I have read a couple of blogs (mammywoo and the boyandme) today on the ongoing debate between breast and bottle feeding babies and the guilt that can fill ladies who choose (or indeed have no choice) to give their baby formula milk. This sparked my interest and I thought I would add my thoughts to the discussion.
For the good of the mothering world I am conducting a social experiment, in seventeen years and six months I will publish the results. I have two formula fed children and one exclusively breast-fed child, when I have all their ‘A’ level results I will be able to tell you if there is any truth in the rumour that breast-fed babies are more intelligent. Of course this experiment is reliant upon the formula fed babies passing their GCSE’s in order to get to A levels…..
Seriously though I attempted to lovingly hold my twins to my heaving bosom upon their arrival into the world. Twin girl weighed in at a mighty 5 pounds two ounces and after twenty minutes of trying to latch on the midwife gave up and fed her some rather tasty formula as the poor child had forgotten to eat before she left the womb and was starving. Twin boy had a bit of a crack at the boob but he saw his little sister have a good old slurp on SMA gold and the teat looked a hell of a lot easier that his mummies rather scarily large breast so he kicked up a fuss until someone went and got him a bottle as well. Fast forward a week in hospital and no midwife could manage to get either twin to latch on and sample some mummy goodness. I had rather impressively sized boobies which apparently even Houdini would struggle to crack open. So the doors stayed locked and my milk went away. My children loved their SMA, they were fed by everyone that loved them, they grew healthily and happily, twin boy suffered with reflux for a couple of years but in no way do I connect that to him being bottle fed. However twin girl does have a small birthmark which I reckon is because she never sampled the boobie milk.
Four years on and into the world pops baby beautiful; well pops is a rather understated term for her arrival, it hurt like hell and she came out via the sunroof. Turns out that if medical science had not evolved so well I would have died during natural childbirth; I reckon if the human race is clever enough to invent ways of saving a mother and her child in labour then it can probably knock together a decent bottle of formula.
I wanted to have another attempt at breastfeeding; I never felt I missed out with the twins by not breastfeeding I just wanted to have a go. Kind of like how I wanted to see what a contraction felt like without an epidural (regretted that afterwards – it felt like a red hot poker burning into my spine). By some miracle baby beautiful nestled into my arms like the last piece of a jigsaw and latched on perfectly; I loved the feeling, I was blissfully happy.
Back on the ward it was like I had turned back time, every time I tried to latch her on she couldn’t get a grip; it was like the milk float was reversing away from my body (This vehicle is reversing, this vehicle is reversing). Not to be thwarted out came the milking machine and I expressed tiny droplets until I could syringe feed my child. Three days later and the expressing was wearing thin, I felt like a cow with swollen udders but my milk had arrived and it had to go somewhere.
On my last day in hospital I met the world’s scariest midwife, a young polish woman; she blustered into my cubicle as I sat with it all hanging out spending some quality time with the breast pump.
‘you are doing that wrong, why not put the baby to the breast?’
Three days after giving birth, fed up and cross I wept in her arms ‘I can’t do it, no one can latch her on’
Looking proud and motivated by a challenge my polish angel declared ‘I am good breast feeder, I will get you on.’
At this point my two children turned up and twin girl joined in to help by lifting her top and breastfeeding baby Annabel (she made it look easy). For twenty minutes the midwife manipulated my bosom into positions any contortionist would be proud off and then suddenly I heard the contended sucking of my three day old child. Sweet hallelujah she was on.
I would love to say it was all sweetness and light from that point on, but three case of mastitis, two cases of thrush (yep you can get that in your booby apparently), and some spectacularly cracked nipples meant I found breastfeeding incredibly hard work for the first eight weeks and then suddenly it all settled down (with the help of painkillers, antibiotics and white wine).
I love feeding my daughter, and I loved snuggling up in an evening twin in each arm giving them a bottle. They are all happy and healthy. Someone asked me if I regretted not ‘trying harder’ with the twins – I don’t feel I need to justify that question with an answer.
Just for the record, I bottle fed my son until he was eighteen months until he switched to a beaker, twin girl stayed on a bottle until she was two. Baby beautiful will remain breastfed for as long as we both desire; I am not doing it to make a point I just enjoy it and she seems to like it as well. I am almost certain she won’t still be breastfed when she goes off to Cambridge University with her six A stars.
To all mummies out there, feed your babies milk not coca cola and you will ensure they get a good start in life.