My Breastfeeding Story: ‘I blamed myself for not being able to breastfeed’
Number of children: 1
Length of time I breastfed for: 2 weeks
Problems with breastfeeding:
I look back on my breastfeeding journey as a series of unfortunate events and one that’s hard to share.
I loved being pregnant and embraced every stage. I was well informed for delivery, was relaxed and went into hospital calm and ready to deliver my boy with a lose plan ready to move through the different scenarios that I’d inevitably face, which I believe set me up for a smooth birth.
Breastfeeding to me was a given, and something I thought I’d take to like a duck to water.
I had the nursing bras, the outfits, the best breast pump, stacks of breast pads at the ready, all the nipple cream and I was front row at the breastfeeding workshop. But unfortunately, with all the will in my heart, it didn’t work out the way I’d built it up to be in my head, in fact, it was the complete opposite.
Looking back, there’s so much I wish I could say to myself in the moment, beating myself up for not being able to get the latch in the middle of the night on my chomped up nipples.
Unfortunately due to many reasons, none of which I can change today, my breastfeeding journey ended far sooner than I’d hoped and led to months of trips to the hospital to have my breasts drained by a needle as large excruciatingly sore abscesses continued to grow one after the other following a sever bout of mastitis that wasn’t caught quick enough.
I blamed myself for not being able to breastfeed, to not hold on through the pain of abscesses being hit by his tiny hands. I told myself I was missing out on a huge part of being a mum, and was too anxious to go out in public as I thought that everyone would be judging me for not breastfeeding.
This experience plummeted me into a deep sadness I didn’t know existed. Thankfully I did get some help fairly quickly and after a couple of months my health visitor had clocked onto the way I was and referred me for counselling to deal with my post natal anxieties.
After only a few sessions I was a great deal better and on the road to a much more positive experience with feeding my baby that didn’t involve breastfeeding – which by the way is absolutely FINE and amazing. And FYI – nobody gives a shit when they see you feeding by bottle in public… duh!!
I sadly don’t have any photos of me breastfeeding Lewis which hurts to think about. I do have a few of me bottle feeding him which I always felt too sad to post at the time for fear of people thinking I was any less of a mum for not feeding him myself. Writing and sharing this still makes me feel sad – not because I think its wrong, but purely for how sad I felt at the time and for how I let the fear of other people’s thoughts and judgements determine how I felt in those early days with my baby.
Why I chose to breastfeed:
I chose to breastfeed because I wanted to experience every aspect of motherhood – the good, the bad and the ugly – and in my mind at the time this was a fundamental bonding experience for me and baby.
What I’ve learnt is that the bond between mum and baby is the strongest force in the world. Nothing can come between it – whether that’s a boob or a bottle. Nothing.
My advice to new mums on breastfeeding:
Inform yourself as much as possible ahead of your birth and then believe in yourself to set your own goals, expectations and your route to breastfeeding. Block out the opinions, the unwarranted suggestions from people around you that contradict what you feel in your soul and trust your judgement and whether you think baby is ready to feed or not.
Also, say no to visitors for as long as you like. Babies do absolutely nothing for a very long time, they’re not that fun for people to see, and although friends and family might want to see the baby, if you’re knackered and you want to lock yourself away to work on your breastfeeding journey, do it. Never feel bad to say no.
Nobody gives a shit whether you breast or bottle feed. Don’t ever feel anxious for whatever way you choose to do it.
Your baby will be fed which is the main thing and there are huge pros and cons for whichever route you choose.
Enjoy it for as long as makes sense to you.
Although my journey isn’t a positive one, I’ve learnt so much through it, about myself and to trust myself and my judgement over anything. I will absolutely try again if I’m lucky enough to have a second, but I will not beat myself up the way I did the first time around. What will be, will be, and I’ll love every inch of my baby and embrace every stage of motherhood being a bit more kind to myself.
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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