Breast, Formula and Expressing

If you breastfeed there is so much pressure to give your baby a bottle, if you formula feed you are judged for not breastfeeding, you literally cannot "win" and this comes from parents, in-laws, siblings, friends, colleagues, STRANGERS! I truly believe that it is a mother’s decision on how to feed their child, we live in a country and an age, where women have a choice, whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding that choice should be respected. Each individual has different circumstances around their decision, maybe they are not comfortable breastfeeding, maybe they are doing combo feeding and only breastfeed in private, maybe they cannot produce the milk their child needs, maybe their having to work to support the family, maybe they cannot afford to buy formula, maybe their having chemotherapy!! You just don't know.

During my own journey I was often told during the cluster feeding period, and times thereafter "you should give her a bottle she's clearly not getting enough milk". This definitely got me thinking and I started asking friends about expressing; what pumps they were using? how to store milk? how much they express?

I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a Calypso Ardo Double Pump, I was able to alter the frequency and intensity of the suction so seemed like I could play around to find a setting to suit me.

Well the first experience was awful! I sat there doing 10min on each side and managed the grand sum of 0.5oz, to say I felt deflated was an understatement! I thought I clearly needed to stick at it and see if it was a "flow" problem. The next day same again, same result. This continued for well over 2 weeks, I’d managed to collect about 10 oz a week - so 2 bottles worth in 4-5hrs of expressing. Cue the tears! I felt like a failure, was I starving our daughter? did I not produce enough milk? After a big hug from David and a long discussion he pointed out that she was gaining weight every week, had chub rolls everywhere and was very happy and contented baby. With his words I thought back on my breastfeeding workshop, they had talked us through hand expressing and this was something I had needed to do with my blocked duct so thought I’d see how much milk I could get out with this method, in 10mins I had filled a 5oz bottle from one side! 

In the end I decided that I clearly wasn't responding to the pumping machine, clearly my body knew it wasn't our daughter asking for milk and so put the pump away. This definitely took a huge weight off my shoulders as I realised I was putting so much pressure on myself to express so others could benefit and bond from feeding her, but actually it was the most challenging part of my breastfeeding journey.

Not expressing became such a good decision for us for a number of reasons. Anytime I wanted to leave the house we could just go, no restocking formula and no sterilising bottles. With having 9-12months off work, it meant there was less pressure to need to add in a bottle, and whilst I was able to do it, I loved that I could give her everything she needed to survive.

After a while things began to get put in the diary including a trip to Spain to celebrate the pregnancy of a friend who lives there and so we needed to look at other options. At this point she would be around 6 months old, so in preparation we decided to try a few bottles of formula to make sure she would take the bottle and that her tummy was gradually introduced to this new food, so it had time to adapt. We chose Hipp Organic Formula after recommendations from others who had babies with colic and reflux, the strap line told to us by other parents was that it was kinder on babies’ tummies. How true this is we didn't know but we needed to buy one and with so many options we went ahead with it (other friends used Aptamil and Cow & Gate - do what is right for you!) She responded well and so our problem was solved - we entered the combination feeding zone, so off to Spain I went. 

Now nothing says a breastfeeding mum than being sat in your hotel room hand expressing into a cup before you leave for the day... it’s definitely a rock and roll life style 😂

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