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Feeding my baby: Six new mums on the plan vs the reality

Feeding your baby: Six mums on the plan versus the reality

Six mums on their experiences feeding their babies and how it made them feel.

When you were pregnant, you may have had a plan for how you would like to feed your baby when it arrived. Perhaps you planned to exclusively breastfeed, or only bottle feed, or use a combination of both.

But after a baby is born, those plans can often be disrupted.

BBC Woman’s Hour has joined forces with BBC Radio Sheffield for a special series of programmes this week looking at how women are feeding their babies and how this makes them feel.

Reporter Katherine Cowan spoke to six mothers about their experiences.

Amy Quick, 31. Her son Oliver is five months old

How I planned to feed my baby: “I always thought I’d exclusively breastfeed Oliver.”

How I actually fed my baby: “I ended up having to combination feed him. So both breastfeed and bottle feed him.”

“Oliver latched quite successfully while we were in hospital - about 45 minutes after he was born he had his first feed.
I felt brilliant, I felt we were off to a great start. This was closely followed by a bit of dismay when I had to top him up when he lost all his body weight. I just felt like a bit of a failure as we were going on. I was trying so hard and nothing was working for me.
Five months on, we still combi-feed Oliver - he still does breast and bottle.
He’s been really good, he takes both quite happily. He probably doesn’t get that much from me, he gets most of his calories from his formula.
I’m a bit more at peace with it now, a bit easier on myself and I don’t give myself such a hard time.”

Natalie Bayarri, 34. She has three children

How I planned to feed my baby: “I always knew that I was going to breastfeed my first baby.”

How I actually fed my baby: “Apart from a couple of difficulties establishing breastfeeding in the very first few days, I breastfed him and carried on breastfeeding him well on into toddler-hood.”

“When my first baby was born, feeding him made me feel like a mother, and it made me feel connected to him. I had a really difficult first birth, it was not how I wanted it to go, so I think breastfeeding really saved me.
I found it very overwhelming and difficult for the first couple of days. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, but when I saw a lactation consultant on the third day, I got some simple advice, it felt a lot better.
I’ve been breastfeeding for five years now. At the moment I’m feeding my three-year-old and 10-month-old. It makes me feel simultaneously wonderful and powerful and also trapped and frustrated at times. It’s a real mixed bag.”

Rebecca Dudley, 35. She has a two-year-old daughter, Phoebe

How I planned to feed my baby: “I had planned to feed my baby exclusively breastfeeding and went into pregnancy and labour fully confident that I would be able to do that.”

How I actually fed my baby: “Due to lots of complications during the birth, and with my baby, and struggling for a while, I ended up having to exclusively formula feed.”

“I felt awful, I felt a huge sense of guilt, I felt like I’d failed my baby.
I didn’t know anything about formula feeding until I was forced to. I didn’t know what formula was, and how to make it, and what was in it, and so I felt that I was being forced to do something that was not as beneficial for my baby as breastfeeding would be.
I think having time and space and being able to look back two years later, I feel at the time I did the right thing for not just my baby, but for my family in general and my own mental health.
I feel that if I have another child, that potentially there is going to be some issues in whatever I decide. I really hope that I don’t have those feelings of failure return.”

Kellyanne Sharman, 41. She has a two-year-old son, Noah, and twin girls who are five-months-old

How I planned to feed my baby: “I was adamant that I was going to breastfeed Noah.”

How I actually fed my baby: “I successfully breastfed and I lasted four-and-a-half months with Noah.”

“Breastfeeding Noah, it didn’t make me feel very happy actually. I thought I’d feel wonderful but it made me feel really low. Like my mental health felt a bit...I felt like...I wasn’t doing it right. Just wasn’t bonding with the breastfeeding.
I’ve stopped breastfeeding now. I lasted two-and-a-half months with my girls and now I’m on to formula. I’m really happy about that because...I feel like I can do things, family come round and I can give the bottle to my dad, my dad can feed, my husband can feed.
There’s no pressure now of obviously me having to breastfeed because I’m happy to just bottle feed now. And they seem happy.”

Courtney Skinner, 25. She has an eight-month-old son, Arlo

How I planned to feed my baby: “I really wanted to try and breastfeed. It was always my first goal to do that.”

How I actually fed my baby: “Unfortunately I had a really long, traumatic labour and it resulted in me not being able to breastfeed.”

“It was really tough, I felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed him even though it wasn’t something that was working for either of us. I found it really difficult, it made me feel like I wasn’t a good mother because I couldn’t breastfeed my own child. I felt guilty, it really upset me, but I could see how much it was helping him to formula feed him - he was gaining weight.
The support I received from family and friends was great but I feel like the support that I received from the midwives and other new mums that I reached out to just wasn’t there. I felt really let down.
Now I feel like I made the complete right decision. My baby is eight months old and he’s thriving from being formula fed.
The guilt disappeared from me. I just feel like there’s so much stigma around bottle feeding and I feel like this really needs to be resolved.”

Rebecca Geraghty, 39. She has a six-month-old daughter, Emily

How I planned to feed my baby: “I planned to breastfeed her, I did the NCT breastfeeding workshops, tried to get all the information so I could to be very well prepared.”

How I actually fed my baby: “In the end, when she was born, she only latched on once so we ended up trying to do some pumping, expressing. That didn’t really produce anything and after about two weeks we switched fully on to formula.”

“It was very stressful, I felt guilty a lot of the time for not being able to either produce breast milk or for her to breastfeed. On the other side of that, there was that relief that I could give her formula and that she was growing and she was happy and she’s a pretty content little baby.
The support I received was good, there’s a wealth of breastfeeding support workers out in Sheffield, where we are. They were in contact with us. I knew that I could get in touch with them, should I feel the need to. I felt that once the decision to stop any attempt at breast milk, there was nothing.
Looking back, I think I was quite hard on myself at the time, I think it was a very stressful experience for me. I was quite unhappy for periods of time.
Now I have a very content, happy little baby who is growing well, she’s meeting all her milestones, and that’s an absolute joy. She’s a joy to be with.
But I still have that feeling that I let her down.”

Listen to Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 29 January to hear the results from a survey which will reveal the factors affecting how women feed their babies, including pressure from family, friends and health professionals. It also looked at their views on how it affected their physical and mental health. You can read about the results here and on the Comres website.

For advice and support with feeding your baby try the NHS, NCT or The Breastfeeding Network websites. For help and advice on all aspects of pregnancy, birth and your child's early days check out the NHS Choices website.