baby

'When I failed to breastfeed, it became an obsession. This is what I wish I knew then.'

Before I had my first child it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed him. Not once did formula feeding even cross my mind. My mum and my sister had both breastfed their babies easily, so I would too. 

Plus, every health professional I saw while pregnant repeated the 'breast is best' mantra, telling me it would help baby and I bond, improve their gut health, and reduce the risk of health issues - so of course I would be giving my baby the "best".

When people would tell me they’d tried to breastfeed but couldn’t I would (shockingly) inwardly judge them, deciding they hadn’t tried hard enough. This wouldn’t affect me...

Watch: Explaining nipples to my babies. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Eddie was born in an intense and unexpected way via emergency c-section

I went from absolute panic and fear that we’d lose him to absolute bliss when they placed him on my chest. I’ll never forget that moment when he suckled from me and I breathed him in for the first time. It was truly divine.   

But that instinctual suckling at birth didn’t last. I would offer him my breast hourly and I would pump and pump and pump to try to increase my milk supply. 

I sourced brewer's yeast, flaxseed, organic oats and baked hundreds of lactation cookies. I took fenugreek tablets, read every book on breastfeeding and googled 'breastfeeding problems' obsessively. 

I saw three different lactation consultants who all advised me to 'keep feeding and keep pumping, you need to increase your supply', and even though I knew in my gut there was more to it, I ignored myself and did as I was told.  

All the while my son was hungry and losing weight. 

My feelings of failure were devastatingly intense. I honestly believed that I wasn’t a proper mother if I couldn’t breastfeed him. The thought that ran through my head constantly was - if you’re not breastfeeding him then anyone could be his mother. I was terrified I wouldn’t bond with him.

Right alongside those feelings of failure were feelings of intense anger that I took out on everyone around me.

I was angry with my baby son for his insatiable hunger I couldn’t satisfy. I’d seethe at my family and friends who tried to offer support, advice or assistance. 

But my purest rage was reserved for my husband who’d try so hard to help.

He’d hold the baby when I was exhausted and would suggest giving him a small bottle of formula so that I could have a sleep. 

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Instead of seeing the kindness and practicality of this, I saw it as proof of my failure and would scream and accuse him of undermining my breastfeeding.

We talk all things feeding on Mamamia's podcast for parents of little kids, This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.


Finally, when Eddie was three months old, we found a lactation consultant who dug deeper. 

She realised there was an issue with Eddie’s latch because of the shape of his mouth. She helped me understand that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it was just biology, but she also still pushed the 'breast is best' mantra, telling me to try all kinds of things. 

So for another six weeks I did. I tried a hospital grade breast pump, and a supplemental feeding system (you tape little tubes to your boobs, and wear a bottle of formula or pumped milk around your neck, so while baby feeds they also get additional milk through the tubes), and we did tongue therapy with Eddie to strengthen his mouth and suck. 

Then finally I was done. I was worn out and saw how my obsession with breastfeeding was harming my family and me, and I let go.

I accepted that my child would be mixed fed - mainly bottle, some breast - and he would be okay. And he was, and I was still his mother and we still bonded. 

When I had my second child five years later, I was ready to accept whatever happened and turned up to the hospital with a big can of formula just in case. 

Surprisingly, he breastfed beautifully and easily for over 12 months. This was wonderful to experience, but it also showed me that my connection to my children was not based on the way I fed them.

However, they were fed, I am their mother, and I am intrinsically connected to them. End of story.

Feature Image: Getty.

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