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It has been just over two months since Bea and I took to combination feeding with great trepidation and lots of misinformation and a huge dollop of “Mum Guilt” on my part!
Have a read of my first post about combination feeding here!
Luckily I haven’t had physiological issues that have prevented me from breastfeeding; though I know my supply is drying up as more time passes and my time feeding is split breast to bottle (most days it is more bottle now!) but I am attempting to ignore any pressure to “do more” to remedy my dwindling supply.
Naively, throughout pregnancy I had believed that it was some kind of inherent eventuality that I would be a Milky Goddess and sustain my child with my own elixir of life alone. Pumping took its toll on me. It is no life, or at least not the life for me. (I have so much respect for those Momma’s that are able to express breast milk feed their babies on the daily! It is such a beautiful thing and you should be so proud of yourself and your body for being able to do this!) I however started to lose my identity and feel more and more like a dairy cow, day by day… pump by pump…
My decision to incorporate formula into our feeding routine was mostly a shove by a rather stoney-faced and judgmental woman (who I actually found out recently was not a health visitor but a nurse) at my local Weigh In clinic. “So you’re still only breastfeeding?” “She hasn’t put on that much weight”… it all of a sudden made me distrust my ability to feed my child “naturally” and I realised that for their records and because Bea was moving forward at a slower pace than other babies (baring in mind she arrived seven weeks early so was going to be much smaller than an average baby), they were keen to push a formula agenda.
(Edit: when I mention that the lady is a nurse this is not to belittle her profession or rank health care professionals in any sort of order. It is to express my surprise that I have not had not had access to Health Visitors at weigh ins who may have different advice to offer and other experience that informs said advice. It felt like this woman was not going by my baby as an individual… more a set of new guidelines.)
I promised myself that I would maybe introduce a few bottles to “beef her up a bit” because I knew it would artificially lay down some weight at speed; then the “health professionals” would leave me alone if I got Bea performing in the growth department and charting those darn centiles! I knew that for my sins I wanted to continue breastfeeding. This week I made it to 6 months breastfeeding in some form! So I am part of the Sapphire Boobs Club #boobieawards!
I feel that combination feeding has actually ensured that I have continued breastfeeding for longer! We have recently been combating 4 Month Sleep Regression which has turned the house upside-down. In my desperate search for the answer to sleep, the exhaustion of which I had not experienced since newborn stage in the hospital I thought “is formula the magic bullet for my sleep solace and sanity?” So I started making up more formula bottles around her fussy times and the early evening.
I don’t know why I felt so guilty… I just wanted to make sure my baby was the healthiest she could be, but I couldn’t help but think of myself from the perspective of the crazy, militant Boobing Momma I had created as part of my Mum-Identity and I felt like a phoney for all those times on social media I had really pushed breastfeeding as the right decision for me and better for babies! For better or worse there is such an emphasis on doing more, trying harder, buying this, that and the other to enhance the breastfeeding experience. I trawled the online forums and found a chorus of “have you tried this?” “have you tried that?” “Buy these supplements/lactation teas/ all singing all dancing electric pumps”. In all honesty sometimes the breastfeeding culture really does ask a little too much of us Mumma’s.
(Edit: Looking back at the pictures of Bea breastfeeding I wish I had taken more photos along the way, but I felt very discouraged to do so after some negativity on Social Media.)
At my most exhausted and my breaking point I didn’t feel like I could physically DO MORE. And I finally gave in to making things less taxing on my body that is still trying to heal itself after a traumatic loss, followed closely by a daunting premature birth. I felt like I had literally given everything I had to my babies. And I would never begrudge that. They do after all deserve the very best, but I started to feel like I could not be at the top of my game if all I ever did was put so much pressure on my mind and body.
Breastfeeding will always put an extra burden on you as a Momma, no matter how supportive your Husband/partner may be. In the exclusive breastfeeding period as I prepped Bea and I for a feed in the early hours of the morning (I have been a member of the 2am Club since the start of this parenting journey!) I would look over at my peacefully snoozing Husband and curse him for his useless nipples! I was so jealous of his extra slumber. The saying is incorrect about sleeping like a baby… it should be revised to “Sleeping like a Daddy”… there have been countless occasions where my Hubby innocently looks over in the morning and mentions how well Bea slept through the night. He had no idea that I had been up every hour Boobing. My nights were super active and exhausting… especially the Cluster Feeds.
For over a month I was in constant fear of my supply drying up. There is nothing more demoralising than completing a 40 minute pumping sesh then only have 3oz to show for this labour of love. I can’t even count the amount of time I had Mom Tantrums & threw my metaphorical toys out the pram or more accurately the pump down the stairs in a fit of rage. There were days I was literally crying over spilt milk. “That’s it I am giving up!” I would threaten… often three or four times a day at the most challenging points and my poor Husband would dutifully remind me how fantastically I had done to get this far. And I would carry on and detest the hard times but truly love the good times with all my heart. There is nothing quite like a Sleepy Boob Feed.
But I would become overcome with the utter fear of losing my supply and pushed through almost 2 whole challenging months with no support because you are made to feel like the breastfeeding experience is all or nothing and that sucks in my opinion. No middle ground is offered and I found that combi feeding has done wonders for my sanity and relationship with my daughter. It is nice to not just feel like a snack bar 24/7. We can spend beautiful moments just snuggling under the covers and me not just having to be her source of sustenance. She loves me for the comfort I can provide in spite of my own milk (or not!)
Initially it was so hard to take on “doing less” and I was terrified of judgement. There seemed to be a huge amount of kudos to be found when other Mums at the baby groups would say how well Bea was looking then instantly follow up with “are you breastfeeding?” For those exclusive breastfeeding months I would say yes and the response would always be so positive “you go Mamma!” … but what now of combi feeding? Would the response still be the same?! I think that’s what I was afraid of at first as I started experiencing a new kind of freedom… but could this be seen as lazy? Would it be detrimental to my child to give her formula?
Whatever you seem to do as a Momma you will feel judged, but I think it is about going confidently in your own direction and trusting your body, decisions and baby. I am slowly learning to do this. Bea is thriving day by day and it makes me trust my own inner voice much more. I think we should be doing more to empower each other as Mothers, Care Givers & Goddesses on Earth.
Combi Feeding has given me a new feeling of freedom. I am not locked away behind closed doors prepping lactation smoothies and power pumping every 20 minutes to up my supply between feeds. I am not judging this way of feeding and routine, but I am far too unorganised to maintain anything that resembles this kind of structure. If you can I truly commend you. Combi Feeding has meant that I can hand a bottle over to my Husband to take off some of the pressure on me after a twelve hour day of caring for our little whirlwind (she is intense!!!) or I have the utter freedom that so many of my Fully Boobing friends don’t have where their little one will not take a bottle so can not spend extended periods of time with other family members. I am always thankful that I can pack up her bits and bobs and quite happily send Bea off to her Nannies’ for the day; safe in the knowledge she will be well fed.
I guess my message is, if you choose to not exclusively breastfeed it is of no detriment to your baby. Combi Feeding has meant there has been (a bit) less pressure on my body so there is more enjoyment when we breastfeed. It means that out session is much more casual and I am not highly strung about whether I have been able to produce enough milk. I just “go with the flow”… or more precisely my milk flow. Having the option to bottle feed has meant that I am not worrying about creating a crazy “milk stash”! Sometimes with freezing your milk the high lipase levels turn the taste utterly disgusting for your baby! After hospital I never had the patience again to pump and freeze ounces and ounces of milk. I usually only found myself ahead two or three bottles of expressed milk at the most. I quickly regulated to this output and found that if I pumped in between it would suck me dry and make for a distressed Bea when it came to feeds as she gets easily upset when she has to work harder to get her milk. (In terms of Combi Feeding I have personally not found there to be any nipple/teat confusion; more a case of different preferences on different days! Obviously the bottle flow is faster. Bea never took kindly to the slow flow teats we put on her bottles!)
I have found that Combi Feeding offered me some much needed rest. Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing so is not another reason to question your ability as a Mum! I continue to breastfeed Bea in harmony with bottle feeding.
I don’t know how much longer I will be breastfeeding. Initially it seemed like an improbable future for Bea and I so every day longer that we breastfeed is an utter bonus! I feel like I gave Bea the best start in life. I sacrificed a lot to get is both to this point now. As it currently stands, Feeding is the least of my worries at the moment! There are other issues that we are working on but at least I know when all is said she done, Bea WILL have a full belly every day. It doesn’t matter how it is done provided I get to see her beautiful smiles each day!
Have you chosen to Combi Feed? Are you finding it beneficial to your relationship with your child and self? Have you felt pressure from The Breastfeeding Community?
– Bea’s Mummy x