baby bottle feeding formula

For me, formula feeding was a godsend

In Features, Motherhood, Reviews, Stories by Gemma Dawkins

While Nicola’s journey started with plans to breastfeed, ultimately formula feeding was right for her and for baby Evelyn. Here is her positive story of bottle feeding, and how it saved the day…

By Nicola Ryan

Being our first child, we made plans for all scenarios and I’m so glad we did! We purchased a bottle and steriliser set and a couple of cans of formula as a ‘just in case’ to have at home, and my work colleagues bought me a breast pump. So I felt prepared for whatever needed to happen.

My plan was to breastfeed to start with, and then progress to mixed feeding. However I really didn’t have my heart set on either option. I just decided to worry about the birth first, and then focus on feeding once she was here!

Collecting colostrum

In our birthing classes we were talking about collecting colostrum, and I remember thinking ‘NOTHING has been coming out of my boobs AT ALL. How am I supposed to collect this stuff?!’ I was reassured that I didn’t need to worry – the baby would get everything she needed from me once she was born.

I know this is true in theory. However I ended up having a booked caesarean, and my milk didn’t come in for four or five days.

“The pain was almost unbearable. I burst into tears, and blood started trickling out of my nipples.”

Smiling mum with baby

Nicola with her baby

Establishing breastfeeding

On the second night in hospital, my daughter Evelyn just wouldn’t stop crying unless she was latched onto me or sucking a dummy or my husband’s finger. The second she stopped sucking she would scream, so I let her feed off me for something like five hours straight. Seriously – all night. I was hallucinating, I was so tired.

Early the next morning a nurse walked in about two minutes after I had given her to my husband to hold, and she had started crying again. The nurse commented ‘that baby sounds hungry.’ By this point I was certain she wasn’t getting any colostrum or milk, nothing.

The nurse offered to try and manually express for me, which I agreed to, but regretted. The process of having someone squeeze and push your nipples and breasts was something I will never forget. The pain was almost unbearable. I burst into tears, and blood started trickling out of my nipples. It was horrendous. (I promise there is a happy ending to this story!)

Trying formula feeding

After this everything escalated. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even wear a top, literally anything touching my nipples was so painful. The maternity staff seemed quite concerned that ‘we are going to have to try and feed the baby some formula.’ We were given a bunch of permission forms to sign.

The second my baby latched onto the bottle, she guzzled it down. Her body went limp, her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and she fell asleep for several hours. No more hungry crying. In that moment, formula was a godsend.

breastfeeding, medela, mama disrupt

Continuing bottlefeeding

After being discharged and at home my milk eventually did come in. But my breasts were covered in very painful dark purple bruises. And by that point, especially after the C-section, I was feeling very tired and overwhelmed. We decided to keep going with the formula. My husband really liked being involved too. He would prepare all the bottles and we’d alternate night feeds, so we both got decent chunks of sleep.

Luckily for me I didn’t have my heart set on breastfeeding. I was open to going with whatever I needed to do. It would have been nice to mix feed even for a few weeks, but that didn’t happen, and I refused to give myself a hard time about it.

I felt supported in the hospital. However, it was a shame that it took so long to be offered an alternative feeding method when I was really concerned about not producing any milk early on. I was just pushed to keep trying, and that was frustrating. I knew something wasn’t right, and in the end it made the situation more traumatic for me, my husband and our very hungry child.

As for judgement from other parents, I have NEVER experienced this. All of my friends were very supportive, even long-term breastfeeding mums assured me that FED IS BEST.

Saying no to guilt

To anyone struggling with guilt around formula feeding, this is my advice: you’ve just had a baby! That is the most incredible, wonderful, emotional, exhausting, and life-changing thing you will ever do. So just ride the wave, and do what works. Your baby will survive, and your baby will thrive.

A close work colleague, and mum of three grown-up children gave me some fantastic advice. She said to me “Nicola, you have the rest of your life for mum guilt. Don’t start on day one.” So true!

Struggling with breastfeeding? This is how to solve the three most common breastfeeding challenges. Need support with breastfeeding? Here’s where to get it.

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