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"You weren’t perfect. But you were good enough": A letter to the mums struggling to breastfeed.

Hi new mum,

Congratulations on your first pregnancy and delivery of your healthy baby boy. I know you’re struggling right now, coming to terms with what’s happening with breastfeeding your baby, but I promise it will get better.

It’s been one month since you got through a 40-hour labour. You were certain you would need to have a c-section as your labour wasn’t progressing and you didn’t think your pelvis was designed to give birth vaginally. But you did, well done.

This is what breastfeeding looks like around the world, from China to the US.

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You agonised over an epidural and waited until you couldn’t take it any more. Then you had two because the first didn’t work, and it was almost 39 hours into your labour that you finally felt some relief. I almost can’t believe that you survived, but you did.

It wasn’t pretty. You had more than one breakdown during labour, and after the ecstasy and relief of the birth, three sleepless nights in, you had another one. A kind midwife suggested a bottle of formula, and you quickly agreed, desperate for some rest. You didn’t know that would potentially impact the establishment of your breastfeeding; you were desperate.

Five days after birth with minimal milk supply, the triple feeding began: first you would breast feed, then pump milk using a double pump hooked up through an old bra, while trying to feed your baby a bottle to fill him up. You did this overnight. You did this every three hours.

I don’t know how you kept going. You were amazing.

You wanted to breastfeed fully and you tried your very best for three months. Every day you tallied up how much formula your baby had required and you judged yourself and your competence as a mother by that number; less formula = better day = better mum.

Your partner also fell into this with you, no doubt because it seemed so important to you. All you talked about was feeding. How much, what milk, and where to next. You took the medications to increase supply. You seemed to be permanently hooked up to the pump.

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"I don’t know how you kept going. You were amazing." Image: Supplied.
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You tried to sleep when you could. You searched the internet for any advice. You talked to multiple friends with similar experiences. You saw different lactation consultants. You were relentless.

And then at two months, your baby started to refuse the breast. How it hurt. How frustrated and angry you were, and deeply sad. It seemed there was one obstacle after another. Was anything about feeding ever going to be easy for you?

Again, you rang the breastfeeding hotline. You sought more advice. But there was no quick fix. You thought you were never going to feel better about this; you had failed, you had let your baby down and it hurt so very badly.

You would think back to his little face after birth, he had been born seeking the breast and had been so quick to latch, and now he didn’t want to any more; you questioned your every decision. Night times were special as he continued to breast feed, and you looked forward to those times of quiet intimacy.

I wish I could tell you then that it was going to get better. Not in the way that you wanted: you are never going to establish full breast feeding, but you are going to feel okay about it. You will grieve it, and then it will be okay.

Your life will be a lot more manageable when you are pumping less frequently, only bottle feeding breast milk and formula during the day, and breastfeeding at night. It is important to you that your baby gets breast milk and you will continue to do what it takes to make this happen, but you will not put too much pressure on yourself about the amount. You will let go.

As someone wise once said to you; there are two of you here. This is one of the first things in your life that you cannot control and it hurts, but he is who he is, your beautiful son, and this is what he wants. You cannot force it. And it will be okay.

He will thrive and you will then wonder why you spent most of your time together worrying about feeding when you could have been enjoying him as much as you do now.

More than anything, I want to tell you that I forgive you for your choices. You made the best decisions you could at the time, you tried your very best, but it wasn’t to be.

You weren’t perfect. But you were good enough.

What would you tell yourself about breastfeeding if you had the chance? Tell us in the comments section below.

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