Breast-feeding: ‘breast is (not necessarily) best’

In the beginning, I was determined to give breast-feeding a go, to give my baby the ‘best start in life’ as per the ‘wagging finger’ of the countless NHS pamphlets. I was going to be the natural earth Mother.

The day I gave birth, I’d had approximately 5 hours sleep in 5 days and it was the breastfeeding specialist who was first to greet me that morning. She squeezed my boobs, demonstrated how best to get my baby to latch on and discussed expressing into bottles. Everything became very real at this point.

So in attempt to become earth Mother, of course I gave breastfeeding a go. It was uncomfortable and something wasn’t right. My son wouldn’t latch on properly and the next two weeks were so painful (not to mention exhausting) as I persevered with the natural method, but ‘breast is best’ wasn’t working. He had become mildly dehydrated as I wasn’t producing enough milk.

The ‘solution’ to this was to express with first a manual pump, and then an electronic breast pump; a medieval contraption that you literally strap yourself into as it chugs away enthusiastically. This object was the size of a dining chair and about as useful in milk extraction.

It was at the third week of this torture that my midwife made the discovery that my son had a ‘tongue-tie’, which ultimately explained why he’d had difficulty feeding. Expressing milk via the electronic dining chair wasn’t proving successful either and we were very mindful that our son was not getting enough milk. It was serious.

My hubby and I decided enough was enough, that we would try and introduce the ’emergency formula’ we had in the house. The ‘breast is best’ approach is the only concept that NHS midwives will entertain, so at that point we genuinely felt as though we were failing by using formula (combination feeding).

But it worked and the relief was immense.

Of course I understand that breast milk should always be the number 1 option if possible. But if I could offer any advice to new mums, it would be that if it isn’t working, formulas ARE a viable solution. Don’t be afraid to explore all options (and to switch brands to suit your baby). My son is happy, healthy and as robust as they come.


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