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When did formula become so expensive – advice needed please

I’m sure many of you saw the frenzy and heated debates on social media this week regarding expensive formula.  If you didn’t, read about it here.  The summary is basically that formula theft is on the rise and that a grocery store was locking away their formula due to the high level of theft in South Africa.

This topic is something that just gets my blood BOILING and we can thank our government (and huge rich companies that make loads of profit on formula) for this, as there are strict government regulations regarding formula.  I get that the WHO has suggested countries put these regulations in place, but I find our government regulations a TAD (read the sarcasm) extreme.   Surely we can’t have the same regulations as many other first world countries? We have one of the highest unemployment rates (8th in the WORLD at 25%) and one of the highest abandonment rates of babies in the WORLD.

I get why the WHO wants to promote breastfeeding (or I sort of get it, as formula fed babies still make it to adulthood), but have they considered:

  • the mum who has to go back to work after a month of maternity leave
  • the mum who has mastitis due to a trauma in her life and milk isn’t coming out of her breasts, but blood is
  • the mum who has had a premature baby and cannot breastfeed
  • the mum who has a 2kg baby vomiting and having blood in his/her stool as he/she is allergic to his/her mum’s milk
  • the baby who was abandoned and in a children’s home, who cannot be breastfed
  • the mum who has 1, 2, 3 or more other children and just cannot exclusively breastfeed as she doesn’t have enough hands
  • the mum who cannot afford a breast pump and store it in the fridge – she may not even have a fridge in her home for crying out loud
  • the baby that is in NICU and needs a specialized formula as he/she is very sick

I’ve worked with numerous children’s homes in Gauteng for years and one of the most commonly requested things on the wish list is “formula and nappies”, as these are just too expensive for most of these homes to afford.

Does anyone see the problem here.  We are making our formula too expensive for the lower income earners and it’s leading to them stealing, otherwise their BABY WILL DIE.  Can anyone with half a brain see this is a HUGE CRISIS? I’m so torn between fighting this and just letting it go and taking the easy route.  My heart has been thinking about this for YEARS, but surely if mums can stand together we can make this more affordable for those in desperate need in this country.  Or should I just be like Elsa and “let it go”……….

More about Gauteng’s abandonment rates here.

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Breast is NOT always best

Disclaimer – Very controversial post. If you judge people who don’t breastfeed their baby, I suggest you don’t read this, or try and be more open minded. This is merely my opinion, not medically proven, just my experience.

A few minutes after Erin was born I had a nurse (complete stranger) squeeze my nipples and place Erin on my breast to feed her, this was my first and wonderful (she says with a sarcastic voice) experience of breastfeeding.

The week that followed the following happened:

  • My milk came in and my breasts were as big (if not bigger) than Dolly Parton’s breasts
  • It felt like needles in my nipples every time Erin sucked
  • I had cabbage leaves in my bra for engorgement
  • The one night I woke up thinking that I would lose my left breast, as it was so hard – Erin refused to suck on it for 48 hours
  • I had my midwife come and push approximately 2L of milk out of my breasts, using facecloths that were placed in boiling hot water
  • Woke up most nights in a pool of milk, as my breasts were leaking so much

I endured all this because society (and people’s opinions) led me to believe that I was a bad mother if I did not breastfeed my baby.  I carried on with this lonely (as I normally sat in Erin’s room behind closed doors while feeding) task for about four months. After four months I started getting TERRIBLE hormonal headaches and HAD TO (Hallelujah) stop breastfeeding.  Now I at least had an excuse and people stopped judging me. “Oh well if it’s for a medical reason that you had to stop, then that’s okay”.

At the time I was very naïve and actually cared what other people thought of me. But looking back I am infuriated by how people judged me and how (from the second my child was conceived) others thought that my body, my breasts, by tummy were open for public scrutiny – WHAT????

Regardless of all of the above, I really wanted to breastfeed Sienna. I was hoping that my experience would be a better one. So I made sure I was prepared. I bought a state of the art breast pump, enough breast pads to last me months, storage bags. My mother in law bought me a beautiful feeding shawl. I was good to go.

When Sienna was born VERY prematurely, the nurses told me that I could express and that they would feed her through the feeding tube with my milk and they would supplement with formula if I couldn’t produce enough. I had enough milk, but not as much as the first time round. Think it was due to Sienna being in NICU.

Sienna’s neighbor in NICU was born at 35 weeks and was crying her eyes out non stop as the mother had forbidden the nurses to give the baby formula. The mothers colostrum had not come in yet and the baby was being starved. After HOURS of crying the nurses eventually called the mother and begged her and she gave them “permission” to give formula.

A friend acquaintance (who had also had a premature baby) popped in when Sienna was a week old (still in NICU) and she asked whether I was breastfeeding, to which I answered “yes”.  She then said something that I don’t think I will ever forgot. “Oh well that is the least you can do for your premature baby”. I must be honest that was one of the most shocking things I had heard in a long time. I wonder why that was the least I could do? As if it was MY fault that she was prem, or that she would be disadvantaged in an AWFUL way if, God forbid. formula were to touch her lips.

Regardless I carried on “breastfeeding” (expressing and bottle feeding my milk) Sienna. She came home after 12 days in NICU. The morning of day 14 she started vomiting – a lot. I changed her nappy at 5am and found BLOOD in her stool. I took her to the ER immediately and my paed said he suspects it’s something called Colitis. It basically means Sienna was allergic to something I was eating. My paed suggested I stop breast feeding and use formula for 48 hours, then go back to breast milk. I had a small tin of NAN HA in the cupboard and gave that to Sienna – she LOVED it! After 48 hours I started the breast milk again and she just wouldn’t drink it, she hated the taste. So I decided to STOP BREASTFEEDING. Oh my word I said it!

I was sad for a day, not quite sure why though, but I felt a bit sad.

Last week Sienna got sick and she had to be hospitalized. She had a virus, that she contracted from Erin, kids get sick.  She did not get sick because I didn’t breastfeed her (as a friend had implied) she got sick because her sister made her sick!

Now that I’m not breastfeeding her anymore I feel like I have my body back. I feel less like a cow that needs to express every four hours. I feel so much more flexible, as my family loves giving her a bottle, which gives me time to go to bootcamp, shops etc.  I feel no pain, no painful let down reflex, no needles in my nipples, no cracked nipples. I feel like I’m being a better mother to Erin – the time that I would’ve been expressing, I’m spending with her.

Damien always used to say to me “bottle fed babies also make it to adult hood” and I am just so grateful that I have a husband who supports and respects my decision, and doesn’t judge me.

Am I a bad mother for not breastfeeding my premature baby – HELL NO! I am the ABSOLUTE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD TO SIENNA AND ERIN and I do not need to justify to anyone else why my kids are not breastfed/ breastfed for a limited period.

PS Sienna is thriving on NAN and is picking up about 300-400 grams a WEEK!

To all those mothers out there who chose (or had to stop) not to breastfeed their babies, good for you! Breast is NOT always best!