“I was hoping that someone would just tell me that this is OK, breastfeeding is hard and that if I decide to stop, I’m not going to be judged and stoned to death for being a shitty mum. I gave it a good go”
Breast is best right? We all know this. This is what we are told by society, nurses, midwives, doctors, family and friends. Breast is best. Persistence is key. Give your baby the best start in life.
But what about when its not?
When I first fell pregnant, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Pregnancy is tough. Labour is tough and Newborns are hard work. I was prepared for that.
But nobody ever told me that breast feeding was going to be tough. As far as I was aware, it was the most natural thing in the world and everyone could do it.
So when I couldn’t get my son to latch on, naturally I thought there was something wrong with me. I was failing, already. Through cracked nipples, shields, maternity bras and pumps I struggled to make this work. I desperately wanted to breast feed, I wanted my sons to have the best. But why was it so hard for me? What was I doing wrong?
I visited my local health nurse to ask for advice. I told her that honestly, breast feeding made me miserable. While I loved that I was able to provide for my baby, I hated what it was doing to me. She weighed my son and told me to keep doing what I was doing – “you’ve got good jersey girl, breast is best!”
Really? I’m sitting here in my husband’s t-shirt because I can’t get my engorged tits into anything else and that’s all you have to say? I have had to change my sheets 5 times this week because I wake up soaked in my own milk & I cry every time he latches on because my nipples are bleeding.
Is there no compromise here?
I struggled to leave the house because I couldn’t face the wardrobe battle. Everywhere I went I could smell milk. I never felt clean and my kids were insatiable. If I wasn’t feeding, I was expressing. If I wasn’t expressing I was eating to try and keep up with demand. I walked around like a zombie, shirt hanging open, stuffing my face and feeling dehydrated and exhausted. I had never felt less like a woman in my whole life.
Day after day, feed after feed I grew more and more anxious about the whole process. I should be loving this experience but I’m not. I’m starting to resent my baby for having to breast feed him. What kind of mother does that make me?
I gave up after a few months. My boys took to the bottle easily and I began to function again.
There is so much pressure put on mothers to feed and while I do believe there is great value in it, when you can’t, you can’t and that should be OK. Whether it be medical or emotional, we should be able to voice our fears and struggles about breastfeeding without judgement.
While some women find it effortless, for some if us, it is a marathon. If we can’t do it or we find it difficult, we tell ourselves we are failing. We look at the effortless breastfeeders like super heroes and then we create insecurity about our abilities as a mum and that can become demonic. Breast may be best but having a happy mother is important for your baby too. If you are finding it tricky, talking to your doctor or a lactation consultant can help, sometimes just getting it off your chest (no pun intended) can give you the boost you need to keep persisting to see if things improve. Alternatively, ask for a recommendation of formula, do your research, wean baby off the boob and carry on with life. You will both be OK, I promise.