Breastfeeding, bottle-feeding or both? Part I

With conflicting advice from the experts, we turned to the mums and asked why they chose to breastfeed, bottle-feed or mix the two. Here, Jo Wilmot shares her thoughts on combining breast milk and formula…

Today, Jo Wilmot, 39, mum to Fynn, one, shares her thoughts on combining breast milk and formula; why she made this decision and how she felt about it.

(This was originally published in December 2015)

“I was planning on breastfeeding. My mum was very pro-breastfeeding and had fed me and my brother that way but Fynn’s birth got a bit complicated and she was in special care for a few days.

Whilst the doctors and nurses were very supportive of breastfeeding, they were more concerned that the baby got fed. So Fynn was given formula by tube initially. Then probably due to stress, I couldn’t feed her enough whilst in the hospital.

When we got home the midwives advocated breastfeeding and a breastfeeding advisor visited. The advice I got was helpful but it did take a while to get the knack.

Initially breastfeeding was pretty uncomfortable, bordering on painful; I think this is played down somewhat in antenatal advice.

For the first two months I was pretty much tied to the sofa feeding. This was something I wasn’t expecting and my fitness level fell through the floor. I also developed back problems due to the amount of time sitting hunched over.

I think it’s weird that the two ways of feeding are presented as being so different. She was happy to eat however she got it

I saw the postnatal midwives a bit longer than standard, because I was at a higher risk of postnatal depression. These were older, more experienced midwives with pragmatic attitudes.

During one visit, where I said I’d been feeding since 7am and it was now 1pm and I was fed up, the midwife suggested a bottle might be appropriate – she said: “you’re tired and so is your baby, you both need a break.”

I gave her one bottle and stupidly felt guilty about it. This was at about three or four weeks. Then by six weeks, Fynn was having two bottles a day in the afternoon. This worked for us and meant that other people could look after her for a while.

I knew that for some people breastfeeding never works, and this has always been the case. Wet nurses used to exist for a variety of reasons, including the mother not making enough milk. I wanted to breastfeed but knew that she’d be ok on formula.

However, despite knowing that she’d be fine however she was fed I still felt very guilty about feeding her formula. I’d taken so much pro-breastfeeding propaganda on board that it made it much harder emotionally. I felt as if I’d failed.

I liked the fact that bottle-feeding was a slight physical break; it gave me a bit of ‘space’, even if I was the one doing it

Whilst breastfeeding is on balance somewhat better for babies, especially in the early days, I think that the difference it makes is very overplayed. I did quite a lot of research, looking at the evidence – and it’s not as clearcut as the breastfeeding lobby makes out.

If I’d had less experienced midwives, the stress of trying to continue to only breastfeed could have triggered postnatal depression. Perhaps Fynn was unable to get quite enough milk from me and that’s why she compulsively fed for so long. Who knows? When she did get a couple of bottles she started to take naps, sleep better and was happier.

Initially I tried expressing but it was stressful trying to find the extra time to do this. It was easier just to give the milk directly to her.

Looking back now, I think it’s weird that the two ways of feeding are presented as being so different. She was happy to eat however she got it. I liked feeding her both ways. Both breast and bottle-feeding were calming, intimate experiences.

I liked the fact that bottle-feeding was a slight physical break; it gave me a bit of ‘space’, even if I was the one doing it. And my partner didn’t really mind either way. But he did like bottle-feeding her – he said he felt it was really intimate.

If I were to do it all again, I’d probably combine breast and bottle – and if I did combo feed, I wouldn’t waste time feeling guilty about it.”

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