It is World Breastfeeding Week on the 1 -7 August 2015 and as we know breastfeeding is always in and out of the news. It seems a go-to subject on 'slow' news weeks, with headlines typically featuring outraged Mothers making a stand against prudish restaurateurs, foolishly ignorant members of the public or worse, inappropriately outspoken public figures.
As a twice failed breastfeeder still berating myself for my 'apparent' inadequacy 17 and 14 years later, I had hoped that times had moved on, that perceptions and attitudes had changed and that society is now more supportive of mothers and the choices they make. I want to share my experiences of breastfeeding to highlight some of the issues I faced and urge new mums not to feel guilty if they cannot breastfeed. Also, influencers to new mums should provide more practical advice at every stage and relieve as much guilt as possible!
Throughout my first pregnancy I had very clear expectations for motherhood and breastfeeding was definitely key. I was totally sold on all of the benefits. However, after an emergency c-section, the reality was very different!
Over four nights in hospital I didn't sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and was constantly 'feeding' my baby who cried incessantly while it seemed most of the other mums indulged in their beauty routines and pampering while their contented babies slept soundly.
Comments from midwives in the hospital included ' it's not surprising you're struggling, that baby has a recessive chin' and ' you can tell he'll grow up to be a whingey boy who says Muuuuum, have we got any crisps'... really encouraging comments given he was only days old!
On the last day in hospital I screamed when I discovered that my baby was passing blood, to be reassured by a midwife that it was my blood he'd drunk from my cracked and bleeding nipples.
Arriving home on day five exhausted and tearful I was still 'feeding' my starving baby. After a few hours, my husband took charge and drove our son to the supermarket. Half an hour later they were back with bottles, steriliser and formula and an hour later my contented baby slept and the house was calm. The next day, with the pressure off, I began to bond with my baby and to enjoy those precious early days of Motherhood.
Even this experience didn't deter me from trying again with my second son, I convinced myself that I did it wrong and maybe my second son would latch on better or I'd have more patience. But whilst number two was calmer, after five days I'd failed. This time however, I was invited to a breast feeding clinic where a midwife helped to position me and my baby and to get him to latch on properly. She then left me for twenty minutes promising to return and weigh him to prove to me that he had fed. Unfortunately, she positioned me in such a way that the circulation to my legs was affected. When she returned and asked me to hop off the couch and walk to the scales I fell in a heap, scraping my shoulder on some metal steps and narrowly avoiding crushing my precious baby. At that point I left and subsequently chose the bottle!
I felt enormous pressure to breastfeed and subsequently felt failure and guilt. After ten years of working in the baby gifts market, I have remained close to mums and babies and the issues they face. Whilst new mums are often older than I was (I was 25 when I had number 1) and more knowledgeable, I still think Mums face as much if not more pressure to breastfeed than at any point in the past.
All Mums want the best for their babies and to be the best mums they can. Self-imposed pressure is inevitable so further media and influencer pressure is something new mums do not need. My message for new Mums is that while Breast may be best, bottle feeding does not represent failure. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and to be the best mum that you can be, you need to be relaxed and calm and to enjoy your baby and if using a bottle allows you to then you are a great mum!!
Originally posted on www.babyblooms.co.uk