Why I Could Never Preach About Breastfeeding

 

There’s plenty controversy surrounding the issue of Breastfeeding in the Media of recent. The debate over bottle v breastfed babies is spiralling out of control, it’s to the point of teetering on ridiculous. As a mother of two, I have my own opinions on this matter. Opinions that rival those of millions.

My son, my first born, never took to the breast. Before he was born, I had an idealised version of Motherhood. In this, my child took to my breast harmoniously and worked in sync with my body. There were no tears over his inability to latch, no guilt over my poor milk supply. I was going to breastfeed, I was 100% sure of it.
So when it didn’t happen, I was left tormented by the whole ordeal. At 24 hours old, Tristan was diagnosed with Jaundice. Although common in newborns (and even more so in those born before 40 weeks), Tristan’s bilirubin levels plotted high above the treatment line, leaving him under U.V lights for 6 days. In this time, Tristan was made to take formula every 2 hours to wash out the infection. I wasn’t allowed to hold him unless trying to feed. Even when he screamed for my affection, I had to deny him. The roll on effect of this was that, due to not being able to give him skin to skin, my milk supply was practically non-existant. It also meant that when in my arms, Tristan took comfort in my embrace instead of trying to work. Lastly, like many boys, he was also incredibly lazy and didn’t understand why he had to work when milk had been given to him for free without demand.
Once out of hospital, I persevered, I even scheduled my days around expressing to make sure he got the ‘liquid gold’ but it was hard and tiring. Tristan’s one week check up confirmed that he had lost 10% of his body weight. My ultimatum was either continue trying and risk him being hospitalised or give up the ghost and turn to formula. I’d tortured myself for seven days and eventually, I saw what I had to do.
Turning to formula was a decision I didn’t take lightly but it was also I decision I knew was right for Tristan and for me. Still, I wept and wept over the abrupt ending to breastfeeding. For weeks, I felt deprived of that ‘special bond’ breastfeeding allows you to form. I felt rejected and useless.
Having a baby is a crazy experience but having your 1st baby is on a whole different level of surreal. It’s a time when emotions run high and the slightest thing can be magnified intensely. I’d been preached at by so many midwives and nurses before Tristan’s birth that failing to breastfeed made me feel like a failure. It confirmed that I was already going to be a rubbish Mother, that I was already not good enough. But of course, this wasn’t the truth. Turning to formula was actually the act of a ‘good’ mother because I refused to let my baby starve. It was the act of a ‘good’ mother because I put my own selfish wants and desires aside to do what was best for my baby. I wish I’d realised that at the time.
Bottle feeding my baby made me feel dirty, like I was breaking the rules. I dreaded seeing people  I knew because I dreaded the question ‘how are you feeding him?’ I mean, what a thing to ask…and yet, it was nearly the 1st thing on everyone’s mind. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was giving Tristan formula, always felt as though I had to justify why.
When I fell pregnant with my second, breastfeeding didn’t even enter my mind. I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to try. The hardest part of having a newborn was the mental torment I endured over feeding, I’d already realised that having a newborn was stressful enough without inflicting even more duress on myself. Plus, I’d seen the benefits of formula. My son was rarely starving, he was satisfied and a satisfied baby is definitely a happy one. My husband could take over, giving me time to shower (or at least, let’s admit it, use the toilet in peace). Tristan’s immune system was never effected, he’d never caught a bug. He was also always in line with the 50th percentile, the myth of formula making babies obese just didn’t seem truthful.
Then my daughter arrived prematurely and my plans were, once again, turned on their head. Breastmilk was part of my daughter’s treatment. I was told by the doctors at North Tees Hospital (Doctors by name but Angels by profession, their care and expertise was simply amazing) that I wouldn’t be allowed to formula feed even if I wanted to. The thing is, I suddenly didn’t want to.
Siena was incubated for 17 days, fed through a feeding tube for 4 weeks. The only think I could possibly do to help her was breastfeed. So, once again, I centred my days around expressing. I even set my alarm twice through the night to get up and express. During the day, I made time at hospital to leave Siena’s side and express. If out somewhere else, I carried my breast pump with me. I was that determined to do this for my daughter, I once even expressed in the changing room of H&M. When the time came at 35 weeks gestation, I was nervous about whether Siena would refuse me just like her brother. She didn’t, I eventually had the harmonious experience I’d craved. It was like fate, like destiny. Siena’s release from hospital depended on her ability to feed from me, I’d been warned that this might not come naturally or quickly and that Siena might have to be trained how to feed. I was told to expect up to a month until she’d be released from hospital. Only two days later, we were on our way home. It seemed as though Siena was just as determined as I was. Although completely overjoyed, I knew I’d never preach breastfeeding.
I’d never preach it because I don’t believe we should. As women, we need to support and encourage each other to do whatever is best. And let’s face it, breast isn’t always best. Having a newborn is daunting enough, we shouldn’t add extra pressure to new mothers. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and those whose opinion is strictly pro-breastmilk are freely allowed to express these but not look down upon those who don’t. The Mothers who choose to bottle feed should feel confident about their decision but remember that not all women who choose to breastfeed will disagree with formula. Having experiences in both, I’m well aware that breastfeeding carries its own stigma.
At the end of the day, we do what we do for the sake of our children. Whatever decision that we choose, we should be applauded for caring and doing the right thing. To those breastfeeding Mothers, well done for feeding your baby. To those formula feeding Mothers, once again, well done for feeding your baby. Our methods may differ but we essentially have the same outcome in mind.

The Twinkle Diaries
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11 thoughts on “Why I Could Never Preach About Breastfeeding

  1. So much pressure is put on people to breastfeed and sometimes it just isn’t physically possible. I decided to bottle fed during pregnancy, one of the reasons for this was not wanting to feel a failure if it didn’t work out for whatever reason #mummymondays

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  2. Great post! I’m so sorry both your little ones had rough starts in the hospital! I can imagine how difficult that would be. My daughter was back in the hospital for 2 days at a week old and it was so stressful!
    Kudos to you for doing what was best for your babies in each situation. Every child is different and every situation is unique. All that should matter is that babies are fed with love!! ❤ 🙂

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  3. There is so much pressure around the whole brestfeeeding situation. I am a mother who chose not to breastfeed her child just because I just couldn’t do it, I can’t explain it. But I knew I needed to do what felt right for me and my baby because as you rightly point out having a baby is hard enough without tormenting yourself over something you either can’t control or just don’t want to do. However I envy those mothers who can because I wish I could as well. I will never preach either way but I will always stick up for the women who had no choice but to bottle feed or the women, like me, who just chose not to. 🙂 Great post by the way. #MummyMondays

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  4. I had very different experiences with my two children too, my son I struggled to feed for 2 weeks before deciding to move him on to formula. With my daughter I wanted to try breastfeeding again but was very open to the idea that it might not work again and was fine with the thought of her going on to formula. As it turned out I fed her for 13 months. I’m really happy that I got to experience that with her, but I really can’t say that one way of feeding is ‘better’ than the other. I’m not a fan of preaching one way or another, only you as a mum know what is best for your family, your baby and your situation. x #TwinklyTuesday

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    1. I completely agree. I beat myself up so much with my son not feeding from that I swore k wouldn’t put myself through it with my daughter. However, the ways things happened, I had to at least attempt it and I’m so pleased I did as I’m still feeding her now at 6 months old. It’s a magical experience and those who manage should feel very lucky but it’s unfair to criticise those who formula feed when many have no other option. X

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  5. Well said! I too had an idealised perception of what motherhood would be like. It was quite the contrary. Emma did latch on in the end but it was really hard work. When I have a second one, knowing what I know now, I definitely won’t put the same pressure on myself to breastfeed. I know that not all babies take to the breast and not all mothers can breastfeed. Glad you got to try both in the end! x #twinklytuesday

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  6. Awww what a story! I breastfed my son till he is 2 but its not all bed of roses for us as well. I just wish that the media would let the mums be. Its so hard to be a mother and harder when people and media are pressing thing on your throat. Thanks for sharing this! #TwinklyTuesday

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  7. My story is so close to yours! My first just wouldn’t latch. I tried and tried. My second was preemie, but this time breastfeeding did work out. I just think babies need to be fed, no matter how that ends up happening.

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  8. I totally agree. Fundamentally we do the best wee can for our babies — whatever that may be, with whatever methods and resources are available. I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my twins for 3 months — but didn’t have any problem moving them to a bottle. As a mama you do whatever works, for you and your family. Great post! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday x

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

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