It was 3am as I sat there attempting to feed my baby in the dim light coming from my bedside lamp. I’d put him on either side for 40 minutes and he was still crying (read shrieking!) and clearly hungry.
I stumbled downstairs and made a bottle – they weren’t top ups anymore, they were full feeds.
My gut told me this was not working but my mind was screaming that I had to try, that I’d be doing my baby a disservice if I didn’t breastfeed and that I’d be a bad mum.
It sounds crazy, right?! I’d like to blame the raging hormones but I have spoken to many a mum since who feel exactly the same way.
Breastfeeding is hard and no one tells you
Everyone warns you about the symptoms you’ll experience during your pregnancy, the braxton hicks, the labour pains, the episiotomy, etc. But not one person sat me down and said “breastfeeding is going to be hard.”
No one told me about the cracked nipples, the latch, possible tongue tie and most importantly the guilt that came with not being able to breastfeed.
My naïve 28-year old self assumed I’d pop my son on my breast and hey presto, he’d be getting nourished, “the natural way he should.”
It took me a good 6 weeks before I finally decided enough was enough and gave up breastfeeding. To be perfectly honest, I’d probably given up long before. I wasn’t producing any milk and going by the “top ups” I was giving him, he was essentially getting all his milk by formula.
I just didn’t want to stop trying for fear of being judged or ridiculed and the guilt ate at me every day. When I did finally stop, it felt like someone had lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Finally, I was happy and so was he.
Breastfeeding is best but…
Now, before anyone starts seeing this as a breastfeeding bashing piece, please reserve judgement. I am by no means saying breastfeeding isn’t important or that breast isn’t best. What I am advocating for is the belief that:
a) FED is best
b) It’s a woman’s choice and she should be supported no matter what her decision.
Some mothers choose not to breastfeed and other’s give up because they simply can’t feed. They most definitely shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for it.
Science has advanced so much that I believe formula is a healthy option for babies. It carries nutrients, minerals and vitamins and a mother feeding her baby from a bottle builds as much of a bond as a mother breastfeeding.
For those who believe otherwise, my question would then be, do you not believe your partner is bonding with their baby? The fact is, if you observed a group of 6-year olds at a playground, you would not be able to differentiate the formula and breastfed children.
As I said before, this post is not anti-breastfeeding. If possible, I am all for it. I just think there needs to be more support for mothers – both for those who want to breastfeed and for those who don’t or can’t breastfeed.
Mums-to-be need more support
I’ve taken it upon myself to talk about it to friends and family when they get pregnant. To let them know it’s not easy but to also offer support and encouragement if they’d like to. We need to talk about it, we need to take away the guilt and we need to support our fellow mothers, whatever their choice.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can give your child is LOVE.
Natasha Mahtani is a London mother to a little boy S who talks about her world travels and thoughts on life on her popular blog Mama Duck Quacks. See more of her pieces at www.mamaduckquacks.com