Breastfeeding: your stories

Here is Mama H’s breastfeeding story. You can find her over at Thursdays Child, Fridays Thoughts:

Thursdays Child Pic

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you’re having or stay team yellow.

The list is endless.

And while there were a lot of decisions to make, one thing that needed no debate was that I would breastfeed my baby. People would ask if I’d thought about it. The midwife ticked the breastfeeding box in my green notes without further discussion. Friends, colleagues, whoever felt it acceptable to ask nodded approvingly. The NCT classes scooted over it offering a few tips along the way. The nursing bras were purchased. I was ready to undertake this completely natural thing, the one thing that only I could do for my baby.

People said it might be tricky to get the hang of. People said to keep going if it was hard going at first. No one mentioned that it might not happen. In my head, I had images of skipping out of hospital with my newest most precious thing, just hours old, and returning home to the sofa without so much as looking at the microwave steriliser that someone had let us borrow.

My perceptions and ideals had set me up for a huge fall. Looking back I can only describe those first few days as a nightmare. A nightmare that eighteen months on leaves me devastated, heartbroken and guilty.

Her arrival into the world was traumatic for both of us. An unconventional labour that no one could make head nor tail of, missing waters, back to back… A large head and a small pelvis, an emergency Caesarean, ten minutes of tugging to get her back out of where she was stuck and an anesthetic that wore off before the ordeal was over. A haemorrhage to top it all off.

Needless to say that 8 hours after she was born, everyone was concerned that she had no interest in latching on, but my (not so) little bundle was shocked. I was shocked. My attempts to hand express were fruitless and the midwife gave her formula. We slept well. And for the next 3 days in hospital she bobbed on and off, fussed, suckled a bit and fell asleep. She didn’t seem unhappy. Frustrated, as her head flopped around as if she couldn’t get comfortable, but contented enough to sleep. We went home on day 3. And things got more difficult. My milk came in but I never felt full and the quantity was pitiful. Her nappies didn’t feel all that full. I knew something was wrong but D desperately tried to convince me it was ok. Then my midwife came to visit on day 5. She said she’d never seen such an alert little newborn. Her colour and tone were good. Then she popped her on the scales… 8lb 3. Nearly 17% less than her birth weight of 5 days previous.

Suddenly the world stopped. We were on our way to SCBU. They were expecting us. And the next 18 hours turned into a haze. She was dehydrated and her kidneys were poorly indeed. Desperate attempts to pump for her showed that there was next to nothing there for her.

My daughter was starving and it was all my fault.

The following morning and 3 hourly formula feeds overnight gave the doctors the results they wanted. Her levels of hydration had improved enough and they were happy to discharge us with a plan to combi feed.

For five more days I tried to feed her and top her up with a bottle. But the quantity I produced became less and less. She got angrier, more frustrated, more fussy, more unsettled. At day 10, I made the decision that it was time to stop. I cried. Every time I made a bottle I wept and mourned for this thing her and I were meant to have. That thing that every mother should be able to do for her child. The only thing that made it easier was seeing that my little girl was thriving, even if it wasn’t my doing.

And now I almost find myself fighting a pro formula campaign… I’m not anti breastfeeding, but some of us are not bottle feeders by choice. And formula isn’t hurting our children and it certainly isn’t the poison of which some uber-pro breastfeeding mothers have tried to tell me. It doesn’t make me a bad mother. The options were formula or starvation and I know which option would have been frowned upon. Even as I stood in the milk kitchen in SCBU sterilising a bottle, I was surrounded by posters bigging up the benefits of breastfeeding. Nobody told me it might not work out. No one even pointed out that the stress and trauma and specifics of her birth might have had a huge impact on the situation I found myself in. The pro breast feeders told me I hadn’t tried hard enough, that I’d given up too easily. No one wanted to admit that maybe it just wasn’t to be for me and E.

I have spent too much time being told I don’t understand because I didn’t breastfeed. I have spent too many hours wanting to shout from the rooftops that none of it was my choice. I have cried far too many tears. But my daughter is testament to the fact that formula isn’t poison, whatever people might say.

Where am I going with this?

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you’re having or stay team yellow.

The list is endless.

And those around me are most interested in whether I will breastfeed this time. Like I made the active choice not to last time.

My answer is that I have no idea. I daren’t set myself up for the fall. I daren’t create the expectations. I don’t want the pressure, and I don’t want to feel like I have failed should it not work out. In case I just wasn’t made to do this. But there’s something else. Would you do something for one child you didn’t do for another? I’m just not sure I can get over the guilt. I’m not sure I can give this baby something I couldn’t give their sister. I’m not sure that’s fair.

So for now I’m settling on not knowing. What I do know is that I’ve always made the best decisions I could have by my daughter.

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2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding: your stories

  1. Great post. I remember being told you need to get a latch within the first hour / hour and a half max or it won’t really work. And those I’ve met who ended up in theatre straight after birth haven’t been able to feed yet were never told the above and felt they failed which isn’t true, there bodies weren’t given the chance to start breastfeeding properly and so it was always a battle. It’s important people know this and know the bottle isn’t evil, if you line up a group of toddlers you’d never know who had what type of milk. You shouldn’t have to justify your “choice” when ever you feed your child, it’s none of their business. I think it’s important to have a healthy happy child who is feed and a happy healthy mum who knows that their child is full and content. Being bottle feed either fully or partly can make everyone much happier and healthier.
    Your story is great. Good luck in the future x

    • Thanks for reading my story and sharing your thoughts. Thats interesting what you say about feeding within the first hour. I’ve never actually heard that before but I wonder if there is a correlation? I would be really interested to find out more about..

      I think that its very true what you say about not being able to tell a breastfed child from a formula fed one. I also think you make an important point about not having to justify how you feed your child, which lots of us seem to automatically do. I just feel that the same way that formula has negative connotations attached to it, there are a lot of misconceptions and not enough support for parents when it comes to breastfeeding. However, as long as a child is fed and is healthy like you say, then it shouldn’t matter how they are fed.

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