So this week is National Breastfeeding Week, there are so many posts to read.
There are rarely many parenting subjects that cause as much debate as breastfeeding does. (Sleep is another biggie )
Opinions are strong, understandable when breastfeeding rates are so low in the UK, and the support isn’t always there when you need it.
The advocates are frustrated, the parents who struggle are let down, and the formula marketing machine is unscrupulous.
I’m going to try and articulate my thoughts on this subject and as you will probably tell, breastfeeding is a topic that triggers me and makes me feel very conflicted, but that is not a reason not to speak about it
As part of national breastfeeding week, there are lots of glorious images of mothers with babies at their breast, looking powerful, serene, proud.
Before having my first child, I assumed that’s how I would look and feel whilst breastfeeding.
The reality was far from it.
I was induced (for being ‘overdue’ ) and after a long labour, Max arrived. I was exhausted and in a haze, I had no idea what to do with this baby on my chest!
For three days we had to stay in the hospital, partly because my iron was so low but also because Max wouldn’t feed nobody could get him to latch, and after I don’t know how many hours, we had to give him formula by cup.
By the third day, I had only slept for about an hour here and there and was exhausted and desperate to go home. He was diagnosed with a tongue tie so we rang every private practitioner in the area and managed to secure an appointment that afternoon. I was discharged on the basis I would go back if he wouldn’t feed…
Tongue-tie was snipped and he immediately latched on, I thought we were sorted. But once we got home I couldn’t get him to latch ever again.
We had a few visits from the community midwives and health visitors and no matter what we tried he wouldn’t stay on. Every attempt ended in us both crying and sweating.
I was pumping as much as I could but it was too relentless, too much, I was too exhausted and after a couple of weeks I gave up and we moved to formula permanently.
I cried a lot about that decision.
I felt like a failure. The most natural thing in the world and I couldn’t do it.
Worse than that, I couldn’t even manage to commit to expressing enough to get things going.
I felt guilty.
However, we got into our swing with formula and I tried to not look back…after all everyone kept saying ‘fed is best’ or ‘formula is just as good’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’. Read more about our early days journey here.
Fast forward to being pregnant for the second time.
Do I stay with what I know (formula) or try to breastfeed the new baby? Will I feel guilty that I didn’t feed Max? Would he ask me why when he’s older?
Our little girl came along after a wonderful, quick and drug free labour, and this time she immediately latched on.
After a while, the midwife came in and asked how we would be feeding her and I answered formula. I didn’t want to put myself or her through what happened with Max. Mark gave her a little bottle while I had a shower.
This time however I didn’t have the guilt or feel the stress.. at the time anyway.
Fast forward a couple of years later and being the CPD addict I am, I chose to do the ABM Breastfeeding Support Foundation Course.
I was not prepared for the feelings I experienced studying for this course. Reading about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risk of not doing so was hugely triggering for me.
I looked back and felt that guilt and sense of failure all over again.
I looked back to when Holly was born, things could have been different, why didn’t I try? What a terrible Mum.
I had to stop the course for about 8 weeks as it became too painful. I was thinking and thinking about my decisions, was I selfish, was u wrong, should I have tried harder?
Then I realised I can’t change it now.
I did as much as I could possibly have done at the time.
I can’t say I’ve forgiven myself but I’m ok with it.
But deep down, I still feel upset about it and still find much of the communication around breastfeed very triggering.
I wonder whether I could have done more, could anyone else have helped? Would it have made any difference?
I’ll never know..
I do believe that there should be more education (maybe even at a school level), more normalisation and more support.
However I also believe that it’s everyone’s individual right to choose what’s best for them and this should come without guilt/pressure. The important part of the process though is that this decision should be an informed one, you can’t ask for anything more of parents.