Written by Charlotte Malik.
Since giving birth, and even during pregnancy, I have had so many people trying to give me advice on how to raise my boys and what is best for them. I know that this is something that happens to all parents and it kind of comes with the territory but quite frankly I am sick of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to other parents and sharing stories and experiences, sometimes its nice to know that your not the only one or even get some good ideas when your struggling with something, it’s the people who don’t really know you or haven’t had children themselves or just generally feel that they have a right to tell you what to do and how to raise your child. They don’t have this right and they don’t realise how damaging it can be to a parent’s confidence, especially when they are exhausted, their hormones are all over the place and they are already worrying about pretty much everything they do and don’t do.
My biggest bug bear is the debate over whether or not you have chosen the best way to feed your little bundle of joy. People seem to assume that the only way we should be giving our babies the nutrients they need is by breast, and I have read too many articles on the internet lately slamming parents who decide, for whatever reason, to use formula.
I always said that I wanted to breastfeed when I had a child, not because I had anything against using formula but because the milk is there and its free so I thought as long as I am able I will breastfeed.
After the arrival of my twin boys I managed 10 days! Ten very long, heart breaking days before I gave up. I tried so hard but I simply couldn’t do it. Kartik wanted to feed pretty much every hour but Cyrus didn’t want to feed at all. I would have to wake him up to feed, he would latch on and fall asleep again, never actually feeding for more than a minute.
I was feeding Kartik every hour, trying every hour to get Cyrus to take anything and trying to express 3 times a day so that I could at least give him something; sometimes expressing for 45 minutes and getting less than an ounce. In the first week Cyrus lost almost 12% of his birth weight which meant we were admitted into hospital until he started gaining weight. Never in my life have I felt like such a failure. My little boy was so helpless and nothing I did made a difference. It was while we were in hospital that I made the decision to start using formula. The only thing that mattered was that both of my babies were being fed properly and getting the nourishment they needed.
My community midwife was fantastic. She knew that I wanted to breastfeed so she did everything she could to help me get there, giving me lots of little tips to help get Cyrus to feed but when she could see that it wasn’t working and I was really struggling she gave me the nod and told me it was ok. She made me feel like I had a choice.
The reaction I got from other people, even some doctors and nurses, was not so good.
The look of disappointment and the comments I got really knocked my confidence. When I was asked about how the boys were feeding, I avoided saying that they were bottle fed, I would lower my head and you could hear the shame in my voice like I was somehow damaging my babies with my wrong decision.
I get the feeling that people think we have taken the easy option by using formula but as a single mum of twins I can tell you that formula feeding is no picnic. Cyrus settled very quickly on formula. He went from having next to nothing on breast to having 2 to 3 ounces every 3 hours and at his 6 week check up he had put on 90% of his birthweight. It was Kartik that I struggled with. I couldn’t seem to fill him. He kept vomiting and he was always hungry which you would think went hand in hand but they didn’t. We made several trips to the doctors about his sickness but they just kept giving Gaviscon. Even when I told them it wasn’t working they insisted to keep going with it. It wasn’t until the Gaviscon was no longer available in the chemist that they gave us something else which thankfully did work. With the sickness under control I thought that my baby boy would finally be able to get a full feed and be satisfied after his bottle but I was having to up his bottles again and again to the point that at 6 weeks he was having a full 6 ounce bottle and then 2 hours later he’s hungry again. My whole day and night were filled with feed after feed which didn’t leave a lot of time for anything else.
My beautiful baby boys are 10 weeks old now and after a lot of perseverance, research and trying anything I could, both Kartik and Cyrus are feeding well and are very content little boys.
Now when I get those comments, those disappointing looks or I see those damning articles online I don’t feel shame or guilt anymore, I look at my boys, see how happy they are and I know that I made the right decision for us.
Every child is different, what works for one family doesn’t work for another and the decisions you make about your child are just that. They are your decisions and nobody has the right to make you feel bad for doing what is best for you and your baby. So if you are feeling torn or worrying that you aren’t making the right decisions, hold your head up high and know that you are doing an amazing job.
If your baby is fed, loved and warm then nothing else matters, they love you and you are their whole world.