Read all about it

I can’t believe my family and I are in the Daily Mail today! If you’ve found me here as a result of that, then welcome.

What I’m trying to do is provoke a sensible debate about the insane pressure and, at its worst, bullying, many new mums face over breastfeeding even when:

a) it’s not working

b) their own health is at risk

c) they simply don’t want to.

I’m not anti-breastfeeding by any means, but I am pro-common sense, and that seems to go out of the window all too often as soon as a nipple enters the equation.

If you’ve got a few minutes, get a cuppa and scroll through this blog and/or buy the book (which obviously would be pretty damned awesome of you) – Β you’ll find lots and lots of stories from women who were treated like shit because of breastfeeding. It makes me so mad. I think it’s about time we all chilled out a bit and helped each other out rather than refusing to accept that sometimes nature has other ideas.

We could start by no longer going on about “failure” and “giving up” when we talk about bottle feeding. Surely what we actually mean is “got on with the very important job of feeding our newborns, however that may be” – right?

I’m really chuffed that this subject is getting the coverage I think it deserves, even though it’s pretty weird to have my face all over it. By the way, I promise I don’t usually sit around in heels, full make up and a brightly coloured wrap dress in the middle of winter while I’m at home looking after my toddler.

I’m not that bonkers.


21 thoughts on “Read all about it

  1. Hi ,

    I read your post in the Daily Mail like you I bottle fed my baby but unlike you I chose to bottle feed her. She was a large baby 10 pound 1 ounce and I bottle fed her from the first go. I was told I was a bad mother, that I was selfish and that my daughter would grow up with an astonishing amount of health issues. Fast forward 2 years my little girl is thriving. She is at a healthy weight and height, she is very active , no allergies or sickness at all. She has never been on any medication and never been to the Doc apart from her needles.
    I wish that there was more emphasis put on the Mothers Choice being OK. Surely, if there was an issue with formula it would have been taken off the shelves a long time ago. I feel that as a Mum my birthing experience and my hospital appointments were ruined by the midwives endlessly going on about “breast is best”. My friend is a midwife and she told me that she mentions it once and once only if she is told no she drops it, if she is told yes she encourages it and is the lady is unsure she gives her the information to make her own decision, I think this is the way forward

    Anyway thanks for your post on the Daily Mail Im glad im not alone πŸ™‚


  2. Hi

    I started breastfeeding my little boy and I think once they know you are breastfeeding you become a bit of a case study or mission for the health visitors.

    My breastfeeding went well to begin with, apart from the compulsory pain that feels like someone is sticking needles into your nipples and the fact that my baby cried all night on the maternity ward whereas all the bottle fed babies slept virtually right through.

    I carried on breastfeeding and all was well for the first few weeks, my baby was putting on weight and all seemed well.

    After a few weeks though my baby stopped putting on weight and I was taking him to clinic every fortnight to hear he’d stayed the same or lost weight. “Dont worry” the health visitor would say. breast fed babies dont put weight on at the same rate as bottle fed babies.”he looks healthy”. I suggested swapping to formula as I would then know his needs were being met to be told the same as you “you’ll ruin his stomach lining”, “slippery slope” with the added bonus of “nipple confusion” and “world health organisation guidelines”.

    After about 4 weeks of no weight gain we went to see the doctor. He too was a breastfeeding advocate as his wife was still breastfeeding their child. Again I was told he seemed healthy so we took a stool sample up to the hospital which came back clear.

    Another 4 weeks went by and my baby still hadn’t put any weight on so we got vitamins and started trying to wean him. Again I asked about topping up with formula and again I was put off it by medical professionals. Another visit to the doctors and a peadiatricians appointment was made.

    That afternoon I got home and I thought enough is enough. I like to consider myself a fairly intelligent 30 something but this is my first child and you tend to rely on professional advice. Out came the bottles and the formula and he wolfed it down. The poor little mite must have been so hungry.

    Unfortunately that evening he came out in a massive rash all over his tummy so it was straight up to A&E. The triage nurse was lovely and was all set for getting him some anti-histamine and sending us home. The consultant however had other ideas. II have never felt so hurt, ashamed and guilty in my life. He came over and bellowed at me that my baby was failing to thrive and that we were not leaving the hospital for at least 72 hours until my baby had put on some weight.

    Next came the two nurses who pinned his little hand down to take blood. He was howling while I sat sobbing next to him.

    We stayed in hospital overnight something all of us found traumatic and the following day I saw a feeding specialist. Her advice was to top him up with 50ml formula after every feed!

    This was 4 weeks ago and Im pleased to report that he put 9oz on the first week, 5 the second and 2 the third. Unfortunately we’ve had a bit of a setback this weeked as he’s had a sickness bug but the health visitor is coming on Monday to start us off weaning properly as I have lost any confidence I had in my own ability for the time being. (Needless to say it is not the health visitor who bullied me into breastfeeding coming but a more realistic one who actually has her own children and uses common sense and experience rather than guidelines)

    I am still breastfeeding so I am not in any way anti-breastfeeding I do think it is rewarding if you can but I think these medical professionals should realise how their advice impacts on real lives. I’ve spent the past couple of months feeling like the worst mother ever all ffor the sake of breastfeeding.and worst of all I’ve spent half my son’s lifetime worrying about weight gain when I should have been enjoying him..

    • Hi, first of all well done for getting through it. I am so upset to hear that your maternal instinct was ignored for so long. You may be a first time mum but you KNOW instinctively what your child needs and it sounds like you were right all along. How utterly awful that you were not allowed top-ups and then were shouted at for not having introduced them. Grrr. I hope the next few months are much calmer for you and you can really start to enjoy little Jake x

  3. I too felt I had to add my experiences even though they were 21 years ago! I was kept in hospital until THEY had mastered MY breastfeeding. My son weighed 9lb 8oz and was hungry but nothing happened when I tried to breastfeed him. I haven’t got inverted nipples but they are flat and therefore there was nothing for him to latch onto. I kept telling and showing them this but they weren’t interested. They said his sucking action would sort it out but it didn’t. They kept doing blood tests by pricking his heel which made him shriek. To cut a long story short, I eventually won and fed him formula so I was allowed home and away from the midwifes etc. He is now 21, 6’3″, super fit hockey player, rugby player and skiier. He’s now at Univesity and had only had half a day off school sick since he was 4 years old!! He has no allergies or health issues whatsoever. So much for scaremongering about childhood diseases etc! My daughter is 5’9″, 18 years old and taking her A levels and is a fantastic netball and tennis player. Her health record is on a par with her brothers and only had time off school for chicken pox. She was fed formula milk from the beginning as I didn’t even stay in hospital after her birth but came home within 10 hours so I avoided the pressure! I am also sure formula milk is probably far superior now to what it was all those years ago so if you can’t breastfeed for whatever reason – DON’T

  4. Thank you for your artical in the DM. This really needs to be looked into as this stupid attitude nearly killed my twins who are now doing fine after being bottle fed. It has certainly scarred my partner and left her with severe depression. It also destroyed that special time where you should be enjoying your new arrivals. Thank you very much your artical made her feel much better and less alone.

  5. Hi I just read your article in the Daily Mail and all I can say is thank you. I had’t realised how emotive I still find the subject (almost two years on) until I read your piece today. Like you I couldn’t breast feed for reasons beyond my control and struggled with the guilt for a long time. While I still believe breast feeding is best, I look at my gorgeous daughter and I can’t help thinking she couldn’t be improved, so what did I worry about? Surely a calm mother, enjoying the new experience, is better than a neurotic mess for any child. Only one midwife supported me and to her I will be eternally grateful.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you….I persevered for 5 long long months of breastfeeding and in hindsight wish I hadn’t, this Article makes me feel less guilty for thinking that.

    Even though my baby had a cleft lip I was under the gun constantly to “perform” and breastfeed. So even with a medical setback they were relentless!

    Now I know that he was just darn starving most of the time and I was in a wretched state. An endless army of midwives, maternity nurses and lactation consultants never helped…the more he clamped down his cleft lip and caused unbearable pain the more I was just told the latch was wrong, yet no-one could fix it, they just left the house leaving me feeling more rubbish and no solution.

    Fast forward to now and he is a contented formula fed baby and happier for it. Those early days were so so hard and pretty much the pressure to breastfeed was to blame. I wish my guilt hadn’t got in the way of keeping my baby well nourished and happy.

    • crikey. well done for getting through it. That must have felt like a long 5 months! I am so glad your baby is thriving after such a difficult start. It seems crazy to me that they would force you to continue with such complications! x

  7. My son was born by emergency c-section at 8pm at night. The following day the midwife who my husband & I had done our our ante natal classes with called in to see me. I explained what had happened (it’s a long story!) and she sighed, patted my hand, and said “oh well, maybe next time you’ll get get to experience the joy of natural childbirth”. Unfortunately my legs still weren’t working properly so I couldn’t hop out of the bed to thump her one. So instead I told her to f*** off and not darken the door again. Not exactly ladylike I know. But, well, you understand πŸ™‚
    Imagine, in her eyes I was obviously a failure as the Doctors had decided I needed an intervention to ensure the safe arrival of my baby. As Catherine Tate might say, how very dare she!
    My not naturally born son was bottle-fed is now 14. He’s a promising athlete and excellent student. Visits to GP in those 14 years, aside from vaccinations, approx 5.
    Similarly, his sister, 11, not “naturally” born (doctors adamant about c-section so same problems wouldn’t arise & endanger baby) and bottle fed is, and always has been, bright, happy and healthy. No visit from that midwife when she arrived though πŸ™‚
    To be fair, aside from that stupid woman, most of the medical folk that dealt with me during both pregnancies were great.
    Good luck with your little boy and I hope he’s always happy and healthy. Enjoy your time with him because in no time you’ll be standing on your toes to be the same height as him πŸ™‚

  8. Just wanted to add that there is a third way sometimes- donated breast milk:

    Breast feeding went well for me, and I am very grateful to the midwives, friends and family who gave me good, practical, supportive (and almost always non-judgmental) advice. I was able to donate milk, which for me was a way of saying thanks. I never saw any information about it at an antenatal clinic or in the hospital; so just wanted to tell you all that it might be an option if you would like your child to have breast milk but are unable to feed.

    • Hi Kate, this is an interesting one. I did meet a woman before my baby was born who donated milk, and I (ironically as it turned out) decided it was something I would like to do too once my milk came in, but I didn’t actually ever think about asking for it myself. I have some friends who are very in favour of it.

      Sitting here writing this now, I am not sure whether it would have compounded my feeling of failure to be honest, that not only was i unable to produce milk but I had to take it from another mother who had so much there was some going spare! But I don’t know whether I would have felt differently at the time had it actually been offered,

      • Yes, totally take your point. I can see that it would compound feelings, and I was worried about even mentioning it here because of that. I also doubt there is time to organise it if things have reached crisis point. Which is why I think it should be something people know about beforehand, so they can consider their attitude to it in advance, when things are not so urgent and emotionally charged. I didn’t hear about it til I was ok with feeding, so I don’t know what I would have thought about receiving it. I know the information I was given suggested it was mainly used for premature babies, so perhaps I wouldn’t have thought to ask.

        I do find it odd that it’s so unmentioned – there was an article in Metro this week (as part of the previously mentioned save the children breastfeeding campaign…….) which talks about milk banking but doesn’t mention the uk ( which is what got me thinking about it again. Perhaps it’s still a bit taboo here, and reflects our society’s slightly odd relationship/attitude to feeding our kids?

      • Yes it is weird that we don’t talk about it at all. I remember reading a few years ago about the actress Salma Hayek breastfeeding a baby in Africa and I seriously think it was the first time I’d ever seen the idea of sharing milk in print (although I realise you are talking about donated milk rather than wet nursing as such).

        I think it should be discussed as an option, certainly – I think lots of women would be more open minded about it if it felt more mainstream. As I said, it was never mentioned to me and the thought didn’t even occur to me!
        I am pretty sure I was told they were using formula in intensive care where I was though. I suppose it depends on supply.

        I think it’s wonderful that you have donated – good work!

  9. Great article in the Daily Mail. I heard the words ‘nipple confusion’ too many times from midwives and health visitors in the first 2 weeks of my daughter’s life when she couldn’t latch on and we were supplied with a cup. A kind health visitor suggested a nipple shield which ended up working for us but that also attracted the ‘confusion’ comments at other appointments. The whole concept seems ridiculous now, 5 1/2 months later, after successful combination feeding of (nipple-shielded) breast and formula and a healthy, happy baby who is now on her first purees.
    Did the ‘what goes into formula milk’ box at the bottom of the Daily Mail article annoy you? It feels like a typical ‘Daily Mail slant’ end to a really positive message.

    • Hi, that bit was certainly, um, unexpected! But I wasn’t expecting to get nearly as big a space as I did to get my message across and I think with the DM you always have to anticipate a sting in the tale. I’m philosophical about it, and the overwhelmingly positive response I’ve had to MY story makes it all worth while πŸ™‚

  10. I have just read, and cried over, your article having been given it by a neighbour. Thank you so much, it means so much to know there are other people in the same boat. My baby was not able to latch on possibly due to my flat nipples. The support I was given in hospital was good, but he was not able to feed properly so I was expressing and he was syringe fed by the nursing assistants. I was told I was not allowed to do this myself as I wasn’t trained! It was horrible to watch someone else feeding my baby.

    When I came home, using nipple shields he continued to loose weight until we had to go back into hospital. We then made the decision to formula feed, I realised I hadn’t been enjoying him at all because I was continually worried and spending all the time feeding. With bottle feeding he began gaining weight straight away and is now flourishing.

    The thing that has been really difficult is finding information about bottle feeding correctly, sterilising, etc every source of information gives different advice. Now I am able to think more rationally I am able to use my common sense about this, but at first it was dreadful. It would be good for mums who want to breastfeed, but are unable to, to receive careful advice on this. It may help us to feel less guilty. Sorry if this is a ramble, but it is good to be able to express how I feel.

    • Thanks for commenting – glad all is working out well. One of the mums in my book told me she was told by a health professional they would rather feed her baby through a tube than advise her about bottle feeding. it is utterly insane and in those early days when you’re so anxious, tired and emotional, you need all the help you can get! x

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