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.

What a crazy week we have, but it's time for yet another instalment of our weekly guest post series, and this week we have the lovely Rice Cakes and Raisins, who has kindly offered to share her thoughts about her breastfeeding journey that's sadly coming to an end with her youngest. There is always competition in parenthood but it's always best to try and keep out of it. You will meet parents that do it all by the book, parents that don’t and parents that always seem to have it all together. But it doesn't really matter, what matter is that you, your family and what's best for you - so go easy on yourself. With that, I shall hand you over to Rice Cakes and Raisins. 

Go easy on yourself

My breastfeeding journey is nearly over with my youngest, in part because he keeps full on smacking me in the face during a feed but also because it seems like it’s starting to come to a natural end. As I watched the boys playing together this morning, and with the thought of this on my mind, I realised that you’d really never know which of the boys was bottle-fed and which was breastfed. I know this is an emotive subject and I’m not going to try and promote one over the other (if you’ve had a baby you’ll already know which method is advised), but I do feel that it’s time we cut ourselves, and others, some slack.

With the first boy I tried to breastfeed, I really did. But I just didn’t get there. He wouldn’t latch on. As the hours passed by, he lost weight, resulting in us having a five day hospital stay before they would discharge us. I was beyond exhausted, desperately expressing round the clock to try and build him back up. I don’t remember many things from those first days, after a big blood loss and no sleep for five days it’s all a bit hazy, but I do remember setting my phone alarm in hospital every two hours throughout the night so I could try and express for an hour before he woke up. The reality of it was that when all that was done, setting up the pump, expressing and then feeding him, I had approximately half an hour left to sleep before the alarm was going to go off again. It was physically and mentally exhausting. It was soul destroying. When we finally got home, my husband went out for some formula and it was a revelation! And while it felt so good to be able to finally feed him without the stress and urgency of having to express enough to satisfy him and to time it all ahead of him waking, with that came intense guilt, guilt that I hadn’t quite managed what was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, something I’d watched woman after woman achieve on the postnatal ward just hours after they had given birth.

But as I look at him now, he’s amazing. He’s funny, bright and beautiful. Yesterday he came home with a star award from preschool for counting to one hundred. One hundred! He’s happy, he's wonderfully weird and he’s healthy.

With the youngest, he latched on straight away. Now, I’m not saying it was easy. Far, far from it. At first, I’d have rather have gone through labour again than that initial latch on pain- think bleeding, cracked nipples- horrendous! But persevere we did, as despite this, with each feed we seemed like we were always a tiny step closer to cracking it and eventually we did, we came out the other side and that became his main method of feeding. While I’m glad that we managed it and that he reaped the many benefits from breastfeeding, one of the reasons we kept going was because I felt I had something to prove, to myself and others and because I didn’t want to have to feel guilty all over again or to have to justify my feeding choices to anyone else. And that was wrong, that shouldn’t have come into it. I see this time and time again in my baby classes; bottle feeding mums who firstly, feel like they have to admit that they are bottle feeding and secondly, the reasons behind it. I’ll never ask, I’ll never judge and you certainly don’t need to justify yourself to me. You’re doing great!

My youngest too is funny, beautiful, happy and healthy and while I once felt guilt, I no longer do. They’ve both blossomed. The mother and baby unit is a partnership so while there are many reasons to breastfeed, if one of you isn’t on board, then ultimately it won’t be a content one. You can definitely still bond with a bottle-fed baby, they stare at your face, not at your boobs, and while breastfeeding has undeniable health benefits, it’s not unhealthy to bottle-feed, not at all.

So if you’re just starting out or if you’re well into your feeding journey, go easy on yourself. There is always competition in parenthood but try and keep out of it. You will meet parents that do it all by the book, parents that don’t and parents that always seem to have their shit together while you have Weetabix in your hair and sick down your leg but that’s life. It’s irrelevant. What matters is you and your family. And you’re doing great!


About Rice Cakes and Raisins

A midlands based 30-something mum of two small boys who previously worked as a nurse but now very recently self-employed. The whole idea behind her blog is to share her journey and the day to day highs and lows of being a mum and for people to know that it's OK to just be you, to not have parenting and adult life completely figured out.  

You can find more posts over at Rice Cakes and Raisins

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