Then during the last month of the pregnancy, things began to change. I'm not quite sure why though I suspect it has to do with the "natural birth" drive I was on. I thought it may have been that I expected it of myself because it would be strange to want a natural birth so much but then not want to breastfeed. But it wasn't that. I genuinely did want to breastfeed Adam.
But I prepared backup just in case, this time. I took a Cow & Gate starter pack with me to the hospital (brought down from the UK, they don't exist in Malta) - I wasn't going to be caught out like I was with Emily when she refused to feed.
But Adam didn't refuse to feed. Oh he fed, and he fed well. He loved it. He had all the patience that Emily never had. He was confirmation that even when I thought Emily was feeding well, she hadn't been. Adam fed and fed and fed. He latched on well, impressed all the midwives who came by to check on me. And I loved it.
Then came the cracked nipples and I was in tears through every feed. Toe-curling pain. David begged me to stop and put myself out of my misery. I wouldn't for a while but eventually the pain became too much to handle and knowing there was an alternative at hand, I gave in.
Two days later I started breastfeeding again. My nipples had healed, all was well, and I began to get a glimpse of that dreamy oxytocin breastfeeding feeling that everyone talks about. I bought a breastfeeding scarf, I began looking at clothes that I could feed easily with, I was going to do this. There was no reason not to. He loved it, I loved it.
But Emily still didn't. She needed me. She needed dinner. She needed bathing. And Adam chose her bathtime and bedtime to need whopping two hour feeds. Everyone said it would get better. But I couldn't watch Emily be more and more pushed aside "just" because Adam needed feeding, not knowing how long it would last. And those old, familiar feelings resurfaced. Anxiety, stress, dreading feeds. I felt pressured and I hated every bit of it all.
I spoke to the midwife about possibly combination feeding. She said I shouldn't do it, as it would affect my milk supply. This is my one regret: I wish I didn't listen. I wish I had known more, I wish I asked more (and I asked plenty, but unfortunately not about combination feeding). I carried on exclusively breastfeeding for another day and then gave up completely, feeling like I had no choice but to go entirely one way or entirely the other. There was, supposedly, no middle ground. Again, I wish now that I didn't listen. I know that people successfully combination feed for months - I didn't stop to ask why that couldn't be the case with me.
But things did get easier with bottle feeding. Adam still has seemingly neverending feeds over Emily's bedtime (sometimes up to 11oz/325ml), but it's easier to deal with when it involves a bottle. David deals with one feed a night, meaning I can get some more sleep. And bonding - I still feel I am able to bond with my children more over a bottle than a breast. Maybe I'm strange, or maybe I was just never quite cut out to breastfeed.
Either way, Adam is well fed and just as happy as Emily was and is. Whether he will be as healthy as she is will be seen, but I am quite certain - judging by Emily's good health - that it has nothing to do with whether he was breastfed or not.
They are happy, they are loved, they are my everything. What milk they are fed is completely irrelevant.
Related: Encouragement for Formula Feeding Moms (recommended reading)