Our breastfeeding story came to an end two weeks ago…When it happened I felt total relief; for weeks we had pushed through, as she screamed and latched on and off for each feed, getting progressively more frustrated as the day went on. Secretly I wanted someone to just tell me to stop and switch to formula completely as she clearly wasn’t happy, but I thought I had to persevere, because breast milk is the best thing for her, right?
In the end it was Florence who made the decision, she reached the point of screaming straight away and not latching at all. I tried expressing, but I wasn’t even getting half a feed, so formula at each failed feed was the only option.
Some would say that it all went wrong the moment I gave her that first bottle of formula, when she was two weeks old. I’d say that was the best decision for us at the time. My mental state wasn’t good. I was actually scared of Florence waking up and wanting fed because I dreaded the pain of latching her on. I had an infection from mastitis, I had a fever, my whole body ached and I was telling my Mum I didn’t think I could look after Florence, I couldn’t give her what she needed, but I was also beating myself up for even considering giving her formula. Mum handed me the bottle of formula, and a friend brought round an electric pump. I pumped as much as I could during the day (which was only three times a day, for various reasons) and we gave her formula the rest of the time, and overnight. This was wonderful, she was only up once through the night so I was able to catch up on sleep.
I was put on antibiotics, only to discover a few days later (whilst trying to find out if Florence had a tongue tie) that Florence had thrush…made worse by antibiotics. Thankfully the mastitis and the thrush cleared up after a week, but the pain and the damage was still very much there, and the screaming on the breast began, which left us wondering if she did in fact have a tongue tie. Our breastfeeding support worker came to visit us at week 6, and she could tell I was at the point of giving up, so she tried to hurry along the Tongue Tie Clinic and we were called in the following day. They discovered she had a posterior tongue tie, very hard to assess, and snipped it there and then. I latched her on straight after and couldn’t believe the difference; there was no pain at all. It was wonderful! I thought this would solve everything! It was at this point I should probably have stopped giving the formula through the night…they say night feeds are the ones that tell your body to prepare more milk for the next day. But sleep is a wonderful thing, and I didn’t think about it having an effect on my milk supply…the screaming at the breast came back and continued to get worse. At the same time we were selling our flat in Aberdeen, so travelling back and forth, moving out of Matthew’s folks house and in to our own home, attending multiple weddings, and then it was Christmas and New Year…there was a lot going on.
Eventually I twigged, and decided to try feeding her myself through the night, to try to increase my supply, but unfortunately this is what brought us to the end of our journey. Florence fed from me through the night, but by the morning she was more frustrated than ever, and would only feed for a few seconds before the screaming began. It wasn’t the wonderful bonding experience they talk about! She clearly wasn’t getting what she needed from me, and was much happier with formula.
Perhaps things would have been different if I hadn’t started on the formula all those weeks ago, or if her tongue tie had been assessed and snipped right at the start, but unfortunately you can’t change the past and there’s no point wondering “What if?”.
Some will probably think I gave up too easily, I should have fed through the pain in those first few weeks, and should have made more of an effort to increase my supply, if that is what the problem was in the end. However, after two weeks of exclusively formula feeding I can say it’s definitely been the right decision. Florence doesn’t scream during feeds, she’s very content and even smiles as she looks up at me. Matthew has had the cold twice in the past month, but neither I nor Florence have caught it, so health-wise she’s doing great! And mentally, I am doing great! I was sad as the first week passed, occasionally trying to feed her myself, not quite ready to completely give it up, but then it just became the norm, and it felt good knowing she was happy and getting what she needed!
It’s early days to be saying this, but if/when Baby Mac #2 comes along I am definitely going to try breastfeeding again, but I’m not going to beat myself up if it’s not working and we don’t manage to get past a few weeks or months, as ultimately fed is best.