Picture the scene... an exhausted new mum who had approximately four hours sleep, with a sleep thief clamped to her painful chest once again. Feed over now, she thinks it is the time for Dad to take over while she gets some rest before the next feed. A good couple of hours at least, or just one hour surely? Nope, less than 30mins later the baby is returned wanting to be fed.
Nipples sore, she grimaces and feels tears coming. She sighs and braces herself for the onslaught of another feeding session. Deep down with each feed she is enjoying it less and less, she begins to dread feeding times knowing she has no one to rely on but herself to get through this. At 4am, 5am, she vows she can get through it. She scans the internet for some sort of success story to give her some hope. Hours are spent obsessing over breastfeeding apps, what side, for how long, was he getting enough? She isn't enjoying this and while everyone is asleep, she is in pain and miserable. Come 7am she is even more sore, exhausted and hormonal as hell. She tries to sleep but is woken up again with what can only be described as world war three downstairs.
It has been brewing for a few days, but tensions are rife on all sides of the Cockerill household. A toddler, jealous and out of place has been playing up constantly not fully understanding why Mummy cannot come and play whilst feeding his new brother. A Dad feeling redundant and left out, not sure where his place is with the new son he now has. A son he cannot feed like he did with his first. He watches as his partner defiant she will not fail at this but slowly he sees her physically and more importantly mentally struggle. He wants to help her, he suggests formula and she bites his head off.
She tries to ignore the baby screaming downstairs, she knows he wants to feed again, her stomach sinks. She knows her partner is doing what he can to settle him as he knows how she feels. She can hear her toddler throwing a tantrum and her partner shouting. Getting up she heads downstairs, with each stair her heart becomes heavier and heavier. She knows this cannot go on, she doesn't have it in her. Her family is suffering. But was she giving up for purely selfish reasons? Because she wants help? Because she is tired? Because she cannot bear the pain? Because she doesn't know how it is going to work when her partner goes back to work? Because she wants a routine? Perhaps, but looking around the chaos of the living room, with what should be a happy time she looked and saw three more miserable faces. No one in this house was happy, in fact they were all far from it.
Something snapped, she went into the kitchen and put a bottle in the steriliser and got the formula out. As a back-up, she had got a couple of ready-made bottles in just in case of any problems. This wasn't just a problem, this was a car crash. She couldn't go on, she was done. Everything came pouring out of her and as she handed the bottle to her partner and he began to feed the baby for the first time, she relaxed. She felt at ease. She took her toddler in the kitchen and made him a snack. She cleaned the kitchen and had a bath. She began to feel the house relax, she began to allow herself to relax and she breathed a sigh of relief.
To anyone who breastfeeds on demand, and has a toddler too, I take my hat off to you. I do not know how you do it. They say breast is best, and I gave it a go but for my family it was not. When you become a mother of two, there is more than one child to think of and this was my first big parenting decision that I had to make for the both of them. In the mist of riding a hormonal crash it felt like everything was crumbling around me. I set out to breastfeed as I could not the first time with Elijah and I am glad I did. I tried, and for a week I did it. Did I enjoy it? Not particularly. Do I think it strengthened my bond with the baby? No, and it then became detrimental to my physical and mental health and my relationships with Elijah and Greg who hadn't been able to get close to me in over a week.
Anyone who is reading this, feeling like they cannot go on or feeling like they cannot cope and are feeling guilty about the alternatives, don't. As a parent, you have more than enough guilt to feel, do not add to it. If you are not happy, then set out to change it. Process the feelings, all of them even the irrational ones then accept them and move on. I am not promoting formula feeding is best, nor that breast is best I am advocating that a happy mum and family is best and you have to do what is right for you. That will be different for everyone. For us, this was best and I spent days being unhappy as I didn't want to 'fail', or be seen as selfish. I was unhappy, and as a result everyone else was as well. I tainted enough of my start to motherhood with Elijah being unhappy I wasn't going to do it again. I still feel a slight sense of failure, but I am also proud of myself as I never in a million years thought I would breastfeed, (even in public) and most of all I am proud of myself for acknowledging the issue, and setting out to change it before it broke me and my family apart.
My advice to any new mum? Do what makes you happy. Then you can whole heartedly say you did what was 'best', for you and your child(ren).
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