Breast is best. The end. That is what is rammed down our throats when we become parents and ultimately it is the truth. However, what happens when you are unable to breastfeed?
When I became a first time mum two years ago there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't breastfeed, the baby would be born and straight away latch on and away we go. Unfortunately it wasn't so easy and my new born son did not latch on properly every time. Midwives I saw gave me different advice, hours after giving birth one told me to give up and bottle feed. This might have been because she was under pressure to see another new mum in the ward and with a look of pure desperation in my eyes she felt it would be easier to escape leaving me to mull it over and I don't blame her, I was a mess. I did not give up, I persevered and the other midwives during the first week told me not to worry and that if he latched on sometimes it meant that he was getting what he wanted, he was getting enough. Again and again we were told that babies' stomachs are the size of their fists and my husband and I shouldn't worry, our son was feeding. Deep down inside I knew this not to be true, I had a feeling he wasn't getting enough milk but being a first time parent we listened to the medical professionals. After all what did we know?!
Exactly one week after giving birth our son would not wake up from a sleep, we called his name, tried to feed him (to no avail), tickled his feet, stroked his hair and everything we could think of before calling help. Paramedics arrived and although he was breathing his listless little body still would not move or give us any other indication of life. He was given glucose and still nothing. Off we travelled in the ambulance to hospital with the blue lights flashing, my husband and I unable to speak, numb with fear. After being admitted the wonderful doctors from paediatrics revealed that our son was starving! Yes, starving and dehydrated and that it was lucky we brought him in when we did. As the guilt washed over me I felt anger at myself as my intuition had been right and I should have listened to myself. He wasn't getting any milk and all efforts had been in vain. I also felt anger that we were told the wrong information and the thought of someone else going through this ordeal made me feel sick.
After this we went to breastfeeding clinics in our area to find help for the latching on (or lack of it) situation. We went to breastfeeding clinics not in our area after the first ones suggested trying him on a bottle. We employed a Lactation Consultant (for a tidy sum) and she came to our home, massaged my breasts, this is supposed to stimulate the breast and at this point I didn't care as long as it got the milk flowing. Alas, he still could not or would not latch on. After expressing milk for ten weeks, sitting for hours and using the equipment that makes you feel like cattle only to have expressed 30ml, I gave up. I gave up and felt like a failure, my one and very important job and I couldn't do it. Would mother and son be able to bond properly? Would he be stupid? These and other questions whirring through my mind. What made it worse were the reactions of other women, how could I stop and was I really using a bottle in public with formula in it.
Why was I out for dinner? Doesn't my six month old baby need to be breastfed? I came across a friend's Facebook page recently, a young mother herself she had posted about how she did not understand how mums didn't breastfeed, didn't they know the benefits and that they probably weren't doing it because they wanted to smoke and drink and get back to 'themselves'. Anyone who has ever had a baby knows that it is difficult and near impossible to get back to 'yourself' and you are left to deal with a slightly frazzled version of you. It is this smug, naive and unwanted attitude that women need to be aware of. Being a parent is hard enough without listening to this superfluous drivel.