My first baby arrived when I was a mere 21, yes, I was 21 once! Looking back, in the grand scheme of things I had barely left school long enough to work out what sort of a mother I wanted to be and naively embarked on the motherhood ideals many a young (and often older) woman believe lay ahead of them during their pregnancy. So, when Hugo popped into this world, “popped” being euphoric recall as the reality was it took the best part of 2 days to get the little gremlin out, I just assumed that I would breastfeed my little bundle as my mother had so easily done with me for the best part of two years!
Latching on seemed a doddle from what I remember, but my paranoia that he wasn’t getting enough food thus leading to him not sleeping enough, leading to him screaming endlessly and therefore not eating enough (see the cycle there?) was very much the issue. I soon became an over-tired, emotionally wrecked dairy cow – on the pump at least three times a day, just so I could decant the breast-milk into a bottle to see how much he was eating and try to bring an end to the cycle. I was stressed and my baby was stressed. This was not a happy time. To be honest, the rest is a bit of a blur, until I woke up one morning with cheeks like Aunt Sally, boobs like boulders on which you could easily fry an egg and feeling like I’d had a house dropped on me! Welcome Mastitis! This hadn’t happened over night, but I’d ignored the signs for a good part of a week before admitting there was a problem – as the last thing any new mother wants to admit to is that there is a problem and that all is not well.
After a trip to the drs, a long long sleep, a round of antibiotics and a lot of pain killers – I was functioning again. Amidst all this I’d taken a step which felt like I was betraying womankind and thousands of years of tradition, like I had failed as a mother and let down every midwife on the planet – we’d switched to formula!
Not only did the world not stop spinning but, more importantly, the relief was immense – I could focus on being a mother instead of the milk pumping maniac I’d become and resented.
Needless to say, 13 months later when Bruno made his debut appearance, with the mastitis and stress still fresh in my mind, I made sure the formula and bottles were ready!
Fast-forward another 7 years to March 2015: now a bright eyed 30 year old, content with myself as a woman and mother – with a clear vision on how I want to raise my third baby, I really couldn’t think of any reason why I would not be able to breastfeed. So stalwart was I that breastfeeding was going to work that I scoffed at my mother’s suggestions of getting a few bottles and a steriliser “just in case”- my thoughts: “what could possibly go wrong?”.
I was now older, in a much better emotional place, calm and at ease with being a mother – I got this!
Casper James entered the world at 14.57 on the 27th of March, by about 15.15 I had a little suckling, nestled into my bosom – the perfect picture of mother and baby. Nothing could stop me – I was rockin’ this!
Throughout the first night (spent in hospital for routine checks) my little man snuggled into his mummy’s bobbies for hours on end. My nipples felt a little sore and on a number of times I called the midwife to confirm the baby was latching on correctly – yup, she thought he looked great!
Over the next 24 hours with each feed my nipples grew more sore, then cracked, then bloody… was this normal? I Googled away to find that this most definitively was not normal, but, I persevered as I was not going to let this get the better of me. I started to dread each feed, anticipating the pain that would come with it.
We bought a pump in the hope this would more gently extract the milk which I would then be able to pass onto the baby; we bought nipple shields (I would in no way recommend these as a remedy for painful nipples as they killed!!); I slathered on the nipple cream; I took pain killers… until, on day three (generally known as the most tearful day after birth anyway due to milk coming in), after tears started to well in my eyes at the thought of the next feed my mum took one look at engorged boobs and called the drs for an emergency appointment. You guessed it – I yet again had mastitis.
The tears rolled and the feeling of failure set in, although only momentarily – this really wasn’t the end of the world. Sure, my visions of serenely breastfeeding my child whilst butterflies fluttered around us and the sun shone endlessly were dashed, but my baby was happy and healthy and continues to be and isn’t that the whole point?!
There are, of course, hundreds of benefits to breastfeeding, but there can be pros to bottle feeding too: it gives dad, grandma et al a chance to bond with the new arrival by feeding which can be such a close and special time; it gives mum the chance for some downtime without worrying about the next feed; in my case, it allows me to give the older boys a proper bedtime (as Casper seems to want to go to bed at exactly the same time!) – read a book, have a cuddle and catch up on the highs and lows of their day – all whilst daddy tends to Cas.
Breastfeeding, unfortunately, doesn’t work out for everyone, for a multitude of reasons – it doesn’t make you a bad mother and it doesn’t mean your child will be any less happy.
Hi, I can totally relate to you. Mum of two boys, I struggled bf my second son and felt extreme guilt but now he’s nearly on I can look back and realise it wasn’t the end of the world! Thanks for posting 🙂
So glad you could relate! Having boys I’ve realised lots of little things can feel like the end of the world, but they’re pretty hardy little beans! x
I ‘failed’ twice too. First time I panicked. Second time I bought the bottles just in case and then I couldn’t feed for 24hours after day 2 and then, just expressing didn’t produce much milk.
I felt so upset both times and like i had failed my babies but now, he’s 4 months and he’s so happy. I know breast is best but it didn’t work for us either snd both my kids seem ok. Great honest post.
You have done all you can and you really tried. That is all any mother can do xx
Thanks for sharing – I think first time I probably panicked too, all first time mums want to do the best they possibly can sometimes not realising all the stressing is not helping anyone. One thing I’ve now learnt with #3 is to just go with the flow – he’s far happier and calmer for it! Have a super Sunday x
wonderful blog, sorry breastfeding didn’t work out for you but you can clearly see you’re a fantastic mother x
Thanks so much for your lovely words Laure and for stopping by to read! Hope you’re having a super weekend.
Wonderful post! I too shed many tears when breastfeeding didn’t work, especially the first go around. But all that matters in the end is having happy, healthy babies, regardless of how they’re fed. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Thank you so much Andrea, hope you’re having a super dayx
I really wanted to breastfeed but lasted less than two days. My son wasn’t getting enough milk, became jaundiced and nearly had to be tube fed. I soon realised it wasn’t worth the stress or risk of him becoming more ill and switched to bottles. Now his dad gets to share the load and it’s much easier! 🙂
I know only too well the worry a new mother can put on herself – but so glad to hear another positive outcome from bottle feeding.
This is such a wonderful and comforting post. I’m five weeks in to breastfeeding my second son – determined this time to last longer than I did with my first (6 weeks) – and again with a little one who can’t achieve that sacred “latch”, I’m in awful pain with every feed, having tried expressing (half an hour’s purgatory for an ounce??!!), nipple shields (again, ouch), two visits from a “lactation consultant” (my husband still can’t get over this job description) telling me that I must keep going no matter what it takes “as it’ll get easier in a few months” (I have a two year old who needs my attention too, right now, I don’t have months to dedicate to this and to feeling this unhappy), various greasy creams and unguents applied to my aching, rock hard boobs as I sob in the middle of the night and I’m just at my tethers’/nipples’ end with it all.
As with my first son, I’m now teetering on forgetting breastfeeding entirely as I’m so miserable and I’m searching the web for something to make me feel better about my decision – stories from other women who’ve valiantly tried and despite huge efforts, have not managed to do “the most natural thing in the world” and I want to feel that I’m not a failure as a mother because I can’t seem to do this one thing. There’s so, so much support for breastfeeding mothers but so very little for those who for one reason or another, go down the bottle feeding route – and the various “mum’s” forums just seem to be full of passive (or not so passive!) aggressive judgement and vitriol from women to other women over this issue, which is so disheartening and just intensifies the guilt.
Anyhow, in my sleep deprived, aching bosomed state, I’m rambling – however (and I know this post is over a year old) I just wanted to express a huge amount of gratitude for mums like you who’ve been so honest about their experiences and who make me realise I’m not a monster or a failure for “surrendering” to the bottle.
I did with my first son from 6 weeks and he’s a happy, healthy beauty who isn’t scarred by the lack of breastmilk he received – far from it.
As I reach now in desperation for the cabbage leaves to try and find a modicum of relief (“it’s like going to bed with a salad” according to my husband) I will keep telling myself that there’s so much more to mothering than milk.
Thanks so much again.
I don’t know how I stumbled across your comment, but thank you. My “feeding” situation is also unique, and I lack support to get me through the tremendous guilt that resides within. Although not a “first-time Mom”, I am experiencing my first time having a baby from infancy (I have an adopted son as well). My laboring process was lengthy; I laid in the hospital for 3 days preparing myself for a vaginal birth. In the end, I wasn’t able to deliver “the natural way”, and my baby was brought into this world via Caesarean section. He’s perfect, but that is where the guilt began. I had thoughts like, “Why can’t I deliver naturally? Is there something wrong with me?” I felt robbed of the experience. How can your body just like, not deliver a baby?? Next came the breastfeeding guilt. Ugh. I feel hopeless at times. Even now, 4 months down the road, I debate whether to give it up completely or stick with it to express the little milk I still have… just so he’ll get SOME at every feeding (I’ve been supplementing with formula since he was 3 weeks old). This motherhood journey has been so trying. It’s rewarding, but I experience a wealth of emotions that I can’t even begin to describe. Thank you for helping me find some solace.