The lovely Jenny of http://www.gumigem.co.uk/ brings you a guest post today on Breastfeeding :O) Thank you Jenny I totally agree with your message “whatever you decide, accept it and don’t beat yourself up!” As Mums we have a hard enough job as it is without having to carry the guilt around with us!
Breast is mostly best!
Like many I wanted to breastfeed my babies, but sadly I had to give up with both of them for two very different reasons!
Breastfeeding is a curious thing, it evokes such strong and varying reactions from people. I wanted to do it like most for the obvious health benefits for both mum and baby, not to mention the ease and convenience and the extra calories it uses up in the fight with the post natal belly bulge!
Being in my early thirties when I had my first both my own mother and mother in law were of the ‘bottle fed era’ and my decision to breast feed sparked two very different reactions. My own mum was quite chilled, happy for me to make the right choice for me, but my mother in law was strongly against it!
I was lucky, first born was easy to feed, she got it instantly. But she was a miserable baby, crying none stop, no, let me change that, screaming none stop! Of course for the MIL this was all caused by breastfeeding! She must be hungry I was regularly informed!
I am not one of these evangelical pro breast people, I genuinely feel it’s got to be what’s right for mum and baby, as happy mummy = happy baby! But when people criticise your decision, whatever that maybe it makes my blood boil! Leave people in peace to be happy with the choices they have made.
Anyway, I digress and don’t want this to end up being a rant. The choice I made was to breastfeed, but I did mix it with a bit of bottle feeding with formula as I found expressing a total pain for not much gain. So my hubby would do the odd night feed with formula. Anyway number one child as I said was a screamer, she started losing weight, being sick and having horrendous bouts of diarrhoea. We visited the doctor, the health visitor the midwife the works and was told it was probably colic or reflux. So out came the Infacol and the infant Gaviscon, but nothing seemed to improve things. I was worried sick and not getting much help, living away from family meant it was mainly me that dealt with the devil baby 24 / 7 and I was at the end of my tether. Baby groups were hell, everyone else’s babies were sweet and angelic, but mine would just scream! One night she was like a fountain, she just poured milk out of both ends, we took her to the docs and was told it was probably a tummy bug and to stop the one bottle of formula a day to let her tummy settle. For a couple of days, she seemed better, not quite as moany, but as soon as we gave her formula again, she started spewing everywhere. I then went on and did the dreaded google search! I found a thing called cows milk protein intolerance (different to lactose intolerance). Basically when people are sensitive to the protein found in cows milk. So decided to cut out the bottle for a week, within 48 hours she was much improved, but still being sick. So the next stage was to cut out all cows milk protein from my diet, to see if she was being sensitive to my own milk. The results where remarkable! Evil baby vanished and this amazing smiley little girl came out! So easy, so much fun! She started gaining weight too! Turns out that its likely the formula sensitised her, to her intolerance even more and that’s why she then became so reactive to my own diet. So had I never introduced that one bottle, all that would never have happened. But we would have hit in when she was weaned.
I presented my findings to the doc and finally got it confirmed this was probably it! There is no test for it, but what I had done had confirmed it. So if I was to continue breastfeeding, I had to cut everything out of my diet that had cows milk in it – no mean feat! It’s in everything! Bread, pasta, rice, most sauces, crisps, pretty much everything bar fruit, meat and veg, cooked plain! Or you can buy ‘free from’ stuff at the shops, but its expensive and not all that nice. So wanting the best for my baby, I gave it a good bash. But I could not do it anymore, starving and paranoid about anything I ate setting her off again! I spoke to the health visitor and doctor and learned about a special prescribed hypoallergenic formula and so sadly moved off breastfeeding and onto that. I missed breastfeeding so much, but in the end for us it was what was right for us both.
So when my baby boy was born, I entered breastfeeding with a little apprehension, worried that he too could have the intolerance. Unlike my little girl, he was a nightmare to breastfeed, did not know how to latch on, would come off all the time choking and spitting up! Once again told it was reflux related, so once again out came the infant Gaviscon! But this time I was determined to persevere. However we were then struck with some awful luck, at 3 weeks he was admitted to hospital with an ecoli urinary infection. I again could not express well and found running between the hospital and my toddler a nightmare. My milk supplies started to deplete, but when he came out I got back on track, and then he was hit with viral meningitis. The stress of that combined with running up and down to the hospital lead my milk supply to all but vanish. I was heartbroken, especially with him being so ill, I wanted to give him the best. I got breastfeeding support workers out and lots of advice from my health visitor, but he still would not latch well, would suck for 5 mins and then be screaming 30 mins later, so we caved and gave him a bottle and he seemed to enjoy that more. I wanted the breastfeeding people to give me the green light to stop, to say ‘you know what, you’ve tried really hard just give him a bottle, he’ll be fine’. But instead they kept asking me to do a whole host of unrealistic things. For example, the only way to get my supply back is to lie in bed with baba attached to me for 24 hours. I could not possibly do this with a two year old running about. So I sadly gave it up, but this time feeling like a total failure. However that lead to happier things, our experience made me look at my life. I had nearly lost my little boy twice and that’s when I invented Gumigem – teething with style – a necklace for mum to wear and baby to teethe on, so as a mummy you can keep wearing necklaces. I certainly found I had to stop due to tugging and chewing and I did not want anything unsavoury in my little ones mouth. So after months of research it was born and my dream is that one day this will replace my day job (www.gumigem.co.uk)
But I did feel like I had not tried hard enough. I guess this just harps back to my earlier comment, whether you never try, start then stop or glide through it with ease, it should not matter. People don’t realise the things they say can put extra pressure and blocks in our way. We should support people’s decisions and not make them feel bad about it. We are all individuals with the right to choose. Once I came to terms with giving up, I chilled, baby boy survived his early ordeals without the benefits of breastmilk, I wish I could have given him that, but I chose not to. Both children are thriving and I no longer sweat the small stuff. By that I don’t mean breast feeding is not a big deal, because it is and there is no doubt that breast is best, but only if the circumstances are right. So my message would be, whatever you decide, accept it and don’t beat yourself up!