Breastfeeding. It’s such a difficult issue to talk about and everyone has differing opinions. Every new parent wants the best for their child, so given that, the natural choice would be to breastfeed, simple? Not really. The “best milk” for your child comes from you but there is more to it than just this. I genuinely believe in breastfeeding, and even though my breastfeeding experience wasn’t an easy one, I would do it again without any doubt.
The best way to explain my opinion on this issue is to tell my breastfeeding story, so here it is, I wonder how many of you can relate??
I breastfed my little miss for a little over 4 months, the whole experience was fairly difficult for me as a first time mum.
In the hospital, after Little Miss decided to join us, (via c-section) I tried to breastfeed at every feed, unsuccessfully…to the extent I would sit up in my bed at night crying (along with baby) because I found it so difficult. For me, it didn’t feel natural and was beyond painful. The nurses on my ward weren’t much help, (overworked and underpaid) they just wanted me to feed my baby whichever way worked for me, obviously leaning more towards breastfeeding, informing me that it is difficult in the beginning but it gets easier. On reflection, the pressure I felt wasn’t necessarily from the nurses, but from my own expectations. As soon as we got pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I wasn’t prepared to feed my baby any other way.
On the ward, I didn’t understand how the other new mums appeared to make the decision not to breastfeed so easily. In the cafeteria when I told the other new mums I was breastfeeding, they almost scowled at me. Maybe they thought I was better than them or something. I was one of the two on a ward of eight that was breastfeeding. I wished these girls knew the inner turmoil I was experiencing. (Would be interesting to see % breastfeeding mums in the west of Scotland)
After 5 days in hospital, I had decided to breastfeed and “top-up” with formula. The pressure I put on myself in the hospital, in front of everyone, was so great, I had to get home. The decision to “top-up” made me feel such a sense of failure. When we got home, in the comfort of my own home, I tried feeding again, for 12 hours, we sat in the same spot and practiced, we eventually mastered the mechanics of it….and it got easier.
During those 12 hours, however, we had to go and buy formula milk, which we had no idea about (the cost is ridiculous) we had to sterilise bottles, all feeding equipment, breast pumps, etc…it was so time consuming. Mark didn’t get to spend any time with us the first day we got home from the hospital, he spent the whole day in the kitchen, making formula and sterilising. I did not want to do this for the next 12 months and neither did Mark. Another motivating factor to make breastfeeding work for us.
Although Mark was amazing, waking up with me in the night for every feed, I still felt a lot of pressure, its hard to explain, like it was my sole responsibility for the health of our child. All of the feeds were on my shoulders, (was she eating enough, is she crying because she is hungry, is she teething, comfort sucking, is it a growth spurt) I felt like I had no control. Most breastfeeding information tells you to trust your body, it will provide everything your baby needs…but I needed tangible evidence, more than the growth charts. (which for us said our daughter was in the 97th percentile for weight and height and growing fine.)
After 3 months of beating myself up every day, we decided to introduce a bottle of expressed milk in the evening before bed, which Mark would give.
I hated that I felt relieved to give part of the responsibility of feeding to Mark but soon came to terms with that…I felt happier. I always heard people say “happy mum=happy baby” so I forced myself to believe it.
We introduced formula soon after, the actual transition for us wasn’t that difficult. We were in some sort of routine by this point so I was confident we were doing the right thing. I was taking control, making decisions and it felt good.
I had put so much pressure on myself to breastfeed from the beginning that when I didn’t live up to my own expectations, I felt like a failure. This article I found in the Herald reports some of the issues I experienced weren’t only experienced by me.
When I found out I was pregnant and I told the doctors I planned to breastfeed, there was no further information given to me, I was doing the natural thing, so I wasn’t prepared for it not to work or to be as difficult. I wish I were more informed on the alternatives from the beginning, either looking into alternatives myself OR the medical profession providing information, but it seems they don’t want this as they want women to breastfeed. More support during feeds, in the hospital would also have made me feel more confident. Maybe I was too ashamed to ask, I don’t know.
I support breastfeeding 100%, it has the best nutritional value for your child, it isn’t however always the best option for some women. I don’t understand why some women don’t try though. Part of me believes that all the pressure from the medical profession and society is having an adverse affect on how breastfeeding is perceived. I will breastfeed next time, (if there is a next time!) but will be more prepared; practically and emotionally.
What are your thoughts? Did you breastfeed, didn’t you? Do you think the medical profession, media, etc are making women think twice about breastfeeding? I really do want to know what you think!!