Fed is best. I know that saying makes a few people angry and their eyes twitch, but it is. Now I’m not saying to feed your baby condensed milk or bread dipped in water, but sometimes when I tell people that I mix feed occasionally, that’s how they’ll look at me. Not all. Some people don’t even care. Breastfeeding is hard work. Some people ace it, some people don’t. I’m the latter.
When my son was born I couldn’t get him to latch, and I was discouraged to let him latch and encouraged to express and syringe. I couldn’t really keep up with that so we got given and bought loads of sachets of formula. Eventually a nurse popped him on 4 days later. He only got the boob after that. I demand fed him, whenever he cried I boobed him. Whenever he seemed tired, I boobed him. When in doubt, I whipped it out. He spent 23 hours on me feeding. I didn’t know any better. I was also incredibly lazy and breastfeeding was convenient.
Feeding for 5 hours a night can get boring, so I joined some mum Facebook groups. Some of them were debate groups. I learnt a lot from these groups, I became an avid debater too. I was mostly nice though, although some other mothers really liked to get stuck into other people. One debate i’d always see was, breast vs formula. I’d never get involved because I never cared, but I’d observe. I learnt about the virgin gut, about how formula is “dead” and how your feeding your child poison that big pharmacutical companies sell you because they want your money, and your soul. I dared never to admit that I had fed my son formula at the start, I’d be hung up by a e-noose.
I tried to follow routines, eat play sleep garbage, but it was so hard when the only way he would sleep was when he was feeding, he even had a dummy but it was never enough. I honestly think that my supply was low, and those 4 days of no latching made an impact, but whenever I asked in those mother groups, they would grill me and tell me no one had a low supply, and it’s just something I’ve been scared into thinking. Funny that my son put on weight so slow and that sometimes he had dry nappies – signs of a low supply. He had the tongue tie, yeah I did all that, spent a load of money to fix all these problems to make it wonderful, but it would occasionally hurt and it was never wonderful.
My son never slept, hardly ever. We were glued to each other. Well rather, he was glued to my nipple. I wouldn’t leave the house because I’d be feeding so much. I couldn’t go out by myself because I never pumped well. I couldn’t give him formula because I’d be ruining his ‘untainted stomach’ and I dare not displease the perfecting parenting police nor ruin my child’s internal organs. I had terrible post natal depression and eventually every time I had to feed him, I would cringe. I couldn’t escape.
I was admitted to a mother baby unit where I would talk to psychiatrists every day. They told me this story about how a monkey who was starved and left alone had two path options, the first one being a bottle full of milk and the second being faux fur. The monkey after days of distress and starvation, chose the fur. It cuddled into the fur like me on Christmas Day with pavlova. The baby monkey didn’t care about eating. It just wanted it’s mothers love. I got it. My sons a monkey. I’m the fur. They suggested switching to formula so I didn’t feel so pressured, and so my son could put on some damn weight and sleep.
But what about the Virgin gut?? What about the dead substance. I’m a bad mother for giving it to him, aren’t I?
No, I was a bad mother for neglecting my mental needs, and doing something in vain. I neglected our relationship for something that could do the job when Breastmilk couldn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I remember it was grand final day, and I sure as hell didn’t want to watch the football, so I said to my husband that I was going to go the shops and he could watch our 7 month old and just give him formula if he seems hungry. I left the house and let out a sigh of relief. I was out, by myself. It felt soooooooooooooooooooooooo good. I bought some frozen pies and came home, I felt like I had climbed a mountain. My anxiety was in check, my depression was in check and I didn’t feel sad.
When you have your second child, you swear you’re going to do everything different. I said that I wasn’t going to be afraid of formula, I was going to leave all those debate groups and not let them dictate my parenting, and I was going to latch my baby and listen to no shitty advice about syringing.
When my daughter was born, I whipped that boob in her mouth faster than you can say lasinoh. I was also in excruciating pain. Her tongue tie was so thick it was textbook. I was crying every time she would come near me, my nipples felt so burnt that I couldn’t even bear the thought of pumping. The hospital suggested formula, they didn’t push it on me, they offered. I was hesitant but then I remembered my promise to myself, and I said, “yeah sure.” I had some relief, and that relief was a godsend.
Fast forward and while we were working our tricky latching issues and tongue ties, i’d occasionally top her up, or give her some formula while I pumped to get my stash up. I was warned that if I even used a speck of formula that my supply would go. Well I tell you, I even look at my nipple and milk comes flying out.
I also know that if I haven’t pumped, if I need to go somewhere, if I have an event and feeding in public might give me anxiety, I have the option of formula. If I didn’t have that option and had to suffer through the pain as we were working things out or didn’t have the option to leave the house and repeated the same actions that left me hospitalised, I would have given up breastfeeding before I hit 6 weeks.
It’s now 17 weeks and we are going strong. Some days she gets no formula, other days she might get a top up, some days I go grocery shopping and she gets a bottle. She’s fed, she’s happy, she puts on weight. I’m happy, I’m mentally stable, I’m not in agony and I’m not cringing. Formula saved our breastfeeding relationship, and this is why I will always support the saying ‘fed is best’ because after going to hell and back, my monkey gets her fur AND her bottle of milk! And we are both happy!