In the two plus years that I’ve been blogging about parenting, I’ve never actually voiced my stance on the topic of breastfeeding. I’ve always felt that it’s one of those topics that everyone has an opinion on (even those who have never had to do it!) and throwing my two cents in was unnecessary.
However…since being pregnant for the second time and having to hear from the midwife about how ‘breast is best’ all over again, I feel that the time is right to voice my opinion and share my personal experience.
After giving birth to my first child, I was pretty open to the idea of breastfeeding. In fact, I wanted to do it. I wanted to give my new baby ‘the best start in life’ and breastfeeding, so I’d repeatedly been told, was one of the most important ways in which I could do that. I’d had stacks of bedtime reading courtesy of the NHS about all of those amazing benefits, and my maternal body was telling me that this was the natural thing to do. To not give it a go would’ve felt like slapping Mother Nature in the face.
And then Taylor latched on for the very first time straight after she was born… “Jesus Christ!” (or likely some more severe profanity).. “Is it supposed to be this painful??” At the same time I was having my nether regions stitched up and (let’s be honest) following the pain that is labour, I wasn’t about to get all precious over my newborn baby sucking at my nipple. I remember telling myself that it must get easier and that I just had to keep trying.
Only it didn’t get easier, it just got more and more painful.
Despite me feeding my daughter alone the next morning on the ward, I was told that I couldn’t be discharged from the hospital until the nurses had witnessed it…one more feeding session and I was literally in agony. By this time I was bleeding and every feed was like throwing salt into an open wound. Still, the nurses were satisfied that my baby was being fed and that’s all that matters, right?
At home the wounds got worse and I literally dreaded every time that my daughter started to root for my nipple. My toes would literally curl with the pain.
The very next night after returning from hospital, the hubby left our house at midnight to go in search of instant formula (thank you Tesco Extra). I told myself it was just for that once – I still wasn’t ready to give up. To fail at being a new mum. To let down my newborn baby.
I was soon called by our local ‘breastfeeding clinic’ to whom I admitted that I was really struggling. Within hours, a ‘breastfeeding specialist’ was sat on my sofa going over the same thing I’d heard at the hospital – the correct way to breastfeed. I remember her saying that if it hurt so much, it was because I was obviously latching my baby on wrong. She couldn’t tell me that was the case for certain as she couldn’t see.
I was pretty sure I was doing it exactly as she was explaining. My midwife thought it looked ‘correct’, my baby seemed pretty happy with the way I was doing it…and what did she care about the wrong or the right way anyway, as long as she was getting her fill?
It was my midwife in the end who suggested that I should take a break and give myself a chance to heal. She could see the pain I was in and probably guessed that it was starting to affect me emotionally. I knew it was the right thing to do too, I think I just needed to hear it from someone else. To have someone tell me it was okay and that formula feeding really is fine. I didn’t want to feel as though I’d ‘given up’ just because I couldn’t hack it, couldn’t get it right.
Formula feeding is more than fine. Formula feeding was a bloody godsend for us. If it hadn’t been for formula, I would’ve had a pretty hungry baby and she would’ve had a pretty anxious mum. Breastfeeding was unhealthy for both of us. Breast most definitely was not best for us.
For many mums, breastfeeding is the most natural thing. And for those who can – great! Good for you (and I mean that in a completely non-sarcastic way). I take my hat off to you.
But for many others, it really doesn’t come that easily and I think it’s a real shame that mums who choose to formula feed (for whatever reason), are still made to feel inadequate by the health service and by society in general.
So when I tell my current midwife about how I struggled with breastfeeding last time, what I don’t need is another run-down of all of its benefits and all of the support that’s available ‘to help’. Being constantly reminded that breastfeeding is more convenient and nutritious is really not helpful (thank you for that Jamie Oliver)…Mums should be supported with whatever choice they make.
The correct way to breastfeed is to see how it goes. The correct way to breastfeed is not to feel guilty if it’s time to switch to formula. The correct way to breastfeed is to know when to ignore all of the advice and do what feels right for you and your baby.
And nobody knows that better than you do.
What was your experience of breastfeeding? I’d love to know in the comments below.