The Newborn Feeding Series is BACK! And, this week I’m so happy to be featuring the lovely Davina from Motherhood IRL. I’ve been chatting a lot with her over the past few weeks, mainly about politics (how intellectual of us, I know) and we definitely share a lot of views. I love her blog and can’t wait for you all to read about her newborn feeding experiences with her two little boys.
Feeding isn’t an easy subject for me. In fact, it is a topic fraught with guilt and self-doubt. But perhaps that just makes it even more important for me to talk about it.
I loved breastfeeding. Perhaps not every second of it, if I’m completely honest. I could have done without the feeling of having my nipples put through a meat grinder during the early days. Leaky boobs were also a bit of a shitter. And those fucking breast pads that always fell out at really inappropriate time weren’t great either. But then there were those quiet, calm, drowsy middle-of-the-night feeds when it felt like my baby and I were the only people awake in the world. They were the moments I treasured the most, and as I finished my breastfeeding journey with my first baby, I promised myself that I would do it for even longer with my second.
You know, sometimes I just think that life is a bit of a dick. Like it knows what our plans are and it just pisses all over them for entertainment.
My second baby had reflux. Bad reflux. Puke across the room and up the wall reflux. Or, as so often happened, finish a feed and puke it all back up over my still-exposed boob. But I wanted to breastfeed him, and so I battled. I sat with him in my lap, milk dripping into a muslin cloth while he screamed and screamed and rejected my nipple in favour of being hungry. I spent hours attached to a breast pump, grimly determined to carry on even if it meant that I had to sterilise the fucking thing 3000 times a day. I offered the first boob and cried with frustration and anguish every time he rejected the second one and left me uneven and uncomfortable while my husband coaxed him into taking expressed milk from a bottle and I faffed with the pump.
But Breast is Best, isn’t it? That’s what the midwives tell you at your NCT classes. That’s the message the posters peddle on the maternity ward. That’s what the government says. And you know what? They’re not wrong. For be it from me to ever deny the benefits of breastfeeding.
When you’ve cried over your latest breastfeeding failure on your bedroom floor for the umpteenth time in a week, maybe breast isn’t best. When your milk is starting to dry up because your baby won’t feed from you and the breast pump isn’t stimulating your supply, maybe it’s time to think about giving yourself a break. When you don’t have two fucking days to spend in bed with your baby “re-birthing” him like the feeding specialist said (yes, really), maybe you just have to accept that this constant cycle of guilt and frustration and sadness just isn’t “best” for anyone.
When my baby was nine weeks old, I had to stop breastfeeding. I was exhausted and I blamed myself every single time he wouldn’t feed. I convinced myself that it was my fault and, in the absence of a diagnosis at that point, I started to think that it must be my milk making him sick. Of course, it wasn’t and he carried on throwing up and screaming and not wanting to eat.
He’s almost 21 months old now and I don’t often think about our breastfeeding nightmare anymore. It kind of feels like it happened to somebody else now, like another lifetime or the remnants of a bad dream. Except that sometimes when I see another mum feeding her baby while she’s out for lunch with a friend, I feel a little pang for what we lost, and I find myself wondering if I really did try hard enough.
And I did. I know that I did. Nobody could have tried harder. But I don’t always remember that and sometimes I just feel ashamed instead.
The reason I wanted to start this series is because I was sick of seeing the ‘Breast is Best’ motto being peddled by anyone and everyone, be it online in the blogging world or the NHS in their well-meaning, but often pushy, way. I think that pushing and ingraining this belief in every prospective parent can only lead to emotional upset like Davina suffered, if you end up feeling like you haven’t lived up to the breastfeeding ideals of everyone else. I think what is so important to remember, like Davina did, is that BREAST IS NOT ALWAYS BEST. If it’s effecting you mentally or physically it is not best. You are in no way harming your baby or letting anybody down. If you tried for one day, one month, one year to breastfeed, then that is enough. If you kept those tatas strictly baby free, then that is also enough. NEVER feel ashamed of your parenting choices, caring for a baby is not a one way street and it is always up to you to choose which direction you take.
Please get in touch if you’d like to featured in this series, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All experiences are welcome, blogger or not!