my take on breastfeeding and the bottle

Today we attempted to introduce the bottle to the ninja. I will say that I’m pretty blessed thus far to have an abundant milk supply and that our breastfeeding journey has been pretty good once both he and I learned the basics. Before I continue, let me say that I firmly believe that every mother has a right to choose whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed her child – it shouldn’t be an us versus them thing! We should support each other because at the end of the day, it’s about making sure the bub receives the nutrition s/he needs to grow! Sure, breast is best if you can do it but expressed breastmilk/formula isn’t anything to sniff at. Some mothers just can’t or don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding and there’s nothing wrong with them using the bottle. Hubs and I were both bottle-fed formula milk as babies and we turned out fine.

 

So let’s start with today’s adventure. We were using the Minbie teat for 0+ months with the 180ml bottle (which I’d won a set from last year’s Pregnancy, Babies and Children Expo). I had waited until now because I wanted to be sure that bub and I had an established breastfeeding routing in case there was going to be nipple confusion.

I’d started expressing this week just once a day with a manual breast pump as I wanted to see if I could build up a small stash for backups as well as let hubs feed the ninja occasionally to give me a break. Thankfully it isn’t too hard to get around 50-60mls each time (I pumped approx an hour after bub has his usual feed). I have to say, it’s somewhat fascinating to watch the milk flow/spray out as I pump (I don’t usually get to see this when breastfeeding).

 

We thought, let’s give it a go today so it got to time for the bub’s usual feed. We got everything ready but given this was our first time attempting a bottle feed, we didn’t get the timing quite right so poor mite was yowling by the time it was ready. It took a lot of fussing and stress on everyone’s part – bubs was getting frustrated about latching onto the teat, hubs was getting frustrated that bubs was upset and I was getting stressed too because I was busy pumping at the same time to avoid engorgement. Hubs and bub eventually got it but the ninja only downed 70ml from the bottle before fussing again. I ended up feeding him another 40ml using a syringe. Otherwise, when bub initially downed the 70ml, he took quite fine to the teat. We suspect that as he is used to a fast let down from me, we might need to get the 3+ month teat that has a faster flow for him. We’ll report back on this at a later date when we get new teats. 🙂

 

Re our breastfeeding journey, as most mums starting out would attest, it was hard and painful at first! In the hospital, I received tons of advice which was overwhelming for me. Each time a different midwife attended to me, she would offer a different method/opinion on how to breastfeed. Whilst they all meant well, it was still difficult for a new mum like me to know just what to do! I also had nipple trauma because I’d let bub nurse for too long – that took several weeks to heal up properly. In the meantime, I loaded on Lansinoh for healing and relief as recommended by a friend.

 

I faced the challenge of keeping a sleepy newborn awake long enough to nurse, wondered if I was keeping him on the boob for long enough/too long, worried that he wasn’t getting enough milk, later on I worried that he was getting too much milk too fast, worried that he wasn’t getting enough fore/hindmilk and the list goes on. A fellow mummy friend of 2 kids advised that I should just go with my gut instinct and lean on God for wisdom.

 

My boobs still leak on occasion but from what I read, apparently that’s nature’s way to helping ensure I don’t end up with mastitis from engorgement. Now, if my boobs start majorly leaking, I just grab a clean glass jar and collect that precious milk for later (one night, I collected close to 30mls as bub had a longer sleep that went past the usual feedtime!). Also, there’s been a few times where I haven’t let bub drain my boobs properly (lesson here is never rush it if you can) and I’ve had some minor blocked ducts which I would then be vigilant about massaging out and ensuring bub fed from the affected boob until it was gone.

 

So I’ve learned to let go of a few things – as long as bub is gaining weight, creating nappy messes as he should and looks bright eyed and healthy, I’m fine with how I’m breastfeeding him. I let him nurse until he either detaches or starts comfort sucking. I feel my boobs to ensure that they feel nice and soft after a feed. I find it funny how I’m now often “feeling up” myself to see which side to start feeding bub with and after feeding, whether it’s drained enough. I follow a feeding schedule that’s half baby-led, half parent-led i.e. aiming for roughly 3 hourly cycle. I’ve stopped stressing if bub sleeps through longer than a 3 hour cycle because I’m now confident that if he’s hungry, he’ll be sure to let me know.

 

There were a few days during his 6-8 weeks period that he was stretching out feeds from 2 hours to 3-5 hours and I was stressing thinking something was wrong not realising that he was maturing and could go for longer without an issue. Then there were also days that he wanted to feed every 2-2.5 hours (made me feel like we were back in newborn days) but that was due to a couple of really hot days so he just wanted to stay hydrated.

 

So yeah, nearly 11 weeks in and we’re in a good place with our breastfeeding routine. He latches on well and I just have to make sure I’m positioned properly otherwise I pay for it later (thank goodness for Lansinoh!).

 

It’s rather cute to see him get all excited about a feed when I place him on the nursing pillow and pop out the boob, haha. His mouth starts opening wide like a baby bird and he makes little excited panting noises and gets all wriggly until he suction caps on. I love watching his myriad of facial expressions when he’s feeding; it ranges from absolute relief to fierce concentration to sleepiness to zoned out. He’ll often make eye contact with me while feeding, as if to make sure I’m still there. I like to take the time while he’s feeding to pray over him, chat quietly to him, just look at/stroke him and absorb his babyhood in and if it’s night time, I’ll look at stuff on my mobile in a bid to stay awake. In the earlier days when he used to take a lot longer to feed, I had our Android tablet set up so I could watch catch-up TV shows as we hardly watch TV nowadays.

 

So after our initial trial of bottle feeding and comparing it to breastfeeding, I do find breastfeeding tons more convenient (no equipment to sterilise or needing to store/warm up milk, plus no need to guess how much to measure out/worry about milk wastage). However, it can be isolating at times because in our society, people still aren’t comfortable with you whipping out a boob in public. There were quite a few times that I felt quite left out as I would have to scurry away with bub to another room for his feed and I could hear everyone else continuing with their banter or the many times I’ve had to stop halfway though a meal and then come back to an empty table when everyone else is done (or come in halfway after a meal has started but hubs would be lovely and prepare a plate for me). I suppose if you were bottle feeding, if you had everything ready to go, you could quite happily remain in the present company and just feed bub without risking anyone’s offence/awkwardness.

 

Also, no one told me it was going to be so WET what with all the leaking and milk dribbling out of bub’s mouth! Those stock photos of breastfeeding mothers are a LIE with them looking all perfectly coiffed, stylishly clothed and dry. Half the time I’m trying to yank down the nursing bra cup far enough to avoid dripping from the nipple and place a towel around the little ninja’s cheek/neck to catch any spillage from his mouth. I joked once to hubs that bub gets white linen service with every feed.

 

So that’s my breastfeeding journey. I am aiming to breastfeed the ninja till he’s 1 year old and may consider continuing to 2 years old given the awesome properties of breastmilk for growing babies.

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