When I was pregnant with Sunny there was A LOT of talk around “breast is best” for your baby. I remember feeling rather anxious leading up to his birth wondering if I was going to be able to provide “the best” for my child or not.
Having had breast implants several years prior I was concerned that there may be some complications from the procedure and that there was a possibility that I may not be able to breastfeed. After doing some research I discovered that because the incision for my implants was made under the fold of my breast as opposed to an incision made around the nipple, that there was a good chance that I should be able to, as there is less risk that the milk ducts have been interfered with.
With this in mind, I was a little more relieved but still thought it was best to be realistic and stock up on some newborn formula to pop into my hospital bag just in case, rather than being completely overwhelmed in the first few days following the birth.
At my last anti-natal appointment prior to giving birth, I mentioned this to one of the midwives and she dismissed the idea and said that I would be able to breastfeed as though she could forsee the future and I thought that was rather strange that she was so confident when I myself was not.
Since then, I have heard several stories of midwives and doctors not letting other expecting women even explore the option of formula feeding and almost insisting on breastfeeding. This has obviously caused some controversy over the last few years, with numerous cases of mother’s not having enough milk supply or their babies not feeding correctly , resulting in them growing sick, malnourished or even some sadly passing away due to dehydration.
As much as I think breastfeeding is beautiful and so amazing that provides all the essentials that your baby needs to survive in those early months, I do think that the fact that we are becoming more aware of the issues that some women face with breastfeeding and we are getting more behind the “fed is best” movement is very important. As women we have to remind ourselves that we are not in competition with one another and what works for one women and her child may not be the best option for you and your's.
To my surprise I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed. From the moment Sunny entered this world and was placed on my chest he somehow instinctively knew what to do and it was something that was extremely natural for the both of us.
Over those first few days there were definitely sore nipples and a lot of adjusting but I was relieved and so happy to have a good milk supply for my newborn.
After a week or so passed I remember things changing, and that breastfeeding was no longer this magical thing. The midwife that came for a routine house call encouraged me and said that breasfeeding was meant to release oxytocin “the happy hormone” and I just thought ‘well why don’t I feel happy then?’
I didn’t really talk to many people about it, I didn’t want to complain as I knew that a lot of people couldn’t breastfeed at all and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful . I was on cloud 9, so in love with my newborn and I loved being a new mum but as the weeks and then months went by I was experiencing the same depleted and down feeling every time I would feed my son. I felt like there was a huge weight placed upon me and I just couldn't quite put my finger on why I felt this way.
Sunny fed for around an hour each time he fed. There weren’t a lot of our friends that had babies at this point either and sometimes I felt isolated as I would hide in the room when we had people over while I breastfed because I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable. Being a little older and more confident in myself now I look back and think how silly I was to do this and they probably wouldn’t have cared in the slightest and would have understood that I was jut feeding my child.
Breastfeeding was defeinelty a love/hate relationship for me because I loved that my son was being nourished and was bonding and happy when he fed but I would dread the time leading up to a feed which would just result in the feelings of guilt and make me feel even worse, like I was a terrible mother.
I had continued to breastfeed for around 4 months and I confided in my husband that I was worried I was becoming depressed and he just told me it was okay if I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore. I hadn’t really considered the possibility of stopping at 4 months in, in my head it was as though I had to go through some sort of punishment as an initiation into motherhood or something and I just had to keep going.
I don’t think anyone was putting pressure on me at all to breastfeed other than myself , I couldn't help make comparisons with other mums that seemed to be doing great and could go for 12 months without any worries.
It was nice that I had the support of my husband and at 4 months I began the weaning process from breast to formula and I set a target for Sunny to be completely weaned by 6 months.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had the finish line in sight and I knew that I was going to be a happier and more capable mother to my son once I got there.
I probably did things back to front with the weaning , I dropped the morning feed first because I used the night time feed as a bit of a crouch to get my son to sleep still at this stage. Dropping the morning feed first involved me setting an alarm to wake up at around 5:30 am to express as my breasts were still so full of a morning. As the weeks went by I tried to train my supply by expressing less and less each time until there was no need to at all, I then eventually did this with the other day-time feeds until the only one I had left was just the evening one.
I think the hardest part for us was finding the perfect teat for Sunny's bottle, I had no idea what a difference this can make! I think we went through about 20 different bottles and teats before we found one that was the right size, the right shape and had just the right flow.
By the time the 6 months had come around, I had begun exercising a lot more so my milk supply was actually lessening anyway and after 2 months of Sunny gradually growing used to the bottle it was time.
I still remember his last feed, it was definitely a bitter sweet moment. I was looking forward to being a happier person but also sad to say goodbye to those close moments Sunny and I had together and a part of me worried that we would lose that special bond that we had.
We certainly did not lose that bond and still haven’t and I’m so happy that he is still a mummy’s boy!
Being pregnant again now does bring all of these thought and feelings rushing back and I do hope that I am fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed a second time and who knows, maybe I will have a more positive experience this next time and be able to go for longer. The most important thing though is that the bub is fed and is supplied with the nourishment she needs and that I don’t completely neglect myself and my health in the process.
There should be absolutely no shame in breastfeeding and there should also be no shame in you not being able to or choosing not to breastfeed.
Written by Krystal Hipwell