The benefits of breastfeeding are extremely well documented, and in some instances hammered home to the point of infuriation. But, for any number of reasons, sometimes it’s necessary to replace or supplement that with bottle feeding. What isn’t necessary is the shaming and pressure put on women who, for one reason or another, do not exclusively breastfeed. Because of this shaming and pressure, it sometimes takes a bit of work to garner reliable and sensible information about bottle-feeding using formula. The best guide I found was from Health Challenge Wales, who provided this guide to bottle feeding.
One key fact from it, which isn’t generally mentioned, especially not on the infant formula packaging, is that you can keep made-up bottles in the back of the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Again, I’ll emphasise that there’s no doubting that there are tremendous benefits to breastfeeding, and there’s a dad’s guide to breastfeeding here. But one benefit of bottle feeding the baby? Dads can help, especially at nighttime, allowing mum to get some much-needed and all-too-rare rest.
All the antenatal classes in the world can’t really adequately prepare you for the difficulties of those early days. But there are plenty of sources of help and information. We’ve had some success by contacting someone via the local Children’s Centre, which I’d certainly advise. One recommendation that came from that was this video series about understanding your baby, created by the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. They haven’t created it as a playlist and the links between videos don’t really work well, but it’s a good series to start us off. I’ll link them all below. They’re only short so can be consumed piecemeal.
Chapter 1: Attachment and Bonding
Chapter 2: Baby Brain Development
Chapter 3: Building A Relationship
Chapter 4: Baby States
Chapter 5: Soothing a crying baby
Chapter 6: Playing and talking with your baby
Chapter 7: Baby time out signs
Chapter 8: Feeding your baby
Chapter 9: Coping when things are difficult
Chapter 10: Having a sick baby
Well, a week has passed since the birth of our daughter and it’s gone in the blink of an eye! Sadly, due to a fever, mother and baby were kept in the postnatal ward of the hospital for five days after birth. So between the initial checkups, getting booked in, induction, labour, post-labour recovery and antibiotic treatments for mother and baby, there were nine hospital days in total. Everyone’s home now, and we’re trying to figure out feeding and sleep and life. But before I get on to any of those things, here’s what I learnt from our nine days:
- Induction: It can take ages, there are several stages/attempt, any of which might or might not work. We went the whole course, ending with the drop feed of syntocinon. That one worked, which is just as well as it’d been three days by that point.
- Hospital Bag: All of those things were needed. Just don’t expect to get any reading done. Also, definitely bring a pillow, those chairs are uncomfortable to sleep in.
- TENS machines: They sound great! By the power of electricity, early labour pains will be lessened! It seems their effectiveness is anecdotal at absolute best. We made sure it was properly applied by the midwife, it was a well-recommended brandname product, and it did bugger all.
- Hypnobirthing: Might have been more successful if started very much earlier. Contractions tend to take you out of your mindfulness.
- Epidural: As it happened the birthing centre wasn’t an option for us anyway, the induction forestalled that. But as a birth partner let me tell you, the relief you feel when mum’s pain vanishes is beyond palpable. It’s like a tension leaving the room and everyone in it.
- Hospital Food: Everyone jokes about how gross it is. It’s not a joke, it’s bland, disgusting, barely edible. It’ll do in a pinch if absolutely necessary, but be prepared to buy sandwiches, bring food from home, or order pizza. And yes, postnatal wards especially are generally willing to let you order food in, and it was such a godsend.
- Wards vs Rooms: If you have a long postnatal stay, try and get a private room. Some hospitals have them on a first come, first served basis, some have private, paid-for options. But it’s going to make quite a difference. You’ll have someone checking in on mum and/or baby roughly every 20 minutes, and they don’t knock. Constant in and out, endless interruptions, no matter what state of undress or distress anyone is in. Now multiply that by four, for a typical post-natal ward, and add in everyone’s guests and partners. Nightmare.
- Breastfeeding: It’s tough. So much tougher than all the NCT and antenatal classes really tell you. We struggle immensely and even with five days of midwives at our beck and call to help, we’ve still not cracked it.
- Skin to skin: Forget the apparent benefits. It’s amazing. Why wouldn’t you want to do this all the time?!
There’s so much more, those days went by slowly at the time, but now hindsight has compressed that to a mere blink of an eye. And all the difficulties seem so diminished when I look at my daughter, whimpering in her sleep and making little hoglet sounds.
I had no idea what to expect from breastfeeding classes, other than the re-emphasis of the ‘breast is best’ mantra that, for good reason, is now the constant slogan. I hadn’t realised how rare breastfeeding used to be back when I was a bairn, I thought it was just my own mother being odd. But it turns out that she, for once, conformed to the majority opinion. Now though the pendulum has swung the other way, and the take-up rate of breast feeding in my area is over 90%, which is very impressive, especially when you take out those cases where it’s just not possible.
Considering this is one area where dads really can’t contribute too much, I really expected to be one of the few men present. Happily, this wasn’t the case, as the vast majority of mums had brought their partners. All seemed keen to participate, if not in the hands-on demonstration by way of a crocheted breast, then at least observing, and supporting. And, eventually, learning how to properly wind the baby after feeding.
The NHS has put together a great little pamphlet, the Dad’s Guide to Breastfeeding; do consider giving it a look!