We all know ‘breast is best’. After all, it’s what’s nature intended. However breastfeeding does not always come naturally or easily.
I believe it’s a learned skill, for both Mum and baby, and one that our generation has largely missed out on being exposed to. Many of us were born in an era where bottlefeeding was encouraged, and sadly there is a misguided idea that breastfeeding should be done in private. Traditionally we’d see breastfeeding in everyday life, with our mothers, aunts, even grandmothers feeding freely in front of us. Nowadays women are told to cover up or ‘be discreet’ when breastfeeding. (This is not an idea I subscribe to, I believe you can breastfeed wherever and however you like).
And of course there are some women who choose not to breastfeed at all, for whatever reason, and that is perfectly ok too, You have to do whatever feels right for YOU and your family.
But what about when what you want to do seems impossible?
My own breastfeeding journey is is testament to this.
I breastfed my first child, through painful cracked nipples, poor latches, and recurrent bouts of mastitis. When my second was born, I assumed I’d have a similar breastfeeding journey, with hopefully less trauma along the way. However, the universe had other ideas.
My son made all the motions of feeding, and was on my breast for almost 20 hours a day since birth. (Our carrier got a hefty workout!). However he was very unsettled, and kept losing weight. By two months old, he had still not even regained his birthweight. I was beside myself with worry and fear. What was I doing wrong? How could I be starving my child when he was feeding constantly?
I sought help from the hospital lactation consultant, and from the child health nurses, midwives, and eventually my own GP. I was resting as much as possible, (thanks to my awesome hubby who took over running the household and working fulltime), keeping my fluids up, eating healthily, using (and then not using) a nipple shield, and accepting all offers of help. I even started medication to boost my supply. I was doing all the ‘right’ things. Nothing seemed to help. My baby still didn’t gain weight, and wasn’t sleeping, and I was at breaking point.
I was sent to a baby health clinic for immediate help.
There we practiced settling techniques, but more importantly, our breastfeeding issues were being looked into thoroughly.
Within minutes of walking through their doors, I found myself hooked up to an electric double pump, expressing milk to feed my baby through a supplemental nursing system (SNS), or a supply line. So we began a process of breastfeeding using a supply line, then topping him up with a small bottle of EBM, then pumping for the next feed.
Within those 5 days my teeny tiny boy began sleeping and putting on weight and SMILING!
We never got to the bottom of our breastfeeding issues, and to this day I still wonder, but I was so overcome with joy that my son was now thriving AND I could still keep breastfeeding him.
Our journey wasn’t easy though. My boy was growing and sleeping and doing everything he was supposed to, but I wasn’t content. I felt I was missing something.
One day after feeding him, I popped him in his cot and began my post-feeding ritual of pumping and filling the SNS with EBM. As I sat there expressing, I looked at my darling boy laying happily in his cot, waiting for me to finish so we could play before it was time for his nap. My heart filled with sadness, as I realised what it was I’d been missing. Our entire day went something like – ‘feed, pump, put baby to sleep, wake and feed, pump, sleeptime again’. I missed non-feeding cuddles. I missed peek-a-boo. I missed giggles and tickles and playing with him. As a staunch breastfeeder, it was a tough decision, but it was at that point I decided enough was enough. We made the switch to formula. It was like a weight was taken off my chest (almost literally!). Finally life wasn’t only about expressing and sterilizing and storing and warming milk.
I admit I felt pangs of guilt for a long time after our last feed, like I should have tried harder, or tried something else, or put my big girl panties on and just kept at it. I had great support and reassurance from family and friends, especially as my Mum had breastfeeding difficulties with her children, but I wished I’d been able to talk it out with someone else.
I know guilt is a wasted emotion, but it’s so hard to let it go. It seems to come as part and parcel of being a Mum, doesn’t it? I also felt guilty that I’d put my child at risk by choosing somewhat selfishly to keep breastfeeding during those early months, despite my baby suffering! I felt like a terrible Mum, no matter which way I looked at it.
Unfortunately the Australia Breastfeeding Association wasn’t very active in my community at that time. But if you are struggling with the feelings of guilt that can come when you have to stop breastfeeding, it’s worth reading this article and getting in touch.
During one of our visits to our child health nurse, I was explaining to her how I felt, and she told me something that has stayed with me. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I then realised it was up to me whether or not I let the occasional negative comments and eye rolls from strangers affect me. I was doing what was best for my child, my family, and my health, and that’s what mattered most.
If you too are suffering with breastfeeding guilt, remember this: “A fed baby is better than a hungry baby 100 percent of the time.”
Copyright © 2016 Jessica Nash. All Rights Reserved. If sharing please give credit to original post.