My breastfeeding story is somewhat anti-climatic. I fed exclusively for 6 weeks, fell in to the ‘top up trap’* and ended up having to give up at 8 weeks, tears in my eyes, desperately pumping my deflated milk bags for hours in hope that my supply would somehow magically increase.
This was not the case.
Now before I receive a barrage of hate, I do believe that breast milk is the best milk you could ever offer a newborn. It is the most natural thing in the world, and obviously stems back to the cave days when we had big wooden clubs, a pair of leopard print pants, and bugger all choice. Funnily enough, you never see Wilma Flintstone debating whether Aptamil would be better than Cow & Gate. Realistically, I would like to hope that everyone would try breast feeding at least once, whether it is for 10 minutes or 10 months, but I just know that it’s not something everyone would want to try or that some mothers are even able to achieve.
The reason for my somewhat shameless click-baity title is that I believe I was pressured far too much to breastfeed, and especially as a young mother. I was constantly asked “you are breastfeeding aren’t you? of course you are”, before I even had chance to utter a word, and “You look like you’d be smart enough to breast feed”. Like, what does that even mean? Are women who choose to formula feed stupid? I hadn’t even decided but I felt like I already had my mind made up for me. I spent 70% of my pregnancy bloated and 30% of it pondering whether breastfeeding would be worth it. I must admit I really wasn’t informed correctly, and I certainly wasn’t aware of the many negatives that come with breast feeding too. I feel like if I knew about the crappy times, I would’ve stuck to it a bit longer. I felt so guilty giving up in the end and offering formula that I used to cry more times than I would remember to eat, and it certainly was not healthy for my own mental state. I even started to drive myself crazy wondering if I had postnatal depression as I felt I was doing my baby wrong and would harm him by not feeding him myself. All I could think about were those poor mothers trying desperately in hospital with their cracked nipples hoping that their baby would latch on and feed correctly but failing miserably.
Breast feeding gave me an undeniable, unbreakable bond with my baby, but when do you say enough is enough? I was feeding every hour, I hadn’t slept properly in weeks (don’t get me started on my 3 day labour or when the other half went back to work), I was so engorged I was leaking through every bra I had ever owned, and lets not forget that time I accidentally forgot my leaky boobs and wore a light grey top to the shopping centre in my town. Two very visible boob shaped black patches on my top was not how I imagined the day was going to go. Thankfully I had my coat with me, otherwise I am afraid I may have died. Also, who the fuck invented breast pads? Who has boobs that small when they have just had a baby? And has anyone successfully managed to get them to stick? I mean isn’t it basic knowledge that sticky things just don’t tend to stick to a wet surface? A bit of booby juice and them things just fly right out and somehow end up stuck to your stomach, back, and basically everywhere but the place they’re actually meant to be.
On the other hand, sometimes I wish I could go back to breastfeeding and not feel the pressure from everybody else. The leaflets of how great breast feeding is are thrown down our neck so much while we’re pregnant that they practically become part of our diet, but who is ever informed of how it will actually make you feel? I wish I hadn’t gave up, but the fact that it almost cracked me as a parent tells me that I gave up at just about the right time.
Breast feeding is certainly not for everyone, and you shouldn’t be made to feel like you’re a bad mother if you choose the formula route. One thing I will take to my next pregnancy is that I will just do whatever the fuck I feel at the time, whether that is combination feeding, exclusively feeding, or formula feeding. I look back now and feel rather silly, but we live and we learn.
Please do not feel pressured.
Enjoy your baby while caring about your own health.
*top up trap – a never ending cycle where you feel like you’re not making enough breast milk that you top up with formula, the baby then sleeps more and has less feeds from you, and then your body actually makes less milk, and repeat until you have no supply left.