I chose to formula feed my baby. From birth.
There, I said it. Possibly one of the most debated parenting decisions there is! I know this debate often sparks up very strong opinions and debates, but I felt I needed to be honest and finally explain my choice.
Before I had Alice, I was completely convinced and decided on breastfeeding. So much so, that I didn’t even purchase any bottles or formula or even sterilizing equipment. I knew, no matter what, that I was going to breastfeed for at least 6 weeks. So my decision not to was nothing to do with me being selfish, or being a bad mother and not giving my baby what was best. I had read the material, listened to midwives and I completely understood and agreed with the benefits of breastfeeding. I wanted what was best, and I knew that breast was it!
The birth did not go to plan (does anyones?!) It was a very quick labour. When Alice was born, she was not breathing and needed resuscitation. So she was whisked away to the other side of the room where I couldn’t even see her. Meanwhile, my placenta decided to get stuck and I was at risk of haemorrhaging. For my own safety I was taken through to surgery immediately after giving birth, where I underwent an hour of surgery which left me emotionally shattered. I was wheeled back into the room where I had given birth. I could not feel anything from my chest down, I felt utterly exhausted and I hadn’t even seen my baby.
Alice was handed to me. It was horrible. I couldn’t hold her properly so she was propped up on a pillow. I looked at her. She looked at me. I felt… nothing. Not the over whelming love you are supposed to. Not even happiness that my baby was here. I didn’t understand where she had come from. She just didn’t feel like mine at all. So when the midwife said she needed feeding and was I going to breastfeed, I answered without any hesitation. No.
Alice needed feeding and I was handed a bottle. But I couldn’t do it, and so she was handed to Dave instead. I had to stay in hospital overnight and Dave had to leave. I was left on my own with a baby I didn’t think was mine, utterly exhausted and without knowing what I was going to do.
Luckily I had the most amazing midwife who stayed with me nearly all night. With her support and kindness, I began to bond with Alice. I fed her from a bottle, looking into her eyes and by the end of the night I was utterly smitten. It was as though a fog had lifted and finally I could see my baby! Focussing on feeding her the bottles, remembering how long they had been opened and how much I had given her really helped me to focus on looking after Alice and to stop worrying about any negative thoughts I was having.
When I got her home, we were bottle feeding. That was it. It sounds ridiculous, but the routine of making up a bottle made me feel more in control of things. I guess because I had not bonded with Alice straight away, I felt like my motherly instincts hadn’t kicked in. Breastfeeding is incredibly natural, and when you don’t feel any emotional connection to your baby it is very hard to in envision doing it. The bottle made me feel like a mum. Like I was in control of looking after Alice and there was no pressure on us.
As the trauma of the birth faded away and I spent time with Alice in our home environment, I really began to feel that emotional connection. 3 weeks after she was born, I remember looking at her and thinking, “I wish I could breastfeed you now”. Of course, it was too late by then.
Do I regret not breastfeeding? Absolutely not. I wrote down everything I was feeling at the time (I’m obsessed with keeping diaries!), and reading it back, I was in no fit state to breastfeed. I was emotional, traumatised and struggling to come to terms with having a newborn. It was not right for me.
One question I can predict I will be asked is: What about what’s right for your baby? It shouldn’t matter how you feel, it’s all about what is in your babies best interest.
The thing is, when I had Alice, I couldn’t quite believe she was mine. As I didn’t see her for an hour after she was born, I didn’t get that emotional connection straight away. It sounds terrible but, I was thinking about myself! I was totally overwhelmed and felt completely under prepared for what had happened. I just wanted to go home. That was it! The birth was nothing like I had predicted. And I couldn’t predict my feelings. I had no idea I would feel the way i did after having her, so I could only react to it as it happened. I wasn’t thinking straight and I just had to do what felt right at the time. Which is why I stand by my decision.
I do not regret formula feeding Alice. It was what was right for me, and for her, at the time I made my decision. However, if I ever have anymore children, I would love to breastfeed as I really do believe it is what is best for your baby.
How you feed your baby is down to you, and it makes me sad that parents are made to feel guilty for whatever choice they decide to make.