Did I Make A Boob?

Date: 29 June, 2016
Tags: breastfeeding, bottle feeding, feeding, baby, mother

Yes, like many before me I decided to throw my oar in (or bra in) on the baby feeding debate…

After a complicated forceps birth and 3rd degree episiotomy (in non-medical terms the midwife had a big scissors. Wince). I was left with pain from the procedure and unbeknown to me at the time, a broken coccyx. My lady parts were akin to Frankenstein’s monster, he may have looked better. Needless to say I was in relentless pain. 

As a first time mum I existed in a giddy sleep deprived haze of cluelessness and caffeine. I think I 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. I had planned to breastfeed, it was not a rigidly assertive decision but I was aware of the health benefits of breast milk and was instructed of the positives in every birthing session. I did not buy bottles or formula. In earnest I was simply confident that because it was natural it would be easy.

In reality I was discharged from hospital and found myself feeling lost. Thankfully my mother had come to stay for three days, I don’t remember them but without her I would have floundered. I do recall her explaining that the baby needed a vest under his sleepsuit and with all the prenatal classes I had I don’t think one told 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. Take deep breaths and a couple of minutes to calm yourself down as it is frustrating.

One day, moving his moses basket into the hall whilst he slept I climbed into the bath. I left the door wide open so I could watch him. I can still remember the smell of the lavender and jasmine I had glugged into the lukewarm water. I sobbed and sobbed and then found I was in too much pain and too tired to get out of the bath. I rang my midwife and through sheer grim determination flopped myself out and onto the floor. Thinking back I have to smile, it was like a bad replica scene of Free Willy and I was the whale.

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 got Leo a bottle. 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 mummy to be at her best and I was not. I resented feeding and hated myself.

I made a choice. It was one of the most tearing I have made, which it shouldn’t have been. It WAS the best choice available to me with the knowledge I had. I berated myself, I sobbed, I was relieved. I still, five years later, get a pang of the lost chance of bonding with an added dollop of guilt on the side. Guilt that I was somehow giving my son less that I should have, that I was somehow less of a mother because of it. When I gave him a bottle in baby group I would worry that I was getting judged.

It was the mummy friends I made that kept me sane and so I promote active kindness to other mums. I see a tired looking parent and smile a knowing smile, one that I hope puts forward a message of reassurance, of fellowship, of ‘you can do this even though you are exhausted and haven’t brushed your teeth in a week’. 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! Find a breastfeeding support group. Check out breastfeeding scarfs or clothes that make it easier, get comfortable with bras with flaps and Lansinoh. If you are struggling and no one is around there is the National Breastfeeding Helpline to call on 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. 

And remember, your baby loves you whatever.



A Cornish Mum

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Silly Mumy 29 July 2016

Yes, I agree. If it's not best for you, it's not best for baby. They're fine as long as they are fed something, but they need you to be coping and healthy, and breastfeeding is not conducive to that for everyone. #picknmix

Mummy and monkeys 28 July 2016

Yes totally agree with this. You have to do what's best for you! We put so much pressure on ourselves sometimes. Wish mums could just support each other whatever our choices. Thanks for linking to #picknmix

A Cornish Mum 27 July 2016

This is always one of those ones that ends up in debate, to me though you have to do what is best for your baby and for you whatever that may be. Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix Stevie x

wendy 22 July 2016

That last sentence is so true, all that matters is that your baby is being fed and they are happy..it really shouldn't matter where the milk comes from, boob or bottle. I breastfed my son for 10 months but i would never judge anyone for bottle feeding. Breast isn't best if mum is unhappy xx #picknmix

OddHogg 22 July 2016

I felt an immense pressure to breastfeed, a pressure I had mostly put on myself. I felt so much guilt when Piglet needed formula top ups, resulting in 50% of his feeds being formula for the first 8 weeks. He is now BF - but I'm not 100% on whether the stress was worth it. Great post #PicknMix

Anne marshall 30 June 2016

Thanks for writing this. I have had similar experiences. I think it's a shame that we are made to feel guilty for making a choice that protects our sanity which in turn protects our child. The guilt starts from the hospital ward, to other mothers, and as you said is something we think about for years after. it's a shame we have to feel so bad about something as you described we tried so hard to do. It's not always so easy, and everyone's situation and baby is different. We need to support each other and not make divisions.

Katherine 29 June 2016

Thank you for this. Really beautifully written. I 'gave up' breast feeding. It was the right/ only decision for us at the time but I think about it everyday. Every cold makes me wonder and everytime morrisons runs out of aptimal I beat myself up...but I know, like you, it's ok and we just need to be kinder to ourselves. XXXX


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