To breastfeed, or not to breastfeed – that is the question!

Rach‘To breastfeed, or not to breastfeed -that is the question’, or is it? For many new mummies, this decision is taken away from them. From NCT classes and pregnancy guides to well meaning acquaintances, everyone is keen to tell you that ‘breast is best’. Well, for me ‘breast and bottle was best’.

Throughout my pregnancy I had been worrying that I might not be able to breastfeed. I was so keen to have that bonding time with our baby and to at least give her those most important antibodies in the first 10 days. So when the time came and our beautiful daughter arrived, I was over the moon to feed her during our first skin-to-skin moments (before I had even checked if we had a son or a daughter!). Although my proper milk took a little longer to come through (5 days as opposed to the 2/3 days that we were told to expect) and I of course experienced the “ouch, my nipples are going to drop off” moments, everything seemed plain sailing for the first fortnight.

Then, at 14 days postpartum, I was hospitalised for 3 days. It was at this point that I realised no mummy should ever take the experience for granted, and that no onlookers have the right to judge how a mummy feeds their child. Not only was I separated from my new baby, but also I could only breastfeed during visiting hours. I was offered a pump so that I could express but despite my best efforts, I had no success – the milk just would not come. The doctor’s solution – give up! After so many sources telling you how important breast milk is, we couldn’t believe that this was their advice. Well, I’m stubborn (and I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive hubby, family and group of friends) so I kept breastfeeding and our daughter had a bottle when daddy took her home. Unfortunately, her weight gain then slowed and despite my best efforts to feed more regularly once I was home, we had no choice but to introduce formula top ups. At this point the doctors again told me that my milk would stop and that I may as well move her to only formula feeds. I was so upset that my milk wasn’t enough for my baby, but your baby’s needs come first and she needed those top-ups! After a few days, she was not only gaining weight, but also a noticeably happier, calmer little girl.

9 months on and I am still combination feeding. So to all of those doctors who told me not to bother, perseverance did pay off! Whilst this was my journey through the challenges of feeding, I have learnt that breastfeeding is not a certainty, but a blessing and that every mother’s journey is entirely unique. I have friends who desperately wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t (one baby was lactose intolerant and one mummy just couldn’t produce enough milk) and then other friends who decided it just wasn’t for them. All of these mummies experienced a certain level of guilt, when they should have been feeling pride at how well they had taken to motherhood.

A major flaw in British breastfeeding clinics is that many of them turn parents away if they have feeding issues after babies are 14-21 days old. In so many cases, breastfeeding glitches happen after this time – so where are these mummies meant to turn? If my experiences have taught me anything, it is that breastfeeding is not always a choice. After seeing the struggles of my friends, I feel truly blessed to have been able to experience breastfeeding, but I would say that it isn’t always easy, it isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t always a choice. When it comes to your baby, you know best!Rach2

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Comments

  1. Yes, the guilt is always there and I guess it’s because of the way breastfeeding has been and is still being portrayed in the media and all other outlets. But, like you mentioned, it’s may not always be possible. I had no issues with breastfeeding but when I resumed work after maternity leave, I had to supplement with formula.

    Whichever way it goes, I think mums should just flow with the moment. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other mums. Just accept your situation and make the best of it. No guilt feelings. Just submit to the moment and enjoy it. After all, you’ve got a child to be grateful for. Whichever way the feeding goes has nothing to do with you. Don’t feel bad.

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