Since I welcomed my two children within fourteen months of each other, the last few years have been a whirlwind! I’ve breastfed, I’ve pumped and I have bottle-fed (with breast milk and formula). What do I think of each? They are all tough and have been made even harder as both my children suffered from Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA). Dealing with CMPA and breastfeeding has had its really tough times. Read on for my full story and how I coped through all the ups and downs.
My journey began with Sophie and some tea and toast
My breastfeeding journey began when my daughter Sophie was born in March 2019. I’m not sure how long after labour it was, but I remember being moved to recovery and my lovely midwife asked if my husband and I would like some tea and toast. I said, “I’d like to try to feed Sophie first if that’s ok?” My midwife showed me what to do and helped make sure she was latched correctly and once I was happy she left us to go and make some tea and toast.
Tea and toast arrived and my husband joked it was our first family breakfast – naturally making hormonal me cry. I remember thinking in that moment how easy feeding was, so natural, so simple.
Oh, how wrong my drugged-up diamorphine ass was.
Cluster feeding happened straight away, I was in shock
The first night was grand, she fed easily still and I felt confident I could do it. She decided to sleep a lot of the day and come the evening the cluster feeding began. Oh. My. God. My. Poor. Nipples. Sophie wouldn’t stop crying so I kept feeding her and at around 3am when it felt like my nipples were going to finally fall off, I called a midwife. She explained that it’s normal for them to constantly want on at the start because they need the comfort and as she went to leave I just burst in to tears. Sophie was squealing and instead of going to get her, the midwife sat me down on the bed and just hugged me. It was all I needed. She went and got me cream for my nipples and when she returned she took Sophie away and told me to rest. I got 3 hours sleep and they were the most amazing 3 hours sleep I have ever had in my life!
The midwife sat me down on the bed and just hugged me. It was all I needed.
The first 3 weeks were difficult, it was completely fine during the day but she wasn’t a great sleeper in the beginning and I spent a lot of the night feeding her. From roughly 4 weeks everything began to settle better and breastfeeding was a lot easier. I even began expressing so that my husband could feed his first bottle. I really enjoyed feeding Sophie. I loved the closeness, skin to skin, the little fingers moving across my skin and the noises.
6 weeks in and I began to suspect a dairy intolerance
It all began to change in around 6 weeks. She cried and squealed constantly, doing that thing where they look like they are turning themselves inside out with pain. As a vegetarian, a big part of my diet was dairy so I ate a lot of cheese and I expressed to the health visitor on numerous occasions that I thought she had an intolerance to dairy through my milk. I was constantly told that it is unlikely for it to pass through my milk and that Sophie must just be going through a growing leap. I stuck with it.
We were approaching 3 months breastfeeding when it had gotten so bad I had myself convinced that I had run out of milk and the child was starving. She would literally cry for hours! I had brought her to the weigh-in clinic earlier that day and discovered she had dropped in weight. This scared me so much and I phoned mum begging her to go get formula. Sophie downed her first formula bottle at about 4pm no bother! We went to visit my dad for a couple of hours and headed home when Sophie was due fed (I was planning another formula bottle). She was still sleeping so I decided to jump in for a quick shower. When I headed downstairs again she was in my husband’s arms for a cuddle and I noticed her face was patchy red and mega swollen. She was awful looking, but so content!
It took a trip to A&E to have my CMPA suspicions confirmed
We ended up in A&E until the wee hours with her after the out-of-hours doctors suspected it was an allergy. The hospital then confirmed what I had thought all along – she had a milk protein allergy. And there you have the reason why Sophie’s breastfeeding journey was so up and down! I was recommended to go dairy-free which I did. Ever drank black tea? Don’t do it.
I was recommended to go dairy-free which I did.
It was obvious my milk supply had taken a hit from Sophie fussing so much and therefore we made the decision to start her on dairy-free formula while I still fed her morning and bedtime.
I honestly loved formula. I attended quite a few baby groups and it was great not having to wing the ditties (not a typo) out in public anymore. Like I know they tell you just to be brave, it’s natural blah blah blah. And that’s all good advice for girlies who don’t have to hike their big ass saggy boobs up from their knees and hold them in place so the baby can find them.
I got judgement from bottle feeding and from breastfeeding – I couldn’t win!
Sophie’s first feed was on the 4th March 2019 and I fed her final feed on 25th June 2019 and I cried. She was formula fed after that and I knew it was the best decision for both of us. What did I learn from this experience? I learned that people judge you no matter what way you feed. I had comments such as “You do know you can build up your milk supply again and it will be better for her than formula?” from one mother (you know that mum that never does wrong) in a baby class. I also also had comments like “I thought you only breastfed for the first few weeks” or “you will have to stop before she gets teeth”.
I was always led to believe that those who bottle-fed were more harshly judged than those that breastfed but truth be told in my experience I had judgy comments no matter what. Proof that you will never make everyone happy so you just do you!
A second chance at breastfeeding with Logan
I also learned that there is so much I would do differently a second time around and therefore when my son Logan was born I had my plan ready. My plan (I use that term loosely as I know every baby is different and they ultimately decide) was to breastfeed Logan for 1-2 months and then go combination with formula.
My plan was to breastfeed Logan for 1-2 months and then go combination with formula.
Obviously, this time round everything was different due to Covid 19 and lockdown. Logan was born on 6th May 2020, and my mum stayed at ours from the 5th May for 5 days to look after Sophie while I was in labour. This was the only person we had in our house from March 17th until mid June.
Breastfeeding Logan was much easier from the start and I can only assume that was because my body knew what it was doing a second time, well…. that and the fact that I got pregnant at 5 months post-partum so my milk never really properly dried up! He slept amazingly for the first few months, you would get a good 3-4 hour stretch out of him.
3 months in it and I feared another CMPA issue
Cue the third month. He became a nightmare, squealed and fussed all night and I just knew he was dairy intolerant as well. Once again I cut dairy from my diet and he calmed slightly. However, he was still a nightmare, he cluster fed, he took 5-second feeds, he took half an hour feeds, he just had zero routine. This was exactly what Sophie went through just before 3 months and I knew it was time for a bottle.
So we tried, and we tried, and we tried. I can’t even remember how my bottles and different teats we tried to get him to take a bottle! He always looked like he wanted it but just physically couldn’t. This made me think he had a tongue tie but no one would listen to me as he breastfeeds fine. Anyways…we tried him constantly on bottles for 2 months and we were lucky if we got an oz into him. During this time he started getting really bad at night and was up every 30-45mins. I was a zombie. As soon as 7am hit he conked out and would sleep for a few hours – fantastic if he was my only kid but I had to get up with my daughter Sophie.
I had two theories: 1. he suffered badly from reflux or 2. the tongue tie I suspected was causing excess wind. I remember phoning my GP at my wits end who told me it was an issue for the health visitor. I messaged my health visitor who was no help and then a phone call came through from Sophie’s dietician to check up on her, and it wasn’t long before I was crying down the phone to her! The poor woman! She couldn’t advise me on Logan because my health visitor had forgotten to refer him but she tried her hardest to help and I really needed that.
The pandemic brought little to no support and I was exhausted
In normal times I could have jumped in the car and went to a weigh-in clinic or a feeding support group to help me with feeding Logan. The reality is the pandemic has brought little to no support. I toughed those hellish months out and I’m not going to lie, they killed me. I was running on an hour’s sleep most days and this lasted from he was 3 months until he was 7 months.
When Logan was 4.5 months old I started a teaching assistant placement 1 day a week so he was weaned slightly earlier. My mum did try bottles with him while she looked after him during my placement. The only luck she ever had was feeding him milk on a spoon or mixing it with a rusk.
I went to placement each week on that 1-3 hours nonconsecutive sleep and I have no idea how I did it. I completed assignments on a fortnightly timescale, cried over being too tired to do them and I cried over the fact that I was cranky with Sophie and shouted too much. I was completely drained.
After 7 months things started to look up
I threw my head up close to 7 months and told my husband that it was now his job to go into Logan during the night. I had in my head that he was waking, smelling me trying to put him back to sleep and confusing sleep time with food time. Would he go back to sleep if he couldn’t smell me? It turns out, yes! It took 5 nights of Conor going in and patting his bum until he went back to sleep but I haven’t done a night feed since!
Logan is 8 and a half months now, sleeps 7-7 (mostly!), has 3 breastfeeds a day, and eats like a horse. If you’d told me I’d be still feeding him at 8 months old I would have laughed in your face.
If you’d told me I’d be still feeding him at 8 months old I would have laughed in your face.
Dealing with CMPA and breastfeeding has not been easy but we made it through
Looking back, if someone had warned me that breastfeeding has a fussy phase in around 3 months I probably would have tried longer for Sophie. With Logan I am no longer completely dairy-free and have reintroduced cooked dairy into my diet and he is tolerating it perfectly. Sophie is now 22 months old and can still only tolerate cooked dairy so there is still the chance Logan will be the same.
Overall, my feeding journeys (both breast and bottle) have been stressful, depressing, difficult, and emotional but they have also both been so wonderful. Dealing with CMPA and breastfeeding has been so hard at times. However, I made it through and I am so glad that Logan forced me into breastfeeding longer as it has grown my love for it.
My advice : You do you.
P.S. Lansinoh nipple cream is a must! Also, sore nipples do not last. I haven’t had pain since Logan was a couple of weeks old. Well, apart from a month ago when he bit me due to teething pain – learned my lesson – teething gels before feeding.