A week ago today, my daughter took a bottle of formula milk from her Dad. Might not sound like a big deal but it was an emotional day in the Evans’ household because up until now, our six month old daughter has refused ALL bottles.
All in all (including two expensive Medela breast pumps which were rendered useless as she wouldn’t drink the expressed milk), we’ve spent about three hundred quid on our quest.
I never planned to exclusively breastfeed. Well, not for six months, anyway. It wasn’t that I was against it, we (Baby Daddy and I) had agreed that from the start we would share feeding. I’d done nine months hard time and now it was time for us to share the child rearing. Also, if I’m honest, I wanted to have a guilt-free drink.
Anyway, I was really lucky to have the baby latch on with ease straight away. It felt so easy and so convenient- no messing about with bottles etc which is something I hadn’t thought about. I wasn’t even bothered about missing out on the whole drinking alcohol ( I know- Who would have thought it!). So we agreed, I would continue to breastfeed and then express a bottle a day so hubs could get involved. Simple, really. Except, it didn’t go like that. The baby loved the boob. She like, LOVED the boob and no imitation plastic teat was going to cut the mustard.
Because we had, naively, told our family our shared-feeding plans before she was born, when she wouldn’t take a bottle it was like it was the end of the world. “Keep trying” they all said. “Have you tried this bottle”, “Have you left her with someone else?”. Baby Daddy was gutted and felt like a spare part unable to help when he could see I was throughly exhausted. Others commented that I needed to keep on with the bottle otherwise the baby would become ‘clingy’. I know most of the advice came from a genuine place but I never once felt supported to continue breastfeeding.
The thing is, deep down, I had changed. Bottle feeding wasn’t something I was bothered about anymore. Despite the lack of support and utter exhaustion, I found it such a positive experince. It bonded me with my daughter in a way I never knew possible and I loved every minute. Sadly, I never felt this was something I could share with the people around me.
I kept up the facade and continued to try bottle after bottle (wasting gallons of my breast milk in process) until at four months, I cracked. The breaking point was when I bought an expensive and throughly ridiculous boob-like bottle as our last hope and she rejected it. Of course she did- It was fucking ridiculous.
NHS advice recommends that you breastfeed for at least six months but the truth is that there can be so much pressure on women to stop breastfeeding as soon as they possibly can. Extended breastfeeding is seen by many as odd or wrong when it is the most natural thing in the world.
In the end, the decision to stop was taken out of my hands. At six months, almost to the day, the baby grew a razor sharp tooth which caused me the most excruciating pain. I started to think about the bottle situation again and on a whim we tried her with one of the bottles and some formula. She absolutely guzzled it down and I haven’t breastfed since. I suppose I could have continued to express but I was done.
To my surprise, I feel just as close to her bottle feeding her as I did when I was feeding her and she continues to thrive. Also, for the first time in over six months I got to sleep whilst Baby Daddy finally got to take his turn.
I must admit, if I could do it all again, I would want to breastfeed again even if it meant the baby being permanently attached to me for six months (and beyond). I absolutely loved every minute but the perfect situation for our family would be for me to feed most of the time but the baby to take a bottle so I could have a rest now and again and hubs could get involved.
With hindsight, I wouldn’t take people’s well-meaning advice so personally and I would go with my gut.
In the words of Robert Downey Junior: “Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway”- Best. Advice. Ever.