The Baby Feeding Series with Prose and Progeny

Hello and welcome back to another instalment of The Baby Feeding Series, that features real stories from real parents who have experienced how hard and baffling feeding your baby can be. I want this series to be a place where parents can share their own experiences in the hopes that other parents who are struggling can feel less alone. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world but it's one of the most rewarding jobs too and so I want to share their stories.

Last week we had the lovely Lucy from Muffin Top Mummy who kindly shared her bottle feeding journey with her daughter, a journey that that resonated with me as a bottle feeding mother. This week I would like to introduce another fantastic blogger who has just moved her website Rachel from Prose and Progeny who shares a beautifully written post about when breast isn't always best. Without further ado, I'd like to hand it over to the lovely Rachel...

When Breast Isn't Best

Everyone talks about how breast is best when it comes to feeding you baby. Best for nutrients, best for the bond between mother and baby. Best for losing baby weight. Best for convenience. It is made out to be so simple and easy that women who don't breastfeed are often labelled as lazy, selfish, and stupid.

Nobody ever talks about the reasons for not breastfeeding. There are so many reason beyond the expected I don't want to.

Granted, there are many women out there who don't want to, for one reason or other. Some women feel uncomfortable with the idea. They see their breasts as something for their partner rather than their child. Some women want their partners to be able to do feeds too, so decide to go straight to formula. Some women who already have children decide that it will be easier to bottle feed so that they can split their time evenly between their children and get other members of the family to help with feeds. Whatever their reasons, they are entitled to make their own decisions.

But what about the women who want to breastfeed but can't?

I've spoken to women who desperately wanted to breastfeed, but they weren't allowed because of the medication they were on. I've spoken to one lady who was unable to because she had inverted nipples and her baby couldn't latch, and another whose milk never came in no matter how much she encouraged it. Then there are those whose baby doesn't like the breast.

I'd always intended to breastfeed, and it had never really crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to. I'd spoken to a couple of friends who hadn't breastfed past the first couple of days, because it was too painful for them so they moved to formula. That wasn't going to be me though, because I would get through that pain and all would be well. I remember when my son was first born (by emergency c-section), and after some skin to skin time he made his own way to my breast. That first feed was perfect; he latched so easily, and it felt so right. I felt complete.

After that, however, was a different story.

The first day and a half in hospital, I had nurses and midwives in and out trying to help me with feeding. My son was so sleepy from the medication I'd had during my 36 hour stint from first pains (half hour after induction) to c-section, that he found it hard to stay awake. I had people coming in to help me keep him awake whilst feeding, but it just didn't happen. I was encouraged to hand express onto a teaspoon, because just a couple of drops of colostrum was all he needed to keep him going. Have you ever tried to hand express before your milk has come in? It's bloody difficult. After that first day and a half though, he latched by himself and feeding became so easy. Painful, as it is to begin with, but easy.

The next hurdle I came across was my social anxiety. I've had social anxiety for years and years, and it can get quite severe. I found it pretty much impossible to feed in front of people. I don't know why, because I think it's brilliant when I see women out feeding their little ones. I always think good for her! I just couldn't break that barrier though. There was only one time I was prepared enough to feed in public, and that was the one time he didn't even wake up!

The stress began to build up inside me because I was always fretting about when he would wake up and where we would be. I couldn't go out for more than an hour at a time, and that had to be straight after a feed, or I would be on edge the entire time. Even then I couldn't completely relax.

I was given some very bad advice...I was told that sometimes they needed to be forced onto the breast and held there

My son started to pick up on the stress after the first couple of weeks, and things began to get difficult. I had health visitors come round to check up on us and give me advice on feeding, and one of those visits actually made it worse. I was given some very bad advice...I was told that sometimes they needed to be forced onto the breast and held there, so they knew what to do. That they would soon get used to it and give in. Well, my son didn't like being forced. He didn't like being held there, and I don't blame him.

The stress was mounting even more, and it got to the point where I was dreading him waking up because I knew he would wake up hungry and it would be a screaming fit because he didn't want to latch. All it took was for me to get my nipple out, and he would start screaming. I was beginning to resent him because everything was going wrong and I was constantly exhausted and spent more than half of each day in tears just wanting to scream myself. Although he was my baby and I knew I loved him, I just couldn't bond with him at all. I was being told to persevere, because it would get easier after the first 6 weeks, but he was just too hungry and I was too exhausted.

I firmly believe that this was the tipping point that triggered my Postnatal OCD.

When we got to 5 weeks, I made the decision to switch over to bottles. We knew he would take them, because we'd given him expressed milk in bottles previously to make sure he actually got some milk in him.

As soon as I made that decision, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I felt guilty for giving up, because the only thing I had running through my head was breast is best breast is best breast is best over and over and over, but I also felt incredibly relieved.

The next morning, I started the day with a bottle for him. We had cuddles and chilled out, and it was a nice relaxed start. He had formula the rest of the day, except for a couple of small bottles of expressed milk that I'd managed to build up during his naps. I could see the difference in him from that first day. He was no longer hungry – he was full, and he was content. The stress seeped out of me, and I started finally being able to properly bond with him.

He was no longer hungry – he was full, and he was content.

So, next time you hear of a mum who isn't breastfeeding, don't jump straight to judgement. There could be many reasons behind her decision, and it might not even be a decision she was happy with.

For me, breast wasn't best. To continue breastfeeding would have led me down an even darker road, and who knows what would have happened. The pressure of it all had such a large impact on my mental health, that I know stopping was the best decision. I wouldn't have been able to build a proper relationship with my son either.

Sometimes, breast isn't best.


About Rachel
Rachel is a family and parenting blogger and mother to one. A lover of bunnies, a bookworm and a gamer.  Rachel became a blogger to join the crowd of individuals filling the internet with nonsensical thoughts and notions, mainly about her experiences in motherhood.