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Enough info on FF?

(27 Posts)
Masalamama Wed 13-Jul-11 14:16:52

Lots of my friends are having babies at the mo and it brought back horrible memories of trying and failing to BF. Not once but two times. Of course, I felt like a total failure (still do sometimes). But living through those early days with my friends just brings back my experience of there just not being enough balanced info on the pros and cons of BF and FF. Having ignored me for days, the midwife showed up within an hr when I called to say I was about to quit BFing!!!

I honestly felt I wasn't being given an option so two DDs later, has nothing changed?? I read a v interesting old thread here www.mumsnet.com/Talk/breast_and_bottle_feeding/1022940-Support-for-those-FF but I'm really interested to hear what other MNers went through... am I the only one who feels guilty about switching over the the "dark side"?? sad

SootySweepandSue Wed 13-Jul-11 14:33:10

Not sure.

I had a similar experience with failing to BF. However my DD was a bloody brilliant sleeper which IMHO was due to being bottlefed (expressed milk then formula). I call this a Huge benefit and in hindsight I'm less bothered about my BF failure.

If I have another and if they decide to latch on (wait and see on that front...) I imagine I would be tempted to do the same.

The drop off rates in BF really say it all in my opinion. Nearly everyone wants to do it yet very few get there in the end sad. I hardly know anyone who had their BF problems solved by their HV/MW/GP etc.

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 14:59:06

It's awful to feel guilty about having to ff - not your fault things went wrong.

What info do you need about bf/ff?

Speaking generally (and there are always individual exceptions) there are no 'pros' to ff, from the baby's point of view (compared to happy, effective bf. Compared to unhappy, ineffective bf, is a different matter!).

The 'pros' are usually spurious - the little research we do have shows that parents get more sleep if they breastfeed, for instance. And the stuff about 'anyone can feed with a bottle, it doesn't have to be the mother' is not a pro at all, again from the baby's point of view.

I am always puzzled about requests for 'balanced info' because I think it's a request for 'tell me it doesn't really matter if you use formula'. This may not be what you mean, masalamamm, of course, I know.

Of couse it's not the only thing that matters - but it does matter. Hence your feelings of sadness and distress, I think sad

Sorry, may not be much help to you, not sure what you are asking confused!

Masalamama Wed 13-Jul-11 15:25:57

I guess what I'm really saying is that I wasn't made to feel like there was an option to BF, hence I was a bit of a failure. Everyone seems to be on some sort of BF overdrive, but I never got told, that lots of women struggle and it's okay to FF and here is how you do it, i.e. how much milk to offer, what formula, whether it will lead to untold horrors later on in life etc etc.

DD1 had a particularly tough 1st year of illnesses and I was convinced I was an evil kneevil for picking FF over BF (she hated BFing). She is as tough as an ox now aged 2.5mo but I wish there was some sort of support mechanism or impartial advice available to mums like me!!

Maybe I am being too controversial, but if BF doesn't work, does it really matter if you use formula??

Cattleprod Wed 13-Jul-11 15:47:40

I think there are two problems in getting balanced information to mothers.

1. It's impossible to do any research other than observational studies as you can't force a mother to BF or to FF. You can observe successful BFers, but ethically a researcher would have to step in when BF isn't working, for the sake of the health of the baby, so it therefore isn't possible to say whether the baby of a mother for whom BF wasn't working appropriately would be better off FF, mix fed or BF.

2. The ridiculously stringent rules against FF 'promotion', so without personally doing extensive internet research it isn't possible to know the differences between different brands of formula, optimal and alternative ways of making it up safely etc. I would also assume that formula companies spend the majority of their r & d budget on the 6+ month formulas which they are allowed to promote, ignoring the need to improve stage 1 milks, and the lack of any market competition allows formula prices to be kept artificially high. IMO there's a big difference between someone like SMA being able to say 'Hey, give your newborn our milk, much better than nasty old breastmilk' and Which? magazine being allowed to independently test all formulas on the market and report the 'best buys', yet it all seems to be constrained by a blanket ban.

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 15:51:33

Impossible to say what precise difference it makes in any individual baby, OP - the research can't say whether the increased risk of health effects are going to effect this baby or that baby. She may have had these illnesses even if you bf - it's not a guarantee!

And of course there are many things that happen in babyhood that matter, not just feeding.

In the end, you have to accept that you did what you did and what happened, happened, and it was not a question of you not trying, or failing or whatever other negative label you put on it! You loved (and love) your dd and wanted bf to work....and it did not, for whatever reason. Nothing to feel personally guilty about. Next time, you'll know a bit more and have more idea of when and how to get help, if you get signs things are not going well.

Something like 95 per cent of UK babies have formula at some point so it's socially and culturally normal - most of the people you meet have used formula or use it now. No one with half a brain cell thinks it is bound to lead to 'untold horrors' or that women who use it are 'evil' - that stuff comes from your head smile smile

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 15:55:16

cattleprod - there is information on different formulations and brands, and there is no ban on sharing this with mothers. Any midwife or HV who says she cannot tell a mother this info is not doing her job properly.

http://www.cwt.org.uk/publications.html#milk2

Of course not everyone wants to read this much detail or do research on the web. But HCPs should be aware of the good sources of info, and should share a precis with mothers.

sprinkles77 Wed 13-Jul-11 16:04:31

I chose to FF. I picked a random formula cos I'd seen someone else I knew using it. I made the bottles up the way a colleague described (turned out to be incorrect, but only found out after stopped FF). Had a 2nd percentile new born who was 50th pc at 12 weeks and slept through from 8 weeks. Very very happy with my choice.

Cattleprod Wed 13-Jul-11 16:25:11

Thanks Tiktok. I've skimmed the very lengthy report (no pun intended!) and there is some really interesting stuff on there - the history of infant milk and the comparison table of different formula brands. Having looked at that I'm very happy to have chosen Cow & Gate in combination with BF - it was a random choice at the time but nutritionally it does look slightly superior to the other brands available.

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 16:32:33

cattleprod where did you get the idea from that independent comparison of formulation and brands was not allowed, though?

Exact recipes of formula milk are not published (I expect for industrial secret reasons) but the companies are obliged to make it clear what the contents are, and they are internationally obliged to make formula milk according to world trade organisation requirements. That's why there is really not much difference between the different brands.

Anything else (just making anything and calling it infant formula) would not be remotely safe, so I don't understand why you thought it was all a big secret.

This idea promotes a feeling of being hard-done-by on the part of formula feeders - and they may well lack info

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 16:33:06

...sorry got cut off smile

lack info from the HCPs but that has nothing to do with legislation on promotion.

jenrendo Wed 13-Jul-11 16:38:25

I have to say that I had a similar experience OP, where no one was interested until I was about to give up. I did, as after 10 days there was still no milk. I regret it every day, but my DS is thriving and very happy on SMA. I used to feel guilty when I brought out a bottle, as if everyone was judging me for not breast feeding. I wanted to go around with a sign on my head saying "I can't breastfeed. Believe me I've tried!!" All the professionals I had had different opinions on what to do which was really unhelpful, e.g.mixed feeding, nipple guards blah blah blah. I felt like they were just fobbing me off and not dealing with the actual problem. When mixed with a traumatic birth and sheer exhaustion I just gave up. But, I think the worst thing that happened to me was that 8 hours after DS was born they gave him formula from a cup after them, and me trying to express some food from me and failing. Imagine sitting on a ward in the middle of the night with the 3 of us squeezing my nipples, and a crying newborn. Very stressful. Looking back now I realise that the stress probably had a direct link to my milk supply, but the staff on the ward were obsessed with getting DS fed no matter what. After everything that I've read over the past few months I will try again if I am ever lucky enough to have another baby, but I'm definately not allowing myself to be miserable for the first few weeks of it's life.

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 16:43:59

That's horrible, jenrendo - people crowding in on you squeezing your nipples is invasive and uncomfortable. Babies 8 hours old need a few drops of colostrum only - and if you need to get it out manually ('cos the baby is not able to do it direct) there are gentle techniques that are not intrusive or disempowering.

This is bound to have affected your confidence and your stress levels. sad

Cattleprod Wed 13-Jul-11 16:49:20

I remember trying to find the info when I wasn't able to EBF DS, and finding very little information about it (may have been baby brain and looking in the wrong places though!)

Everything independent I found (ie not the formula company websites) was all 'Breast is Best' and there seemed to be a distinct lack of information for people who wanted to make an informed choice based on their circumstances. Actually a lot of the 'information' I found was a little patronising - 'Ssh, we'd better not mention formula at all or the silly women will all give up breastfeeding'. Virtually nothing about how to mix feed successfully either. It just seemed like a wall of silence at the time, but it was 3 years ago, maybe things have changed.

tiktok Wed 13-Jul-11 16:56:29

cattleprod - but if you are looking for general information about infant feeding, it's factual to point out that there are negative health effects of using formula - that is informed choice, surely?

If you want tailor-made information based on your circumstances, then you won't find it in the general info - you'd have to find something specific.

That wasn't my question though. I wanted to know why you thought independent info/comparison was not allowed - you even said there would be a ban on a Which type assessment because of a ban on promotion. Not true - but you thought it was. Where did the idea come from? Just from leaflets you felt did not answer your specific queries?

SootySweepandSue Wed 13-Jul-11 17:03:02

I wish I'd seen the stats on success rates for BF before I'd assumed it would be a breeze.

The NCT classes I did sort of present this info but as women who 'give up out of choice' but IME woman do not want to stop but are unable to continue as they can't get it right. Such very different things!

If I had had this information then at least i would have had the chance to educate myself about the likelihood of me not bring able to BF, ie, from a statistical perspective it is quite significant.

In reality I ran to a Tesco express to purchase formula late on a Sunday night 3 days after DD was born as she could not latch and was bloody starving! I had no idea how where or when to express or what equipment I would need. Had no bottles or steriliser either had to borrow from a friend till mothercare opened. I got different advice from every healthcare professional and in the end only my mum (who was not even in the country) gave me the wiki on expressing.

A day later we were in A&E with the lovely jaundice as spotted by the ladies at the BF cafe. The medical advice was Formula 70mls every 3 hours with a top up of breastmilk - as if a newborn could manage that especially if they can not latchsad. No advice was given on BF or expressing.

I feel so sorry for all the new mums out there going through this and similar. They are not told the truth about the breadth and depth of the potential BF difficulties.

I seriously believed that the only major reason women didn't BF is because they don't want to get their boobies out in public!!!

Kayzr Wed 13-Jul-11 17:04:56

I found I got more information on FF then I did BF. I got leaflets about how to make formula, the best way of sterilising bottles etc. But after failing to BF either of my boys I do feel like the MWs were much more FF friendly. I got that I was cruel for not FF and sticking at BF as DS2 was starving.

I just want to point out to the people that say FF babies sleep better. DS1 slept through from 6 weeks, he was exclusively FF from 5 weeks. DS2 first slept through at 11 and a half months old. He was mixed fed until 13 weeks and then exclusively FF. So in my opinion it makes no difference.

narmada Wed 13-Jul-11 20:46:36

I BF one baby and FF another. I have honestly never found there to be a lack of information about formula feeding. Everything you need is either on the formula packet or in the steriliser instructions.

I agree with tiktok's point that it often seems those calling for more 'balanced' information are actually looking for permission to formula feed or to not feel guilty about not having breastfed. What is really lacking is good quality information on, and support for, breastfeeding IME.

Cattleprod Wed 13-Jul-11 21:05:29

Tiktok I suppose I thought that because I was unable to find the information when I needed it. There seemed to be this stonewall of silence about formula and a lot of conflicting advice and I was unable to find any meaningful data comparing different brands (should have come on MN and found your link smile). I looked at Which?, NHS, Google and talked to several health professionals, and the overall impression was that it was forbidden to discuss formula in anything other than generic terms - so no recommending one brand over another, no advertising, no free samples, no discounts, no statistical information.
I think my town must be unusual because there is an enormous amount of support for BF, but when I had to supplement with FF I was very much on my own, with no support and no useful information.

tiktok Thu 14-Jul-11 09:17:06

I do understand your misunderstanding, cattleprod - conflicting advice about all aspects of infant feeding, bf and ff, is really common and the level of knowledge and training about both is poor.

No one can recommend one brand over another, though - there is no evidence that one brand is better than another. Advertsing and samples and discounts have been illegal for many years, but that does not mean people who want to know more about ff should be short of information.

Masalamama Thu 14-Jul-11 09:23:58

It's true that a more balanced view of brast feeding should be presented so women don't feel rubbish about not being able to breast feed. In India where I come from, women mostly breast feed. But then they don't have to worry about doing any cooking, housework, entertaining guests, even nappy changing etc etc when the new baby is born. That's all taken care of by the other women in the family, mostly elders...

I don't really understand the coyness about formula feeding though tiktok and cattleprod. It's like it's a bad word that shouldn't be uttered. At the end of the day, your baby needs to be fed. If you can't breast feed, then you should be given everything you need to make an informed choice about the option!!

tiktok Thu 14-Jul-11 09:38:03

What do you mean by 'balanced', though, masalamama?

Where have you read or heard an 'unbalanced' view from anyone whose views you would take seriously?

Genuinely interested here, because yours is not an unusual request, and I genuinely don't see or hear much that I would say was 'unbalanced'. By that, I mean someone saying 'your baby will never ever be ill if you breastfeed' which I actually don't think I have ever heard anyone say, anyway!

Cattleprod Thu 14-Jul-11 10:32:55

I think a balance is difficult to achieve because, as with all things in life, it's tricky to promote one thing without denigrating the alternative. And this is magnified with it being such an emotive topic.

The result often seems to be a load of wooly statements, with the research behind them being difficult for a layperson to access (I expect Tiktok has links, but scientific articles full of medical terms and statistics are hard for Joe Public to understand). I would have found it much more helpful to have some basic level of statistical analysis eg. A FF baby is 3 times more likely than a BF baby to suffer from xxxxx. Instead we just get given a vague 'BF babies have better protection from xxxxx.

My experience is probably unusual because anecdotally my peer group flies in the face of most of the BF/FF research. All the babies I know with allergies and food intolerances were EBF, Most of the EBF babies have had at least one illness requiring a visit to hospital, whereas the majority of MixF and FF babies haven't. The worst cases of excema and asthma - EBF. And the one young mother who had breast cancer - you've guessed it - EBF.

But I like to think I'm intelligent enough to believe large study research projects rather than the experiences of my relatively small peer group - I just want to know how much better BF is compared to FF, in numbers, regarding all the subjects currently listed vaguely as 'benefits of BF', without having to trawl through a whole myriad of scientific papers.

Masalamama Thu 14-Jul-11 16:35:50

hmm True tiktok

I say balanced because it would be nice to know that lots of women struggle to BF and that just because you FF doesn't mean your child will grow up with loads of allergies. I'm saying the MW, HVs etc should tell you that it's not easy not present you with only one option and that it BF!! That was certainly my experience. And it's compounded by lots of smug mothers who wizz their tops off in public. I always feel like I have to explain why I failed to BF not one but two kids...

I guess it's more an attitudinal thing. Or maybe it is inside my head...

tiktok Thu 14-Jul-11 16:50:20

I am still puzzled, masala smile

You are not saying that mothers arrive at pregnancy unaware that some babies are formula fed and some babies are breastfed, now are you?

You're not saying (surely) that you, and they, rely on an HCP presenting 'options' ? And without this, you would not have a clue how to feed your baby because you did not know what the 'options' were?

Culturally, formula feeding is overwhelmingly dominant. Massively so. Over 95 per cent of babies in the UK have formula at some point. There may be a certain amount of official 'approval' for breastfeeding, but it is 'approved' of with restrictions. Our culture places limitations of its approval - babies only up to a certain age (which differs according to the individual doing the approving!), breastfeeding in certain places only, breastfeeding in positions which don't reveal flesh at all, breastfeeding only at certain frequencies, not much at night....etc etc etc.

You're at it yourself. You talk, disapprovingly, about mothers removing their tops to breastfeed their babies - I have never, ever seen a mother remove her top in public to feed her baby. I suspect you mean opening her clothing - this is, I'm afraid, necessary in order to permit access to the breast smile Yet you see this, and you say these mothers are 'smug'.

Sorry, but this feeling of 'unbalanced' info is definitely inside your head sad

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