When Breast Isn’t Best
Today I read this artWheicle about a woman who committed suicide in part due to the pressure to breast feed, which she was struggling with. This woman had been crying out for help, had admitted herself to hospital for help and while there breast feeding help was given, alternatives to breast feeding were never given due to hospital policy saying bottle feeding can only be discussed as an option if requested by the patient themselves and not offered as an alternative to struggling mothers.
There was a few other issues leading to her suicide, including PND and having lost a baby in the past, but according to her husband, Chris Bingley “The hospital seemed only to focus on the breastfeeding issue, not the mental health one. That’s the breastfeeding lobby for you.”
Reading her story got me to thinking of my own breastfeeding journey. Just like many mothers before me I had midwives and doctors practically jumping for joy when I confirmed I planned to breastfeed my baby. My plan was breastfeeding for a year and then express whatever was needed to bottle feed. Breast milk is ideal, it’s been drummed into my brain, and yes it is true but there are alternatives. I have no issue with bottle feeding, I like the independence it gives the child, the mother and the ability for daddy (or other special people) to be involved in the feeding process and it gives a little more freedom to do something like go to a movie or dinner with your significant other for a date night (or mental health night) baby free and not have to worry about bubs next feed as its being taken care of by the babysitter. I’m fairly relaxed about the whole issue.
So when my son was born I was happy to start feeding him myself and go on this supposedly magical journey together. I was not prepared for how much it hurt! The first few weeks I cringed at the thought of feeding my tiny baby. Not only did I have the initial let down pain but my little boy would grind his gums on my nipples as hard as he could leaving them bruised, tender and after a few day, with open wounds and looking like the would soon fall off all together. I pushed through it. “It will soon pass.” I was told, and after a few weeks it did, I was glad I had pushed through it, it was well worth it. I had so much milk my baby couldn’t keep up early on. I’d bend over and spring a leak. I was going through
breast pads like there was no tomorrow and expressing 100ml from each side in only a few minutes in the early weeks.
Then it all slowed up as boobies and baby got in a good routine together and supply and demand was working well, still letting down at the first sign of movement but that was okay.
Until our baby got sick and was feeding every 15 minutes for 3 days straight. It was like he went through his years supply of milk in those 3 days, I was run dry. Not making more to keep up with him, just dry. I went through the stash of frozen breast milk and he was still feeding near constantly. So we got formula and started supplementing him as well. It started with 1 bottle every couple of days if I didn’t have enough.
That really was the end, my supply dropped from then on and he became increasingly difficult to feed, screaming bloody murder into my breast but refusing to latch because it wasn’t fast enough anymore every single feed. The only time he didn’t have a fit was when he was sleep feeding so after a few weeks of us both crying every time he needed to be fed and spending a half hour fighting with him to try and get him to take the breast but him screaming and refusing until he got a bottle, feeding happily and drifting off to sleep.
This on top of what we were told was reflux. We had a very spewy baby and he chucked up so much more on breast milk than formula, he even had more trouble with breastfeeding than breast milk in a bottle. So we tried expressing, which was now very difficult, and just dream feeding him on the breast. With formula during the day and breast milk at night, while I was taking meds to increase my supply and eating plenty of protein we stuck it out until he was 4 months old. Then he was sleeping through the night without dream feeding and game over breast milk production.
He is now 5 months old, having formula bottles and eating solids happily. I get a lot of comments from people now when they see him with a bottle “oh, I thought you’d breastfeed.” and from a couple expecting their first baby soon after them commenting positively on our little formula dispenser and me offering to get the one (also good for baby cereal when your on the go) and being told in no uncertain terms that they would be exclusively breastfeeding their baby because that’s the best thing for them. People don’t seem to understand that just because your not breastfeeding it doesn’t mean you A: don’t want to and B: are bad parents for the choice you’ve made.
The lesson we need to learn as a baby/parenting community, and as a community as a whole is acceptance. Accept the choices others make as right for them and having nothing to do with you, you don’t know the things that have led them down that path. As long as the baby is being fed, is happy, safe and healthy, the method is no bodies business and not up for judgment, negativity and criticism.
We need to be supportive and helpful to those needing it, not ignore their cries for help. If the term “breast is best” wasn’t so highly enforced, breastfeeding should be encouraged but not at the expense of the mother then maybe, just maybe, a little baby girl would still have her mother today.