Tag: I support you

I support you: It’s your baby. Feed them however you need to.

Support

I am participating in the I Support You campaign (1st to 7th November) run by Mama By the Bay. This blog post is in aid of supporting all loving mothers NO MATTER HOW they feed their babies or what parenting choices they make. 

#ISupportYou

Look, I’m just going to get straight to the point on the issue of feeding our babies. Despite how we feel when we have our first babies (I can’t speak for subsequent babies so I’ll stick to my own experiences – please feel free to add to the conversation if you have more than one), the way we feed them is not how we should define ourselves. Neither is the method by which your child is delivered. They are just facts on a timeline. Things that happened in our journey. A path we had to take (even if we chose it we did so because it was best for us and our babies). It does not define our child’s life. As I look at my almost 3 year old (how time flies!) I don’t fuss that he was mixed fed from day 1. I don’t care that he came to us via C-section. It’s just a memory now. It hasn’t determined the rest of his life. He sits at the dinner table with us, munching on whatever I make him (well mostly – he is a toddler after all). I have a scar, but I only notice it when it tingles after a couple of cocktails (true story – it’s weird). My Little Mister is funny, charming (most of the time), he is healthy and he is bright. Medically, all is quite well too. He has the immune system of …whatever only gets sick once a year (touch wood) and he is developing quite normally. While it took me time (about a year) to feel this way, I have NO regrets. None. Oh, except that I wish I didn’t worry so much what other people thought about my choices. THAT was the one thing I wasted time on. The one thing that kept me awake at night (even when my baby was sleeping).

Please allow me to do some very blunt myth busting in the name of supporting anyone who has ever had to feed a baby (it’s kind of a necessary task – you know, for keeping them alive and stuff)…

*ahem*

Brace yourselves.

Myth: “If you stop breastfeeding, you’re going to miss out on a special bonding experience with your baby.”

Um, no. No you’re not. While breastfeeding is a beautiful way to bond with your baby (I can attest to that), it is certainly not the only way. It is one of many gorgeous ways we connect with our children. If you cannot (or choose not to) breastfeed, you are not to buy into that BS, OK? You’re a loving mother who has many tricks up her sleeve. Cuddles while bottle feeding – lovely. Talking to your baby. Singing with them. Eye contact. Smiles. The gentle way you tend to them. Quality time getting to know each other. The love you have for them is pretty powerful stuff in itself. You really think your baby can’t feel that bond? How do we expect adopted babies to flourish in the loving arms of their new parents (a heads up: I’m proof)? How do we expect awesome new dads to connect so beautifully? They can’t breastfeed and that does not diminish the love. Have faith in yourself. If the love is there, you’re going to be just fine. Sorry to be a little feisty, but FFS. I hate that people perpetuate this kind of judgement.

Myth: “Feeding your baby formula is the easy way out. New mums give up too easily on breastfeeding.”

Look, I have not met one new mother who has found the decision easy. I know that for me, to give up breastfeeding was a huge decision. I tortured myself over it for a long time before I went through with it. I weighed up the pros, the cons. I was educated on the subject. I had a great support network. I could argue that for a lot of new mums it’s harder to give it up. We have to change our expectations of ourselves that we may have had since before we were even pregnant. We have to admit to ourselves that whatever the circumstances, our bodies may not understand what we’re asking (this can mean working through feelings that we’re failing – we’re not FYI). We have to face the judgement of others. We have to fight our inner critics (the worst ones of all). We have to do so much more work (sterilising/prepping/warming bottles), spend more money on formula and the extra bits and bobs that come with the job. You call that easier?? We are f*cking warriors too – don’t you forget that. All new mothers are.

Myth: “Formula babies are fatter than breastfed babies. It’s like you’re feeding your baby fast food.”

Some babies just need some extra help to thrive. I’m sorry, but a thriving baby is better than the alternative. Also? Some of the cutest, chubbiest babies I have EVER seen were breastfed. And they were gorgeous. And healthy. And they grew out of their Michelin Man features quickly enough. And that’s saying something, because the Little Mister was a chubby bub indeed! Was it the formula? Probably. But only because he was able to thrive, just like the other babies, despite my body’s challenges. He, just like the breastfed babies his age, has suddenly grown into a boy shape (eek – when did that happen?) and wouldn’t you know it? You look at him, then look at his little friends and *shock horror* you would not be able to tell the difference. I know some people argue about the long term effects, but formula has been fed to human babies for generations now and I would not be able to tell the difference when I look at my friends or even my friends’ parents. So many more environmental or genetic factors determine our health and our body shapes as we grow. Formula is the least of our worries!!

Myth: “Pick a side and stick to it. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Which one are you?”

Firstly, it’s nobody’s damn business. You don’t owe any nosey parker an answer. Secondly, why can’t you have the best of both worlds when necessary? The Little Mister’s life began with mixed feeding. For the first 3 days he was exclusively on formula by default as I had no supply and he was in a hospital an hour’s drive away from me. The next 3 days I was stressed, on a heavy course of antibiotics (which no-one told me might interfere with my supply – this would have been so much more comforting for me to know) and getting stir crazy in the hospital. No milk! After a terrible first night with the Little Mister when he returned to me (he cried because he was essentially starving), a kindly midwife suggested formula top ups. She made it OK. There was no point starving him and distressing everybody involved. The first days of parenthood are hard enough! After I got home, with the help of some medication, I had some supply. It wasn’t awesome but it was enough for him to reap the benefits. I fed mostly on demand during the day but he had some top ups at night (I would breastfeed first and then offer him a little formula if he needed it). If we went out, I would pack some formula, because my boobs were super messy and unpredictable. I couldn’t rely on them as well as I might have liked to.

In my mind, he got the benefits of breast milk, but his diet was also supplemented to give him the amount that would help him grow and thrive. It was hard work to do both, but it was worth it. It was the right thing for us. And there was nothing wrong with that. There is no need to pick a side. What side? How about we all stay on the side of keeping our babies happy and healthy? However we need to in our unique circumstances? Yes please.

If you have a super hungry baby cluster feeding and crying for more when you have no more to give, what is the harm in supplementing his intake with formula? Gives your boobs a little more time to restock and helps your baby to feel satisfied and to keep the weight on in those important early days.

I know that we were lucky and there was no nipple confusion with the Little Mister – he was stoked to have anything and I am grateful. But seriously, if you’re struggling – like really struggling – anyway, what is the big effing deal? The worst that could happen? Your child wants a bottle over anything else? Read all of the above. It’s gonna be OK. I promise. Give yourself a break. You’re awesome. You care about your kid. A WHOLE LOT. You’re not failing. A lot of factors have to come together just right for exclusive breastfeeding to occur (your body has to come to the party, the baby has to learn how, and a whole lot of other things can affect your experience). Some women are lucky and others, not so much. It is NOT a reflection on your ability to parent. YOU ARE AMAZING no matter how you feed your child.

Newsflash: No-one is better than another person just because of how they feed.

I am making my stance clear here. I support you no matter how you feed your baby. Not in some kind of passive aggressive BS kind of way, where I say it because it’s the right thing to say, but then make little judgey comments here and there. I actually really mean it. I really really do.

We are all doing our best.

If you could write a message of support to new mothers, what would it be (doesn’t necessarily have to be about feeding)? Leave a comment – it might make all the difference to someone x

You might choose to spread the word via blog or social media yourself. Share my blog post, write your own (you can find ideas here), utilise Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Use the hashtag #ISupportYou or #ISYWeek

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I support you – no matter how you feed your baby.

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I found this post in my ‘drafts’ folder. I wrote it about a year ago. I think that I was scared to publish it because a) I didn’t want to just be another person going on and on about an issue that shouldn’t even be a favourite ‘mummy wars’ topic, and b) because I was scared that some of my readers might be put off by my stance on the issue. Yeah, I’m a people pleasing chicken sometimes…

I’ve decided to publish it today. A year late. I felt inspired by Mama By the Bay’s “I Support You” movement (in which she works alongside Fearless Formula Feeder and I am not the babysitter). It’s about supporting mums, no matter how they feed their babies – as long as it’s done with love, who are we to judge? I still feel the same as I did a year ago and I’m cool with that. 

Written in August 2012…and published in August 2013. 

I am usually one to avoid controversial topics in my blogging. I want to entertain more than anything else. However, I am quite angry that the issue I’m going to talk about has to be controversial in the first damn place!

Of course. The age old argument: Breastfeeding vs. formula.

I just read a post on Mamamia by Bec Sparrow called, “Should baby formula be locked up in hospitals?”

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is implementing a so called initiative that involves the locking up of baby formula (literally) and only prescribing it for new babies if there is a medical reason. If a woman states her choice to use formula or requests a bottle, she has to have a lecture (no joke) on why lactation is better.

I am glad to not be in New York but this riles me up nonetheless. I am neither pro exclusive breastfeeding or pro exclusive formula. I am pro choice. I choose for women to have the right to choose. I think that our babies should be nourished and cared for in the best way they can be at the time. Also, there is no frickin’ rule about the two options being mutually exclusive!!!!! FFS!

Here’s my story:

I had a difficult pregnancy. I had PUPPP rash when I was 20 weeks pregnant onwards. I had to treat it aggressively with a steroid based ointment. Most women don’t get the rash until late in their pregnancy (around 36 weeks onwards) and can simply live with it or be induced once it’s considered safer for the mother and the baby. Let’s face it, I am a freak. I was itching, uncomfortable, visually a mess and dangerously close to depression (somehow the love for my baby and my support network really came through for me and I was lucky to get through it). I cried almost every day (not just the usual pregnancy crying but real, sad tears). I felt like a bad mother already, because as I tried to soak my body in a lukewarm bath (in the middle of winter), trying every home remedy possible and feeling so itchy it hurt, I had terrible thoughts. I thought, if my pregnancy would just go away…

Which you can imagine I didn’t really mean. I wanted my beautiful Little Mister more than anything in the world, but my state of mind was getting unhealthy and I just wanted the discomfort to stop. This wasn’t how I had dreamed of it. Being adopted, I had maybe idealised what pregnancy might be like because I wanted all my life to feel the blessing of fertility and a biological relative of my own. This was a tough blow.

At 30 weeks, I found out I had gestational diabetes. It was borderline so it was easy enough to control. I just had to drastically change my diet. Which is already restricted as you would guess when you’re pregnant. My one guilty pleasure and comfort – food and baking was thrown out. I was keeping a meticulous food diary and pricking my finger every single day (4 times a day). I felt like there was stigma whenever I told anyone I had it. It was genetic and not my fault. I had not done any different to any of my other pregnant friends who didn’t have it.  This was tough news upon the rash experience.

Fast forward to the 30-something weeks of my pregnancy and while my state of mind had improved, my rash came back and no steroid treatment would fix it. I felt better knowing I was closer to the end but it was a mystery. Turns out it wasn’t PUPPP again. It was probably an early symptom of an infection (and a dangerous one at that). I was subjected to daily blood tests for the whole last week of my pregnancy and was being monitored at the hospital every second day for longer than that. No-one knew what was wrong. I cried at the doc’s (not on purpose but it did work) and he gave me a date to be induced.

The Little Mister didn’t want to wait. He wanted to burst into this world on his own terms! Four days before I was going to be induced, I came down with a fever. I felt like I was just fighting a cold or something, but I didn’t know it would be much worse. I woke from a nap (I felt so lousy my body kind of gave out to it – the first “sleep” in ages) with contractions. Long story short, I rushed into hospital as my fever reached 38 degrees (celcius). Three hours later the Little Mister was born via emergency C-section. He didn’t breathe for the first 4 minutes. I was mentally oblivious and in shock. He was taken to another hospital where I didn’t see him for three days.

I was hooked up to the bed with a catheter for two days (the usual procedure for a C-section patient is one day). I had no baby and I would go from feeling like he didn’t exist (being all jovial like nothing had happened – probably my mind’s way of protecting me) to feeling very sad. My parents were amazing and I truly believe that they saved my mental health because they printed out pictures of the Little Mister from his first night in the hospital nursery (I wasn’t able to visit him) and I could look at him and bond with the idea of him. It made him real. My husband was torn between visiting our little man and keeping me company. He was always on the go and did an amazing job also.

By the time my little man came back to me in the hospital, he had been fed formula for three days. There was no choice. I just felt like as long as he was fed and nursed back to health, that’s all that mattered (he had my infection too). He was still on antibiotics just like me, but he was doing better than I was!! I was encouraged to express whenever possible for the milk to come in. Nothing really happened (despite my colostrum coming in very early in my pregnancy). I was stressed. People kept intruding when I tried to pump my breasts. There was no privacy and I couldn’t do it without hearing yet another well-meaning midwives’ opinion on it. I was feeling immense pressure as every nurse who started a new shift (I was in hospital 6 days) kept giving me a new lecture and new breastfeeding instructions. The Little Mister’s first night with us was hellish. He cried and cried every hour of the entire night. He was effectively being starved. I felt hopeless and had been somewhat brainwashed, thinking there was no option but to endure it. The anti biotics, the trauma and stress, they did nothing for my supply.

In the morning a midwife who I will love forever, told me this was bad. We’d been through so much already. We needed to be strong parents and stay mentally healthy at such a trying time. She taught us how to measure out formula top ups. I would try to breastfeed and then if nothing happened on the milk front, formula could top the Little Mister up for the time being. This worked wonders. We got small snatches of sleep and the pressure to breastfeed (which can hinder it ironically enough) was lifted somewhat. I realised I could just do my best and everything would still be OK.

When I left the hospital my supply hadn’t come in. I’d been separated from my baby, was still on anti biotics and I was very stressed (hospital is not that fun after 6 days). I was prescribed something to help and I was relieved when I got home into my own environment to find my supply coming in the day after. It wasn’t a great supply but it was better than nothing in my mind. I wanted to try. We had to continue with top ups through the night but in the day I was able to feed on demand (it felt like we were permanently attached). I felt so much better, but I still felt shame when people would either a) assume immediately that I must be breastfeeding exclusively because every GOOD mother does, right? or b) ask me what choice I had made, with their judgey face all ready to go.

I found myself stumbling over my answers. Trying to justify myself at every turn. I felt ashamed when I gave up at 3 months. My hormones had gone nuts and now as well as rashes all over my body (it was now scarring), I was getting acne. I was struggling with my supply and my body had been hijacked in a difficult way for way too long. I found myself feeling down and I couldn’t take another scar to my battered body. I had carried my beautiful baby into this world and fed him as well as I could. I had tried and tried to breastfeed and I had enjoyed the bonding it did give us while it lasted (without all my illness I truly believe that the Little Mister and my body – as it naturally would have been otherwise – would have been a feeding match made in heaven).

In the ideal world I would have had my baby with me from day 1 and I would have breastfed for at least 6 months (as recommended), but this isn’t always the ideal world and beating myself up over it wasn’t going to help anyone.

To shame mothers into exclusively breastfeeding is a disgusting act. To make laws and rules about it is just big brother style bullying. We all deserve a choice. I honestly believe to be able to be a happy and stable mother, I needed to be able to make my own decision after everything I’d been through. It was thought out, educated and with the best of intentions. To be treated like a dumb, uneducated young mother would have been terribly insulting, disempowering and bad for my mental health. As sad (and embarrassing – there’s a lot of pressure) as it was for me at the time, formula feeding probably saved me from depression.  I also found that having to breastfeed and then warm bottles and feed the Little Mister a top up each time was a lot to deal with 3 times a night. To be able to cut down half the work in the wee hours was also a relief. This was not a decision to be lazy (!!!), it was a practical decision. Trust me. No hands on new mum is ‘lazy’.

I think that breastfeeding and lactation information is fantastic and every mother should be provided it in a supportive manner. Milk from the breast really is full of amazing properties that can only do our children a favour. I just also believe that women should not be pressured into it (rather than encouraged) and treated like imbeciles or sub-par parents when they bottle feed. I’m not even talking about the overtly aggressive anti formula people, but also about those passive aggressive looks, comments and “friendly advice” givers that pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes from strangers, medical professionals and even our own ‘friends’ and families – and that is bad enough!

I was adopted and I was formula fed for all of my babyhood. There was no choice. I grew up smart and healthy. I met all of my developmental milestones and I was rarely sick. Perhaps that skews my views on the issue, but I just believe that women need to have a choice, without fear of “mummy wars”. If formula feeding becomes the new social stigma, what does that mean for anyone who doesn’t have a choice? How will that affect the way they feel about themselves?

If I am blessed with a second child (not for a while yet – hold your horses), I will be doing both if required. I know my mind now and I believe I’m a good mother who will always do what is best for my child/ren in my circumstances at the time. To hell with what everyone else thinks.