To Breastfeed or Bottle Feed – That is the Question…
A friend of mine has recently become a father for the first time and we were discussing the age-old issue of breast vs. bottle feeding. He said his wife was breast feeding their three week-old daughter, but that he felt guilty because he couldn’t do more to help with the baby in the middle of the night. This brought back memories of when my daughter was born. She was a brilliant baby in many ways, but the one thing we just couldn’t get right between us was the breastfeeding… she’d latch on nicely and then promptly fall asleep. Nothing we did seemed to keep her awake and interested in feeding. We undressed her; tickled her; put her feet in bowls of water (at the suggestion of the midwife, not just because we were feeling mean!); but nothing. Nada. Not a jot of interest! So, eventually we gave in and resigned ourselves to that endless circle of making up formula, heating it, cooling it, sterilising all the bottles and so on. But you know, the one blessed relief (well, from my point of view, maybe not so much my husbands!) was that at least we could now share those night-time feeds. In fact, pretty quickly we moved to a rota system; one night on, one night off (and in the spare room with ear plugs!).
This worked so well for us, in part because my husband can deal with interrupted sleep so much better than I can, that when our son came along I felt really torn as to what to do. I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding another go, but I also felt so wretched by the last month of my pregnancy with him (little did I know at the time but it is likely I was suffering from post-natal depression, which can affect some women while they are pregnant. For more info about PND please have a look at The Royal College of Psychiatrists website) that by the time he was born I really wasn’t sure what to do. As it turned out Patrick was brilliant at feeding naturally, he got the hang of it straight away, which was wonderful… however it didn’t last as he had quite a strong intolerance (or possibly allergy, it’s difficult to tell at that young age) to dairy, so even by trying to cut dairy out of his diet, he was still losing weight and being very sick. So by the time he was six weeks old he was put on a special dairy-free formula from the GP, which of course put paid to any breastfeeding attempts.
Knowing that I won’t have any more children (what with Patrick’s dairy problems to start with and my PND we quickly decided that we had enough to contend with!), I do feel a little sad that I didn’t manage to have the lovely experience that I’ve heard other mother’s talk about: being able to provide exclusively for their children until they wean them. I don’t regret my decisions though – both my children are wonderfully healthy and happy (Patrick outgrew his dairy problems by the time he was one) and I think it certainly helped me function better during the day, knowing I could get a decent amount of sleep every other night. We were actually very lucky with both kids – they were both sleeping through the night very quickly (at around ten weeks). A fact which, in order to offset the daft guilt I felt about not breastfeeding them, I put down to their being formula-fed babies. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have made much difference at all, but it made me feel a bit happier about it. It’s ridiculous, really, the guilt we lay on ourselves. We will quite seriously tell a friend they were being silly to worry about it all, but we still burden ourselves with that same feeling.