Fosse Baby
09 Jun

Victory and defeat

Or James’ alternative title: Liberation and Speedbumps

Having a baby is a bit like being bipolar; you’re up one minute and down the next. And so it has been this week. Saturday’s tears over breastfeeding were followed by Tuesday’s jubilation at sorting out Baby’s suckling issues with Clare. And Tuesday’s jubilation was followed by Wednesday, a day of huge highs and massive lows for me.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share and to give a true account of new motherhood. People are constantly commenting on my honesty, which is why I’m sorry to say I almost considered not telling you this next bit: I gave my baby formula yesterday.

The woes started at midnight and lasted until noon the next day, when I did the deed. Within that 12-hour period, she spent 8 of them on my breast: four hours from midnight until 4am and then again from 7:30am until 11:30. Every time I tried to take her off, thinking surely she’d had enough (after all, she’d never fed for more than 1-1.5 hours at a trot before), she acted like a crazed milk junkie – screaming, rooting for my breast, sucking on her fists, and rolling her eyes like a mad cow. This was a baby who wanted a food fix.

I could see that there was definitely milk at the beginning of the feed; it was rolling down her cheeks in plenitude and she was gulping audibly and regularly. But as the feed went on over four hours, I got the distinct feeling I was running on empty. She was sucking, but there was nothing there. Or it wasn’t coming out fast enough.

I felt like a human pacifier. And, of course, both James and I were crying in exhaustion and frustration in the middle of the night when we just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.

After the first four hours, she finally fell into an exhausted sleep, only to wake up at 7:30, wailing. I’d also like to point out that this is extremely odd behaviour for Baby. She usually sleeps like the proverbial baby between her feeds at night, letting James and me get a couple hours of shuteye in between each one. This dramatic turn was new behaviour, but as our friends have told us: just when you think you have the hang of this parenting thing, the little blighters go and change the playing field.

On top of this, we received a phone call from my father and step-mother, who were in Paris for three weeks before eventually coming back to us for the last week in June. My father was sick. They were catching a Eurostar back to London that day and would be with us by 15:00. They would then be booking the next flight they could find back to the USA because my father wanted to see his own doctor.

This did nothing to improve my state of mind. As it was James’ first day back full-time in the office as well, I was left on my own to contemplate my screaming, milk-addicted daughter. It dawned on me that something else might be wrong with her. She had never acted this way before. I briefly wondered whether it was because I had started to wear nipple shields, but if anything, this had helped with the milk flow, not hindered it. I needed to find out if hunger was indeed the issue or if I needed to consider taking her to A&E.

So I did it. Once I made the decision, it was actually really easy. I snipped open the Aptamil, sterilised a bottle, warmed it up in some hot water and put it to Baby’s mouth. Two and a half ounces went in a heartbeat. I waited for Baby to grow horns or for a hole open up in the floor and swallow me, relegating me to whichever circle of hell that Dante reserved for bad mothers, but nothing happened.

James was on the phone, asking if I needed him to come home. But I said no. I felt strangely calm about the whole situation. Baby had immediately stopped crying after inhaling the formula. She was making all the right signs of heading off for a nap. It looked as though hunger had indeed been the problem.

On one hand, this was great to know. She wasn’t sick; just really hungry. On the other hand, it confirmed something I had started to suspect: my body wasn’t making enough milk to keep her satisfied.

Taking advantage of her deep slumber, I decided to try expressing with my new Medela Freestyle Pump. At least I could try to get enough out of me so that James could give her a Dream Feed at 23:00 with breastmilk in a bottle. Our plan going forward was for James to take this slot so I could sleep straight until the 3:00 feed.

With Baby in her Moses basket on the table, I spread out the contents of the pump box, read the instructions, sterilised the relevant bits, and attached my hands-free bustier. I may have looked like a cow, but I got 1.5 ounces out in fifteen minutes before my milk stopped and it didn’t hurt either. I’ve been expressing at every opportunity since then.

We entered into last night with trepidation. Would we be dealing with Demon Milk Addict Baby or Angel Baby Who Sleeps Between Feeds? Thankfully, she was in an angelic mood. We went to bed at 22:00, James took the 23:00 feed and I took the 3:00 feed. We all woke at 7:00, refreshed and ready to face a new day of parenthood.

As it turns out, Baby was in a hungry mood again this morning and needed loads of feeding (breastmilk and formula). Then she went down for the count, thus allowing me to write this post.

The question is: do I feel guilty? And the answer is complicated. It depends on which minute you ask me. I desperately want to be a good mother and I honestly feel that the decision I made was towards that aim. Is letting my baby be hungry when I can do something about it being a good mother? Like everyone else, I’m just trying to do the best I can. But, by the same token, I wanted Baby to be exclusively breastfed. I only lasted 16 days and I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed in some way.

After a chat with his cousin, who had a baby last year, James told me they had a similar issue. They consulted doctors and midwives to figure out what was wrong with their baby, only to be told the good news: their baby was hungry because he was in a growth spurt. He was also cluster feeding. Ironically, I’ve just looked this up now on kellymom.com and it says I did exactly the wrong thing. Now I feel guilty again. But at least I expressed instead so that my body doesn’t think I don’t need the milk. Sigh. I think this is predictive of my future life as a parent: no matter what decision I make, I’ll wonder if it was the right one, whether it has to do with feeding, behavioural issues and naughty steps, or whether she can go with that boy to the Prom.

Baby is stirring. I’m going to attempt to get her back onto her night schedule now and start over again in the morning. After all, in the timeless words of Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

 

21 Comments

  1. 09 Jun

    ST

    I really feel for you. I said yesterday that I still feel guilty for not being able to feed my babies, and that is true. But then I remember that my health visitor advised me to try the bottle as the whole idea of feeding a baby is so it grows, and mine weren’t growing. I’m just not a good milker. Despite my fears for their health, bonding etc, they are now happy, healthy teenagers. There’s a lot more goes into raising a child than what kind of milk goes into them. You’re right, there are thousands of decisions to make and you can never know if you’ve made the right one – there isn’t a control experiment running alongside. If you love them with all your heart though and do what you feel is right, then I don’t think you can go far wrong. Have a good night xx

  2. 09 Jun

    Jeanette Lendon

    I’ll meet you in the Bad Mother Circle of Hell, along with thousands of other mothers too!! If that is our only crime, then arrest us now. Totally reinforce what ST has said above. Love her with all your heart, and you can’t go wrong, no matter what the ‘manual’ says.

  3. 09 Jun

    Alison Tinlin

    Honey, you will feel guilty for the rest of your life, but as long as you know she is fed, happy, secure then nothing else matters. Other peoples opinions are just that, “theirs”.
    You do exactly what you think is best for “your” baby and like Jeanette says love her with all your heart and you can’t ever go wrong x

  4. 09 Jun

    Bev Downie

    I am not a Mum so have no idea what you are going through but the previous comments say what I feel. Look after yourself and James as well as baby. Sending you lots of milky, sleepy, happy vibes x

  5. 09 Jun

    Mary

    You are doing the right thing. Especially because you continue to pump. It sounds like nursing is important to you and you should be able to give up the formula altogether as long as you continue to pump. Keep pumping even when nothing is coming out and your body will catch up. I imagine you are exhausted from your long labor and constant lack of sleep. Once you are able to rest your body will catch up and you can gradually give up the formula. Even if you don’t though you are an excellent mother and don’t let anything make you feel otherwise! When I was pregnant with my first baby I knew everything because I had read all the books, but since then– four kids later– the only thing I have learned about parenting is that I don’t know what I am doing. We all just wing it and often it is all about pure survival. Every baby is different and every mom is different. There is no one “right” way. Just keep doing what you are doing and you will be the best mom!

  6. 09 Jun

    Caroline

    What a roller coated of a ride you have been on and one which we have all been through – have you asked your doctor about going on medication to increase your milk supply ? Know not your first choice but worth a try and know it gives amazing results (eglanol sp?) for me 2 sips of champagne completely got my milk going or should I say running. Good luck and looking forward to hearing how it is going.

  7. 09 Jun

    Jen

    Ah Jules, you made me smile so much when I read your latest update. Do your remember coming to our home in Barnes 5 years ago, when Ruby was exactly 1 month old and all you wanted to do, was to get the perfect shot?
    All WE wanted to do was get her to stop crying, make sure she had enough milk and get some sleep. You must have wondered what all the fuss was about??!!
    Well, now you know! These babies throw so many curve balls at you and you just have to take each day as it comes and make the decisions that make you happy and make baby stop crying! If it means topping up on formula, so be it! There is always anxiety around this hotly contended issue, so just do what your “Mothers Instinct” tells you do to do, and it WILL BE RIGHT! Hang in there, I bet you are doing an incredible job. xXx

  8. 09 Jun

    Julia from ICAWatermelon

    I love you all. And, Caroline, I’m completely enamoured with your champagne idea. Will have a go after this feed! Jx

  9. 09 Jun

    cat hepple

    I love your honesty. I too am brutally honest about motherhood and breastfeeding. I battled on a for a YEAR, which I’m both proud of but also acutely aware of how utterly exhausting it was in every way. I also gave my daughter formula as a top up, after the health visitor told me I was on my knees. ” It’s not rat poison” she helpfully pointed out ” its made specifically for babies.”
    I’d felt guilt like I can’t express, it was only a few top up mls at night, but I felt like a failure.
    Looking back that was utterly ridiculous, but at the time you are under so much pressure from yourself and others.
    Now 14 months on, I realise all that matters is I do my best for my daughter. That also means I look after myself and my sanity.
    If a bottle or 2 of formula settles baby and you, then you are being a fantastic mother.
    There are so many babies in the world who are never loved, never cared for and never fed properly.
    Your daughter is adored and precious. That truly is ALL the matters.
    Keep up the good work
    x

  10. 09 Jun

    Jenny AKA Mrs O

    Julia I know tons of mums who say they exclusively breast feed, but have gradually opened up to me about having to top up with formula – it is totally normal and kellymom is a great source of info and support! As Mothers we have tendancies to be too hard on ourselves x

  11. 09 Jun

    Katy Wey

    YOU ARE A BRILLIANT MUMMY!!!!

    Sorry had to write that in capitals because I want you to believe it because it is true.

    Your baby was hungry – you fed your baby – You are a perfect mother!

    I had exactly the same thing and I know exactly what you mean about feeling guilty so I promise you I am not just saying this because it’s what you want to hear.

    Being a mummy is about giving your baby what they need and she needed food and that’s what you did.

    You can still give her the goodness of your milk, but top ups mean you’ll know she’s getting enough and will make you all happier.

    You can still give her a snuggle up while your feeding her, so you still have precious bonding time.

    I so hope you read this and can believe that what I am saying is true.

    YOU HAVE NOT FAILED – YOU HAVE SUCCEEDED!!!

    Love and big hugs xxx

  12. 09 Jun

    Donna Marshall

    That brought back memories of the pressure you feel under as a new mother. You need to remember through the exhaustion that you are a great mother and doing everything to make sure you care for your baby the best you possibly can. It’s hard but don’t be too hard on yourself.

    One thing I learned while feeding mine is that this will happen from time-to-time (constant need to feed) and it’s actually your baby’s way of telling your body that they are about to grow and you need to step up your milk production. It’s a demand and supply thing and I have no idea why new mothers don’t get told that this might happen – can’t remember now how I found out. It will happen again and drive you just as crazy and worried as before for about 24 hours but then will settle down as your body produces more for your baby.

    You are doing your absolutely best, there is no need to feel guilty about ANYTHING. Do anything you need to to get some rest and stay sane!

    Hope you get some more sleep tonight. Donna xx

  13. 09 Jun

    Vicky

    They say that when they remove your baby from your womb, they replace it with eternal guilt. So true, whether it be guilt over feeding or going back to work, the guilt never ends!

    On the breastfeeding point, I really struggled with my first and I see now I made mistakes thinking he was starving as he was feeding constantly so I too introduced a formula feed which within a couple of weeks turned into fully formula fed.

    This time I felt much more confident and spoke to a breast feeding counsellor who pre warned me about the evil evening cluster feeds for the first few weeks plus also the growth spurts at 10-14days, three and six weeks so I was ready for them.

    And because I was expecting them I persevered through the pain of sore nipples and tiredness as I knew they would pass. I really wish I’d have known this first time round, breatfeeding is a lot about luck, perseverence, confidence and knowledge. I’m now on week six and feel like we’ve gone through the worst and of course this coincides with the first gorgeous smiles which make you feel that it’s not all give give give anymore.

    I’m also expressing once a day so husband can give the 10pm feed {and I can have a night out!} and I really look forward to this break!

    Very best of luck and remember that these few weeks will pass and you’ll soon be on the other side :)

  14. 09 Jun

    Eddie Judd

    Welcome to ‘The Guilt’ as I call it Julia – it never goes away! ;-/Never a decision made without feeling it! But you use your guts it’s the only way.
    Baby must have been hungry to take formula straight away – (I stuggled with both of mine to accept formula, but especially number 2 who I had to try several different types with) – so she obviously needed it, therefore your decision was good.
    My 1st needed an evening top up from a couple of months old, after a struggled to the point of mental exhaustion to make breast-feeding work – it was such a relief knowing she was topped up for the night when I had nothing left to give.
    She needed it, therefore I needed it
    xxx

  15. 09 Jun

    Murray

    Welcome to the reality of being a parent 24 / 7. Difficult decisions have to be taken and you did the right thing and as others have already posted babies need to be fed.
    There is no easy route or shortcut to successful parenting. All babies are different, there are no hard and fast rules. It is a vertical learning curve, six months on and you’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. Babies are much tougher than you think, they just make a lot of noise. Hope your dad’s OK.

  16. 09 Jun

    Katie

    You shouldn’t feel guilty, its not you fault. however I recently watched a review on cookies that boost your milk supply, I am going through similar problems with my sister who just had a baby. She tried these cookies and within days she was producing more. However, they are sort of expensive, so if you just look up a recipie for ‘Lactation Cookies’ there is dozens of results. But check out the reveiw! Heres the link to the review and website

    Review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ik0B1yQ72RE

    Website: http://www.milkin-cookies.com/Home_ep_1.html

  17. 10 Jun

    Laura

    I have been reading your lovely blog for a while, it’s all very inspiring! I don’t have children myself yet, but we treat a lot of mums in our salon (in Southampton, a bit far for you) but you may find some massage, with aromatherapy may help. It will help relaxation (poss why the sip of champagne helped on poster!). Stress is the biggest inhibitor of labour and lactation. But anyways, your baby is going to be healthy, inteligent and lovely, with or without breastmilk! I don’t always eat my five a day, so sue me!

  18. 10 Jun

    Mavis Dee

    DO NOT FEEL GUILTY!!! DO NOT FEEL GUILTY!!

    You are giving Baby your breastmilk, she is getting the goodness they talk about. You also gave her additional food which IS NOT BAD FOR HER because she was hungry. So you have a thriving, sated baby that’s also getting your antibodies. That’s not bad!!!

    Please don’t feel guilty. You can’t do more than your best. Xx

  19. 10 Jun

    Chantelle

    Hi Julia. There’s nothing wrong with giving baba formula. My little boy has has thrived on it. In 18 months, he’s been a healthy, happy baby with no sickness or allergies. Please don’t worry. Being a new mom is hard enough without all the judgement thrown in.

  20. 11 Jun

    Karen

    Well done to you! It’s about doing what’s best for Baby and clearly she needed a top up. And she didn’t even grow horns. Amazing. :)
    Sometimes I think the internet (especially forums) are my own worst enemy, as a mother. I always have to remind myself to just do what works best for us and to trust my instincts…and to get offline more!

  21. 12 Jun

    Birgitte @ BabyBeamers.com

    Oh, the desperation, the mind numbing tiredness, the what-the-f***-is-it-that-you-want!? feelings, the complete loss of control… I remember it so clearly now you describe them so well. Remind me to stay on the pill this time…

    My daughter had colic (i.e. more or less constant screaming) from 2 – 22 weeks, but now I’m thinking she may have just been hungry, because the crying stopped round about the time I gave in and gave her formula. Oh dear…

    I remember my NCT teacher saying “just remember she wont be a crying baby always” and that’s what got me more or less (mostly less) sanely through those first 4-5 months.

    Anyway, I think that anyone looking back who had those kind of should I / shouldn’t I give formula worries would tell you to do whatever the hell feels right at the time. Yes, you may feel guilty straight after, but being well rested will make you a better mum for her in other ways, and you can always breastfeed the guilt away with a marathon session when you’re up for it.

    My mum had always told me that I was breastfed, and I went through life thinking that my excellent health was surely down to this fact. I felt a bit sorry for friends who told me that they weren’t breast fed, and convinced myself that it could explain certain allergies and behavioural patterns in said friends.

    Until one day, after I’d had Esther, I looked at my childhood pictures and saw, oh shock and horror – a BOTTLE in my baby mouth! Surely they didn’t express in 1975?! Turning the picture over I saw that I was only 3 weeks old. Straight onto the phone to my mum, genuinely hurt, confused and angry, demanding an explanation. (this was in the midst of colic, raging hormones, sleep deprivation I should add). She just said, “Yes I breastfed your brother for a year, but with two kids, a farm to run and the stress involved of you being colic (great, I can’t even blame my husbands genes for that one…) I ran out of milk with you.”
    But, but, but…

    I’ve come to terms with it now, and in a way I’m glad to be an example that you can develop a great health, close human bonds and a high IQ (ahem…) even if fed formula. And lets face it, the formula they make today is very good.

    I’m sure you’ll keep doing both anyway, and if your baby like mine decides to get off the breast milk waggon just because the branded stuff is tastier/fattier, you can always mix it in with her formula, then porridge, then food later on.

    Either way; do whatever feels right, even if it’s totally different from day-to-day, and know that it gets easier, much easier a little further down the line.

    B x

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