Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breastfeeding the beast (or hitting the bottle) Let The Guilt Go

Breastfeeding, I always thought, would be easy peasy lemon squeezy.

After all, how difficult could it possibly be to give sucker to the life you have created, as nature intended? Like Lego pieces fit perfectly together, your child, and your boob, should be perfect companions. Or so you would have thought. Insert tab A into slot B. And hey presto.

The reality can be rather different. You might have no milk, too much milk, not quite enough milk, inverted nipples, small nipples, large nipples, a baby zonked out on the general anaesthetic you were were given for that pesky emergency C section, or, just a western world induced general nervousness about letting a grizzling mini-me suck on your bosoms. After all, they're to look sexy with, right? They were. Oh sister, read on.

You'll find that you get over the embarrassment of letting anyone see them quite quickly. This is largely because you'll be so stressed out figuring it out that your modesty, frankly, goes out of the window. If only you could get some advice on breastfeeding which was the same from 2 people together. In desperation, a friendly health visitor showed me how to get the latch with a cuddly toy as tears streamed down my face.

 I've now stopped crying about it, but the early days were no picnic.

Baby J didn't seem too bothered about feeding in general, and the road to breastfeeding heaven was a rocky one, reached via a Mothercare Innosense breast pump (I normally spend £89 on other things, like Boden boots, a dress, or nice underwear, but needs must), formula, and an eye wateringly painful latch from an angry eyed baby J.

The early days involved me painstakingly sucking colostrum off my breasts with a syringe, only to watch it go shooting across the room, and lots of sighing and passive-aggressive comments from others about how it was my baby so I must do whatever I thought best, regarding feeding. Eventually, when Baby J's birthweight dropped and I put her on formula top ups (bang goes my mother of the year award, eh?) things improved. Probably because she was getting some food.

What followed was a whirlwind of mainly unsuccessful breastfeeding, expressing and much stirring of bottles and rinsing them in hot or cold water in order to reach a temperature which acceptable to a frowning suckling infant. Many hours were spent on the sofa in a bathrobe, attached to the pump, leaning over at a perilous angle as the electric lead attaching the plug to the pump seemed to be made for people who have a lot of electric sockets in their house. I would lunge at items just out of reach on the end of it; trying to draw scalding hot cups of tea or a copy of Closer magazine towards me with one foot. While balancing this tiny scrap of humanity to me, dependent on me for all food, with a very wobbly head.

Then one day I had an Epiphany. I didn't have to do this. If I stopped being riddled with guilt about the fact I wasn't having much joy breast feeding, and stopped winding myself up by going onto breastfeeding support forums, I might just be able, one day, to consider leaving the house. After crying for 12 hours solid (I didn't know that was possible) following the visit of a health visitor who watched me struggling to feed my daughter with little success, as the cat threw up on the floor in her view, I decided it was time to hit the formula bottle, and also use expressed milk.

Once I'd decided I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life glued to my sofa, things improved.
Maybe because I was relaxed, with what little supply I had after my C section, the breastfeeding actually worked, and for 5 months, Baby J was breastfed in the morning, and then had expressed or formula milk throughout the day.

For those mums, who like me, beat themselves with a sharp stick over the head about not being able to feed "naturally" - don't do it.

And for all those mums who are lucky enough to be able to fully breastfeed, who look at mums who formula feed, and maybe are a bit disapproving on the online forums? Hey, guess what, don't do it.

There's a whole sisterhood of mums (and dads!) out there, all trying to do the hardest job in the world in their own way.

All you need to ask yourself is this:

  • Is my child fed?
  • Is my child warm?
  • Is my child clean?
  • Is my child loved?

If you can answer Yes to all four of the above, in my humble opinion, as someone who's only been doing this for 6 months, you're doing a great job.

So - ladies: Let The Guilt Go.

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