The great feeding debate.
When pregnant I planned to breastfeed. It was not a rigidly assertive decision I just simply presumed and was confident that because it was natural, it would be easy. Each birthing session polarised towards breastfeeding where we were instructed on the many benefits. A knitted breast was passed around. We laughed together. No one raised their hand when asked who was planning to formula feed.
After a complicated forceps birth and 3rd degree episiotomy (in non-medical terms the midwife had a big scissors) pain was the unexpected currency of my days. Discharged from hospital I found myself feeling lost and overwhelmed.
A first time mum I existed in a giddy sleep deprived haze of cluelessness and caffeine.
My new parent self wore the same pyjamas for a week and as I could not sit down, I fed my son standing up. The outside world was a distant memory. Thankfully my mother had come to stay, without her I would have floundered. With all the prenatal classes I had I don’t think one instructed me about how to dress a baby, how to put on a nappy or bath him safety.
It was like learning to swim without armbands, in a tsunami.
My midwife tutted at the state of my stitches, gathered my son in her arms and chatted happily to him. Leo found it difficult to latch on. I was uncomfortable, anxious and he was irritable. As soon as I took my bra off it would be like a milk nerf gun would shoot in his face. Often he would be sick because it was coming out to fast.
One day, moving the moses basket into the hall whilst he slept, I climbed into the bath. The door was wide open so I could watch. Closing my eyes I can still remember the smell of the lavender and jasmine pooled into the lukewarm water. I sobbed and sobbed and then found I was in too much pain and too exhausted to get out of the bath. If someone had offered to take my baby away I would have begged them to in that moment. I could barely look at him. Shame is a cruel creature.
I had utterly folded under the stress and pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed.
This is not an anti-breastfeeding post, many of my amazing mummy friends were/are extended breast feeders and they do it with grace and love and joy. I went out and bought bottles. My midwife reassured me any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. My Health visitor took the logical approach of ‘but you know that breastfeeding is best for baby’. I felt like I was being critiqued. Looking back I know she was being supportive of what she knows is a positive thing. To me at that time the stressful breastfeeding relationship was damaging my ability to bond with my son. I was depressed, on a lot of pain medication and riddled with worry it was unsafe for him. Breast may be best for baby, but baby also needs their mum to be at her best and I was not. I resented feeding and hated myself. Hated.
We all deserved an informed choice.
Sobbing with relief, regret, shoulders heavy with the weight of expectation I chose to just feed my son. Years later I do get a pang of the lost chance of bonding with an added dollop of guilt on the side. Guilt that I was somehow giving him less that I should have, that I was somehow less of a mother because of it. Pulling out the bottle in baby group left me wincing, waiting for judgement.
Ban the bitching and promote active kindness to other parents. A mum was breastfeeding in a coffee shop the other day trying to cover her baby in muslin and glancing at the people in the shop. I remember that anxiety, we all feel it, boob or no boob. I brought her a cup of tea, a big one. The source of all compassion.
Dads do not lactate and look how kick ass they can be.
Take good advice where you can, be kind, try your hardest and know that no mum is perfect. If you bottle feed look into what type of bottles are good; Dr Browns are great for colicky baby’s, Boots own brand are cheap and do the job, you need to buy different teat sizes as your baby grows when bottle feeding (formula or expressing). Dads can get involved with bottle feeding. Look into the different types of baby formula and you don’t have to buy an all singing all dancing steriliser. I brought a travel one that fit in the microwave for £10.
If you are breastfeeding make sure you eat well and drink lots of water, I loved cheese and nuts as snacks. I also enjoyed a snickers or two! Find a breastfeeding support group. Check out scarfs or clothes that make it easier, get comfortable with bras with flaps and lots of Lansinoh. If you are struggling and no one is around there is the National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212.
Let’s normalise both breasts and bottles and stop knocking each other down. Save your energy it’s going to be a long lifetime of parenthood. Feeding a baby should not be an either or argument.
#ablogginggoodtime in going to write about my breast feeding experience,
It was unique and bizarre and thank you for making me reflect on it.
My favourite line is ‘dads don’t lactate and look how kids ass they are’
Thank you x
Such a brilliant post hun. SO heartfelt and you are of course spot on, it is all about what is best for this mummy and this baby and I certainly don’t think that mummy’s should be put under any pressure, we should all have the right to choose what is best for us and out babies at the time. I bottle fed one and breastfed the other because that suited us! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?
I will keep this in mind undecided on bottle or breast yet but thank you for the info
This is such a wonderful post. My younger just gave birth for the first time and things can be a little overwhelming. In Thailand there aren’t breast-feeding support groups as such but she is so lucky to have family support near by. Thank you so much for your brave and supportive post to sharing with us on #FabFridayPost
Thank you for such a kind comment, it is a lovely linky 🙂 Things can definitely be overwhelming especially with your firstborn, so glad to hear she has a supportive family xx
We went through a pretty similar experience with our little one and spent days at the breastfeeding clinic! In the end the stress wasn’t worth it as it was really getting in the way of my other half bonding with our little one, so she stopped and pumped instead for 6 months!! She was so much happier after she stopped and she could actually start to enjoy being a mum!
I think the most important thing is to be relaxed and happy as long as baby is fed! Glad you and your partner found a positive solution for you all 🙂 x
Love this post Jade – so beautifully put. For me, the beginning weeks were much the same – that drowning feeling and passing the baby to my mum because I was just so overwhelmed with tiredness. It really is just about that togetherness with your baby….at 8 weeks we decided to bottle feed and it took a while to not feel bad, like I was taking something away from her..fab post x #fabfridaypost
I am glad the post resonated with you I was so anxious about posting it, I did not want to offend anyone but tried to be honest and balanced in my view , You really are soo tired!xx
I had a difficult birth first time round and struggled to breastfeed. I got help from the NCT supporter who was amazing – the midwives just didn’t have time to help me enough. If the government/NHS want more people to breastfeed, they need to provide support, because it is so so hard.
Second time around has been much easier, so you may well get a chance if you choose to breastfeed another baby, but I know that many, many mums will have gone through exactly the same as you xx #BloggerClubUK
Hey lovely thank you for commenting, it is so nice to hear about peoples positive experiences! NCT supporter sounds amazing..that’s what we need more of like you say! Bit of kindness and reassurance x
I breastfed my first for about a year and the second for only three months or so. Now the kids are six and two and I can honestly say I never give a moments thought to how I fed either of them. As mothers we will find a way to feel guilty about anything and everything. Breast, bottle ..whatever choice is right for you is right for your baby
I love that you give no consideration to it now no worries or guilt, that’s the way it should be xxx
I breastfed my daughter for 7 LONG months. I debated over the switch to formula…but in the end it was best for us both! My supply dropped and we got to a point where my daughter would just cry and cry after a feeding. And I couldn’t pump enough to be away from her. Breastfeeding shouldn’t cause so much anxiety and stress. All that matters that baby is fed!
That is a really great achievement…you don’t want your little one being unhappy and it wasn’t your fault your supply dropped like you said baby just needs feeding!xx
This is such a great post! I’m a breastfeeding mum but I’ve felt everything you describe. And you are so right, it’s about baby and mum together. You need a happy mum to be able to do her best for her baby. I especially love how you’ve given tips for both at the end of your post. Baby feeding is such a judgmental topic, it’s nice to find a point of view that emphasises what really is important- happy and healthy mums and babies 🙂
Thank you lovely I just think turning views into opposition and competition just doesn’t help mums, we have to much pressure anyway!x