Regardless of whether you strictly abide by ‘Breast is Best’ or formula feed your little one, it’s essential that feeding is a special time, one of peace and tranquillity. It is one of the most natural things in the world and such a primal, instinctive action that allows you to bond with your baby like nothing else can.
Sadly, like many other families, I never had that experience.
I had made the decision throughout my pregnancy that I would breastfeed for a short while but inevitably move onto formula. I was quite pragmatic and frank about the decision. There was no specific time frame, no underlying reason; it was purely personal preference. As long as my baby was eating, gaining weight and healthy, I didn’t care how he got there.
In hindsight, I think this decision was partially contributed to by fear of my own incompetence to be able to breastfeed successfully. By opting to formula feed of my own accord I eradicated any chance of failure.
Anyway, if you’ve read my previous blog posts you’ll probably have correctly predicted that things didn’t go to plan. Oliver did not latch on, I persevered with several different nurses pulling my tittybumps in opposing directions until I
was at my wits end; by the end of his first afternoon on planet earth he was on formula.
No big deal, I had wanted to formula feed eventually anyway so it was just happening sooner than originally anticipated. I was slightly frustrated with myself, but all in all, as long as he was being fed, that was all that mattered.
Oliver did not like feeding, even when he was well. I cannot even begin to express the stress, worry and exhaustion experienced. He struggled to latch on from day one. He would soon become breathless after a couple of gulps meaning he had to stop despite still being hungry. We would then try again half an hour later or so and he would take another tiny amount and so on and so forth. It was a vicious cycle for many months.
I would try and time feeds impeccably to the last minute hoping each time that this would be the feed that he took a worthy amount and things would change – they never did. If we offered him milk when he wasn’t hungry he wasn’t interested, but if he got to the stage where he cried because he was hungry, he would become too breathless to take
milk and tire himself out. We couldn’t win, it was impossible to second guess him.
Sometimes it wouldn’t matter how much he was enjoying his bottle, he would just stop himself. There would be
no distraction, no interruption; it was like something switched inside his brain and he just would.not.eat.
I was (still am) envious of parents whose babies looked like Michelin men and would jest about what greedy guts their offspring were. I would’ve have given my right arm for Oliver to down a bottle even once.
Last Christmas (2016) Oliver was critically poorly and was admitted to hospital for two weeks. He required an NG tube as he had lost his ability to latch onto a bottle altogether. He had needed a tube when he had been unwell in the past, but this time was different – we were going home with it.
Oliver was discharged shortly after New Year 2017 and was tube fed for over a month at home. This was undoubtedly the most distressing, testing and exhausting time I’ve ever experienced. NG tube feeding in itself is actually really simple to do, and once you get into the habit of it becomes normal. But it does make every feed a lengthy process and requires a lot of care and attention.
Much to my initial horror, he must have vomited up his tube at least a couple of times a day for the first two weeks. This soon became the norm and more of an inconvenience than anything, but the first time it happened I shit myself. We had to pull it out through his nose and I was in pure panic mode.
I stopped at my parents’ as Oliver’s Dad works nights and I wasn’t confident enough to be on my own with him. Having my mum there with me, persevering and supporting me through everything was priceless; I would not have gotten through it without her. Her resilience and determination never waivered and kept me going through some dark days. She was and always will be my rock.
The community nurses were amazing too, coming out to the house at least a couple of times a day to put the tube back in. He had so much mucus in his system which I think caused the vomit, but it was literally just a case of waiting for him to clear it. Being in hospital would have made no difference to his care so we battled on at home.
Eventually, Oliver did regain enough strength to bottle feed again and the relief and joy is a feeling I will cherish forever. Out of all the struggles we’ve had with Oliver, feeding has been a prominent, ongoing issue and one that has seriously pushed me to breaking point. I am so happy to be able to say that we’re almost out on the other side. He takes his milk with no problems now (touch wood) and we are slowly trying to wean him onto solids. Oliver has recently had a swallow assessment too that went well so we have the green light to slowly build in texture to his solids. We have been told to keep an open mind about a gastrostomy but I’m praying that that won’t have to
happen, and if it does, we’ll face it when the time comes.
Any parent that has ever tube fed, peg fed or struggled with feeding (reflux, colic etc) their child I have the utmost respect for you. There are so many aspects that attribute to making something that should be such a simple, joyful time into a difficult, stressful time, but we have no choice but to keep on going. After all, our babas need their grub!