I am definitely pro-breastfeeding and yet I exclusively bottle fed my precious bundle with formula. Why? I hear you all scream, why if you know breast is best, did you not give your baby that wonderful stuff? Well, sit back, relax and listen to my little tale.
Back in 2006, aged 26 I was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei. The long and short of it was that I lost a lot of my internal organs including all my baby making bits. My ovaries were shot to hell so there was no chance of egg salvage. Two major operations and a bit of chemo later and I was cancer free. However, all I’d wanted my whole life was to be a mummy so now I had to find a way to make it happen.
Hubby and I decided on surrogacy as he would be the biological father and I would get the full newborn baby experience (mad I know but I wanted the sleepless nights etc!!) It took well over a year to find the right surrogate, a wonderful lady called Dawn and after only 3 attempts at insemination – we were pregnant!! Our gorgeous little man arrived 6 weeks early by emergency C-section and was ventilated in Neo-natal Intensive Care. It was scary and stressful, made worse for me by the fact that I knew Daniel would have to be formula fed as there was no way I could breastfeed. I asked the consultant if there was any way Daniel could be fed from the breast milk bank but as he was born at 34 weeks they said he was too old. Usually only the very premature babies or those who are extremely poorly are given the donated milk. So that was that, my little man was to be a fully formula fed bubba.
Two and a half weeks later, Daniel was discharged home. Over the next few weeks we struggled with feeding. Daniel had dreadful colic and couldn’t settle at all. We tried all the over the counter preparations and even some prescription ones. Eventually it was discovered that he was lactose intolerant. Within 24 hours of switching to lactose free formula he was a different baby! Settled, happy and feeding well. My boy was thriving, he had a formula that was suiting him and he was healthy, apart from eczema and chronic lung disease due to his prematurely.
However, I was still unhappy about the fact that I was feeding my baby formula. I felt a failure, even though my sensible head kept telling me there really was no choice and that Daniel was very happy on it. Every time I bottle fed my baby in public I imagined all the judging looks from other people, as though they felt I was a bad mother for not breastfeeding. I was so very glad when Daniel was weaned and bottles were laid to rest.
I did look into all sorts of options before Daniel was born but they would have created added pressure. The idea of breast feeding and using formula via a little tube beside your nipple so the baby still feels they are breast feeding felt too complicated and unsuitable for going out and about. I went through so many emotions about the whole thing, including asking myself if it was weird to breast feed a baby who wasn’t biologically mine…..would he be freaked out by it when he was older?
There is the option for women like me to stimulate lactation to enable them to breastfeed (www.breastfeedingwithoutbirthing.com). The breastfeeding is primarily a bonding exercise. My boy and I are living proof that you can form a very strong bond without breastfeeding, he is a total mummy’s boy and I absolutely adore him. Quite frankly, from even before he was conceived, I have loved him with all my heart and soul, bonding was never going to be a problem.
At the end of all my research I concluded that for me, it wasn’t the best idea to mess my broken little body around anymore, either with manual or hormonal measures, and the idea of getting your husband to suckle to stimulate lactation was just yucky!! I knew in my heart that bonding was never going to be a problem, and I was right, so I decided just to bite the bullet and go for formula.
Although I will always feel sad that I never had the chance to breastfeed, I have mostly made my peace with it. Daniel probably hasn’t suffered at all from it; he is a very happy, healthy, bouncing 2 year old whose health problems have all but sorted themselves out.
I may not have given my boy breast milk but I gave him the best start I possibly could, along with all the love in the world. I am still, and will always be pro-breastfeeding. It’s free, portable, amazing for your baby and good for mummies but I have to say that formula does have its place. Not every mummy can breastfeed, whether they don’t produce enough or, for reasons like me, can’t produce any. It doesn’t make them any less of a mother.