was happy and healthy and I was well on the road to recovery myself – and I was far from redundant when it came to my new Mummy role.
Rose is now a very bright, very funny and very tall 2 year old. She didn’t sprout another head, didn’t wilt like an unwatered daisy, and she slept 8 hours at 8 weeks old.
When Willow was born, 9 weeks ago, I was planning to breastfeed or at least combine breast and bottle after getting things established. After I delivered her, she snuggled into my chest, rooting away and I remembered the joyous feeling of being about to feed a newborn baby for the very first time. She suckled away for a good hour, feeding, comforting, feeding, dozing. It was heaven. After a straightforward delivery we were allowed home the same day she arrived, and I couldn’t wait to get settled in at home and start our life as a family of four.
Willow was a very ‘sucky’ baby with the thirst of a newborn vampire, and combined with a fondness to soothe herself after each feed, I found myself whipping out a boob every 30-40 minutes or so. My nipples became cracked and sore and I spent two nights sleeping in an armchair with Willow against my chest to allow for her constant need for colostrum. As evening struck on Day 2 I realised I had barely touched Rose that day, in fact I think we had only had one cuddle since Willow was born. That realisation, combined with bleeding nipples (Poor Tom had to hold breast pads against them while I climbed into the shower, so we didn’t look like a murder had been
committed on our white bathroom tiles) saw an end to my breastfeeding journey.
Willow’s constant suckling meant my milk came in with a vengeance and it took well over ten days for my breasts to calm down from porn star mounds to the much more modest proportions I’m used to. I wish it only took ten days for the guilt to subside. This time, I had DECIDED to stop. No-one told me I had to (well, my nipples had some say in it), no-one forced me to break out the Cow & Gate. I found this so much harder than I had with Rose, because I made the choice.
After a couple of weeks of formula, Willow was settling well (we put her on Comfort milk at the first sign of evening fussiness, after being scarred by our colic experience with Rose), growing amazingly and I was starting to accept that I did the right thing for my family. Sometimes I see a mother breastfeeding and I feel a pang of envy, of regret, but I know I chose the best thing for me, for Willow, for Rose and for their Daddy too as he gets to enjoy bonding while feeding bedtime bottles.
Breast isn’t always best, but I know it can feel like anything other is just not good enough. It’s a really tough call, but you have to do what’s right for you and your family and ignore any judgement – and believe me, feeding your babies from your boobs is NOT what makes you a Mother. A Mother’s arms are the most comforting, a Mother’s kiss the most healing and a Mother’s love is utterly unique – and I adore being available for BOTH of my girls when they need me.
Huge respect to all Mothers, however you choose to feed your children – breastfeeding is incredibly hard, especially with more than one child in the mix, and I applaud anyone who makes a go of it. But if you can’t make it work for you then formula is absolutely good enough. It literally does what it says on the tin – it is a substitute for breast milk, and
a perfectly fine one at that. As for me, I’ve finally managed to get to the stage where I can be happy with my choice. From now on, as long as Willow has a full tummy and a smile on her gorgeous, chubby little face, that’s good enough for me ❤️👶🏼