I have been putting off this post for a while because I find the ‘art of breastfeeding’ a difficult one to tackle. Firstly, this has to be the most judged element of motherhood that I can think of.
There is judgement from other mums, your own mum, your female family members, girlfriends, nurses, doctors, midwives, health visitors, random women on forums, even fathers.
I’m pro-choice with just about everything, I couldn’t care less. In fact, it makes me fume with anger when I talk to friends who have been made to feel like bad mothers. One lady who gave birth the same week as me (we met in pre-natal yoga) tried and tried and tried to breastfeed.
She went to the clinics, had every kind of class and intervention possible. But it just did not work. She did managed to express. But the judgement she received from health visitors and nurses was so bad, she lied to them about it. She just couldn’t cope with it any more. My heart broke for her because I know how hard she tried, FOR WEEKS (and breastfeeding is stressful even when you can do it). And at the end of the day, her child was getting her milk, which is where the health professionals should have been focusing. I did manage to breastfeed (with the help of a nipple guard due to latching issues) but I found the experience highly stressful and painful.
It felt like there was no end to the crying for milk. The continual aching in your breasts as they swell with milk every two hours, sometimes so painful they wake you up from a much needed sleep. The leaking that makes you feel like a punctured cow. Your shoulder and neck ache from holding your baby in position for hours and hours every day. I still have pains in my right upper arm, four months later.
Feeling trapped as you cannot be out for longer than two hours at a time unless you can breastfeed in public (hugely stressful and needs another set of hands) or express into a bottle (not always possible)
I hate celebrities and the media in general for showing these perfect mothers smiling and breastfeeding happily. Smiling while breastfeeding is ONE moment in the cycle. There are other moments too. Like when warm tears are running down your cheeks as your baby feeds, oblivious to your pain and exhaustion. Or when you fall asleep while he is feeding in the most uncomfortable position imaginable and wake up locked in pain. Or when you wake with a start and feel horrified you could have somehow smothered him in your sleep.
Yes it is amazing to breast feed your child. And you feel proud. And you feel happy he is getting wonderful nutrition. And you feel relieved after each feed, like you have conquered a mountain. But I felt huge relief when I had to move to formula when I went back to work and I am not ashamed to say it.