My experience of breastfeeding lasted less than a month, yet it’s still a story to me, it’s something I went through, however short it was, and something I still think about to this day. There is so much stigma surrounding bottle feeding but, bottle feeding saved me.
I spent my entire pregnancy determined to breastfeed as everything online was leading me to believe that I wouldn’t have a strong bond with my baby if I didn’t. The fact that all of the YouTube celebs seemed to do it made me feel pressured into doing it too. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t want to, but I did, I really did because I wanted that special bond with my baby that I thought I wouldn’t have if I didn’t. I also figured that night feeds would be a lot easier and that I would save a hell of a lot of money not having to buy formula and bottles. Oh, boy was I wrong. Nipple shields? Nipple cream? Express pumps? Bottles for said express pumps? The list goes on… and nursing bra’s and clothing aren’t exactly cheap!
The day came and my little ray of sunshine made his arrival, and not immediately but shortly after he was placed on my chest to latch on. It’s all a bit of a blur, to be honest, and I can’t even remember if he latched on alright, I think he did? I wasn’t given much support, if any, in the hospital. I wasn’t told how to latch him on properly or anything. So much for breast is best right? They didn’t even care. I just did what I thought was right and a bit later on (after a fair few feeds) a midwife came along and said I was holding him far too high up. Fab, could have told me earlier. I had felt no pain so far, baby was only feeding on colostrum but all seemed to be hearts and rainbows. Besides, even if it did start to get painful, every forum online told me that there should be no pain. And that if there is then it will only last a couple of days or so and then it’s over. No biggy right?
The days went on and I was gradually starting to get more sore, my nipples were starting to crack and so I made sure I was latching him correctly by watching videos online and that was about it really. The nearest support group was miles away and I lived in a village, unable to drive. Not exactly on my list of priorities when I had a baby that was only a few days old as well as an episiotomy that was absolutely killing. I could barely sit down, I was struggling to look after my baby, let alone get in a car and go gallivanting off to a support group.
As the pain started to become unbearable and my nipples were cracked and bleeding, I was determined to get through it so I tried everything. From nipple cream and nipple shields to sitting there and trying to express the tiniest bit of colostrum that I had. My milk took an entire week to come in so I couldn’t even express enough for one feed. I sat there for hours trying to express enough for a feed and it just wasn’t happening. I grit my teeth and fed my baby, and he was getting hungrier and hungrier, and more often. I couldn’t bare it anymore, the pain was excruciating and one night I just sat there on the verge of tears and enough was enough. I’m terrible with pain anyway, yet I sailed through labour and birth. But excruciating burning in my nipples is something that I just could not handle. I still lived at home with my parents back then so I went downstairs and begged my dad to go out and get me some formula. He’d actually had a drink and it was pretty late at night so he ended up calling a taxi and going off to the nearest supermarket open which was Tesco, a good 20-30 minutes away. He saved me from the pain, and so did that formula. I already had a couple of bottles at the ready from trying to express so all I needed was the formula.
Reuben had no problem drinking from a bottle, he also had no problem with the milk. I mean why would he? Going from tiny drops of colostrum to a nice warm bottle of actual milk must have been wonderful for him anyway. My milk came in after that and my nipples had healed up a bit, so I decided to try combination feeding. Luckily for me, Reuben was absolutely fine at going from bottle to breast and vice versa, and it gave me a nice break between to let my nipple cream work its magic. Except for the fact that the pain just kept coming back again, was it ever going to go away?
Exactly a week after I gave birth, I ended up back in the hospital with an infection and a pretty nasty one at that. I was shivering, my temperature was sky high and I was losing the weirdest stuff from my womb. I ended up lying in hospital in a bed with a drip in each arm (the stupid doctor couldn’t get the cannula’s into the veins in my hands, so decided my arm was a good place to put them?) and I was in quite a bit of pain and unable to move either of my arms basically. This made it basically impossible to feed Reuben and I was already feeling drained from breastfeeding, let alone now having this infection and being back in the hospital a week postpartum so I decided there and then to give it up completely. My breastfeeding adventure had come to an end.
I still feel guilty to this day that I didn’t try harder but when I write it all down like this, could I have tried any harder than I did? I think I did a pretty great job of trying my best even if it was only for a short time. My baby is now almost 6 months old, he is a very happy and content baby, and he’s an absolute chunk. He’s doing wonderfully on formula and he hyperventilates with excitement whenever he sees a bottle of milk. He’s currently on 8oz bottles so he clearly loves the stuff! I’d also like to add that breastfeeding DOES NOT give you a better bond with your child, Reuben and I have an absolutely incredible bond, his face lights up every time he sees me. Ignore anyone that says otherwise.
I really just wanted to share this story because I want other new mums to know that, actually, breastfeeding isn’t what it’s made out to be. And even if it doesn’t work out for you, it’s not the end of the world. If you are planning on breastfeeding, please don’t believe that it won’t hurt or that the pain won’t last long. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones and won’t get any pain at all, we’re all different. But being prepared for it has got to be far better than believing something that most likely isn’t true. Maybe if I’d been prepared for the amount of pain then I would have been able to handle it better? Who knows. Will I ever try breastfeeding again? No, probably not. Next time I think I would rather enjoy the first week of my baby than spend it in pain dreading the next feed. The newborn days are already hard without making them even harder for myself.
This isn’t to put anyone off breastfeeding either, I know that it has so many benefits for baby. But as mothers, we have to do what’s best for us because our babies need us. And if you do breastfeed, I respect you because it’s such hard work, it really is. I know there is a stigma surrounding both bottle feeding as well as breastfeeding. But this post is merely just to give a little insight to the truth of breastfeeding and to possibly help someone that feels a bit pressured into it like I did. Don’t feel pressured. Fed is best. Do what’s right for you!
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