I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my baby after about a week of being at home and my boobs realising what it was exactly they were supposed to be doing.
I say lucky because I WANTED to breastfeed my baby, and I was able to breastfeed my baby. My baby, my choice.
On the day BG was born whilst still in hospital, I met a very lovely Breastfeeding counsellor who was supportive and not at all patronising. She was calm, kind and considerate and talked me through how to go about breastfeeding my daughter.
On her first night on the earth in hospital, BG’s blood sugars dropped quite low and we had to give her some ’emergency’ formula from a bottle so that she was getting enough food and for those first 24 hours we alternated between attempting a boob feed and giving her a formula bottle. At no point did any ‘professional’ in the maternity wing make me feel inadequate or a failure for using this approach.
It wasn’t an easy first week at home though alternating between boob and bottle, constantly wondering whether BG was getting enough food. Soon enough though, everyone worked out what it was they were supposed to be doing and thankfully, so did my boobs.
I found the experience (generally) wonderful. For me, it was a lovely bonding moment with my child. I’m sure that my husband may contest this statement however, due to the occasions where I was crying in the middle of the night, sleep deprived, stating “she can’t be hungry again surely?!”.
The convenience for me of not having to remember to pack enough formula & bottles for a day out was great. I had, in my opinion, enough to remember without having to remember milk too. At the end of the day, the permanently attached food source I had upon my person was much easier… for me.
The first couple of times I fed BG in public were nerve wracking but I soon got the hang of finding a discreet corner, utilising a well placed muslin cloth or handy large snood-scarf (thank you, H&M for that wonderful winter 2016 purchase!) and of course, the breast-feeding friendly outfit.
Reactions from others was always mixed. There’s always someone who feels you should be completely covered to breastfeed your child. There’s always someone who feels you should be able to let it all hang out as it’s completely natural. I like to think I found a happy middle ground.
My observations as a breastfeeding mother, however, have been mixed and varied. There are a couple of groups of mums that I really do feel sorry for:
- Those who want to breastfeed – but can’t
- Those who DON’T want to breastfeed – but are made to feel they should
The amount of pressure on new mums is enough without every Tom, Dick and Harry sticking their oar in about how a baby is fed.
For some mums, breastfeeding just doesn’t work. Milk doesn’t come in for whatever reason, babies have tongue-ties, babies get ill and need a hospital stay, medical reasons. For some mums, not breastfeeding is their choice. And it is their RIGHT to choose. Surely a happy, healthy mum and a happy, fed baby that is putting on weight and following their “curve” is more important than how that child is fed?
There are some mums I know and some that I have met in passing at various groups that found the “pressure to breastfeed” so immense, that they actually felt like failures when it didn’t work out. I have met mums who have had awful comments such as “Well, you didn’t breastfeed him/her, that’s why he/she is always getting a cold”. Thanks. I’ll have a side order of guilt with today’s judgement please. It made me so mad to see my friends tearing themselves apart worrying that they’d made the wrong choice. I’ve spent time consoling and reassuring them that it doesn’t matter so much how the baby is fed, just that he/she IS fed. I am sure there will be many healthcare professionals now waiting in the wings to jump on this and say, “oh no, breast is best” but just for a minute, just one minute, hold your tongue and think about the mental health impact of your comments. Is your end goal to make a woman somehow less of a mother because she’s not breastfeeding her baby? If so, well done, you’re probably succeeding. If it’s not your aim, take a long hard look at the language you’re using and maybe have a more delicate and supportive conversation with a mum, yeah?
I myself had comments relating to the switch from breast to formula on my return to work. BG was 7 months old when I went back to work and this marked the end of my breastfeeding journey (hence the picture with this post) – and that was controversial enough. “You’re not taking a whole year off?”, “I didn’t go back to work until mine were at school.”, “You’re not going back full time surely?” – were just some of the comments I received. Not to mention “How are you still breastfeeding her if you’re at work?”. Of course, I kept responding to these questions, somehow feeling the incessant need to justify myself when really I should have been saying, “Bog off! It’s none of your bloomin’ business!”.
For the first month or so of me being back at work, I expressed a couple of times a day, BG was pretty much on solids by this time and so was feeding from me less and less – usually a big feed in the morning and the same again at night before bed, with a bottle of expressed milk during the day. Soon, as your body does, the milk supply slowed and I was able to stop expressing. This day was met with both sadness and celebration. I would now miss out on that bonding moment with my daughter, but, I got my boobs back! I could wear proper bras again and my outfits didn’t need to be boob friendly.
Isn’t it time that we all stopped judging mums for their choices and started supporting each others’ choices in relation to how their baby is fed? Again, a happy, healthy, stress-free (well, at least slightly less stressed) mum is surely more important? If a baby is happy, healthy and well-fed – what does it really matter how he/she is fed?
There’s a whole host of helpful places to go for information on the topic:
- Breastfeeding help and support from the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/breastfeeding-help-support.aspx
- Friendly breastfeeding support from pregnancy onwards from La Leche League: https://www.laleche.org.uk/
- Breastfeeding Humour from The Leaky Boob: http://theleakyboob.com/tag/breastfeeding-humor/
- Bottle feeding advice from NHS Choices: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/bottle-feeding-advice.aspx
- Bottle-feeding basics for formula-fed babies from Baby Center: https://www.babycenter.com/0_bottle-feeding-basics-for-formula-fed-babies_14286.bc
And at the end of the day… we’re all “mothers”, we’re all on the same journey of discovery, we’re all just choosing our own individual route through the quagmire of firsts, dilemmas, worries and celebrations. We should be supporting each other to be able to say “My Baby, My Choice”.
For me, the KMOCI – Similac Commercial: The Mother ‘Hood strikes a chord – enjoy!