I’m a little nervous about publishing this because anything about breastfeeding seems to stir up a lot of debate, antagonism and anger but as I get closer to Bubba T2’s due date breastfeeding is on my mind more and more. I’m especially nervous about sharing this post during National Breastfeeding Celebration Week 2017 because it doesn’t seem like much of a celebratory post. You see I have a confession to make – I hated breastfeeding .
Physically it was fine – the latch was immediate, my supply was good and I never experienced mastitis. But emotionally I hated it. I felt as though I lost my whole identity in a cloud of breast pads and nipple cream, my independence replaced by the constant smell of stale milk. I didn’t feel empowered, I felt diminished. But I had no choice. I had to breastfeed my daughter because she absolutely refused to take a bottle. We tried to introduce one from three weeks but she was having none of it. For parents who have not experienced a bottle-refuser it’s hard to understand but trust me we tried everything. Our house was littered with all manner of bottles and teats and failed techniques. At seven months we gave up and tried to move onto a cup. It took five months for my daughter to drink anything more than drop.
I’m sure there will be mums reading this who struggled or are currently struggling physically with breastfeeding or adore(d) the experience who will be rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. And maybe I was selfish for not being able to enjoy someone being so dependant on me or not being able to cope with my daughter’s reflux which meant some nights she would feed, vomit, feed, vomit and then feed before finally keeping it down but when she had her last breastfeed just before her first birthday I cried tears of relief that it was over. I was free.
Yet this week, when my midwife asked whether I intended to breastfeed I said yes because despite it all I know it will be good for my baby and for me physical health-wise and I realise that it is probably easier to whack a boob out at 3am then faff around with a bottle and I know if I can do it for my daughter I want to at least try to do it for my son.
But this time I will be introducing a bottle immediately preferably with breast milk (we have an industrial strength electric pump that wouldn’t be out of place on a dairy farm). Of course I know about nipple confusion and supply issues and I’m well aware that even introducing a bottle early doors might not work (or work too well) but I also know this is the best decision for me and my family. My mental health is precious and not something I will ever take for granted. I need to make sure I’m also doing what is best for me and well as my baby.
The theme of this year’s National Breastfeeding Celebration Week is breastfeeding support and that’s ultimately why I decided to share this post because last time I felt so alone. I didn’t feel supported because my breastfeeding problems seemed so selfish. No one seemed to feel like I did, even those whose babies also refused a bottle. I felt like a fraud for complaining, unmaternal for not enjoying the closeness and ungrateful for doing something that others longed to do. So whilst I wholeheartedly agree that breastfeeding should be encouraged and celebrated, the support available should do more than that. We should support everyone’s journey and everyone’s struggles to make sure both mum and baby are as happy and as healthy as they can be, however that is achieved.