How can we be all those things? Well, we believe that breastfeeding our babies is an incredible gift, but that sometimes it simply doesn't happen the way we planned.
We are not here to encourage or discourage any particular choice parents make on how to nourish their babies. We are here to support the ones who struggled or are struggling to breastfeed and are facing the guilt that often comes along with deciding to stop breastfeeding. We have both experienced this personally, and have gone through all the guilt alone, so we wanted to start this tumblr to post encouragement and to answer your questions and concerns as you make this sometimes difficult and traumatic transition.
We want you to bottle-feed without fear of judgement, and without guilt. You are doing the best that you can do for your baby given your particular circumstances. Be assured that the love and care you take in making this sometimes agonizing decision shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that love can come in bottles, too.
Welcome to all our new followers! We are so excited about this blog and the chance to build a mutually supportive place where we can feel confident to share our struggles without any fear of judgement.
I wanted to share my story on here and urge others reading this to do the same if you feel you can! By knowing we are not alone in our pain, I truly believe we give ourselves better permission to heal and to move on.
I gave birth two years ago to my beautiful daughter. Having taken an excellent childbirth class and devoured as much information as I could on the subject, I had decided to have a waterbirth at home. I was prepared with a doula and plenty of knowledge about positions, breathing and comfort measures for labour, and confident in my body’s ability to give birth naturally, with as little intervention as possible.
When it came to breastfeeding, I was determined to do it despite some slight misgivings about feeding in public and feeling a bit odd about the changing role of my breasts. Given that I had planned to have such a natural birth, I was convinced that it would come almost automatically due to the free-flow of hormones floating about and the gentle way in which she would be born. Obviously I had heard that it was sometimes difficult, but I think deep down I really thought “How hard can it be?”
My baby’s birth was as perfect as I had hoped (You can read about it HERE) and as I settled down on the sofa with my beautiful child, filled with overwhelming love and emotion like I’ve never felt before, she quickly found my breast by herself and began suckling. This was natural, easy and so right. I wondered why I’d ever been concerned about it feeling weird.
The first week of my baby’s life was blissful on the whole: getting to know her, gazing at her for hours on end, cocooned in a loving haze with my husband and my darling daughter that was only occasionally interrupted by the odd adoring visitor (We limited visitors in the early days to try and encourage attachment)
There were a few clues that things were not quite as they should be with feeding. Lily would often ‘fall off’ the breast as she fed, her nappies didn’t seem to be as wet as we’d been told to expect, and feedings didn’t last long. I was confident we were getting the hang of it though, as when the midwives and doula saw her and watched the latch it all seemed perfect (nobody stuck around to see if she actually stayed latched!) A couple of midwives said separately that she had tongue tie, but at the time it wasn’t ‘policy’ to snip them, and they didn’t think it was causing any problems.
So I persevered with breastfeeding until, about four days after she was born, my little girl cried solidly through the night, til she was literally hoarse, because she was so frustrated and hungry. Every time I tried to put her to the breast, she would frantically try to latch, fail, and scream more. If she did manage a latch she would fall off within a few seconds. After this awful night I asked my doula for advice and she assured me that it was probably just a growth spurt and that I should go to bed and do nothing but feed her. I did this, with very little improvement.
By the time she was a week old, she was starving, but such a placid child with such a sweet disposition that still nobody noticed until the weighing scales the midwife brought showed she’d lost more than 13% of her birth weight. As this was over the guideline 10%, we were told we’d have to take her to hospital just as a precaution, to make sure she wasn’t dehydrated.
I was devastated, as part of the reason I had a homebirth is my blind fear of hospitals, and I had already started feeling like an utter failure who was unable to nourish my child…
We waited in hospital for over two hours to hear the results of the tests, thinking they’d come back, tell us to go home and keep persevering with the breastfeeding. Unfortunately they told us we’d have to be admitted as Lily was severely dehydrated.
As we walked into the post-natal ward and I was shown the bed I’d be sleeping in, with the little glass cot next to it, and told the visiting hours, and that my husband would have to leave at 9pm, I dissolved into tears. The emotion of failing to feed my child and the thought of being left alone in a hospital with her, robbed of my husband, who had not spent a moment apart from me since she had been born, hit me like a tonne of bricks.
A sympathetic midwife took pity on me and we were allowed to use a family room, and my husband was allowed to stay. I literally don’t know how I would have coped if he’d not been allowed to. I was provided with a double pump, and we were instructed to cup feed her a certain amount every two hours and told I’d be given support to breastfeed her.
The next three days were a nightmare, a blur of sleep-deprivation, pumping, cup feeding, and attempting to breastfeed. The midwives and nurses were wonderful, and it is to their credit that I’m a little less scared of hospitals than I was. We had to practically force feed my baby girl copious amounts of milk, and she would regularly be whisked away to be tested and weighed.
My confidence had taken such a bashing that my desire to breastfeed dwindled more as each day went by. I was stressed as I attempted to put her to the breast, and we would usually end up both crying. A few midwives offered to teach me how to do it, but beyond sticking her to my nipple they did little else to really help, and still nobody would stay and watch a full feed.
In desperation, on our third night, we gave into the bottle. One of the nurses asked if we’d like her to feed our daughter for us at 2am, to give us a chance to get a bit of a decent block of sleep. We gratefully agreed, and I decided then in my frazzled state that we would risk ‘nipple confusion’ and let the midwife bottle feed her (expressed milk). I had got to the point where I honestly didn’t care if she never took to the breast again, and we were just not getting the hang of cup feeding at all.
When we got home, I was expressing for every feed. I attempted to breastfeed her before offering her those bottles, but I had been so traumatized by my experience that I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. A conversation with my Mum, who had had the exact same experience with me as a baby, helped greatly with the guilt, but I could not decide to stop altogether until my husband decided for me. He came into the living room from a well earned nap to find me holding our daughter, both of us sobbing our hearts out after yet another failed attempt. I don’t think I could have taken the decision to stop by myself, I am grateful to him that he took it out of my hands.
I fed my baby mainly expressed breast milk for a month, and I am proud of that, because I know that any breastmilk is better than none at all, and I had done what I could given the circumstances. The guilt of giving up plagues me still sometimes, even now she is two and living off other foods. It has affected my ability to stay calm at mealtimes, if my toddler doesn’t eat I get so stressed that my husband has to take over with encouraging her to.
Sometimes I think if I’d had better support, if she’d had her tongue tie ‘snipped’, if only I hadn’t given up so easily, maybe I’d still be breastfeeding her now. But she is a happy, beautiful, thoroughly loved little girl and I know that she deserved a mummy who was not broken down from the experience of trying to do something that just wasn’t working out. It turns out I developed post-natal depression quite badly too, whether this was a result of my experiences with breastfeeding I’m not sure, but I am certain it had an impact on my mental health.
I’m expecting another child in May, and fully intend to try again, and use support networks and groups that I now know about to persevere as long as I can for breastfeeding to get properly established. But having been through what I did with my first, if it is simply not working out and I can see my child starving before my eyes, I will reach for the pump and bottle without guilt, and feed my baby with the very same love and devotion that I would if she were feeding from my breast.