Feeding babies, the epic version
So the nursing bras are in the garbage bin. Most of them were almost 7 years old – which sounds ancient, but overall they were only really worn for about a year and a half. Two of them were new, only a year old, and even had underwire – woooo. But they still didn’t support like a regular bra. I have to say, I’m very happy to be back in the regular bras. Happy and perky.
I briefly contemplated burning those bras as I chucked them in the bin, but thought it best that they not go out with a bang. We had a complicated relationship, breastfeeding and I. And now it has come to an end.
I had all these big ideas before Oliver was born, almost exactly six and a half years ago. And then he arrived and I still tried to hang on to some of them, and I read my very old posts (slight ashamedly, but at least no one was reading back then but my parents) and I chuckle to myself.
Breastfeeding proved to be so much more difficult that I anticipated. Somewhere in this house there is a notebook where I documented a day early in his life, where he was basically on me every 10 minutes without settling. And I get that queasy PTSD feeling when I see it. And, okay, yes, cluster feeding is normal for a newborn. But I felt trapped, I felt like I couldn’t settle him, and I didn’t know what to do. He was so jaundiced and it wasn’t getting better. Things felt quite dark (this is not at all reflected on my blog back then).
I didn’t ever suffer from an overabundance of milk, and I lived with the constant stress, with all three of them, that it wasn’t going to be enough. That they weren’t going to be content. That this tenuous supply would run out.
When my lovely health visitor told me that on a cold grey day in January 2006 that it wasn’t just one or the other, that I didn’t have to give up on breastfeeding altogether, and that I could supplement with formula, she changed my life. She made feeding babies much better for me. And she ensured that all 3 of these babies were breastfed for varying amounts of time (6 months, 5 months, 8 months). (Also, poof, that crazy orange jaundice that Oliver had was suddenly gone.)
I made sure, this time, that Charlie was used to having a bottle from the beginning (my children do not suffer from nipple confusion - all three heartily embraced anything that was stuck in their mouths early on, be it breast or bottle or soother or finger). Even though breastfeeding was actually most successful this time. This time, he’d feed and be content for 2 or 3 hours. Like he was from a textbook. Who knew that could happen?! But we still started supplementing just a little bit a few weeks in.
It meant Mark could participate in feeding the baby. You, of course, don’t need to use formula for dad to be involved – you can pump. I tried that the first time and found the whole thing rather awful and unsuccessful. Bottle feeding meant I could go out in the evening again perhaps earlier than I had anticipated. Most of all it actually comforted me, and it continues to do so now, to know that I wasn’t indispensable to the baby. Of course he needs me and I can comfort him. But so can other people. And anyone who ever tries to tell you that formula is poison is completely full of crap.
Well, that’s just my humble opinion, of course. Maybe there’s a research study that says otherwise. I don’t really care. What I’ve learned over the past 7 years of all of this is that I have nothing to teach you. I’ve tried everything and nothing and in the end, I made decisions that were right for me, for each baby, for our family. You have to do the same. If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you and I are in pretty similar situations – ones of privilege. Ones of clean tap water and solid shelter and maybe even a nice rocking chair or armchair to breastfeed in and even cans of formula in the grocery store that are perfectly okay. This means you can make whatever decision you want about feeding your baby, whatever works for you, and it’s all okay. It will all be fine. For real.
Take the advice from all the wise and studied parenting experts – and then make it your own. After 3 babies, of course, this is much easier for me than it used to be.
I had a deadline for Charlie. Mark is taking all 3 kids to England in August without me, and I knew I was going to be done breastfeeding by that trip. Last week, we were down to 2 feedings a day, one of which was his night waking at around 4 or 5am. So when he decided to sleep through it, I decided that was the day. On a whim. Eight months old, exactly. There’s no need to cheer. Breast is best, but formula is just fine.
He’ll be on formula for a brief time while eating everything in sight (today: carpet fibre, hamburger bun and meat, onion ring, puréed carrot, toast, Cheerios — and he doesn’t have a single tooth yet) and then he’ll be on cow’s milk and continue eating everything in sight (I suspect he may turn out to be a good eater) and life moves on and up and these days will be quickly behind us.
I have to say, as flabbergasted as I am that he’s already 8 months old and he’s already crawling and cruising and where is my little baby gone?!, I’m ever so slightly relieved some of those days are over. Onwards.