My baby boy is a very happy and clever 3-month-old full of smiles and laughs.
Most recently he has started with the cutest coos you have ever heard, as he attempts to talk back when spoken to. He is perfect and, of course, in my eyes, the cutest, cleverest baby there ever was. Despite all of this a small part of me still thinks I've failed as a mum because he is formula fed.
I told myself before Darragh came along, that I would give my baby the best start. According to all my research before his arrival, the recommended best start in life was breastfeeding, so that was my plan.
I did all I could to prepare. I read up so much on the subject and even attended a breastfeeding support group before my baby arrived.
In the delivery suite, I gleamed with pride as my baby latched on at the first attempt. This was it, I was doing it! Fast forward to 24 hours later, and the cluster feeding commenced.
Two nights passed in the hospital ward, they were a blur of constant feeding throughout the night with tears, pain and not a wink of sleep. After having a 30 plus hour, induced labour, by the time I left the hospital I hadn't slept for four nights.
The first day home I was so physically and mentally exhausted I just couldn't feed my baby.
I was too worked up and after many failed attempts to breastfeed my baby during my first few hours home, my poor baby had become so frustrated and increasingly hungry. I eventually gave in that night. I made a decision that this path was leaving both my baby and I miserable, and this was not how I wanted to remember our first few days together.
I cried hard as I made the decision to give my baby a bottle. After days of trying so hard, I had failed.
The next day, I sent my husband off to get a breast pump and spent the next 4 weeks expressing. I had finally come up with a way to ensure my baby got his best start by combining expressed breast milk and formula bottles. The next few weeks were extremely hard work as I expressed milk every 3 hours, even throughout the night. On the nights when I just didn't have the energy to get up, I would wake up in so much pain and soaked in milk. I envied my husband who could go straight back to sleep after feeding baby, whilst after my turn, I would spend the next half hour expressing in the loneliness of the dark kitchen.
The health nurse visited the next day and on explaining my feeding method, I was informed with this route my milk would probably disappear after a few weeks, but my decision had been made and I wasn't going back to a situation that had left my baby and I so miserable.
I decided that a couple of weeks of my baby getting some breast milk was better than none. Four weeks later, and as the nurse had said, my breast milk disappeared. I was so proud that even if not the traditional breastfeeding method, I had given my baby his best start.
To this day, I still feel a bit of envy when I see other Mum’s breastfeeding their babies.
I try to avoid seeing the warning label on the can of formula that breast is best. Every time that label catches my eye the overwhelming feeling of guilt still creeps in. As my baby hits each milestone, I remind myself that he is just as clever and happy as the next baby. Despite his feeding method, I'm just as good a Mum.
I think we all need to remind ourselves as a society that every family situation is different, every baby is unique and no matter what way we decide to feed our babies we make the right choice for our own particular situation. I think breastfeeding mums are fantastic but also believe those who can't or choose not to breastfeed are just as good.