Posted on March 25, 2011

Breast v. Formula Feeding by The Boy & Me

breastfeeding/ Guest post
Today’s guest post is brought to you by The Boy & Me – Thanks lovely x

I get tetchy about the topic of formula feeding babies. The kettle inside me boils and the hackles stand up. I then jump in feet first and have a go at the poor soul who dared to suggest that breast is best. I am incapable of remaining calm about the situation; push me and I will snap. I have massive guilt issues about it, always will and I cannot cope with the breast-feeding army.

At 3 weeks old my son was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, unconscious.

I watched while the paramedic held my child in her arms as I was incapable of holding him. I stood there in Accident & Emergency while three doctors and four nurses worked on my newborn baby. My mother (who’s had four children) had to leave the room in tears as he screamed in fright. For a while I wasn’t allowed to hold his hand. My husband and I just stood there watching our precious bundle on an adult bed surrounded by seven people trying, and failing, to get blood samples from him, to get fluids in him, to calm him, to work out what was the matter.

And to this day, I still don’t know for sure.

My milk kicked in quickly, like really quickly. 38 weeks pregnant and I was a B cup, the following week I was up to a D and I was leaking milk in the shower! I was induced at 40+8 and gave birth to my 10lb 5oz son on Friday 12th June at 9.35am. Within a day I was trying to breast-feed, they were now an E cup. I hadn’t wanted to feed but when I had The Boy, there was no way I wasn’t going to. He was a lazy feeder, he’d latch on and fall asleep. I’d try everything but no, he was away with Mr. Sandman. In the end we came to an arrangement I was happy with.

Then one boiling hot Tuesday when he was a few weeks old he decided to feed 15 times in 8 hours, and only for a minute at a time. At midnight, I phoned my mum and sobbed about how I could no longer do it, it hurt so much. She reassured me that it wasn’t a problem and that is what they made formula and bottles for. The next day, I breast-fed him for the last time, and then The Boy started on expressed milk in a bottle. He did so well and I was so proud of him. But by Friday, my breasts were rock-solid and blocked. I went to the doctor who said “just stop, you’ve got mastitus, it’s not coming out, just stop.” I was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers; they hurt so much I couldn’t hold my son.

That’s when it all went wrong. He had his first formula feed at 11am. It was a scorching hot, drowsy day and he fell asleep. He woke up a few hours later and had another bottle. He fell asleep again. So did I, the painkillers were strong. By midnight he had only woken up one other time for about an hour. He had more milk and fell asleep for the night.

And then he vomited it all up. In his sleep.

He didn’t cry, he didn’t open his eyes, he didn’t anything. Mum, hubby and I looked at each other and phoned NHS Direct. The operator was asking if he was unconscious and I kept saying “no, he just won’t wake up.” To me unconscious meant something far worse, The Boy was just sleeping. Ok, he was unresponsive but surely he was just hot and tired. Newborns sleep don’t they? She sent a paramedic out who was with us within three minutes. When he did a heel-prick test and The Boy screamed, I sobbed. It was the first sound from him in hours.

Fast-forward to my son being admitted to the Children’s Hospital in Cardiff. He was ok now, responsive and fine. We spent three nights in hospital and when we left we were told he had had gastroenteritus. It’s strange though they wouldn’t entertain the concept that it could have been that brand of formula. He had it all Friday and ended up unconscious. On the Saturday I was told to try him with watered down formula which I did and he vomited everywhere and went unresponsive again. On the Sunday I tried Cow and Gate and he was fine! But no medical practitioner is going to admit that a brand of formula may have a negative effect on children.

So I beat myself up about it. If I had breast-fed him, if I hadn’t used formula then this wouldn’t have happened. I feel I failed my son and risked his life because my nipples hurt.

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  • Reply InceyWinceyMummy March 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Wow, what an awful thing to go through, particularly when your baby was so young. But the other commenter is right. Many breastfed babies have dairy intolerance too.

    My personal 'breast is best' belief, doesn't actually have a lot to do with what's best for baby. I think breast is best for mum (reduced cancer risk, slimming back down, convenience, etc), but only if she's comfortable doing it.

    As you know, I have mastitis right now and have had the opposite advice – keep feeding. It's notthe first time I've heard someone in the medical profession tell a mother to stop breastfeeding and I'm not sure it was the right advice then either.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply March 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    It really doesn't matter how you feed your baby. I got completely suckered into the whole breast is best message and ending up starving my daughter for the 1st three months of her life, that is what I feel guilty about. I don't feel guilty that I bottle fed her from 3 months and her brother from three weeks.

    All that matters is the love you give your children and the values you teach them, that is what makes you a good or bad parent.

  • Reply Mrs T March 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I've got a breastfed baby and a bottle fed baby. The bottle fed (now three) is the far healthier of the two. The breast fed baby has terrible possetting, had jaundice and perpetual colds. It definitely depends on the baby and often how you feed them won't have made a blind bi of difference.

  • Reply farawayme March 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I feel so much for you. As mothers we always blame ourselves when something is wrong with our children. But this wasn't your fault, how could you possibly know that would happen?

    I feel the guilt about breastfeeding too. I wasn't able to breast feed because I was not allowed to come off of medication I take for my Crohn's Disease. My first son was fine but my second was so unwell, he was covered head to toe in a red raw rash that was weepy and he would draw blood scratching it. Eventually we learned he had multiple food allergies including milk. I still get tetchy when people make the "breast feeding helps prevent against allergies" comments. My allergist said there is no proof of that and that it is unlikely it would have made a difference, he probably would have reacted to the dairy I was eating through my milk. But I still feel bad sometimes.
    Try not to blame yourself as far as I can see you are not to blame x

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