Breastfeeding is beautiful but I am not one to pass up the opportunity of a good pun!
The sentiment for me though, stands.
I was determined to breastfeed for no reason except it was how I was choosing to feed my baby. No judgements, just choice. But it didn’t work out that way.
I knew breastfeeding could be uncomfortable to start off with, but my biggest worry was about baring all in public… this should have been the least of my worries and I was so unprepared for what followed.
I found breastfeeding more than uncomfortable and it got worse. I rang health visitors and lactation specialists but they could only tell me that she wasn’t latched properly. When they saw us, she was latched properly… I just didn’t know what to do. I was exhausted, she was trying to feed a lot, and I was getting myself down.
My nipples started to crack and bleed and every time I fed my daughter I had to brace myself, hold onto a towel tightly, curl my toes and wince until she was done. Which felt like never.
As you’re advised not to express straight away my partner couldn’t help me with feeds. I just needed sleep. When I did start to express it just felt like I spent weeks either feeding or my boobs hooked to a pump.
I so desperately wanted this to be beautiful but I found it the hardest thing about becoming a Mum. I was exhausted, crying so much and now, on top of recovering from labour, my breasts agonised and were made worse by cluster feeding.
I was determined, I tried to carry on.
The moment that I admitted defeat was when I woke one morning (could easily have been middle of the night or day), when my daughter was about 2 weeks old and I felt like I had the flu. Soaring fever, achy, shivering, shaking; I could barely lift my head off the pillow but my daughter needed me, so I got up. My partner said he would come and change her but I was adamant that I had to do everything myself (more on that to come later).
I set her down on her changing mat and knowing her feed would come shortly after, I broke down on the living room floor. I accepted that I couldn’t do it and my partner took over.
I didn’t have the flu but mastitis which is an infection of the breast tissue caused by a build-up of milk. It was so incredibly painful which presents with flu-like symptoms and I had no idea that this was even a possibility.
My partner fed Milky-moo formula and whilst I tried to express still, my daughter eventually ended up solely on formula within just a few weeks.
This sounds like a confession, like I did something wrong. It is not. I did nothing wrong. This is also not to scare anybody! I know many women who have successfully breastfed, but I also know lots, like me, who couldn’t. Either way, formula or breast, FED IS BEST! I do not, nor have I ever judged anyone for doing it either way. It is completely whatever works for you. I just did not realise that it would be so difficult and I didn’t feel like I could admit it to anyone. I felt like I had failed.
For me, I cannot explain why, I just wanted the experience of breastfeeding my baby and I couldn’t. I didn’t let my baby down; she was thriving on formula but I still feel, nearly 10 months on, like I let myself down. I even get a pang of jealousy when I see a Mum breastfeed, wishing I could have done that. As I sit here and read this post to my partner, I am crying.
My partner did ask me once whether I would formula feed our next (if we were to be blessed with a second) from the start. I said no. I want to breastfeed, even if I have the same experience.
The point of this is partly an outlet of my emotions on a subject which I have rarely spoken about. The vital thing however is to share experiences. To be open and honest, so no other woman, Mum or even Dad, feels alone. I did when I went through my breastfeeding journey and I so wished I had someone I knew who had experienced the same. Once I opened up and was honest, I found other women in the same position. I hope I can be that woman to just one other Mum. You are not the only one struggling. I promise you.
Not being able to breastfeed is a huge regret of mine, one I can’t resolve, ever. To write this has made it a little bit easier and I hope I can help, even just one other Mum, make her journey seem a little less lonely.