When I was pregnant I was convinced I would breastfeed for the first 6 months of my child’s life. I was living in a naive first time mum bubble. I read all the books on it, I listened to the midwives tell me how to get the ‘perfect latch’ and I googled excessively. I was prepared. Yes, I knew it could be difficult, and a lot of mums struggle but that won’t be me I told myself daily. How could i fail at something that was so natural?
I wasn’t mentally prepared for how it felt. I didn’t get a rush of happiness, I got instant pain. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to praise the midwives for the support they gave me but I do feel I was just ignored a bit in my cries for help, and I mean real cries. Begging them to show me what I was doing wrong. Every time I was told to just push through the pain. The first few days with a newborn at home are a whirlwind of emotion anyway, let alone when you’re in agony because of a bad latch. Was it me? Was it Jack? I think it was both. Neither of us could get on with it. I had 3 midwives and a breastfeeding specialist tell me the latch was fine. I tried every position, every tip but every time that toe curling pain came back and remained there. Jack dropped ALOT of weight when he was born, I know some is normal but this was enough for the midwife to tell me to set alarms every 2 hours to feed him. I was on a mission, I got him back up to his birth weight within two days. They couldn’t believe it, they weighed him over and over again to check the scales were right. Go mummy! This triumph I felt came at a price. My poor boobs. They were constantly in agony. My nipples were bleeding and cracked. I was miserable, everytime I seen Jack making hunger cues I felt this overwhelming feeling of dread. I could feel myself slipping into a horrible cycle of crying whilst feeding him, crying after and having about half an hour of no pain before it all started again. I was in such a dark state of emotional exhaustion, pair that with a newborn that is cluster feeding and my god it’s hard!
Still, I was so determined I pushed on. We had a couple of good days, it was like a different mum and baby. Pain free and rewarding. This quickly went away, I wracked my brain over and over again to what changed. There was absolutely nothing I could think of. It just did.
I read a lot online about introducing formula, I have absolutely no problems with formula at all. I think a lot of people (me included get so caught up in the world wind of breastfeeding) during your pregnancy it’s thrown at you with very little information on alternatives. Or that was my experience anyway. Don’t get me wrong, there is no denying it’s best, but at what price? A miserable mum and upset, unsettled baby? I don’t think so. My breaking point was one day where Jack stayed on me from 7am till 1pm and still screamed when I took him off. I was in agony, I couldn’t bare him latching on again. Cue Michael putting his foot down, he found me on our bed in tears (this was the norm now, I cried constantly) he told me enough was enough and for Jacks next feed he would make a bottle. I knew I made the right decision to agree when I felt intense relief when I seen him wolfing it down, and he actually feel asleep after it. I had a content happy baby. Hallelujah!!
Then came the guilt, I felt like a failure. I was depriving my baby of the best thing for him all because I was sore. I hated myself, I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling disappointed. I spent my whole 9 months of pregnancy planning to breastfeed for 6 months not 3 weeks. How did I manage to fail? Should I carry on? I kept going back to feeding him myself. This resulted in a grumpy hungry baby and a sore mum. Not ideal for either of us!
The next day my health visitor came round, I was a mess. I cried for about half an hour and told her everything, I expected her to tell me to push on with it like the midwifes did but she was so supportive. She reassured me Jack wouldn’t hate me (yes, I thought this) and all he needed was to be fed and have a happy mum that can look after him. Something I was struggling to do while I was feeding him. I carried on for a few days but now Jack is exclusively forumula fed and thriving.
The main advantage of breastfeeding in my experience was it’s certainly easier, you don’t have to sterilise bottles and faff about with making them up. The main advantage of forumula feeding? We are happy and that one advantage outweighs anything else.
One of my biggest regrets now is how I pushed and pushed to carry on. I look back on those first few weeks and I was in a dark cloud of misery. All because I felt I had to breastfeed, and it simply wasn’t an option for me to ‘fail’. Now I look at it as whether you breastfeed for 6 months, a year, 1 day or 1 week you haven’t failed, likewise if you choose not to breastfeed. You’re still feeding your child, you’re giving them nourishment, love and security. How can any mother fail who gives their child that?
Luckily now, I’m slowly learning to deal with the guilt. I breastfeed my baby for 3 weeks, he’s happy and I’m happy and that’s all that matters to me.
Fed is definitely best.