Why I Was Forced to Stop Breastfeedingby Abigail Stanley
There seem to be two camps out there. Breastfeeding warriors who say 'breast is best' and you should try and breastfeed as long as you can to do right for the baby. Then there are formula mums, who think 'fed is best' and don't care what breastfeeding mums do and say they'll formula feed their baby as it is their right.
Both camps have excellent points and benefits to them. I breastfed my son for 6 months but very quickly after birth realised my milk wasn't doing it for him. Breastfeeding mums will now be thinking 'you produce what your baby needs' no, no you really don't, my baby was starving, crying, screaming, wanting more food. We tried for 2-3 nights not knowing what the cause was behind his agony, finally, we relented and decided to try a bottle, he was soothed immediately, he was just hungry. I did still breastfeed on an evening for comfort as he used the breast to get to sleep but he was primarily bottle-fed. Now my boy was 9 lbs 9.5 oz so I was adamant that it was to do with his size that my body just couldn't keep up.
Fast-forward 3 years and I was pregnant with my second baby, a little girl. Now I was fully aware of the fact second babies are bigger even if they are girls compared to a first boy. So I was feeling pretty confident and fully prepared for the same approach. Especially when I found out she would be 2 weeks later than my first baby, so an even bigger baby. We bought a perfect prep machine as I was soooo confident that I would be bottle feeding 90% of the time. Obviously I still wanted to try the partial breastfeeding for the bonding experience but was fully prepared for that to go down the shitter when I gave birth to a baby Hulk.
My baby girl was 10lbs 1oz so my predictions about a monster baby were right on track. As soon as she was born (emergency C-section long story for another post), she latched on, much to the surprise of the midwives, I thought that it was baby's natural instinct but seeing the shock on their faces and the muttering of 'look at that baby she's hungry already' really flabbergasted me. She was a natural, she was latched on 99% of the time as I know she was trying to get me to produce more and more milk. The bond I felt with her was unbelievable, I could finally understand why so many mothers advocated for breastfeeding. It really felt like the best and most natural thing to do in the world.
On the second day, she was admitted to a special care unit. She was delivered by C Section but because she was such a fatty, she had to be dragged out using forceps as well, so she had two huge horns on her head like the devil. When I asked the doctor about this the student SHO told me that she thought, in her expert medical opinion, that this was simply going to be the shape of her skull, and, it's 'lucky she's a girl because her hair will cover it'. Look, I love babies of all shapes and sizes and would not have cared about it but I definitely wasn't having it that a forceps delivered baby simply looked like Maleficent's love child for anything other than temporary. Anyway, we got a second opinion and of course, it was simply normal forceps marks, however, it was then that the doctor noticed she was jaundiced. No big deal, my son was jaundiced and he grew out of it. They took her blood and said they would come back with the results. They came back with an incubator and immediately started stripping her down and putting a blindfold on her and bundling her into this incubator. They told me that if her tests didn't improve then she would have to be fed through a tube. My breastfeeding journey seemed over. Nevertheless, she slowly improved, I started pumping, I was dubious as pumping had zero results with my son but pumping produced more and more milk. I was eventually allowed to go visit her and they let her out of the incubator for short periods to breastfeed. I could take her little blindfold off and look into her eyes as I fed her. I was so in love with her and feeding her, it was so special and my husband was so proud that I was able to connect this way and provide for her.
When she got home she was getting more and more fussy on an evening, I recognised this angst and sadly accepted that maybe my chunky monkey needed more than just breast milk. I had tried pumping to overstimulate my supply but it wasn't enough. I decided to give her a bottle on an evening before bedtime. More or less immediately, she started to become a much more unsettled baby. She was griping and groaning and full of gas and colic, her nappies started to be explosive, I was used to them being looser than usual due to being breastfed but these were frothy and full of mucus. She then started passing blood clots, it looked like when you've had a nosebleed in the morning and then blow your nose later that evening, all mucus and blood mixed together, disgusting but also so worrying.
I am lactose intolerant, my son was lactose sensitive and other members of my family are intolerant also. I switched her evening bottle to lactose-free powder but this did nothing for the symptoms. I took her to the GP and got a trainee GP. I was prepared for the brush off, I usually get 'if they're putting on weight we aren't bothered' comments. I got this reply from the trainee's mentor, a more senior GP. How wasn't anybody bothered this baby was shitting blood? I couldn't understand it. But, we had a stroke of luck. The trainee GP was so bothered about not missing anything that she went through everything with a fine-tooth comb, she referred us to the children's ward at the hospital who told us they suspected my baby has a cow's milk protein allergy, different to lactose intolerance as she could not have any milk derived from a cow. She was started on a special hydrolysed formula and I was told I could carry on breastfeeding if I undertook a dairy-free diet.
I started being dairy free immediately, switched all milks, butters etc for dairy alternatives, I became a member of every CMPA forum going online. My baby was still having these bloody stools but, after she had her formula, seemed to be a lot better. So was it me? I read online that CMPA could also be other allergies, i.e. soy, corn, beef etc, it could actually be any allergy. I had to make the decision to either eliminate every food group from my system bit by bit in order to identify the source and slowly introduce each back in, or I had to stop breastfeeding. Knowing my baby was perfectly fine on the new formula meant that I would have to keep putting her through the pain and discomfort while I identified the allergy issues simply for my gain. I wanted to keep breastfeeding but that would mean prolonged distress for my baby. I decided to exclusively formula feed. I became a member of formula feeding groups on social media, but this seemed to be full of women who advocated for formula feeding as a decision, it's a new age and breast is best is a 'myth' or 'outdated' and seemed to really bash on breastfeeding mums. The breastfeeding sites seemed to do the same, 'breast is best' echoing round my head reading all the posts about being closer to your child and all the benefits it gives them. The crashing reduction of my hormones didn't make this reading any easier, I felt so ashamed, I didn't belong in either camp. I am a mum that couldn't breastfeed, I don't deserve the shame from the breastfeeding mums, but, I don't feel empowered by the formula mums, I feel defensive of breastfeeding, I loved it and wish with all my heart it would have worked out.
I have since come to terms with formula feeding, I know it was selfish to continue breastfeeding her. She is so much happier and thriving on her formula. Plus, now I don't have to do all the night feeds!