The last time I wrote about breast and formula feeding I had a ten-week old baby who, at that stage, had been formula-fed for about a month. I was tired, emotional and defensive. I’d wanted to breastfeed my son the way I’d fed my first daughter, until she’d weaned herself happily at just over twelve months.
That said, I was determined to avoid the situation I’d faced with my second baby, who I near-starved in a desperate attempt to continue feeding with what turned out to be a hopelessly inadequate supply. By the time the paediatrician ‘rescued’ us when she was seven months old, and despite every supply-boosting trick in the book, she was dangerously underweight and lethargic. Even with her at risk of organ damage, I was still being strongly discouraged at the local clinics from complementing our near-empty breastfeeds with formula.
It was a slippery slope from there into post-natal depression. Ironically, the guilt came not from failing to breastfeed, but from failing to stop breastfeeding earlier – in her best interests.
So, when my son came along, ten years later, I tackled it differently. My intention going into the hospital was to feed my baby. Full stop. I would breastfeed if possible, but not at any cost – either to his physical or my emotional wellbeing.
I’d have loved a ‘last baby’ breastfeeding fairytale, but it wasn’t to be. When he wouldn’t latch on, no matter how many ways we approached it over the first six weeks, I decided to stop expressing and move to formula. Two experienced lactation consultants agreed that there are some kids who simply do not get it – even without a tongue-tie – and he’s one of them.
Having been down the formula-feeding path before, I knew it would be okay. I had two healthy, energetic tweens under my wing and no-one could pick which had been breastfed.
When you dearly want to feed a baby and can’t, you can be plunged into a grieving process. Grief, dressed up as guilt. An aspect of motherhood that you valued highly is wrenched from you by circumstances beyond your control.