Family life, Parenting

Breastfeeding vs bottle feeding

Before baby arrived, I was committed to breastfeeding. After the slightly traumatic birth, we weren’t able to start immediately – I actually have no idea when I first fed her. But I definitely tried that first evening, and every day after.

I thought it went fairly well at first. No pain, although I could tell my milk hadn’t really come in. And then I had a visit from the community midwife when she was five (I think!) days old.

It was a Saturday and I’d not met this midwife before. My husband was having a nap upstairs (we were doing shifts of sleeping at this point) and I was all hormonal and easily worried. The midwife weighed her, told me breastfeeding wasn’t working well, maybe I didn’t have milk, her latch wasn’t good, and I needed to give her formula after every feed. Why had I not gone to breastfeeding classes before the birth, she asked. Lots of mums do, the ones who are prepared for this. Then she left.

I cried. A lot.

She could have phrased it more sensitively. It’s typical for there to be a delay in milk coming in after a long, traumatic and medicated birth, but she didn’t tell me this.

Fortunately, I’m a reader. I research like mad. I got sad and upset, sure, but I also got informed. And I was determined to make this work.

So we got out our emergency formula and decided that we would supplement, but maybe only after every other feed. And we would continue breastfeeding.

My milk eventually came in on about day eight, I think. I woke in the night with intensely painful, rock-hard breasts, and had to pump before baby could even latch on. Once I had, it was like she was born knowing how to latch on.

She’s four weeks old today and weighs 7lb. By three weeks she was over her birth weight. We give 200ml of formula a day, at night. The rest of what she gets is exclusively breastmilk. A few weeks ago, I never would have thought we’d be doing this. I’d say we have a successful breastfeeding relationship, even if technically what we’re doing is combination feeding.

Reasons I’m breastfeeding

  • There are the myriad benefits to me and to her, including statistically lowering her risk of developing asthma and some allergies. My dad is allergic to a lot of things and really suffered with asthma when younger. If I can prevent my daughter from going through that, I’d try a lot of things!
  • It’s so much cheaper. Sure, I bought a breastpump (about £30 on Amazon – it works just fine and I didn’t want to shell out for something incredibly expensive until I knew if it worked!) and I have some nursing bras, but that’s a total expenditure of probably £70. While I’m on maternity leave, we’re not exactly flush with the cash, so we’re looking to save money where we can!
  • It’s quick. Rather than having to go to the kitchen and sort out bottles, all I need to do is pop my bra open and aim a nipple at her mouth. The less time baby is crying, the better!
  • It’s also less labour-intensive. No need to wash or sterilise bottles! Fewer trips to the supermarket! These are good things, particularly in these early days. Also, formula makes her spit up more, so there’s less washing when we’re breastfeeding more.
  • I like that it’s something only I can do for her. Maybe that’s selfish or possessive, I don’t know. But anyone can change her nappy or sing to her or give her a bottle. And after so long where I did everything for her, I kind of miss that special bond. So it’s nice to have something that’s just Mummy-and-baby territory.

Reasons we’re also bottle feeding

  • Despite that, sometimes I need a break! On Monday night, she fed for four hours. We did not have a break. My husband had gone out with some friends for the first time since she was born and she fed the entire time. When he came back, I was more than happy to say, “Right, pop some formula into a bottle and you have a go.
  • Breastfeeding can be kind of painful. I don’t have the bleeding nipples that I’ve read about (although it’s still early days!), but it’s still an adjustment. Sometimes I just can’t face the thought of her latching on again.
  • When she wasn’t gaining weight as fast as we’d have liked, it was great to know that despite not knowing exactly how much breastmilk she was getting, she was definitely getting at least X amount of formula. It wasn’t very much in the early days (30 or 40ml at a go) but now she can down 150-200ml before bed! She is a hungry little baby!
  • It’s nice for my husband to get to see those big milk-drunk eyes. She does a special smile that says, “I want food now, please.” I love it, and I’m glad that he gets to see it too.

I do honestly believe that “breast is best”. But more than that, I believe that fed is best. I would never let my baby go hungry just because I like the idea of breastfeeding. Feeding is a wonderful bonding time for us all, whether it’s breast or bottle. And I’m so glad that she’s getting heavier. I can’t believe four weeks have already passed, and my little baby is so much bigger!

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