Breast is best. We all know that, we all hear it.
And on one hand I would agree. But on the other hand, is it best when it affects your mental health? Takes time away from your precious little human, just to pump like a milking machine?
I spent my whole pregnancy determined that I was gonna breastfeed, after all I was a Stroud bird born & bred, and that’s what we do in Stroud right? Well apparently not.
You read all these stories about how difficult it can be & how much it hurts but I still persuaded myself that I would do it, because it was best for my baby.
As soon as he was born, Dexter latched on and I thought to myself ‘wayhay away we go, this is easier than I thought’. And that was about all of this breastfeeding game he wanted to play. He was too sleepy to care for the first couple of days, but I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I had multiple midwives at my beck and call, night & day, whenever I attempted to feed him, trying to get him to stay attached and nobody could master it.
Nobody wanted me to give up though, and I spent the first few days squeezing colostrum out of my nipples into a 1ml (!) syringe to feed to my increasingly starving newborn. Finally a midwife suggested maybe my nipples were a bit flat and Dexter was struggling to get a latch on…
All my life I’ve never noticed I had odd nipples.. they’re perfectly normal to me and not particularly ‘flat’. And there she was, stood in front of a new mother full of hormones, telling her she had FLAT nipples. Well, that didn’t go down well. I may as well quit now, was all I could think.
However, I persisted.
I mean, what did they do back in the day before formula was invented? They fed them somehow surely? Or did the babies just die from starvation? (One for Google!)
The midwife suggested nipple shields- Big. Fake. Plastic. Nipples. But not to try until my milk came in because colostrum would clog them up- meaning I had to spend the next few days syringing the f**k out of my nips. (It got tedious).
Fast forward a few days.. Massive (first time in my entire life), rock hard, milk filled tits. And finally the nipple shields arrive in the post, so we give it a go and BINGO– the boy’s attached! Woohoo.
I even got so ahead of myself that I treated myself to a very expensive breast pump- I told the husband that if I couldn’t feed properly then at least I could pump and feed him a bottle. With this ridiculous, fantastic image in my head of a bottle FULL of breast milk- (HA HA fucking HA.)
We’ll come back to that….
The next day, I’m on it with the nipple shields, and away we go, for a full day of breastfeeding.
Yes. A FULL. BLOODY. DAY.
Nobody told me about the cluster feeding….. in other words, turning into a full on milking machine.
He was on the boob ALL day & would not settle unless he was attached. I was miserable. I was on the edge. Wishing that breastfeeding just came naturally. By 11pm, when I’m totally and utterly exhausted, sleep deprived and sucked dry, I gave in & fed him a bottle of formula, just so I could get a few valuable hours of sleep. And that night, he slept like MY HUSBAND. (In case you’re wondering- that’s extremely well.)
It was that moment when I realised I couldn’t do it full time. I didn’t have it in me. I decided that I’d do combination feeding, and then express to keep the supply up & feed him bottles of breast milk when I could.
But could I express much? No I damn well couldn’t.
Next hurdle- trying to produce some bloody milk. 30ml was about the most I got. No wonder the baby was constantly on the boob and miserable- he was bloody STARVING!
I missed those valuable first few days of breastfeeding, where my baby magically tells my boobies how much milk he wants. Instead it was hurdle after hurdle. I wanted to cuddle my baby, show him off, enjoy the time with my friends and family and this new bundle of gorgeousness. But I couldn’t, because I was worrying about when I would express next and whether it would be a faff to feed him next. Gradually the formula feeds took over the breastfeeds and I mostly just expressed. And gradually that dwindled off because we all know breastfeeding is supply and demand, and if there’s no demand then it will eventually get less & less. So I was expressing a measly 10ml and it was utterly pointless. One day I sat down and asked myself why I was doing it- and my answer to myself was, because I don’t want to lose my milk, because that’ll be the end. It was all too final. And the guilt was horrific.
Not to mention, I had an image in my head of my little baby feeding from me, looking up at me & grabbing my finger whilst he fed, and I couldn’t shake it, I couldn’t help feeling like the worst person in the world for just giving up. But I had to remind myself that actually he does all of that whilst feeding from a bottle too, it was just the guilt taking over.
That was the day I gave up, I decided to call it a day. Could I have tried harder? Absolutely yes I could have. But what was more important? My baby getting breastmilk (when really he probably doesn’t give a shit either way) or my mental health? If you know me well, then you’ll know I’m an organisational freak. So having to plan in expressing & breastfeeding times where I could feed in private without the risk someone might see those Big. Plastic. Nips of mine and think WTF– was stressful. I genuinely thought that I would never be able to leave the house again if breastfeeding was all about cluster feeding- if only I had known it would only last a day or 2. And having to top up every breastfeed with formula- that was just a pain in the ass.
When all I wanted to do was enjoy those first few weeks, get through those bleak baby blues days, take care of my newborn baby & take care of myself and my sore LADY BITS that were stitched up like a designer vagina (that nobody warns you about either).
It took me weeks to forgive myself for just giving up breastfeeding, but finally, once me & my boy were settled into a routine, he was happy & content, I was getting some sleep & enjoying motherhood- that’s when I realised I’d made the right decision and the happiness & contentment that me & my boy shared was the reason I did it. I wasn’t stressed anymore & neither was he.
He was fed & that’s the only thing that mattered.
Nobody should feel guilty for not breastfeeding, sometimes the bond between mum & baby is more important.. do I think we would have such a good bond if I’d have struggled on? I’m not sure, but I do know that stress is a problem. A problem that can spiral out of control, especially when you’re a fragile, hormonal new mum and if I hadn’t fixed that problem, I wouldn’t be embracing and loving motherhood like I do now.
And finally, to all you breastfeeding Moms out there.. I salute you. What you’re doing is amazing & you should be proud of yourselves for making it work for you & your little humans.