Formula: A Mother’s Taboo

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but haven’t had the courage to do it as it’s a controversial, taboo subject. But my mind is in an honest and open place at the moment, and I felt it was time. 

Firstly, I want to say that breast milk is, of course, 100% the best thing for your baby. I’d like to make it clear that I’m not disputing that in any way. Got that? Breast is best! However, there are times when breastfeeding doesn’t always work out; some women can’t breastfeed from day one, and there are some that try their very best to breastfeed, but in the end it affects the relationship between mother and baby too much. I fall into this category. 

It isn’t a secret that I struggled with breastfeeding; Busby’s latch was perfect, but she’d clamp on too soon, which resulted in tears from me, and then tears from her when we attempted to de-latch. But not before she opened up the wounds on my nipples; my dry, cracked, engorged breasts, and they bled. There’s nothing quite as horrific as seeing your baby with blood around her mouth, and consequently, blood in her sick. I (not-so) affectionately nicknamed her my vampire baby, but beneath the humour and the brave face I was struggling. It got to a point where I would sob every time she cried for food because I was so afraid of the pain. I started resenting my baby. Associating her with the agony I felt. Darkness descended upon our relationship. I’d watch the clock, dreading the moment when she would latch on. The midwives were great to start with; encouraging. But after seeing a different one every day for two weeks, I started to feel frustrated by their presence; assuring them that Busby’s latch was fine and them insisting to see her latch on again, only to be told “her latch is perfect”…Yes I already know that, it’s not her latch that’s the problem. They would then look through my notes and change “the plan” that had been agreed between myself and yesterday’s midwife. I felt under so much pressure to continue with her on my breast, not to pump because “once they go on the bottle they get lazy and never go back to the breast.” Conflicting advice. Confusing. I began to see Community Midwives in a whole new, not very nice, light. 

The stress of it all made my milk supply dry up. I continued pumping as much as I could for a month after Busby was born, but after that I had nothing left. By this point we were supplementing with formula. I remember sitting in the bath at midnight at around 3 weeks, sobbing; I felt like such a failure. Guilty. Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing, and I couldn’t even do that for my baby! I was an awful mother. 

After a month we started solely using formula: SMA was horrid and left Busby dreadfully constipated, so we switched to Cow & Gate. (So much better, and it doesn’t reek of iron.)  Once again, breast is totally best, but there are some benefits to bottle feeding. The biggest one is that the father can feed the baby; Nick has really enjoyed doing this, and it has definitely increased his bond with Busby.

I’ve had some interesting experiences with people, as it’s one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on. One Sales Assistant reduced me to tears after implying that I was a bad mother. Even friends and family have given me looks when I’ve said I’m not breastfeeding anymore; the worst are from those who don’t have children, and therefore have no idea what it involves. 

So many people have reminded me of the phrase “happy mum, happy baby” and it’s so true. Not everyone feeds their baby formula because they’re lazy or “didn’t like breastfeeding”; there’s usually a reason behind it, so please be kind and don’t be condescending: don’t judge anyone before you know their story. 

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  1. 25th April 2013 / 11:25 am

    I was one of the lucky ones. With both boys, I found the first week of breastfeeding hard but, growth spurts aside, it has been a pretty easy ride for me.

    I don’t believe anyone has the right to judge how you feed your baby and I really hope that you don’t receive any comments to the contrary.

    As said to friends in a similar situation, you love your baby, you clothe your baby, you feed your baby. Bea is happy and well looked after. What more could a baby want.

    Well done you for being so honest. I hope this post is of help to other mums in a similar situation.

    • 25th April 2013 / 11:55 am

      Thank you love 🙂 It was one of those posts that I’ve been drafting in my head ever since we started soley on formula, but I felt ready to share today. No one talks about it enough – your baby is quite literally thrust upon your boob from hour one and if it doesn’t work out nothing else is discussed, especially not in hospital. It wasn’t until our lovely HV said to me at around four weeks “You know, it’s ok NOT to breastfeed.” That the guilt began to subside slightly, but it’s always there in the background.

      I’m definitely going to try and breastfeed my next baby – I haven’t given up! But if it doesn’t work out again then I’m going to be in a better, stronger and more knowledgable position to do something about it.

  2. 25th April 2013 / 12:11 pm

    Well done! Don’t ever ever feel guilt!
    Breastfeeding is HARD work to start with, it feels impossible if we r honest. I think of more people were told honestly and truthfully we would be better prepared.
    You tried and thats the main thing, lovely post…i love hearing bf stories

    • 25th April 2013 / 2:44 pm

      I completely agree – I wish someone had said to me “you know what? It’s very hard and not everyone can, so don’t beat yourself up about it if you find you can’t!”

      Thank you xx

  3. 25th April 2013 / 3:29 pm

    Almost an identical story to mine, it got so stressful and painful, and so much conflicting advice! There is too much pressure put on mums, and we are made to feel so guilty.

    • 25th April 2013 / 4:42 pm

      We really are. I’m sorry you went through the same thing 🙁 xx

  4. 25th April 2013 / 9:08 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up about it, breastfeeding is so difficult, I nearly gave up after the first few days as like you was sore, cracked and bleeding from it, glad I kept going, but there is no way I could have solely breastfed throughout, Sam has a combination of both but I don’t think he’ll be feeding from me much longer which is sad in some ways and in other’s quite nice. I hate the way mum’s are always made to feel bad about bottle feeding! xx

    • 25th April 2013 / 9:28 pm

      Thank you love. It is so difficult – glad you powered on through though! Well done 🙂 xx

  5. 1st June 2013 / 11:23 pm

    I really struggled with my first but got the hang of it eventually… what a shock it was. Natural, yes. Easy… erm, no!!! Thankfully my second attempt, although hard work is going a lot smoother. I’ve expressed the odd bottle when I’m going out and don’t want to wear the same old feeding tops and have been left feeling uncomfortable at the disapproving stares people give the bottle. I want to shout after them and tell them it’s breastmilk… but actually, it’s none of their bloody business!!! No Mum should be made to feel bad about what they feed their child and I think it’s a shame that midwives are not allowed to use any initiative when it comes to breast being best, as for the Mums this is not always the case! x

    • 2nd June 2013 / 8:20 am

      Exactly! If only people asked and didn’t just assume; it’s so important to know the story behind the situation before you judge. Thank you for your comment 🙂 xx

  6. 5th October 2013 / 8:57 pm

    I’m a new follower and just stumbled upon this post. THANK YOU! thank you for being brave enough to say what so many moms feel and are too scared to speak out about because of the breastfeeding advocates. I think it’s sad that you pretty much HAD to state that ‘breast is best’ for the fear of people jumping down your throat about it. I am 100% with you in saying that breast is not always best. Yes nutritionally it is, but at what expense? At the expense of your relationship with your baby? I don’t really think that is best… we have YEARS to fill our babies with proper nutrients, if your baby is fed on formula it is not the end of the world. You sound like you’re a wonderful mother, and I admire you for writing down so many of my thoughts and feelings on this topic. 🙂

    • 5th October 2013 / 9:02 pm

      Hi Tawnya

      Thank you so much for leaving such an emotive comment! It really is tough, especially with the constant judging from other mums, breastfeeding advocates and even people who don’t have children. The best thing is to do what you think is best and follow your instinct. As you said, you have years to fill your baby’s tum with healthy things and all the right nutrients etc.

      Thank you again for your comment xxx

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