My take on breastfeeding and why I had to give up

In the light of world breastfeeding week, I would like to share my experience. It’s not intended to cause a row, and join one team or the other, it’s just a story of how it was for me and my son. Well I can only guess about his part because he can’t tell me properly but here’s the thing, it didn’t go all that well and I’m still pretty gutted about that. We all know that breastfeeding is the best way you can feed your baby by far. Nothing in formula rivals the components of breast milk by the smallest amount, but I had to formula feed my son as I simply didn’t make enough milk. So this puts me into the category of the 1-2% of people who are unable to breastfeed I suppose. I have never been told properly but I put this down to having an emergency section and sepsis. I’m aware there are mother’s who manage breastfeeding after going through all this, and I am in no doubt that pumping in hospital did save my life because it made my womb contract (which is where the infection was), but I was literally pumping for hours just to produce 50-60mls. Apart from it being a really uncomfortable process, it was really hard to do when I felt like death personified. Ewan was also jaundiced but not enough to be put under lamps I was told, so what he needed to do was guess what? He needed milk and plenty of it and that was the one thing I didn’t have. I had no sensation of milk coming into my breasts, no sensation of let down, no nothing. The nurses and midwives were lovely and tried to help me with all kinds of positions, but Ewan, who also had sepsis, and jaundice, was too tired to latch and suck. I had no alternative but to supplement with formula from day one near enough. So since the day of my son’s birth I have been filled with guilt for giving formula to my son but ultimately I know that it saved his life. I had to take comfort in the fact that whatever breast milk I could give him was a bonus. None of the nurses or midwives I should point out we’re responsible for instilling this guilt in me. Social media and just my overall naivety about what it is actually like to be a mum have been very much to “blame” if you like. The message at my only antenatal class was very pro breastfeeding and of course that’s what I wanted and why should it not be? Of course I would be able to do it, (error) like I would naturally have this baby (again error) and in fact I would have an excess of milk that would have to be frozen (I even bought the bags-definite error). Everything was already there in my head because of what I already know about breastfeeding and it’s what I wanted to do from the start. Its failing at it that really knocked my confidence, not the fact I had to formula feed, as I knew I had no choice.

It was about 2 weeks after being discharged from hospital that something wonderful happened. Ewan latched! It was only to the right tit (left never worked properly so guess I’m cack titted as well as cack handed) but still, he had found the energy and motivation to feed from me. I was so happy, but also filled with a lot of trepidation about what was in my breastmilk (painkillers, antibiotics in quite vast quantities), even though I had been assured by the hospital staff it was safe for me to breastfeed (I don’t think it was actually). Sadly the breastfeeding dream still didn’t materialise properly. I still didn’t experience let down or the filling of my breasts. I still had to combi feed. When Ewan was about 8 weeks he rejected breastfeeding himself altogether. The PND really kicked in then as I struggled to come to terms with completely formula feeding. Anxiety surrounding him getting ill again and not having the antibodies from my breastmilk made me feel like a massive guilt ridden failure all over again and triggered the worst bout of anxiety and depression I have ever experienced. On the other hand the reflux he experienced from my breastmilk being pumped full of painkillers and antibiotics was equally difficult for me to deal with. He would throw up literally seconds after every breastfeed. He would throw up after bottle feeds but after a longer period for sure. Looking back it was all perfectly “normal”. He was a “happy chucker” but I was worried. So both types of feeding caused me to have massive anxiety really. I still cling to him getting at least a bit of my breastmilk though despite everything. Even though he is a perfectly healthy 20 month old, causing me no end of toddler grief now. The guilt never stops. That’s why I don’t find slogans like breast is best, Fed is best, informed is best particularly relevant or helpful to me. I am pretty well informed and look what happened! I must say I admire breastfeeding Mum’s, especially those that persevere through the really hard times of cluster feeding, ruined bleeding nipples and mastitis, to still be breastfeeding and finding the experience enjoyable and life affirming. Most of all though I admire Mums. Whether it’s choice or not, breastfeeding and formula feeding is fucking hard. Feeding children is fucking hard (weaning is not going well either!) so more power to those that feed babies. However you manage you do a great job!

#worldbreastfeedingweek #breastfeeding #formulafeeding #postnataldepression #maternalmentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #WBFW2018

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