Let me be completely honest.
There are times when breastfeeding absolutely sucks... excuse the pun. I have been trying to write this article for weeks now, torn between honesty and not wanting to sound like a bad mum. But I've run out of ideas so I'm just going to say it how it is. Breastfeeding is hard! Of course we continue for all of the numerous health benefits but let's just take a minute to be completely selfish and throw our proverbial toys out of the pram for once!
I have been breastfeeding since the day my son was born and although in the beginning I felt an immense pride in what I was doing, as the exhaustion sets in breastfeeding can begin to feel much more like a chore then an achievement. Not only are you goggled at in public but as breastfeeding mothers you spend half of your day with scratchy breast pads clamped between boob and bra, and the other with your boobs so solid they could cut glass! And as though that wasn't enough, the promoted method of breastfeeding is currently on demand! And at times it can feel just like that. Demanding! During my antenatal classes breastfeeding was depicted as a unique way to form a bond between mum and baby. I'm not sure how bottle feeding mothers feel about this theory however I can confirm that when it's 3am and your baby is waking for the fifth time wanting to be fed that 'special bond' is in serious danger of being broken!
I spent hours confiding in various midwives, health care professionals and family members alike only to be told that as I had no medical difficulties in my way, how could I possibly want to jeopardise my sons health and future? Let's refer to them as the breastfeeding mafia. These hard-nosed enthusiasts bullying us mothers to conform to the 'correct' method of nursing. And they weren't the only ones. I hate to admit it but there have even been times when I have felt bullied by my son. Of course he's a baby and doesn't actively set out to harass me but sometimes his cry which can melt my heart, suddenly sounds like a scream of 'undress yourself woman, I'm hungry'! This got me thinking. Are the benefits of breastfeeding really worth sacrificing a positive attitude to parenting?
I think back on my antenatal classes and wonder why with all the technical aspects being covered the emotional struggle and methods of coping were not even mentioned? Gemma Mills mother of one speaks in her blog of how on asking for formula in hospital after her sons birth her midwife looked 'thunderous' and rather then respecting her wishes 'grabbed her breasts and pummeled them' leaving her 'sore from all the squeezing and her son distressed'. I remember myself attempting to leave hospital and being barraged by three separate midwives refusing to let me leave until they had seen two successful latches and feedings, and that's after already having breastfed twice through the night! How ridiculous, old enough to have a baby but not to decide how we would like to raise them?
Don't get me wrong, I would always advise attempting the natural route first, but if breastfeeding isn't an option, is it right for women to be made to feel as inferior parents to their naturally nursing friends? In which case where does it end, Shall we examine same-sex parenting and adopted babies too? Both of which are examples where bottle-feeding is the best scenario and excuse me if I feel these babies are just as healthy and just as connected to their parents as any baby attached to the breast from day dot.
Now eight months on people regularly ask me how I have managed to continue nursing for so long. Surprisingly the turning point actually came the day I bought my first box of formula. My GP finally recommend I try it so I went home to make my first bottle. However, when the time came I found there was actually something more then just public pressure stopping me from making the switch. By simply feeling as though I had a choice I had found the confidence to continue. Similarly Lisa Roberts, CEO of Baby Blooms Gift Company, states in her blog that it was only after the pressure of breastfeeding was lifted that she 'began to bond with her baby and enjoy those precious early days of motherhood.' I'm not suggesting it's such a quick fix for everyone but you've got to wonder, is the pressure to breastfeed actually causing women to quit?
I can only say to any mothers currently struggling to breastfeed, there is more to being a mum then being milked like a prize heifer. My son turned eight months yesterday and since six months I have been combination feeding and he's just a healthy and happy as ever. I strongly believe that as long as you managed to keep confident, stay positive and focus on building a happy life for your little one, you're doing just great!