It amazes me how you learn and experience so much in the first five weeks of having a newborn baby, I have so much I want to write about but I’m so tired to do so! It’s as if I open my sketchbook or laptop and she hears, baby S is back in business!
Today I’ve set a timer and I’m writing, she’s napping (and yeah usually I would too as the new mum advice says to) it’s quiet, I’m writing, perfect harmony.
To start off with, when I was pregnant (as a first-time mum) I wasn’t even sure I could breastfeed. When it was brought up in a group I just nervously said ‘Yeah, I want to, if I can, you never know’. I wasn’t against formula or pro it either, there used to be a stigma around it being bad but I couldn’t really remember why. Were parents lazy? Could they just afford to buy their milk instead of using the free good stuff?
I wasn’t naive, though innocent having never been a mother.
I loved reading Ina May’s Spiritual Midwifery while pregnant, everything seemed so back to nature, women breastfeeding smiling and there is no mention of bottling milk anywhere.
In the days leading up to baby’s birth, we bought some Hungry Infant formula, just in case.
After the not to plan but beautiful birth anyway, unable to move my legs, covered in a heated blow up blanket and shivering while the meds wore off, I was encouraged to breastfeed and she took to it straight away! It felt like a miracle! It was as if she learned how to do it in the womb, staying in there an extra 10 days.
In our private room at the hospital, another great addition if available and can afford to, it was just the three of us, nurses popped in and again, were very encouraging about feeding on the breast.
Whether it was nurses, family or later at the doctors, the response to me breastfeeding was met with an enthusiastic ‘Good!’ Looking back I had been labeled ‘good’, what if I wasn’t, was I then ‘bad’?
The term ‘breast on demand’ was thrown around by the midwives and health visitor and at first, it sounded and was exciting a new challenge! My baby can only come to me for food as her mother that is my duty and privilege.
A week, then two and three go by and baby S is more grizzly than before, no one knows why she is crying. To my senses she’s full, having a full 40 minutes of breastfeeding twenty minutes before. This carries on and despite the beautiful skin to skin contact we were having at regular intervals, if there’s no breast, the baby is cross. She frowns, avoids my gaze and cries and cries.
Gradually people are coming up with the conclusion she’s hungry, she can’t be! I say back.
Slowly but surely people are talking about trying out formula. I listen and take in the words but I feel like a complete failure. A rocky sea brings hormonal waves of bursts of crying like I’ve been at a funeral and I just can-not-stop-crying.
People are now telling me if I’m sad the baby will sense it through the milk I make.
In true style to me, I research and read articles, I go on forums, then and only then, I take up the idea of formula. People can tell me their opinions all they want and they were respectful and wise enough to know I have the final say as her mother.
I make the decision to try formula, even though it feels like I’m failing at life (I even said this to my husband after a whole day of looking after baby S, not how I envisioned how we’d spend our time at new garden furniture), I feel guilty that it’s not ‘my’ milk and look at her as if to say ‘I’m sorry. Do you like it? Do you prefer mine? I’m really unsure about this but there are vitamins in this too’.
She takes the whole 4 ml. She looks at me REALLY looks at me and sleeps fine. I can see for the first time in weeks she’s happy and full. Our baby’s happy! A weight lifted and I felt happier too.
Also, I can see clearly now that the only person that had judged me was me. Family had supplemented with formula, so had my mum and a good friend reminded me that it’s a benefit of the modern world when years ago people struggled and babies were weak and sick.
As the bottled milk had such a great effect, I decided to finally use the pump so I could give her my milk in a bottle too. This gave me the maternal sense of giving and freedom to let her Nannie and Dad feed her too.
I then fell down the rabbit hole of learning the best methods of pumping, I fell into a comparison of all the mums on Youtube who went from making a little to a lotta milk. I pumped every three hours, the more you pump the more you send signals to your boobs that you’re up for making more to feed your baby. The more you have in little baggies in the freezer for ‘just in case’ the better.
But it’s not, not always or for everyone.
At first, I didn’t mind pumping, a common notion around new mums, I felt I was giving and while pumping I drank more water (more water and small but often meals means more supply), I enjoyed smoothies with cacao, oats, flaxseed and banana, I read a book or watched a show on Netflix. It felt refreshing to have a baby free twenty minutes. The only downside was I couldn’t really use my hands to do anything, I had one hand free to hold something and one hand on the pump. Also, Baby S didn’t take to the grinding hum of the pump so I went into another room to do so.
A small price to pay I thought at first.
Over time it became more frustrating, to give up the time I could have been playing with her, napping or tidying to simply sit and pump. Especially as she was taking so well to the formula.
I went into research mode and other mums on forums wrote they gave breast milk till their baby was four months or eight months, that was a long feat for me! Finally, I found other mums that stopped in a matter of weeks, it took some digging, though whatever you choose — breast only, breast and bottle feeding, a bit of both or just formula, you will find a supporting article for you.
I then feel into the guilt trip and worries of stopping pumping googling an unlimited number of sentences ‘Should I just give formula?’ ‘What happens when stop pumping? ’It turns out yes you can if you so choose and time. Ice too, though I haven’t tried yet.
As staring at my meditation space today and the window outside at the only sunny day we’ve had all week, I chose two things cutting my pumping session short, to meditate and then go for a walk outside. I felt overwhelmed with thoughts and decisions, at family who were visiting in a few hours. I knew what would really serve me and happy mummy equals a happy baby, right?
I managed a short meditation, I spoke up about something that was frustrating me. I went for a walk and sat on a bench to gather my thoughts and turn them round Byron Katie’s The Work style and chilled out with family. I had a real conversation with another new mum (I’d been determined to have big talk rather than small talk) and baby had lots of cuddles, falling asleep in her Uncles arms.