Breastfeeding. I always wanted to do it. And no, it wasn’t just down to the lure of being able to eat cake whilst shedding the pounds, merely from permitting my beautiful babe to suckle in peace.
Although I do want chocolate cake, daily. Okay hourly.
I had visions of being super stylish (bah!) whilst also nurturing my little infant in the most natural of ways. I was totes going to look like Gisele Bundchen, just with a much smaller team of Super Stylists surrounding me (probably just my three year old smacking me in the head with her Tangle Teaser) Regardless, it was going to be beautiful.
Herein lies the problem. In the pursuit of promoting breastfeeding over bottle feeding, society, celebrities and health care professionals failed to fully inform me of just how difficult the damn thing is. I assumed it would be instantly glorious, a perfect bonding experience and naturally easy. I was truly excited about it.
I anticipated that there may be days when I would feel like a cow. Days when all the baby wanted was to feed every fifteen minutes. But I didn’t expect a baby that wouldn’t or couldn’t latch. Instead of feeling like an earth-mother-type cow I ended up feeling like some clumsy half naked primate, sat in public with a baby screaming and flailing around, not quite getting a good latch, as I sort of body wiggled like a 70’s Disco Diva in some vain attempt to help her find the thing that she was so desperate for.
I was nowhere near looking like Gisele in THAT, now, infamous photograph.
I found the feeding journey with my first born pretty traumatic. Not overly traumatic. But enough to certainly effect my self esteem, my confidence at my ability to mother and I’m pretty sure my bond with littlie; although I fought hard for it not to.
Big Red genuinely couldn’t latch. There was no helping her.
Even the NHS Lactation Consultant, determined to help us, gave up after an hour, declaring various reasons for our failure… scratch that, my failure.
My visions of how I would feed my baby were shattered. Even a trained professional bailed on me. Not only was my self esteem wrecked but I was left with a wildly hungry baby. It took a few days of pathetically attempting to cup feed her before we realised that ‘nipple confusion’ was the least of our problems. We had a baby who hadn’t fed for 4 days, the crying was unreal and so we bought a bottle.
I was determined not to fail her further so I pumped. Adamant not to mix feed, blithely committed to giving her ‘breast is best’ milk; even if I couldn’t give her the actual vessel as intended.
I pumped day in and day out.
Every time my baby needed a feed, every time she didn’t. I pumped when I should have been holding her, soothing her, feeding her, adoring her or looking after myself.
I was an idiot.
The pressure I placed on myself was absolutely insane. The resulting mastitis was even more so. The whole experience led to complete exhaustion and a mothering experience that was neither glowy or wholy enjoyable. It led to a level of self doubt that I have never before or since experienced. From that moment on I became unable to confidently make decisions; I had to double check everything with Netmums.
I had lost faith in myself.
I regret being so critical of myself. I wish I had realised then what I realise now. The most important thing about being a mother is showing your baby love.
Although I still desperately wish I had been able to breastfeed, and I still to this day will gladly (although it seems rather distracting) high five a woman breastfeeding her baby in public, I wish I hadn’t made it the be all and end all. I, of course, wish I had searched for more help and I sure wish I had known about nipple shields and how they can help a latch. But mostly when the dream started to unravel I wish I hadn’t viewed formula as the enemy; instead the help it could have been. Perhaps if I had mixed fed, without the guilt and pressure, I could have enjoyed a few more precious cuddles. Cuddles that I’ll never have again.
So if any of these words ring true with you, can I please just say this to you – Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself and your little bubs a cuddle instead. And one from me too. xx