Breastfeeding Guilt

 

Breastfeeding Guilt – my story

 

I know that breastfeeding has been in the media a lot of late but it’s usually because they’ve been asked to leave places they were feeding in but this post is more about the trials and tribulations of the actually feeding process. I have really struggled second time round and really do feel mummy guilt about it. It frustrates me no end and I know I shouldn’t beat myself up, but I do.

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There is so much pressure put on women to breastfeed from the moment they find out they are pregnant and I always knew that I wanted to give it a go but I never knew first time round if I would carry on or not. I very much believe that you have to do what is best for you and your baby and I don’t judge anyone else’s choices. As it turned out I exclusively breast fed my daughter (my first born) until a few days before her first birthday; she self-weaned herself due to a bad case of tonsillitis over her first birthday. I found she fed easily even though she had a slight tongue tie and I only had the initial soreness in the first few days/weeks and once I had mastitis but it really wasn’t anything that some nipple cream and a hot shower couldn’t handle.

 

Second time round has been a completely different story. I thought that having done it once before, breastfeeding was going to be just as straight forward as the first time. I was looking forward to feeding Benjamin and I couldn’t wait to feel the same closeness that I did when I fed Isabella a few years previously.

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At first things seemed to be going well; he had a good latch (again he has a slight tongue tie which can cause issues), he was getting onto a good schedule and feeding was fine. It was a week or so in that at night Benjamin would become really unsettled and it turned out that he had silent reflux.

 

It seemed as though it was really difficult for him to get comfortable after a feed and I think because of this he started to feed less each time. Because of this, he wasn’t gaining as much weight as the health visitors would have liked. In fact in the first few weeks, he dropped from being just under the 91st centile at birth to under the 50th centile and at week 12 he was actually under the 25th centile. I was devastated and really felt judged; I didn’t feel I was offered any help just ‘advice’ of “feed him on demand” – well if you had bothered to ask me, I already was! “Put him to the boob at every signal” was another word of advice. Well for two days straight I felt I was constantly forcing him to my boobs but he didn’t drink anymore. It just made me feel like I’d failed (I’m actually getting quite emotional writing this as all the horrible feelings of guilt are flooding back).

I began to think I was doing the wrong thing for Benjamin and that I was being selfish so I offered him formula. He drank the first bottle well and I cried as I gave it to him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving formula to babies. I just felt that because I fed Isabella until she was one, I had failed this time; I wasn’t able to offer Benjamin the same as Isabella and it hurt. I thought I would try to supplement my breastfeeding and give one bottle a day to see if that helped but soon after (and to my delight ) once he had started taking ranitidine, he started to refuse the bottle and seemed much happier with breastmilk. I thought we were back on track.

Little did I know just how turbulent this process would be; ever since the beginning we’ve had peaks and troughs with Benjamin’s feeding. Some days he would feed really well and others would be a real battle of wills. Because of his reflux, he found it uncomfortable to feed from my right breast so I had to hold him like an American football behind me for him to drink from the right side. Eventually though he refused to drink from the right side at all. This meant not only did I now have one larger boob, but I also had a very overworked nipple and all the soreness came back. I couldn’t believe how painful it was.

At around 7 months he began dropping feeds and while I knew this was normal behaviour when solids were introduced, it seemed like he was dropping too many. I was really struggling to get him to drink milk and again questioned whether breast was best for him anymore. I tried him on formula again but he wasn’t interested. This boy just isn’t fussed for fluids. As he was still having wet nappies I didn’t worry too much.

By 9 months I was really feeling the pressure of feeding. He was really fussy and would take only small sips of milk (or water) through the day. His nappies weren’t very wet during the day and I took him to the doctor. I wasn’t given any sound advice at all. I really felt alone in my struggle. All I’ve ever wanted was to give my children the best possible start but Benjamin wasn’t making it easy. I wasn’t enjoying the experience anymore and I didn’t think Benjamin was either. It killed me inside but I made the choice to start moving him over to formula so I could keep an eye on how much her was drinking. It was such a tough decision for me to make as I felt hugely guilty that I couldn’t do the same for him as I did my daughter but I pushed the emotion to one side and went with what my gut told me.

Well three days in and it was going even more pear shaped. He was now refusing all bottles and would only take small sips water. It was like he was sticking his middle finger up and telling me where to poke the formula; he wasn’t having any of it and even then refused breast milk from a bottle. I felt like I had made things worse. Strangely he would feed relatively well at night but during the day he was more interested in everything else. I tried taking him into a dark room, feeding before nap times only and it did help a little but not enough to stop me worrying.

Benjamin is now 10 months old and can be really hit and miss with his feeding. I am still breastfeeding (from one breast!) but I’m trying to not be so worried about it (although I had a bad day with it yesterday and got really stressed by it all). I just never thought I’d face so many different problems with breastfeeding. What makes it worse is that I had made the decision to stop and that took a lot for me to do as I felt so guilty about stopping but then my decision was changed for me because Benjamin went on milk strike until I offered him breast again. I know now that he will usually feed well at night (three times is normal but it can be more) so I try not to worry but sleep deprivation is slowly making things harder. I just hope by the time he’s one, things will have settled a bit more and he might start sleeping through the night – wishful thinking I know!

I’ve started to introduce cow’s milk at lunch times as I know I want to move him to cow’s milk at 1. Isabella didn’t take to cow’s milk for months so I thought I’d start to introduce it little by little. We still have a couple of months to go (not that I’m counting or anything!) but this has certainly made me salute every mum that little bit more, regardless of their feeding choice. Nobody knows what struggles parents face but something that is reported so often as being natural and easy can actually feel like the hardest thing in the world. I feel like I’ve battled with breastfeeding and as much as I have loved the bond with Benjamin, it’s been the hardest thing about parenting so far.

 

 

Comments

  1. My youngest is also 10 months 🙂 I struggled with my first to breastfeed and eventually decided formula would be the better option although now with my 2nd I am breastfeeding! I think a good thing to remember is that all babies are different and everything happens for a reason! You are definitely not a bad mother for not being able to give him the same start as his sister, its really brave to have documented your feelings and share them here with everyone! Be glad at knowing you tried and tried again, that takes strength, breastfeeding can definitely be hard!

    • Thank you Francesca, that’s really kind of you to say! Yes, I certainly had to take a step back and realise just how different they are and I now celebrate their differences (even when they cause struggles) as that’s what makes them unique. It’s lovely to hear that after struggling first time round, you tried again and were successful. 🙂 I love to hear success stories! X

  2. I wish there was more real help and advice for women rather than just ‘breast is best’. It just adds guilt and doesn’t help mothers or their children!

  3. No two kids are alike and you should be proud of yourself that you have consistently tried to breastfeed.

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