Feeding a baby

When Henry was born I tried, as much as I possibly could, not to talk or post about how he was fed – it’s Henry’s business and no one else’s right?! I actually found it quite difficult not to mention his feeds, I mean it’s one of the only things a newborn baby does isn’t it. It takes up a significant part of those first few weeks.

Before I go into the choices Mummy Hew and I made about feeding our babies, I really don’t care how anyone feeds their baby! Literally no Fs given. If you chose breast, bottle, a wet nurse, donated milk…I literally don’t care, as long as you and your baby are happy – that’s all that matters right. A hungry baby is not a happy baby.

I thought about whether to write this post at all…I mean it’s 2018 and we are still having discussions about how to feed a baby *yawns*. Anyway I am writing it because I think it might be quite helpful to some of you to hear from a Father’s perspective the journey we have been though with both our babies and to share some of the experiences we have been through. If you want to debate bottle vs breast or whats right and wrong about feeding a baby….take yourself somewhere else to debate.

So, Gracie. She was born via emergency C-Section in August 2014. Our decision was to exclusively breast feed Gracie. At the time, we felt it was the right decision for us. We didn’t have any pressure from anyone about how we should feed our child. Both our parents shared their stories of how they fed their babies (a mixture of bottle and breast) but we didn’t feel at any point that we were being pressured. Likewise, our midwife asked us how Mummy Hew planned to feed Gracie and helped us when we needed it. Again, at no point did we feel that the midwife or hospital staff put any pressure on us to breast or bottle feed Gracie – I think this point is important, I often read stories of parents describing that they felt pressured to feed their baby a certain way by their midwife. This really wasn’t the case for us.

One of the things we didn’t do, which we wish we had done in hind sight, was research more about the negatives of breast feeding. It is hard work, there is no doubting that – and that’s for both Mummy Hew and I. Gracie had a good latch from day one. Mummy Hew stayed in hospital for two nights and Gracie fed reasonably well the first day/night. The second night was horrendous. We hadn’t realised that the milk isn’t instantaneous – who knew? Gracie was getting Hangry – she spent most of her second day latched to Mummy Hew or crying for food. The daytime wasn’t so bad but the second night was unbearable. I left the hospital at 23:00 and Mummy Hew was up most of the night with a screaming baby who so desperately wanted food. The midwife explained it can take 4 to 5 days for the milk to come in as Gracie was a C-section baby. She suggested that Mummy Hew gave Gracie a small formula top up…..we were really reluctant to do this, we had visions of exclusively breast feeding Gracie until she was old enough to be weened onto food. The midwife cup fed Gracie about 15ml of formula to let her settle…and she did, she was out like a light. Mummy Hew then spent as much time as she could with Gracie latched to her to encourage the milk flow.

Night 3, Mummy Hew was at home. Gracie was crying uncontrollably. she wouldn’t latch. she wouldn’t settle. we had no idea what to do with her. I gave her another 15ml (ish) formula top up and she went straight to sleep. I didn’t understand why the milk was taking so long…it the most natural thing ever, what was the point of the delay? we persevered and the milk came in, if I remember rightly it was towards the end of the 4th day. Gracie was in her element, we saw her milk drunk for the first time – she looked much like me on a Friday night. Mummy Hew had reached the point where she was relieved that her milk had come in and was able to move forward feeding Gracie.

We had our 1 week check up with the midwife, Gracie’s latch was good, she was taking a good amount of milk, Mummy Hew was a little sore but in the main feeding was going OK (we bought some Lansinoh Lanolin, nipple cream, which Mummy Hew would highly recommend for first time breast feeding). When the midwife weighed Gracie she was not happy with her weight, she had dropped more that 10% of her birth weight. The midwife wanted us to visit kids A&E to get Gracie checked over. Part of us was panicked, part of us was saying she had lost the weight because she hadn’t had food for 4 days. Anyway, we took Gracie to the hospital. They checked her over and everything appeared to be in order. Except her temperature which was low. The Dr asked me to strip Gracie to her nappy so he could examine her again. We sat in an air-conditioned side room, with Gracie in just a nappy wondering why she was cold?!?! The Dr said he wasn’t happy with her temperate and couldn’t see any other signs of anything wrong. I suggest that it may be that the room was bloody baltic and she was practically naked. After some skin to skin with me her temperate was back to normal and we were on our way home. The Dr said it was quite normal for a breast fed baby to lose over 10% of their body weight – but its better to be safe that sorry.

After the first week, which was frustrating to say the least, Gracie’s breast feeding journey went really well for both Mummy Hew and Gracie. Mummy Hew always chose to use a poncho style cover up when we were out an about feeding Gracie, there was not one occasion that anyone said anything or made any comments about her feeding. I think this is a really important point to remember too – people are so quick to share their stories that a weirdo in Costa or Starbucks has made a comment or made them feel uncomfortable. This never happened to us, i’m not saying it doesn’t happen and we might have been lucky but it’s worth remembering that not everyone stares and makes comments!

Gracie was exclusively (ignoring the couple of top ups she had in the first few days) breast fed until she was 5 and a half months old. She was showing all the signs that she was ready for food. We started to introduce formula and food at this time and for us it was the right time to move on from breast feeding. Gracie transitioned onto formula and food pretty easily. Another point worth noting, Gracie didn’t fully sleep through the night until we introduced formula and food! She would always go to bed about 7pm but would wake for a feed once or twice in the night. She has always been what we call a ‘good sleeper’ and once she had her feed would go straight back to sleep.

Over all, Gracie’s breast feeding journey was really positive. It allowed Mummy Hew and Gracie to bond. I missed the opportunity to feed her but I got to wind her and change the nappies (Thanks MH!). After Gracie, we knew that if we were to have another child, we would follow the same pattern, even knowing the first week was going to be difficult, for us it was the right decision for us all. The thought of making bottles in the middle of the night with a screaming baby does not appeal to me.

When we had Henry we went through the same thought process as we did with Gracie, we wanted him to be breast fed. We knew the first week was going to be shitty but we knew it will get easier….so they said! I don’t want to sound like a negative Nancy, but it didn’t really feel like it got any better with Henry. The first week was the same horrendous week we had with Gracie, we knew in advance and bought some pre mixed formula bottles to give him a little top up, but after that he was exclusively breast fed. Henry latched really well and fed constantly. When the midwife visited to do his 1 week check he had hardly lost any weight and was pretty much straight back to his birth weight!

From the word Go, Henry was a much hungrier baby than Gracie. He seems to feed all the time – Day and night! He was 4 months old a week or so ago and we are still being woken 3 or 4 times a night for a feed. I know every baby is different but we weren’t prepared for so many wake up calls with Henry. He is similar to Gracie in that once he has fed he will go back to sleep…..but he just wants feeding so much!

Henry was a lot more fussy that Gracie when he was being fed. He cried a lot more. He would fight against Mummy Hew because the milk wasn’t instant. If he heard something he would be up looking for it. He would have enough food to settle himself, but not take enough so that he didn’t need feeding in an hour.

Mummy Hew expressed milk so that I could give him a bottle before bed and this soon became our routine. 6 or 7 ounces before bed. To start with, Henry really enjoyed having the bottle of expressed milk….but he wanted more. We couldn’t keep up with him.

Its fair to say that no 2 babies are the same, we just assumed that as Gracie fed so well Henry would too. But he has been fairly difficult. There have been times that Mummy Hew wanted to throw the towel in and just get bottles of formula. I know that isn’t what she really wanted, so we persevered and stuck to it.

Whether having and older sister running around has had an impact on Henry feeding, or that our lifestyles are different this time round or just that Henry wanted to feed more milk than what was on offer, we made the decision start to introduce formula and baby porridge at 4 months old. Henry wolfs down the bottle and still wants more! It took him a few days to get used to the texture of the porridge but he loves having that every morning now too.

Mummy Hew is still breast feeding Henry throughout the day on demand and is expressing so there is a stock of milk in the freezer. He’s probably having about half breast milk and half formula at the moment. I would like to say we have seen a difference….but he still is waking throughout the night for more food. I think it will take a few months to establish a proper feeding pattern and then (fingers crossed) we will start to see him going through the night.

If I was totally honest, I think both Mummy Hew and I feel a little bit disappointed that Henry couldn’t breast feed as long as Gracie. Mummy Hew has done a cracking job, its tested both our patience and its the right thing to do for us. As noted above, a hungry baby is not a happy baby and lets face it, give it a few years, he will be eating the same food as the rest of us! I’ll give you £100 if you can highlight a breast fed baby vs a bottle fed baby in a group of 100 5 years olds…..coz you’ve got no chance!

887df7a6-ed50-4eb5-9316-0548819b909f[Gracie feeding Henry for the first time]

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