I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but haven’t had the courage to do it as it’s a controversial, taboo subject. But my mind is in an honest and open place at the moment, and I felt it was time.
Firstly, I want to say that breast milk is, of course, 100% the best thing for your baby. I’d like to make it clear that I’m not disputing that in any way. Got that? Breast is best! However, there are times when breastfeeding doesn’t always work out; some women can’t breastfeed from day one, and there are some that try their very best to breastfeed, but in the end it affects the relationship between mother and baby too much. I fall into this category.
It isn’t a secret that I struggled with breastfeeding; Busby’s latch was perfect, but she’d clamp on too soon, which resulted in tears from me, and then tears from her when we attempted to de-latch. But not before she opened up the wounds on my nipples; my dry, cracked, engorged breasts, and they bled. There’s nothing quite as horrific as seeing your baby with blood around her mouth, and consequently, blood in her sick. I (not-so) affectionately nicknamed her my vampire baby, but beneath the humour and the brave face I was struggling. It got to a point where I would sob every time she cried for food because I was so afraid of the pain. I started resenting my baby. Associating her with the agony I felt. Darkness descended upon our relationship. I’d watch the clock, dreading the moment when she would latch on. The midwives were great to start with; encouraging. But after seeing a different one every day for two weeks, I started to feel frustrated by their presence; assuring them that Busby’s latch was fine and them insisting to see her latch on again, only to be told “her latch is perfect”…Yes I already know that, it’s not her latch that’s the problem. They would then look through my notes and change “the plan” that had been agreed between myself and yesterday’s midwife. I felt under so much pressure to continue with her on my breast, not to pump because “once they go on the bottle they get lazy and never go back to the breast.” Conflicting advice. Confusing. I began to see Community Midwives in a whole new, not very nice, light.
The stress of it all made my milk supply dry up. I continued pumping as much as I could for a month after Busby was born, but after that I had nothing left. By this point we were supplementing with formula. I remember sitting in the bath at midnight at around 3 weeks, sobbing; I felt like such a failure. Guilty. Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing, and I couldn’t even do that for my baby! I was an awful mother.
After a month we started solely using formula: SMA was horrid and left Busby dreadfully constipated, so we switched to Cow & Gate. (So much better, and it doesn’t reek of iron.) Once again, breast is totally best, but there are some benefits to bottle feeding. The biggest one is that the father can feed the baby; Nick has really enjoyed doing this, and it has definitely increased his bond with Busby.
I’ve had some interesting experiences with people, as it’s one of those subjects that everyone has an opinion on. One Sales Assistant reduced me to tears after implying that I was a bad mother. Even friends and family have given me looks when I’ve said I’m not breastfeeding anymore; the worst are from those who don’t have children, and therefore have no idea what it involves.
So many people have reminded me of the phrase “happy mum, happy baby” and it’s so true. Not everyone feeds their baby formula because they’re lazy or “didn’t like breastfeeding”; there’s usually a reason behind it, so please be kind and don’t be condescending: don’t judge anyone before you know their story.
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