It’s breastfeeding awareness week! Thank God for that . . . I had no idea that’s what they were for! (Seriously though, is this really necessary? Is there any mother or Mum to be that isn’t aware of breastfeeding? That hasn’t had the “breast is best” philosophy battered into them from the second they meet their first mid-wife?) Looking at other Mummy blogger posts it seems to me that it should be re-named “Breastfeeding can be really difficult” week as that’s the thing that comes as a shock to us. We KNOW it’s the best start, it’s natures miracle, it’s best for bonding etc, etc. What we don’t find out till trying to do it, is that it can also be incredibly difficult, exhausting, and painful if you don’t get it right. And getting it right is what can be hard . . . a catch 22 for so many new mothers.
Some Mums struggle but stick it out and find it hugely rewarding. Some Mums hate it. Some Mums give it a go and find it just too damn difficult and switch to formula. Some Mums don’t even try (one of whom I know was a midwife and refused to even try it with her 2nd as the first was so traumatic . . . a midwife!) and some Mums find it the easiest most natural thing in the world. One thing I do know is that NONE of these Mums should be made to feel guilty or awkward about their choices and ALL should get the support they need. Sadly this isn’t happening.
When I was pregnant, I had an attitude of “If I can do it then great, if not, I won’t beat myself up about it!” MAN did I beat myself up about it. I tried and tried. I had bleeding nipples and I still tried (the professional advise being to “Feed through it”) I sat and cried with the pain whilst she fed but couldn’t bear the thought of her going hungry. After a couple of weeks, a good friend put me onto nipple shields. It was like magic. The pain was gone, baby was feeding and Mum was happy. We really got into the swing of things and I was managing well. Finally. I was so proud of myself, all thanks to the miracle of the little silicone shield. I couldn’t wait to tell my midwife how well I was doing but on her next visit, what I actually got was a slightly patronising head shake , an “oh dear” and she promptly went about setting up a plan for me to get rid of my shields. I could have cried all over again.
I breast-fed for six weeks but my Mum was terminally ill and lived over two hours away. A horrendous time. I had to drive over at all hours of the day and night at a moments notice several times. I had to rely on my husband to feed her, hadn’t always expressed enough as I never knew when or how long I’d be away. We had to switch to formula. The guilt I felt in doing this was disproportionate and added a whole lot more upset onto my already weighed down shoulders. I went to my GP. He spent over an hour with me and was more support than all the nurses/midwives I’d seen put together. He reminded me that my Mum was the priority right now, that my daughter would be absolutely fine, and so – eventually – would I. He arranged for a health visitor to call as he felt I needed more help. I agreed. I wanted emotional support, and just to talk about loosing Mum.
The health visitor came armed with a plastic boob and demo doll. She didn’t listen to me. “So what we really need to look at is expressing enough for when you’re away.”
“No actually. I’ve started to introduce formula and it’s working out ok, I just want some re-assurance that this doesn’t make me a bad Mum.I need a bit of help coping. With all the other stuff – not just the feeding.”
“So you are still managing with her on the breast sometimes then?”
Why don’t these people LISTEN? I have this week read about other Mums like me that felt horrendously guilty about swapping to a bottle. I’ve read Mum’s stories whose Midwives didn’t help them enough when they really wanted to breastfeed. I’ve read about Mum’s who’ve been made to feel uncomfortable when they did it at groups or in public. . . ENOUGH!!!
PIN YOUR LUGHOLES BACK AND LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN TO WHAT A MOTHER NEEDS!
Children should first and foremost be loved, protected and cared for. Mothers and fathers should be fully supported in the choices they make, AND NEVER EVER MADE TO FEEL GUILTY by the professionals and – just as importantly – by other parents. I am, to be honest, agog that this happens at all.
So how about this? Let’s re-name it “Baby Feeding Support Week” and give each other a break?
And just for the record, I was formula fed and it hasn’t affected me one iota! Now excuse me while I go and feed my imaginary giant pet caterpillar. He gets grouchy if he doesn’t get his candy floss on time!