Breastfeeding or Formula? What to consider.

Breastfeeding or Formula? What to consider.

For a newborn, it is indeed best to breastfeed as far as possible. Breast milk has all the nutrition that a baby needs, and it also has all the antibodies that protect the baby because she doesn’t have a well established immune system in the beginning. There is, however, a dilemma many parents face, where in certain situations it might be prudent to introduce a bit of formula milk into the baby’s diet.

Let me address this dilemma a little bit. Before our baby was born, I hadn’t even considered buying formula milk as part of our shopping list. I had read and understood the importance of breast milk and was pretty confident that formula milk would only be something that we introduce after a few months. However, the day we brought our baby home from the hospital, I found myself arranging for some formula milk at the last minute. And it was because I realized during our stay at the hospital that there could be many situations, even that early, where breastmilk might not suffice for the baby. Because there is a difference between theory and practice.

When a baby is born, it is so exhausted that it barely has any strength for the first 24 hours and even our mid-wife told us that it is common for babies to not feed for that time period. And babies tend to lose a little under 10% of their birth weight due to this. However, when this period is over, it is time for the baby to start feeding and regain the lost weight within the next 2-3 days. But, not all babies are experts at sucking milk properly that early. Sometimes, they try for a few minutes but get tired quickly and fall asleep and need to be waken up frequently to feed. On top of that, the flow of milk from the mother’s breast may not be as good as desired, which might further contribute to tiring the baby out without a proper meal. And, even when it appears as if the baby has been well fed, she might still be hungry. And what if the baby continues to be hungry mealtime after mealtime without the parents realizing it? In those early days, we did face all these situations and we were advised by the mid-wives to give our baby a top-up feed at the end of each breastfeeding session to ensure that the baby really was full. And in case the baby was not getting breastmilk supply, to feed her a small amount from a tiny plastic cup (and not from a milk bottle) so that her attachment to the breast was also not lost, and she continued to get the feed that she needed.

Keeping this factor in mind, I learned that it was not a bad idea to keep some amount of formula milk at home to be used when needed. I – sorry, We – realized that introducing formula milk as a part of feeds for the newborn really did not mean that she would be deprived of breast milk. It was supposed to be used as a supplement to breast milk.

And it is not just about the supply of breast milk that is the only factor. You also need to consider the health and suffering of the mother. New babies need feeding every couple of hours even for weeks after they are born. Add to that the fact that even the most well fed baby has problems with sleeping properly at times. It is not obvious to us men how distressing the whole phase becomes for a mother who is herself in need of being taken care of in order to recover from the trauma of the delivery. I have seen my wife feel miserable at times trying to feed our perfectly healthy baby while exhausted by the irregular sleeping schedules. She cried about how much pain she felt in her back most of the times and how every moment of feeding the baby made her back even worse.

Like I said, it is almost impossible to understand completely what a new mother goes through unless you have been one and, at times, I have made the same mistake and insisted for my wife to try and breastfeed against giving formula milk. And this is where, we need to have an open mind and consider the practicalities of the situation. The baby needs breast milk, but don’t forget, it first needs milk so that it is not hungry and even the mother needs to be relieved of her stress regularly.

Until now, I hadn’t mentioned that pumping breast milk and then using it for top-up feeds as well as complete meals when the mother was resting is a great option, and this reduces the need for formula milk. Before our baby had completed her first week, I had already been compelled by the situations described above to buy a motorized electric breast pump. And, to be honest, it turned out to be a fantastic investment as we did use it a lot. However, one needs to understand that even a breast pump can be of little use if the milk supply from the breast is too slow, or the mother is very tired. Moreover, the electric pumps can be quite expensive and not everyone may be able to afford them, and the more affordable manual pumps take too much effort to pump. And if you run out of pumped milk at odd hours, it may not be feasible to set up and start pumping again while your baby is crying bloody murder and the mother is already exhausted. Having some formula milk handy can really be a life saver.

So, for new parents, the first few weeks are almost certainly a tough time and they are also a time to overcome challenges. While the importance of breast milk cannot be overstated, it is also important to remember that timely feeding of the baby is also very important as is ensuring that the mother is not subjected to undue stress in some situations.

How has your experience been? Do you think there is more to this debate than what I have written? Do share with me by posting in the comments below.

Mum n Baby’s Secret Language

The mommy often tells me that she can feel the baby moving and kicking around quite a bit in the belly.

‘It’s quite active today.’ she says often.

‘It’s moving so much today that it’s crazy.’

I put my hand on the bump and for a short while try to feel the movements. But I get no response.

My hand still on it, she looks right at me and asks me, ‘Did you feel that?’

‘No, I don’t feel anything.’ I complain. It’s as if the baby knows it’s someone else interfering with baby-mommy interaction and so it goes quiet. There seems to be this secret language between them using which the baby keeps telling its moods to the mother, while I – the father – have no idea what’s going on.

I wait a bit more, hoping to feel my baby’s movement at least once. But, there’s nothing. And then I finally give up once again and pull my hand away. It is a bit frustrating. The mother is in constant touch with the baby all the time and is on her way to forging a strong bond with it so early in the relationship, whereas I can only scratch my head and wait for the birth to happen so that my baby can get to see me and know that it has two parents.

On the other hand, I sometimes marvel at how magical the whole experience is. We are making a human being almost out of nothing. We are creating life. And my wife is playing a role that is so much more special than mine that I now find it natural why mothers enjoy that special bond with their kids which fathers seldom seem to be able to share in.

So, I often tease her and say, ‘Remember that this is my baby and that you only have it for safekeeping.’

At other times, I speak directly to the baby in its bump and remind it that it’s actually daddy’s baby in mommy’s belly. This gives me some solace. Makes me feel like part of the process. I am not irrelevant.

How has your own experience been? Please comment below and let me know.

Being there for the mother

During the first 2 months of her pregnancy, my wife didn’t even notice anything different about her. We only found out towards the end of this period that she was pregnant. But it was just as she entered the third month that her health started to decline slowly. At around 1.5 months, despite being otherwise healthy, she had lost all taste for non-veg food such as chicken and other meats. This came at a bad time for her since we were vacationing in Rome and Florence and the sole purpose of our trip was to enjoy the amazing food Italy has to offer. We have long been fans of Italian food, so it was specially disheartening to see her push away the lovely pasta carbonaras and the super delicious pizzas. Fortunately, she still had the energy in her to sightsee and shop around, so the trip was otherwise very nice.

On our journey back to Stockholm, she finally showed the first signs of nausea, though even now, it was quite in control. She only felt motion sickness, but never really threw up.

Over the next week or so she was a bit steady with her health and we took a trip to an island in the Stockholm archipelago with my sister and her husband and did a bit of barbecue. My wife was still repelled by meats and now her hightened sense of smell was at its peak, so we kept her a bit away from the cooking. But otherwise, she was fine.

Over the next 2-3 days was when the most noticeable decline in her health began. She started feeling more and more out of energy and stopped eating almost everything. She took longer naps during the day and sometimes refused to even talk about food.

There came times when her nausea made her vomit so much, she would get frightened that the spasms caused by throwing up might harm the baby. But her midwife had already told us that the baby continues to be safe in the womb, and even if the mother stops eating completely, the baby continues to suck all the nutrition it needs, be it at the cost of the mother’s health. This was soon visible as my wife started to throw up day and night. She ate nothing, but vomited a lot. The really strange thing was that, when she felt the nausea, she couldn’t even manage to rush to the washroom and threw up immediately, whether she was in the bed, on the sofa or right outside the washroom.

Some nights were so bad that she vomited every 15 minutes, and I slept with a bin next to me which I would immediately bring to her service as soon as I could tell she was feeling sick again. One specific night, I remember having such a light sleep myself because I was worried she would get sick again soon, and she did. In all, the poor soul lost around 8 kg of her weight in just about 4 weeks. Carrying a lot of plastic bags whenever we stepped out of the house became a routine.

She is now in her fifth month and all the nausea is already gone and she seems to have gained back a kilogram from the lowest point. She is also quite active now – though not the same as before getting pregnant – and her bump has become quite prominent and people at work have started noticing and congratulating her. It is such a relief to know that your partner is not suffering any more. Nice to see her up and about, going to office everyday and coming home and making dinner.

However, I also do know that this is only a brief reprieve and that the really tough times are yet to come when her bump will become large enough to restrict her movements again, when she will again have to be very slow and careful with her activities and above all, the hell she is about to go through with the delivery.

As much as I would like, I cannot take any of her discomfort onto myself so that she feels better. But what I know I can do is to be there for her all the time, understand her problems and emotions and be the nicest husband that I can be. I must shield her from stress, both physical and mental, and do things which make her happy. After all, it is in a way unfair that the mother has to undergo so much while the father can basically rest his ass on the couch and eat and drink whatever he likes. I wouldn’t mind taking up part of her burden, but knowing that it’s impossible, I can only take relief in the fact that I have the opportunity to be there and take care of things when she doesn’t have the capacity for it.

Anyway, we still have a long way to go. Lots to do. January 2017, we are waiting for you.