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Postnatal health

Guilt over formula feeding

16 replies

queenofthebooks87 · 02/06/2023 14:27

I am a new mum with six week old baby boy, my first baby. I just wanted some advice with feeding and to know if anyone else has experienced this. My hope throughout the whole of my pregnancy was to exclusively breast feed my son and I did this for the first five days. I thought all was going well and I was delighted with how well he latched on, he fed continuously but I had been told this was normal so did not worry. However, on our five day check with the midwife we found out that our son had lost too much weight (12% of his birth weight) and he was readmitted to hospital with dehydration. Upon the advice of the doctor we begun to supplement with formula. I started a feeding plan of combined feeding, only to be told that our son was still losing far too much weight. I was absolutely beside myself with worry over this so began to rely heavily on formula to get my son on track to being a healthy weight. Six weeks on my son is now almost exclusively formula fed but I can not let go of the guilt and shame that I feel over formula feeding, even though I know it was what led to him finally reaching a healthy weight. I find myself almost in tears picking up formula from the shops because I feel like a failure and I am reluctant to meet other Mums because I feel they will judge me for formula feeding. I need some advice as to how to overcome this x

OP posts:
Alicay · 02/06/2023 14:40

I've seen this from both sides. Managed a bare 6 weeks breastfeeding with my DS then was all formula. But with my DD I breast fed for almost 2 years. Honestly, honestly, honestly either way is fine!! To help with the guilt, my DD is the one who has allergies and a health condition. The pressure put on me to keep breastfeeding my son (he was in NCU/had reflux) by breastfeeding counsellors/myself was absolutely horrific.
It was my MIL who really helped when she pointed out that it's literally a few weeks and then you're onto the next stage and thinking about weaning.
re the other mums - loads of others will be FF , if not now v shortly.

Hazelnuttella · 02/06/2023 14:46

There’s no reason to feel guilty. You’ve done what’s best for your baby.

Other mums won’t care at all how you feed your baby, and if they do judge that says more about them that you.

Any amount of breast milk is good, so if you are still feeding a little bit then carry on if you want to. But if it makes you feel more stressed then it’s okay to stop. I felt the greatest sense of relief when I stopped breastfeeding because it just wasn’t working for us.

Staplesonstamps · 02/06/2023 14:58

Please don’t feel guilty for doing what was right for the circumstances you were in. It’s very distressing to have a baby who is struggling to gain weight and the pressure to make that happen is IMMENSE.

if you want to feel anything, choose anger, a baby who is frequently at the breast with a so called ‘good latch’ who is completely failing to gain weight, doesn’t have a good latch and perhaps you needed more intensive expert breastfeeding support which wasn’t available. When babies aren’t thriving the HCPs care only about getting milk in, any milk, and a weight gain and can overlook the impact on new mothers of failing to support them comprehensively through that situation.

Ive breast fed four babies. From a couple of weeks for the shortest time and to four years for the longest and honestly I can’t see that any of them have been given a disadvantaged or advantage, but I had to work through the feelings I had about not feeding a couple of them for very long at all. First I felt like I’d failed and felt guilty but then I realised I had lacked the right support and I felt angry. Eventually I made my peace with it all. I did the best I could with the circumstances I was in.

That said, it’s really important to work through your grief about your breastfeeding journey not unfolding how you’d wanted it to. It’s not helpful of people just say “yeah but a healthy baby is all that matters” YOUR feelings matter too. Amy brown has some excellent posts about coping when your breastfeeding goals/expectations cannot be met. Please look her up on social media.

Emarosa · 02/06/2023 14:59

Please don’t feel guilty. I felt the exact same when I had to stop breastfeeding at a similar age but for different reasons. Your baby absolutely isn’t missing out and you are doing amazingly well to breastfeed for as long as you are (the very best benefits are at the start). It’s okay to stop.
I felt sad and guilty when I had to stop, but eventually I also felt immensely relieved when I saw DS thrive. Other aspects of being a mummy are so much more important than feeding. I think we put too much pressure on feeding and not enough emphasis on other things.
You’re doing so, so well!

Staplesonstamps · 02/06/2023 15:00

you can find her at prof_Amy brown on Instagram.

Staplesonstamps · 02/06/2023 15:01
Emarosa · 02/06/2023 15:05

Also… funny and true!

Guilt over formula feeding
PollyThePixie · 02/06/2023 15:06

Op, I’ve breast fed 5 children. The longest one of them was fed for was 2 years and 9 months. The least amount of time another one was fed for was about 2 weeks. The reality is that breast feeding doesn’t always work which is why even back in biblical times there were such women in the community as wet nurses. Sometimes it would even be the relative, a sister of the mum for eg, who’d feed the baby if she had any milk left from feeding one of her own. In fact it still happens where I live. Please don’t beat yourself up about your baby being formula fed. These things happen and you are anything but a failure.

Lcb123 · 02/06/2023 15:08

please don’t be so hard on yourself. A healthy and well fed baby is all that matters. If it helps my siblings and I were all formula fed entirely and I don’t know anyone who is so healthy as we are!

PollyThePixie · 02/06/2023 15:08

think we put too much pressure on feeding and not enough emphasis on other things*

I agree with you. Breast feeding can be quite the weapon to beat a new mother over the head with.

botleybump · 02/06/2023 15:18

I made the decision to formula feed early on in my pregnancy as I felt it would be best for my mental health and marriage, and therefore my baby.

I was nervous about announcing this in an NCT session, but all were lovely and some even complimented my decision to ensure I was the best Mum for my baby.

When she was born prematurely and at a tiny 4lb 6oz, I second guessed myself. All of the 'breast is best' and my constantly leaking boobs had me worried. My husband supported me and reminded me of my reasons for wanting formula and how much research we'd put in to finding the best etc, so I stuck with formula.

She's thriving, and so are we.
Given the early mental health struggles I had around baby blues, my section and her bumpy start, the pressure free feeding of formula probably saved me from PND.

There's a lot touted about breast is best, and I'm sure there's some science to back it up too, but doesn't seem to make enough of a material difference to be anything worth beating yourself up about!
Just seems like another pressure for society to put on to women.
Your baby is happy and healthy, that's all that matters. For your baby, breast wasn't best. That's nobody's fault, it just happens.

Try looking at the positives of formula - clarity over how much he's had, freedom, his healthy weight gain, equal responsibility with your partner, having your body back to yourself etc - and put less focus on what people tell you you should be doing!

Also, I guarantee nobody is looking at how you're feeding, and they care even less!
You're not alone in moving to formula either! My entire NCT group planned to breastfeed, and really tried, but 3-4 months on most are combi feeding or exclusively formula for all kinds of reasons.

queenofthebooks87 · 02/06/2023 16:05

Thank you all for taking the time to reply. It really stood out to me how a lot of you have said there is a lot more to being a parent than how you initially feed your children when they are babies. I am going to make a real effort to put these feelings behind me now and focus on being the best Mum I can be and to also enjoy being with my little one 😊

OP posts:
TaraRhu · 02/06/2023 16:19

Emarosa · 02/06/2023 15:05

Also… funny and true!


Cozytoesandtoast00 · 02/06/2023 16:50

Stop this guilt now. It will ruin your time with your baby, trust me I know as I've been there myself.
I struggled to feed my first baby and stopped after 6 weeks. 13 years later she is a strong and thriving child who is healthy and energetic.
My second child was breastfed for 1.5 years. 11 years later she is still healthy but get's everything going!
I ate myself up with guilt and self hatred regarding my firstborn's feeding and honestly I wasted so much time.
You have done right by your baby. Move on and enjoy this time.

spottysnail · 02/06/2023 17:01

I've been where you are OP. I tried everything but could just not produce enough milk and had to supplement with formula as well. I remember crying buying the formula too as I associated it with failure too.
Can I just say that first of all you are a great mum, you wouldn't care so much if you weren't! Your baby was dehydrated and you did the right thing by nourishing them with formula. I think if you can changing the mindset of formula = bad to thinking formula = happy, healthy, hydrated baby it would be a game changer. You are doing your best and nourishing them to a healthy weight. Even if you can try to enjoy those bottle feeds as it is still such a special time feeding your baby no matter if it is breast or formula milk. The most important thing is mum and baby being happy. Baby is happy because they have a loving mum and are being fed. You're doing a great job.
I am pregnant again and am completely taking the pressure off myself this time. If I can breast feed, that's great, if it's formula, that's great too. As long as baby is happy and hydrated then I will be happy. I just want to enjoy the time with my baby and not be stressed over their milk source!
As far as other mums judging. At 3 months only 17% of babies are exclusively breast fed. So the vast majority are having some kind of formula, so many other mums are in the same position. A lactation specialist said to me that even a spoonful of breast milk a day would help with immunity in the early days. You're doing great!

aSofaNearYou · 02/06/2023 17:19

I had the same thing with both of my babies. I know it feels significant now but honestly you will barely remember the stage in their life when they drank milk, it is very short compared to the rest of it and you cannot tell which children were breastfed and which weren't in hindsight. I really wouldn't dwell on it. Positive food habits when they start eating proper food are far more important!

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