What does the perfect parent look like? A question I’m sure many of us ask, day in and day out, but really there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting can be a very daunting experience at first, everything is brand new and you’re constantly comparing to what you’ve heard someone say is the right or wrong way to be a parent. But we know that there is no right or wrong to ANY part of parenting, you need to find what works for you and your child. That’s why we have decided to launch a new monthly blog feature on Babymel where REAL parents share their real stories. If you have a personal journey or lesson that you learnt or even just a funny outing you had with your little ones which makes a great story, drop us an email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a DM on Instagram.
Our first story has been written by our co-founder Mel Marshall. She now has three grown up sons but wanted to share one her earliest experiences as a new parent, the decision between breast or bottle feeding. Even though opinions and advice around bottle feeding have changed since Mel first found her routine, today a new mum can still feel a lot of pressure. We hope Mel's story reassures new mums that by cancelling out the noise, you can understand what is best for you and your baby and make the right choice for you both.
The Bottle Feeding Warrior
When we had our first son, things were different, but some things still remain the same. The bit I think is the same, is that parents want to do their best for their baby, which of course is how it should be. But, and this is so important, unless YOU are ok, it’s very hard to look after anyone else. I think the most powerful thing we can all do, is talk. Share our experiences which can be so valuable for others. Having a baby is the most wonderful yet sometimes stressful time of our lives, and every situation and baby is different. Thank goodness!
We have three sons, now all grown and bigger than me, but I had a tough time with our first. The whole experience felt like it touched both ends of the scale; the most wonderful and yet most stressful. I used to look around at other mums, and think, ‘how does anyone ever do this?!’ A lot has changed since, but I still speak with mothers who’ve have had a really hard time breast-feeding, and felt conflicted about combining or switching to bottle feeding. A constantly crying baby is so very difficult on so many levels. Aside from being sleep deprived, I was worried, frustrated and felt like I was failing my baby, and giving up.
Cole was born almost three weeks late and had to be induced. My plans of a water birth went out the window, but I had listened to a wise midwife who said, ‘be guided by the ‘change’ and not governed by your plans’. Good advice!
After a very long labour, an epidural and forceps, our wonderful son was born. The bit that I then found the hardest was breast feeding. OMG, it was hellish, no milk or hardly any, and hours of feeding at a time which didn’t seem to fill him up at all! He wasn’t sleeping, was very colicky.We read and researched everything we could get our hands on, to try to find a way to settle him, but without giving up on the breast feeding.
I was given the guilt treatment by the visiting midwifes, who on one occasion left with a parting message; ’you didn’t think it would be easy did you?’ I hear you all roar! I’m not a shrinking violet by any means, but a sleep deprived new mum with a baby who’s crying constantly, is clearly looking for advice and understanding and should have been given much kinder words and helpful advice. Feeling pretty desperate, I sought the help of a wonderful night nurse who’d been highly recommended. She was so in demand that she could only come to observe me for a day, but it was worth so much. After an hour of breast feeding, she suggested we make up a bottle of formula and see if Cole would take it. She explained that very young babies, only feed when hungry, so we’d know if he’d got enough milk from breastfeeding.
It was like a light-bulb moment, like looking at one of those cartoons, where the milk in the bottles goes down in seconds! For the first time, he was satisfied and slept well. He was literally like a different baby. Even then, I was feeling worried and concerned that I would not be doing the best for him, but she reassured me that combining breast feeding with bottles, was totally fine and it worked wonderfully! He stated to gain weight, and was so much happier.
With our second and third sons, I went into hospital armed like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider; a bottle in each hand! When one of the midwifes gave me a slightly offish look, when I was preparing a bottle after he was born, you can imagine my reaction. So yes, all three boys were breast and bottle fed, and it worked magically. I think what I’ve learnt from this, is that there’s no single journey that every mother has to go on. For me that was bottle feeding, it wasn’t something I thought I would do with my first, but it worked for me and my baby and that is what is important.
Melanie Marshall, Co-founder Babymel (3 boys, 21, 16 & 13)
If you want to learn more about feeding your baby, below are some useful links on the NHS website and other general advise from topics mentioned on this blog.