I was sitting in the hospital bed, I had everything ready. I look around and see all the other new mothers feeding with their breasts, babies so tiny latched on guzzling and tapping at their mothers to stimulate for more. The partners sitting making the mum a snack and filling her cups with water. I sit on the chair designed to feed my baby, sit baby into position and pull it out.
I gently pull out the bottle filled with formula.
I have no idea if I am doing it properly. Some of the other partners look a bit strangely at me. It’s okay though, it’s a maternity ward – feeding a baby is natural. What is the difference between formula and breastfeeding anyway?
I take off the lid and try to position the teat as best I can, I have no idea if this is right. I wince slightly, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, she seems to have got the idea – it’s a bit awkward and she splutters some milk out, no one told me it would feel like this. Out of the corner of my eye I see a lady approaching my cubicle, she sits herself, albeit awkwardly at the end of my bed. She peers at the teat in the babies mouth and nods.
‘You’ve got a great position there, have you tried adjusting your position slightly? It will stop you getting arm & back ache when you’re holding the bottle & baby’.
It was really good to hear that I had got it right. It was such a relief, just to hear someone say ‘You’re doing okay’. It gave me a little boost. I had a few social engagements coming up and I knew that I’d need to feel more confident. To do this in public is a big deal. I am worried that, when I pull the bottle out someone might see and make a fuss.
I know I can do this, I knew I wanted to feed my baby this way. It might be tough but I know that with the right support I can feed baby formula for as long as I need to. Right up until 3! Extended formula feeding they call it. It gets mixed reviews.
A few days later and I’m home, I am flicking through the pamphlets I was given at the doctors, there is one that is titled ‘Formula Friends – a place for support and to meet other formula mums’. I might have to arrange to go.
I’m flipping through all these baby magazines I had planned to read in the hospital (fat chance!) it’s page after page of breastfeeding. I feel like it’s just the done thing. It looks so much easier. Maybe just one feed wouldn’t hurt. I have been tired too. My husband said if I needed a break from the formula making he could help me latch baby on and take care of snacks and water so I could rest a bit better. I know if I can make it to two weeks it will get easier.
At 2am. She was wide awake and I was trying to calm her down, the milk wasn’t cool enough for her to drink yet. I tried to get up a little earlier to make but I was so tired. She is really tearful and I am trying to get the teat into her mouth, she keeps throwing her head back, I start crying because I don’t know what to do. I have tried sitting more comfortably and relaxing, I’ve tried the different position but she won’t latch to the teat. I finally manage to get the teat in her mouth and she is really trying to guzzle the formula down, but something isn’t right. She can’t get any out. I take the bottle from her and start to massage the teat, there seems to be something at the tip blocking the formula flow. This has made the situation worse, she is beside herself. Suddenly the milk starts spraying all over her little face and we are finally feeding. I sit in the darkened room and cry a bit. No one told me it would be this hard.
The Health Visitor popped round, she asked me ‘Is feeding going well?’. I said yes, but I am just not sure. Baby has put on a little weight and they aren’t concerned but I just don’t know how I feel. I look at her and I think would she be less hungry on breast milk?
Am I doing okay?
I went out with a few friends today, they were telling me how much easier breastfeeding is. The even recommended a few feeding bras and Fenugreek to up my supply. One of them even said that breast milk was as good as formula, if not better for baby. Maybe she would be more satisfied on breast milk.
Today is the big day! I am going to a children’s party. I am so excited, I have picked out the perfect outfit for her, she looks beautiful and I can’t believe she fits in the little grey dress already. I am wearing some tummy tucking jeans and a mum t-shirt and I feel pretty good! I have packed all my bottles and have spare formula in case we are there a little bit longer than we had planned.
There are a few other mums there with younger babies, I quickly make friends in the corner, after all we all have babies. After a little while baby wakes up and is clearly very hungry. She lets out a huge long wail. I grab at my bag, one of the men shifts uncomfortably in his seat and stares at me. I take a deep breath, it’s fine. I pull it out, and I notice the man get up and walk over to the host. I see her nodding and she heads over to me.
I am so sorry, but can I ask you to feed baby somewhere a little more private? There are children here and we don’t want them to see that?
I asked her where I should go and she simply said –
You can nip into the laundry room or up in the loo, the kids are running all through the house. See you in a bit, thanks.
My face flamed, she was crying uncontrollably in my arms. I grabbed for my bag, the bottle of formula was spraying at the floor as I hadn’t managed to put the lid on properly and everyone could see what was going on. I tried to hold my head up as I walked away but I felt squashed. I checked in the laundry room and there were parents in there cleaning up a food accident, they said they’d rather I didn’t feed her in there. I slunk up the stairs. I placed my bag on the floor, readjusted my bottle, sat my darling in the best position to feed and finally managed to get the teat into her mouth. She guzzled so quickly, grabbing at the bottle, trying to get more out than she could cope with.
I felt the hot sting of shame tingle down my spine. I wanted to go home.
Back at home I tell my Husband what happened and he was upset and angry on my behalf. He said we don’t need people like that around us. If they can’t see that we are trying to do what is best for our baby then why should waste time with them. I suppose he is right, if I can respect their right to breastfeed they can respect my decision to formula feed.
I pick up the pamphlet on the coffee table. ‘Formula Friends – a place for support and to meet other formula mums’. I call the number and arrange to go to the next session.
It’s session day. I’m really excited and when I walk in I see other mothers, feeding their babies with formula. I sit down, get comfortable and get my bottle out for my little girl. Everyone is just talking away about everything. We start talking about some comments that were under a newspaper article about formula feeding the other day.
- It is about the inherently bad manners of an individual deliberately choosing to offend (by feeding in public) others when such offence is easily avoided.
- There’s nothing unnatural about feeding your baby. There’s nothing unnatural about having a pee. There’s nothing unnatural about dumping. There’s nothing unnatural about having sex. There’s nothing unnatural about masturbation.
- You have heard of breastfeeding, haven’t you? It’s not absolutely necessary to bottle feed in public.
- Nobody is saying that women shouldn’t bottle feed their infant. However, the act of bottle feeding involves a woman exposing an intimate part of her changing bag out and, if she is doing so in a public place and in close proximity to others, it is not unreasonable to expect her to have some consideration for others who happen to be nearby.
- I think it should be covered up, I don’t want my husband and child to see that!
We laugh about it. How ridiculous!
I feel at home here. I can get my bottle out without anyone noticing.
When I get home I take my first Forelfie (formula selfie) and post it on my twitter. I got so many retweets, someone even asked how to get started with formula!
I’ve registered to become a Formula Friend Supporter. I get training in helping women over come problems, feelings, and any other obstacles that might be in their way on their formula feeding journey. I’m really excited. I have been formula feeding successfully for over 6 months now. I am braver than I was, I sit where I like and feed when ever she needs to. I get the odd comment about her age, should she still be doing that?
We had our issues, she refused to feed for a few days, then started cluster feeding which was a nightmare! And in the hot weather I couldn’t get her off me at all. I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned a lot about me and I think it has been useful.
I just found out that in 2006 they spent £20 per baby on advertising breastfeeding and 14 pence on formula feeding, and that is just in the UK! Can’t you even believe that? No wonder we end up shoved in little corners to feed, no one has any idea what we are doing!
To get more people formula feeding we need to do the following with no budget:
- Bans all advertising or promotion of breastmilk to the general public
- Bans samples and gifts to mothers and health workers
- Requires information materials to advocate formula feeding, to warn against breastfeeding and to not contain pictures of babies or text that idealises the use of formula substitutes
- Bans the use of the healthcare system to promote formula substitutes
- Bans free or low-cost supplies of formula substitutes
- Allows health professionals to receive samples, but only for research purposes
- Demands that product information be factual and scientific
- Bans sales incentives for formula substitutes and direct contact with mothers
- Requires that labels inform fully on the correct use of breastmilk and the risks of misuse
- Requires labels not to discourage formula
The more I read, the scarier it all is… If we could engage the public and help mums to make an informed choice about what they feed their babies we would be able to up the formula feeding ratings. It would be amazing, the NHS would save £70 million alone.
We made it to one year of formula feeding. I am so proud of myself. I have learnt to ignore a lot of the negative comments. I never intended to upset anyone with my feeding choices, but I am passionate about it now.
I know it was right for me and my baby.