The 'talk' from the midwife during the antenatal classes, the questioning by the midwife while she fills out the green form.
The dreaded question is raised: "and will you be breastfeeding?"
We all give the resounding "yes" answer, full of gusto.
Because it's what we're expected to say. I have never attempted to say no. Mainly because, I, personally, was going to attempt it.
It's all about the word 'attempt'.
You see, it is a very different situation when baby arrives. It's generally not until you've had more than one child that you get a bit of confidence in you to voice what you want and what's going to be best for you and baby.
As a first time mother, the sheer panic when your baby is born turns you into a nodding dog. The midwife will check your wounds, while asking you about your ablutions and personal life and they will discuss contraceptives with you. Along with a check of your baby and of course, the famous 'latch on technique'.
Now, along with sleep deprivation, checking your child every thirty seconds, changing nappies, changing clothes, bathing, settling, winding, vaccinations, visitors, midwife appointments, health visitor appointments and the introduction to specialists if your child has difficulties...
...not to mention; the onset of baby blues, the extreme vulnerability you feel, the pain you have, the bleeding, the adaption to changes to your body, the physical and mental exhaustion and the complete change to your life....
...you have pairs of eyes from most people you come across, waiting for your response to the question:
"Are you breastfeeding?"
Now, don't get me wrong...I did for as long as I was able, and for as long as my child wanted to.
I had every intention to do so, pre-birth, because it was what was expected. However, when it came to the crunch, my children (and my body) had other ideas.
Thankfully, after being tipped off from a friend, I did purchase powdered formula and bottles before baby was born.
The most difficult time was when I gave birth to my tiny baby. At 4lb 4oz, he struggled to breast feed. He was so tiny that he would feed for about five minutes before tiring and falling asleep. We didn't know how much he had taken. I was given a feeding sheet to fill in, what was the point of that? We had no idea how much he had taken.
I was given a small bottle of top up formula, so that after each breastfeed, we would feed this to him through a syringe. He would take 5ml on average before tiring and sleeping again. I can't tell you the elation we felt when daddy managed to get 15ml into him!
When my baby was three days old, and still 4lb 4oz, I quietly asked the night shift midwife for his usual top up formula. She looked at me quite aggressively and questioned why.
I explained that this was what had been advised. She shook her head. "The government are doing a big push on breast feeding, so no more top up- breast feed only now" and she left the room.
I looked at my baby boy, fragility it's true self and hoped all would be well.
We were discharged from the hospital on day 5 and at home, I put the bottles and formula away.
"Breastfeed only" I told my sleeping boy.
As the midwife came and questioned my feeding, I explained what had happened and she happily ticked the 'breastfeeding exclusively' box.
As my baby had some health concerns, I had a midwife visit every day.
One day a new lady came to visit. She looked at the notes in his book and looked at the scales.
"He's dropped weight" she said. It was more than the healthy 'allowance' he was 3lb 13.5oz.
We were sent to A&E. It was the last working day before a bank holiday weekend.
The Dr saw us quickly and concern rose about the intake of nutrition.
"Ok, let's see how he goes over the weekend, come back on Tuesday (it was a bank holiday weekend) we'll weigh him and we'll think about putting him on formula. In the meantime, please keep him indoors, he's very vulnerable right now, and even catching a cold could have serious consequences" he said.
We left the hospital, not speaking until we got home. I sat in the living room, looking at our small boy in the car seat. For me, there was only one thing to do...
Start the formula straight away.
My close family, all looking at me agreed, completely.
The kettle was boiled, the bottles made, and cooled.
Little man woke, I breastfed him, and,as he tired, I offered him the bottle....
...he took it.
Just a little at first, but he took it!
This began to develop nicely. gradually, he took more and more formula. It was such a relief. I felt happier that my precious little bundle was taking in the nutrition that his little body needed.
We took him back to the hospital as requested...he had gained a little bit of weight!
We had done it! The dr wasn't very happy, nor were the midwives, that I had changed to mainly feeding formula, but to me, government statistics don't have a place in my life when it comes to the health and wellbeing of my child.
Some mothers take wonderfully to breast feeding, and continue for some time, but others don't. It may be that they can't manage it, find it too stressful, or maybe their little one just can't get the hang of it. Don't criticise or judge! Each mother does what she thinks is right for her baby and herself, and it's not wrong!
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