So you worry, and worry, and worry
You’ve just got back from your latest trip to the Breastfeeding Café at the local Children’s Centre and you’re feeling cheated, on two fronts:-
1) There was no coffee, whatsoever...clearly some kind of deliberate deceit for sleep-deprived new parents (who calls this kind of thing a café?!)
2) There was no breastfeeding, whatsoever....little Miss slept through the whole thing (...not helpful!).
You went with the vain hope of having someone explain to you how this whole combination feeding thing is supposed to work. You haven’t had the easiest start with feeding, as little Miss was in the NICU and fed through a nose tube for the first week-and-a-bit of her life. Thankfully, she was soon out of the NICU and you worked so, so hard together to establish enough of a feeding pattern to convince the healthcare professionals to remove her feeding tube before you went home from the hospital. You really went through the mill in those first few days, feeding on a three hourly schedule - firstly trying to breastfeed for an hour, then formula feeding through the tube, then expressing for around an hour, and then sterilising everything...leaving you exactly 23 minutes in which to sleep before having to start all over again. Day and night. As gruelling as it may sound now, you didn’t mind, not one bit. It was what you had to do and so, of course, you just did it. You soon found your rhythm and you established enough of a rough-and-ready approach to feeding to get you both through.
But, you worry.
Of course you worry...you’re you! You worry that you’re not doing it right. You worry that there’s some well-established best practice for combination feeding that you just haven’t been able to find yet. You worry that you should be shifting the balance towards exclusively breastfeeding, and dropping the formula feeding altogether. And, in your heart of hearts, you hold the secret worry that you just simply haven’t tried hard enough – that you should spend longer expressing each day, that you should work harder with the breastfeeding, that you are falling back on the ‘easy’ option of bottle-feeding. In months to come, you’ll look back and wonder where this anxiety came from as, before little Miss came along, you were absolutely certain that you’d be more than happy to exclusively bottle feed if breastfeeding didn’t work out for you...but while you’re in the sleep-deprived depths of early parenthood, you don’t have this sense of perspective and so you worry, and worry, and worry.
So, you go to the Breastfeeding Café each week, trying to corner a different healthcare professional each time, convinced that one of them share with you the secret method to perfect combination feeding. But you just hear the same thing over and over ... “Just keep going, there is no right/wrong in this, you’ll find your own way”. For you, this is just a totally unacceptable response – you’re convinced that there is a ‘right way’ to do this, that there is a perfect solution which you just learly haven’t been smart enough to figure out yet. You’ve spent countless hours (usually around 3am!) googling combination feeding, trying to find the answer that has eluded you until now, convinced that you’ll stumble across a NetMums post that contains the perfect answer, or that the NHS webpage on combination feeding will have been updated since you last checked (47 minutes ago!) to clarify the precise timings and methodologies you should follow. But, no.
I hate to break it to you my love but the definitive answers you desperately crave are just not out there. There really is no right or wrong when it comes to combination feeding. The priority is to make sure your little baby gets fed. That’s it. How you do it, when you do it, where you do it...none of it really matters. Whether you breastfeed first for 15 minutes each side (lamenting your left side’s poor performance!) before topping-up by bottle feeding, or you alternate breastfeeds with bottle feeds, or you express first one side (again, poor effort from that left boob!) and then feed the other or tie yourself up in knots trying to do all the above at the same time...none of it matters as long as your little one gets enough fluid in her and you are both happy, healthy and well.
It’s going to take you a while to see it, but you will. You’ll come to the realisation that those pesky healthcare professionals really did know what they were talking about (much to your frustration!). You’ll hit your stride and you’ll find a happy rhythm which works for you both and enables you to get a touch more than 23 minutes sleep in a row.
And at 6 months, to the day, your little darling will decide to give up entirely on breastfeeding and go exclusively on to bottle feeding. And, you know what? You won’t mind one little bit, as you’ll see her growing in to a remarkable (and utterly ridiculous) little person and you’ll make a sort of peace with those early months of anxiety about there being no perfect solution/set pattern that you need to follow. You’ll take it as a good lesson in parenting – ask for help and take good advice wherever you can but have confidence that you will absolutely find your own way through this crazy parenting maze and that’s the most that any of us can do.
Take care and remember, real cafes serve coffee....
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