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From breast to bottle - Part 2

By 22:13:00 , , , , , , ,

In my previous blog post, I relayed the events immediately following J's birth. All had initially seemed well whilst we were in the post natal ward and J's constant feeding was put down as cluster feeding, but in my heart of hearts I knew something wasn't right. I pushed to get us both discharged thinking that being in my own home would help, but after a terrible first night home I knew we needed more help.

On the morning after our discharge, 2 community midwives (one a student) turned up to do some general checks on both of us. Upon weighing J he was found to have lost 10.6% of his birth weight. Up to 10% is normal but as he was only slightly over it was the midwives call. After some careful thought and further consultation with a hospital paediatrician it was suggested that we return to hospital and by the afternoon we were back on the children's ward where J was re-admitted.

Whilst waiting to be seen at the hospital I found that my milk had finally come in, which was initially a relief. We talked to our doctor and the consultant, and the consultant said that due to J's weight he wanted him to have a minimum of 60mls every 3 hours and this could come either from me (via expressing) or via formula. By now I was so concerned with J's colouring from the jaundiced and still not convinced he was getting enough from me that I decided to let him have formula and the hospital provided us with aptamil. It was such a relief to see him finish it all up - finally I could set myself at ease that he was finally getting something. The hospital also allowed me to use an electric pump - the medela. This was fantastic however I struggled to produce the 60mls ready for the next feed and so over night I alternated between aptamil and my expressed milk.

From that first feed of aptamil, J settled into a 3hr feeding routine which meant I actually could get some sleep, I was also in my own room with him so didn't have to worry about waking up other mum's or baby's (although our room was very warm). Everything was fine until about 2am when he started crying I fed him, but the crying continued and nothing I did worked. It was at this point my emotions kicked in again, I felt as though my baby had been starving because of me, that I could not cope and that I was letting him down by feeding him formula. The nurses were fantastic on the ward, they gave me a lot of support and really helped me feel so much better. They also stepped in and helped me out.

We were discharged again the following day and this time we decided to go down the combi feeding route with a view to going back to breastfeeding, I bought a breastpump and over the next few weeks did a combination of expressing, breastfeeding and formula feeding. I was still suffering from my experiences though, and I would not breastfeed in front of anyone but my partner, I would not let anyone but he or me formula feed him, and anyone who tried to suggest my baby was crying due to hunger would get a mouthful from me - it was just too raw a point and I still was struggling emotionally.

Over the next two weeks my confidence in my ability to breastfeed diminished, I was convinced J was not producing enough milk, he was also lazy feeder and although his suction was strong, he kept falling off me or falling asleep. He would also get bored or just use me as a dummy rather than actually feed when he was supposed to. I also liked the convenience of formula feeding - my partner could do feeds and it was nice to see them have that bonding time. I also had the reassurance that I knew exactly what J was drinking and that for me was the most important factor having seen him turn so yellow and lose all that weight. I had continued to try using the breast pump but I just could never produce much milk and it often felt like a lot of effort with very little result.

After 2 weeks we went completely to formula feeding and I have never looked back. We also bought a perfect prep machine which I would recommend to anyone and J is now doing very nicely having regained all the weight lost and a lot more besides. J was a big baby at 8lb 10oz and at last weeks weigh in aged 9 weeks he was 13lb 8oz and following the 75th centile on the growth chart.

I've learnt a lot from my experiences, but I am not put off breastfeeding forever. We would like to have more children and I will attempt to breastfeed them as well but I appreciate every child is different and so many factors do influence the chance of success with breast feeding. For me personally I do still wonder 'what if' - What if J had not been born by c-section? What if my milk had come in sooner? What if I had not been in hospital for so long? What if I had not been so tired? What if the midwives didn't visit us the first day - would things have improved anyway with my milk arriving later the same day? What if I had stuck to breastfeeding and not combi-fed? But I guess I'll never know.

At the end of the day J is healthy and happy and that's all that matters to me.

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