Kate’s experience jumps out to us because it shows how we absolutely must treat women with respect and allow them to make their own decisions on how they feed their babies. Ultimately, the mother is the most qualified to make a choice that suits herself and her entire family and withholding information does not stop that.  

Thank you so much to Kate and all of her girls for sharing. 

My first daughter Eva was born on the 21st April 2009 after a long birth, ending up in an emergency c section after finding meconium in my waters. As a first time mother, I expected things to be completely different but was happy she was born healthy. Straight after coming out of theatre she stopped breathing for a moment due to meconium, but very quickly started to breathe again after oxygen.

She was placed skin to skin on me and put to my breast for feeding. I assumed I would continue to do this.

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After being put on a ward with other mums I quickly realised my baby was not going to be one that slept and so had to ask for the midwives to help me pick her up and place her on my chest to feed. She would latch no problem but as soon as she fell asleep she would be screaming again. I was told my milk would take time to come in but colostrum would be O.K.

My last night in hospital was my worst. Eva wouldn’t settle at all! I asked staff to see if she was hungry and help but I was told by one midwife as she just brushed her cheek with her finger “your baby is hungry, feed her”. Another midwife came by hours later and helped me try the rugby hold position, and I sat on a chair all night with my baby until we could go home in the morning.

The next day (day 4 post partum) was no better. In a lot of pain from the section and Eva was screaming constantly for food. I was so scared of falling asleep in bed with her as I was so tired, but I got through it. My midwife visited me and home and weighed Eva. She hadn’t lost any weight. Exact same weight at birth! 7lb 4oz. I was shocked so I decided to keep on trying through the pain and tears to persevere with breast feeding. However when my midwife looked at my wound it was horribly infected. I had to go back to hospital and have it swabbed and dressed.

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I had to go back the next day again as my section wound was leaking and I saw the midwife. I felt so worn out and Eva wouldn’t settle. I had two other stepdaughters to look after. I sobbed and I asked her. “how do I change her onto formula?” And the midwife looked at me, my husband and Eva and said “I’m not allowed to tell you”.  I cried. I was struggling. I felt like a failure.

I asked her “how do I change her onto formula?”. And the midwife looked at me, my husband and Eva and said “I’m not allowed to tell you”

The next day our local health visitor came and I explained everything to her. She explained breast is best and to keep at it, Eva was just a whiney baby who liked to be picked up all the time. Eva did; this is true. The sun was shining, my 3 year old stepdaughter was at home, and I was stuck to the sofa. Glorious weather and wanting to go out, I felt guilty I was letting both children down.

The next day I went to see a breastfeeding counselor, fortunately very close to home. She was wonderful and gave us so many useful tips. I was so glad I went. I bought a chair for feeding to make us more comfortable and again decided to keep at it. I could do it! After all breast is best. Alas, Eva would still scream and scream, I was still on antibiotics and I was close to losing it. I bought a pump and took advice, look at baby whilst you use it. I sat in my bathroom for an hour in pain for 2 ozs of milk. I couldn’t even do that right!

The following week was Eva’s weigh in. I saw the same health visitor again. Eva had put on weight! Great! But I was so unhappy. I burst into tears and asked again about how to put her on formula. I will never forget the words “women in 3rd world countries get by without formula and bottles, why do you want to give her formula so much?” I sobbed. My friend who drove me and has no children was astonished! We left, I came home and I called my husband. Eva was approximately 4 weeks old. I was still in pain from my wound and felt that I was a failure. Stress levels in our house had hit an all-time high. I was having a breakdown. I didn’t want this. I couldn’t carry on.

I was having a breakdown. I didn’t want this. I couldn’t carry on.

My husband took us away that weekend and bought formula! He was insistent we try. We gave her a bottle and 4oz later and watching her feed like a hawk (I was looking to see if I was hurting her due to the formula) she fell asleep. Not a snooze, a full on I’m satisfied sleep! We took her for a walk on the beach, we went out for dinner and we had a brilliant weekend. Thanks to the formula. No more pressure on me.

I was dreading the Monday as I was seeing the health visitor again. I had to tell her Eva was on formula now, that I had sacrificed the breast and the best for my baby. She looked at Eva asleep in her pram and I said “she’s on formula now”. She shook her head and said “well 5 weeks is better than nothing!”.

Two more daughters later I’m happy to say I never wanted to walk that path again. I chose to use formula straight from birth.

I have no guilt. It wasn’t just about what’s better for my babies, but for me our family unit as a whole.

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