Is breast always best? Here’s my story

The milk diaries

Breast is best, that’s what we are told. The huge NHS booklet entitled ‘feeding your baby’ ONLY mentions breast. Company’s aren’t allowed to advertise their breast milk alternative formulas until stage two which is recommended for babies six months and up.

BUT is breast really what is best, always and for everyone? This post is on an emotive topic but I am talking purely about my own experience it’s not a judgement piece although I feel that I was judged.

Back in 2009 when I found out I was pregnant I wrote to PR’s and let them know and said I was happy to try out any breast-feeding aids. I was sent a multitude of items including a breast pumps, bottles, nipple shields, bras, disposable pads, nursing bras, cover ups and muslins. Here’s me naively thinking I just needed ‘me’ apparently not.

Emily took to feeding but she wouldn’t let go, I quickly not only became the milk giver but the equivalent of a dummy too. She woke up lots during the night. Did I lose weight during the breast-feeding time? The simple answer is no. I gained weight. I was sleep deprived and throughout the night I suffered from ‘the munchies’ and I’ve just come across this article published in The Guardian that backs this up.

I spoke to the health visitor about my increasing tiredness but she just nodded and said,

At this point it’s not about you it’s about the baby, isn’t it!

PERFECT not only did I feel like I was a less than able mum which you can read about in my blog posts entitled Pregnancy, childbirth and the happy ever after; not always and  Pregnancy, childbirth and the happy ever after; not always part two but essentially I had to give up every ounce of energy and sleep to take care of her and I did this until she was seven months but I shouldn’t have continued I shouldn’t have let society dictate what was right for me or my baby.

Experience one:

Continuous feeding seemingly around the clock, I was often found feeding Emily on our daily bus journeys and this was greeted from ‘ahhh’ to ‘that’s disgusting!’ Baby to toddler to little girl her sleeping patterns established early on lasted until she started school. Feeding was a control thing for me, whilst I was doing that I knew I was able to do atleast one thing right for her. Dismissive health visitors comments could have had disastrous consequences.

So onto baby two. Luke was born at 35 weeks at a very healthy weight of 5lb 13ozs. He lived his first few days in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and had a feeding tube up his nose. His tummy was first filled not by my milk but by formula and I hated this. I did lots of skin to skin kangaroo care and was shown how to hand express, which infact is a little humiliating where you basically kneed you breasts and a nurse collects the meagre drops in the tiniest of syringes. I was so proud feeding my boy with my milk through his tube.

Next my milk came in. I requested a proper machine and pumped away until there was a surplus of milk and astounded the nurses at just how much I produced. He took to the breast no bother even though he was still having the majority of his feeds via the tube. Once he had a proper taste of boob milk he actually pulled out his own feeding tube, enough was enough.

Feeding Luke was easy and no fuss. He had his fill and came off naturally with a smile. He never used my nipple as a dummy. Then when he was five weeks old he started to vomit, a little at first then increasingly to the point of 75 percent of the feed almost 100 percent of the time. I started to worry. He was only a wee one! What was I doing wrong? Reflux was suggested so I went to the doctors and requested baby Gaviscon but was denied. The locum doctor wanted Luke to be assessed as paediatrics wasn’t his specialism (as a GP I didn’t expect it to be but reflux is a common issue).

I took Luke to a hospital department and his feeding was observed and six hours later it was decided he was milk intolerant and I was making him poorly. Instead of talking me through what I should alter in my diet Luke was prescribed a specialist milk. Boom. In that instant the consultant expected me to give up feeding as it was right for my son.

I tried to go dairy free and not use the formula but after a slip up of drinking a huge latte my boy was again in pain. Before jumping in may I point out that I did consult my health visitor and local La Leche League but no support was given.

Being bottle fed though meant other people could join in. My initial job role redundant. This is my last child and instead of weaning him off my breast gently he was forcibly removed. He didn’t mind the formula which stunk of malted milk. He smiled again after a feed. My boy was happy and so was I.

Experience two;

Slow start due to circumstances, happy smiley baby after feeds, no breast or nipple pain then projectile vomit, Luke looking in pain, no support to continue breast feeding which is so contradictory to my last experience.

I NEVER thought at that point that weaning would be affected but Luke will be put on a weaning ladder and foods introduced in a slow and steady manner with different levels of milk content.

I was given the opportunity to talk with Baby Moov’s chosen little person nutritionist Julia Wolman RNutrand here are some of the questions that I asked;

  1. What are the best substitutes for dairy products when weaning?
  2. His porridge/breakfast cereal tastes disgusting to me as I make it with his milk but will he just be used to it?
  3. Is milk intolerance and lactose intolerance different? (Luke has had no formal testing just observational).
  4. Luke will often accept some food one day and then completely refuse it the next (purse lip and turn his head) is this common and how can I tackle it?
  5.  Is it better to mix foods or keep tastes separate? The reason I ask is that shop bought jars/pouches seem to be a mix of 2-5 items which I seems strange as wont it be dominated by the stronger flavoured items?
  6. I don’t want to rush through stages but I do feel like we are a little behind which may have led to Luke refusing new foods. How can I tackle that?
  7. I’m still puréeing pretty much everything, with Luke being early I do see that I’m doing things more slowly then I did with his big sister. Can this cause more harm then good?
  8. What are the best finger foods to start with?
  9. What was your childs’ most favourite thing to eat when they were 8.5/9 months.

Read my next instalment to find out how the #stresslessweaning programme is progressing and see the answers to my questions.

PS. I forgot to say whether I consider breast to be best or not. Here I am going to sit on the fence. Do what is right for YOU as well as your baby. You need to look after yourself as without a healthy you then everything in a baby’s immediate world is affected!


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