Before I begin with this part of the Patch, I wanted to express something very clearly.
I believe in a woman’s right to choose what is best for both herself and her baby.
I remember clearly having this argument with someone in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I was determined that I personally wanted to try breastfeeding, but equally I didn’t want to feel guilty if it didn’t work. I knew it was a truly personal choice and one that I wanted to make for myself. And the same should be true for all women.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel huge amounts of guilt when breastfeeding didn’t work for us. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel anger at the lack of support during my problems. But I felt those things because breastfeeding was something I desperately wanted for myself and my baby.
As it turns out, Little Man was so much happier, calmer and healthier once we switched to formula that I felt guilty for wanting to perservere for so long. And it just strengthened my belief that the decision between breast and bottle feeding should never be one that is judged by outsiders.
Some women, like me, desperately want to breastfeed but have an issue that makes it extremely challenging. Others may have reasons why they do not want to breastfeed. One thing I know for sure, there should be no “you CAN breastfeed and so you should do it”. You have no idea what reasons someone may have for not wishing to breastfeed, so keep your nose out of it!
With that being said, I wanted to dedicate a section of my site to breastfeeding support. I gave up exclusive breastfeeding at 12 weeks after 6 weeks of awful blocked ducts (a new one every other day, on both sides, causing large and extremely painful swellings and an inability to feed my child properly). Even before those 6 weeks of hell, Oscar struggled with major colic and was the most unsettled baby I knew.
As a new mum I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t a clue and so I looked for help. I called my health visitor, who was unavailable. So another one came and just sat beside me, said “his latch is fine” and left. I then went to a local breastfeeding support group and the health visitor there simply tried to force Oscar, screaming, onto the breast only to say “oh well he’s obviously just a fussy baby” when I told her to stop distressing him as it wasn’t helping. Her opinion on my blocked ducts was “he’s probably chomping down and damaging your nipples”. Even when I asked her about “oversupply issues” which I suspected I had from my own research, she just refused to see beyond her own opinion on the matter.
I desperately fought to continue breastfeeding but at 2am one morning as I cried in the kitchen whilst trying to clear yet another blockage I realised I dreaded each feed and continuing was not in our best interest. It was heartbreaking to give up on the dream I had, especially after such a rough pregnancy, but it had to be done.
We continued to comfort feed until 16 weeks when we both got D&V and Oscar went on nursing strike. By the time he agreed to latch on once more my supply was pretty much gone and he lost interest completely. That was the end of our breastfeeding journey and it breaks my heart to think of what we didn’t get to have. Again, I want to reiterate that this is something that I wanted, it’s no something I think every mum should do.
I often wish I had been able to find better support. The NHS has a massive “breast is best” campaign and yet the lack of educated support for anyone who has difficulties breastfeeding is shocking. I don’t know if we’ll ever be brave enough to have another baby of our own (due to my traumatic pregnancy last time) but I hope we might be so that I can have another chance to breastfeed. And yet I will always feel sad at what happened for me and Oscar this time around. If only we had been able to get better support, we might have been able to continue…
Which is why I am using this space to share links to groups and bloggers who may be able to help you on your own breastfeeding journey, if you choose to take that route.
La Leche League is a great place to start, and it was through a friend who attended such a group that I received information on oversupply, something my own health visitor seemed unaware of.
Lactation Consultants of Great Britain is a fantastic resource for finding a lactation consultant close to where you live. I wish I had known to find a lactation consultant in my early days of breastfeeding.
KellyMom is an excellent resource with lots of information on a variety of breastfeeding issues.
Mixed Bag of Allsorts is a blog written by a friend of mine. She had to overcome issues with her supply and writes openl about breastfeeding.