My Breastfeeding Experience: Introducing Formula

I sat on the bed, with a screaming, three week old baby in my lap, and I cried: huge, great, fat tears. The sadness, disappointment, and frustration were completely overwhelming and everything felt very dark, and very hopeless. I'd been fighting this and putting it off for what seemed like a long time (in reality, a matter of days) and at the same time, felt it had lingered over me like an inevitable conclusion to this whole, rather sorry story, for ages - but Boyfriend had finally left the house, to get formula milk.
 
In the grand scheme of things, and I'm sure to anyone else, this doesn't sound like a big deal. We do, after all, live in a country where good quality infant formula is readily available, and keeps hundreds of thousands of babies alive and healthy. It also represented a solution to the situation that was making me so horrifically depressed that I had got used to crying all of the time. I'll be the first to say that the most important thing, when it comes to feeding a baby, is that the baby is, actually, fed. Whether it's sustenance comes from a tub of carefully concocted, complexly balanced powdered feed, or from it's Mother's breast, or from someone else's breast - it matters not. I've never looked down on a formula feeding Mum in my life - I was one, from the moment that Seb took his first feed. Yet there I was, so utterly ashamed of myself, to have finally agreed to give Quinn a bottle of milk that wasn't mine.
 
 
 
Largely, the guilt and anger I felt when I got to this point, was down to the fact that my breastfeeding journey up to that point had completely broken me. I'd become obsessed with overcoming the obstacles, and succeeding, to the point where to do anything else seemed like the ultimate failure. I'd promised everyone that I'd breastfeed my baby - even people who really didn't care either way, and perhaps most importantly, I'd promised myself: promised myself that it would get better, that I would be one of those women who whipped out a boob and carried on with what they were doing, effortlessly looking like a total Goddess. That reality was fading way too quickly; already I'd phoned Boyfriend more than once during the day, whilst he was at work, telling him through tears that I'd finally accepted that it was time to stop breastfeeding. He'd always been calm, and reassuring, and encouraging, telling me to call a breastfeeding counsellor, or wait until we'd seen the chiropractor, or find out when there was a breastfeeding support group meeting locally. At the time, I cried even bigger, angrier tears. I couldn't understand why he wasn't listening to me, I was telling him that I wanted to stop, that I didn't want this to be part of my life anymore, so why was he coming back at me with ideas of how I might be able to carry on? It was heartbreaking, and infuriating at the same time - I wanted to hear him say "that's OK babe, you've given it your best shot, it honestly doesn't matter, you stop if you want to". He never did.
 
Looking back now I'll be eternally grateful to him for this, it might make him sound like a cruel, uncaring man, who pressured me in to breastfeeding our daughter, but in fact, the complete opposite is true. He is so kind, so thoughtful, so understanding, and most importantly, he knows me better than anyone. We've shared a weird, almost psychic connection since pretty early on in our dating; it's not in the least bit unusual for one of us to sense that the other is in trouble when we're apart, or for us to pre-empt the other's ideas. We're an annoyingly in-sync, annoyingly in love kind of couple.
 
Not clouded by the hasty, irrational influence of hormones, exhaustion and pain, he knew that I wasn't ready to stop, that I needed relief, yes, but that if breastfeeding stopped for us at three weeks, it would ruin me more than the feeding was. Because of him, I didn't stop.
 
But within days, even he had asked if I wanted him to go and buy formula, and with the heaviest of hearts, I said yes.
 
That day we'd been at Boyfriend's Mum's house for a barbeque. Quinn, who's a pretty hungry baby anyway, had fed almost continually, and as the day moved in to evening, she's successfully emptied both boobs, and became really distressed. It was impossible to comfort or satisfy her, and we all tried, but she cried, on and on, and on. By the time we got home, Quinn had been awake for nine hours, and had spent it either feeding, or screaming with apparent hunger.
 
Reluctantly, I gave her the formula, and she slept for the next seven hours.
 
In the days that followed I attempted mixed feeding. With each bottle of formula, my guilt faded: I just wanted the crying to stop. I kept going with regular breastfeeding, but even then, Quinn would feed from both breasts, then down a bottle of formula, and sometimes still be looking for food. Eventually, the pain that I thought I was over (Quinn's latch was actually improving) was back ten fold, just due to the length and frequency of her feeds during the day - though she continued to sleep well at night.
 
I stopped putting her on the breast. Instead I alternated her between formula feeds and expressed breast milk, to give my nipples a rest - and I made an appointment with my GP.
 
It's here that things started to come back together. The GP diagnosed silent reflux, and prescribed Quinn with infant Gaviscon - which stopped the constant feed-cry cycle within 12 hours, my nipples healed up (again) and I reintroduced breastfeeding - painlessly, and the health visitor came and confirmed Quinn's otherwise perfect health.
 
The veil of hopelessness lifted. I wondered on many occasions whether I was, actually, suffering from PND, I felt so drained and unhappy. I now realise that I was exhausted, stressed, and in physical pain - the symptoms of which aren't dissimilar to depression - but now that the exhaustion, stress and pain have gone, so has the hopeless misery - and so my mental health is intact.
 
I am finally so pleased to be able to say now that I finally love breastfeeding. I went to bed last night, looking forward to Quinn waking for her feed, rather than the thought bringing me to tears. I'm proud that I got myself here in the end, and am no longer upset or ashamed that formula played a part in that success, and I'm so grateful to Boyfriend for knowing better than I did that things really would get better.
 
I'm now looking forward to breastfeeding for a long time, which I thought wouldn't be an option, and so the journey continues!
 
If you'd like to read more about Quinn's silent reflux diagnosis, there is a post, here.
 
 

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