Ah the age old breast vs bottle debate!
I wanted to write about my experience with breast and bottle feeding because I’m hoping to have a better experience this time round with breastfeeding!
Alfie was born at 1.40pm, after 11 hours of labour. As soon as he was delivered, we had a few minutes of skin to skin before the midwife came over and tried to latch him on for a feed. Only Alfie didn’t latch on straight away and from what I remember, the midwives didn’t help me try again as their concern was getting the cord cut and delivering the placenta. I didn’t have the syntocinon injection immediately after or when I was delivering Alfie and I’m not sure why. The only reason I can think is because I wanted a natural birth and I perhaps think it wasn’t explained to me enough, to know that if I’d have had the injection, the placenta would have been delivered almost straight away.
As such, it was to be an hour before the placenta would be delivered and then I had to wait another hour for the doctor to come before he could stitch me up. During this time, Alfie spent a lot of it with Daddy being cuddled, until I was ready for him to come back to me, but from memory, there was no mention of trying to feed him after I’d delivered the placenta or had my stitches.
After I’d had my stitches and shower, I seemed to be very rushed out of the delivery room to moved to the labour ward. I remember the midwives coming back in to the room twice asking if I was going to be much longer. My mum was doing my hair as I was in too much pain and Michael was packing our things up, but I didn’t appreciate being so rushed, given that I’d had to wait 2 hours after having Alfie for the doctor to come and stitch me up! Again, there had been no further mention of attempting to feed Alfie.
I remember getting to the ward just before tea time and all the family who had been there all day, were eager to see Alfie. Although I should have only had one or two people around the bed, I ended up with everyone there – my parents and sister and Michael’s parents and his sister were all there, wanting to meet the newest addition to the family. By the time they’d all gone it was probably getting close to 6pm and Alfie still hadn’t fed. A midwife came to help latch him on and for the first time all day, he had a feed. I loved being able to feed him and looking back, I really wish Michael had taken some photos of this special time, as little did I know, it would be only one of a couple of times I would feed him.
Later that night when it was time for Alfie’s feed, once again, I couldn’t get him to take anything from me. I was told that he had a lot of mucus on his chest, so he may not be hungry. I trusted what the midwives said and didn’t think anything more of it. Michael left at 9pm and Alfie had only had one feed all day. I mentioned it to the midwife and she took him away. I can’t remember why, or agreeing to it, but when he came back, she told me she’d given him an ounce of formula from a bottle. At the time, I was so relieved that he’d had some milk, that I didn’t really think anything more about it. It’s only now when I think back that I should have been asked if I was ok with him having formula from a bottle and I think I should have been asked if I wanted to be the one to feed him.
The following morning, we woke around 5am and I tried again to latch him on and still nothing was happening. I buzzed for the midwife and was told that the support worker was due in at 8am so would come and help me. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. I was getting quite frustrated with myself and worried about how little milk Alfie had actually had since his delivery. I could tell that when Michael arrived, he was also getting worried, but whenever I told the midwives, they didn’t seem concerned saying that he’s got mucus on his chest. It was 10am before the support worker came and finally managed to latch him on and he fed for about 45 minutes.
The rest of the day was a blur of checks for us both, him having some injections, he had his first bath as a nurse came to show us how to hold him correctly etc and we were finally discharged and able to go home mid-afternoon.
At home I tried and tried to feed him but I just couldn’t, so we had no option but to give him formula as we needed to make sure he was having something! I’m not going to lie, I found it so hard and frustrating that my baby wouldn’t latch on to me. It also made Michael quite poorly with all the worry. On our first morning at home, I finally managed to get him to latch on for a feed myself and I felt so proud that I’d done it. However, it was a different story when he was ready to feed again, so the support worker came and spent about an hour herself trying to get him to feed from me, but even she couldn’t manage it.
And that’s when I decided to stop.
It had been a tough couple of days and nights. On that first night at home, Michael had set his alarm for every 2 hours for Alfie to feed and we were both exhausted, I was in so much pain from the birth and stitches, that Michael was having to get up and get Alfie and pass him to me to feed. Alfie seemed much happier taking from a bottle and I knew that ultimately, it was best for us as a family as I was becoming incredibly stressed and upset that I couldn’t feed him.
Our breastfeeding journey was over before it had even begun.
This time round, I have told my midwife that I do really want to try again and I’m hoping for a much more positive experience. As I’ve opted for delayed cord clamping, I’ve also stressed how important it is to me to feed the baby in the first hour and the midwife completely agreed. When I told her about my experience last time, she was very understanding and said that it’s not really a surprise that he wouldn’t feed from me if he didn’t have a feed in the first hour. The way she explained it was basically that as he’d not fed from me in that first hour, that window of opportunity had been missed and he wouldn’t have recognised my smell when he came back to me after having my shower and smelling of body wash. She also said that feeding from the nipple and a bottle are very different, so with him having had a bottle feed in hospital that first night, it’s probably confused him because babies have to open their mouth really wide to breastfeed whereas they don’t with a bottle.
Everything what she said made perfect sense and when I think back, I’m also not surprised that he was confused. I’ve since seen a different midwife, who was also really supportive and has told me that so much has changed in the four years since I’ve had Alfie and if I want to stay there having skin to skin for 3 hours, then I can. They also can’t move me until I’m ready (unless the desperately need the room), but from what she’s said, they are there to fully support me and help me, rather than just process me through like I felt last time.
I’m so hopeful that I’ll be able to breastfeed this time and I’m fully prepared to not give up!