Breastfeeding v bottle feeding… It doesn’t really matter.
I have read so many articles now about “bressure” (mums feeling pressure to breast feed/ feeling as though they’ll be judged for bottle feeding). But, equally I have read a lot about the great benefits of breastfeeding, the list seems almost endless… Baby gets antibodies, great for weight loss, cheaper than formula and no need for sterilising etc, etc.
Why does it matter? Shouldn’t it be down to a mums individual choice, what she decides to do?
That’s what it comes down to- choice. Instead of focussing on what others are deciding to do or feeling pressured I think we should remember the mums that don’t get a choice. The NICU mums waiting desperately for their milk to come in when their baby arrived unexpectedly 10 weeks early, or like myself, a mum who simply didn’t get a choice. After my baby’s breathing difficulties had been overcome, we discovered (and luckily too that it was picked up on) that she couldn’t maintain a safe blood sugar level. Whilst she was on ECMO and then a ventilator, she was receiving dextrose. But, when she came off the ventilator there was an attempt to wean her off the dextrose but unsuccessfully so. Whenever the dextrose was dropped her blood sugar dropped too. She ended up on a relatively high concentration of dextrose (20%) and then the testing began. She had so much blood taken for various tests I cried wondering irrationally
whether she’d have any left. Evidently this was more than a mere episode of neonatal hypoglycaemia. I was unable to feed her during testing. I had been expressing since she was on ECMO, it made me feel useful, when I couldn’t hold her I could express. I was very lucky that the neonatal intensive care unit she was on was able to facilitate me to do so. I was given a Medela electric pump to put in my room whilst we stayed there, which worked superbly (I had previously heard it would be difficult without the baby there, but this pump was great). It wasn’t much, but a comfort to me. I managed to get quite a stash built up in the refrigerator (I had nearly a full shelf in the NICU fridge!). It took two weeks before we got our diagnosis. It’s such a rare condition. She produces too much insulin, it’s called Hyperinsulism and causes dangerously low blood sugars. During this two weeks she had the odd 1ml of breast milk via her NG tube, so I was very keen to get going afterwards, and wanted to feel the bond between mother and baby that breastfeeding brings. However, as her blood sugars were being closely monitored, as was her milk intake, we had to document every bit of milk she had to ensure that she had a satisfactory amount to keep her blood sugars safe alongside her medication. I had lots of breast milk and continued to pump so we tried her on bottles of it and we could measure what she took (barely anything as she had to learn to drink, so most of it ended up going down the NG tube).
I sat with her 18 hours a day, and I still feel it was not enough. I would go to NICU at 6am, always the first mum there and not leave (bar for a quick coffee and sandwich) until 11 or 12 at night. And when I returned to my room all I tried to do was express milk. I would cry if I missed my 2am alarm and wake up with wasted milk on the sheets, I constantly felt like a let down. During the day I now kept disappearing in order to express in private. I was missing her smile and changing nappies and everything else. My husband was with her but I always thought she needed her mummy as well. I began to get frustrated when I became sore from pumping for an hour and only to get 50ml, making the whole expressing procedure even more difficult. My stash quickly depleted. The stress and upset had a major effect on my supply. I got a prescription for domperidone but didn’t want to leave my newborn to go to the GP to get it.
In the end I had to make a very tough decision- get myself tired, depressed, flustered and stressed over milk or sit and hold my baby’s hand. I held her hand. And, I won’t ever regret that choice.