Giving up breastfeeding was one of my hardest and proudest moments as a mumma.
I cried the day I gave up breastfeeding so I took myself off and bought some new bras.
Breastfeeding is the most glorious heart melting, mothering and loving action you can share with your newborn child. That is of course if it works. The first four days I fed my beautiful little girl colostrum and hoped desperately for my milk to come in. The midwives applauded my perseverance daily and encouraged me for not offering formula, though when the feeds become every hour and my poor baby was clearly distressed from lack of food I began to question my judgement. The wearing and cracks caused by the demand on my nipples were beginning to take it’s toll. On the day they discharged me from hospital my daughter wouldn’t leave my breast, my milk had shown signs of arriving and she was there willing to take every drop without a break, the midwives literally suggested I pull her away after 3hrs straight just to get me in the car and out the door. We arrived home exhausted and grateful of creature comforts, we introduced our new baby to her home, the dogs and took our first breath as a family. We were home and ready to settle into our new life.
The following day my husband returned to work and that was when my baby began cluster feeding. With ten minute breaks throughout 8hrs my warn skin became open wounds, no amount of shields, balms or ice packs could help nor prepare me for the sight of my blood gushing out of my daughters mouth once pulling away from a feed. I had a little vampire on my hands, something I can laugh about now but at the time I was hysterical. I tried hand expressing but produced nothing but blood. I was beside myself, panicked, alone and with a starving baby screaming in my arms. Totally unprepared for the idea I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed I didn’t have a steriliser, breast pump or milk storing containers at home. Fortunately a friend had given me a sachet of formula at my baby shower and with that in mind and the tears streaming down my face I tried to calm my screaming child whilst I boiled the kettle and attempted to read the formula instructions. Once the bottle was in her mouth and devoured in only a few minutes I was able to call for help, sort out a breast pump, steriliser, bottles, teats, bottle brush, milk storage containers and formula.
I never had enough milk for my beautiful big baby girl, so for ten whole weeks I breastfed, followed up with a bottle and pumped milk in-between. I became a walking talking milking station. They say you should sleep when the baby sleeps, well clearly they hadn’t walked a day in the shoes of someone with low milk supply as her sleep time was my pumping, storing, cleaning and sterilising time. Hang on, I hear you say aren’t you meant to eat well, sleep and rest to encourage breast milk? I had little chance of that with my pumping routine. It was non stop and absolutely exhausting but I was happy to persist to make sure I could breastfeed my girl. I guess in the end it was my daughter’s decision that caused me to change. She loved the bottle, the ease and flow of never ending milk and her frustrations grew with my breastfeeding, never was she satisfied and quickly she knew a short suck on each breast resulted in a full bottle (containing what breast milk I had pumped and topped up with formula) She was drinking more than an average baby, she was of course an above average size and weight and continued to grow at a rapid pace. As the breasts became an obstacle to her main goal she began to show her irritation. If anyone has undergone breast refusal you will understand what it means to have full, sore breasts on offer and tears streaking down your cheeks as you plead with your babe to accept them only to be met with screams, scratches and tears on their end. I even attempted a standoff whereby I wouldn’t offer the bottle without her taking some breast first, but she let me know over the course of a few hours and days that her stubbornness was far greater than my will to fight. (I wonder where she gets that from?!)
I loved breastfeeding. I loved the closeness you have with your child, the nuzzling of their nose and the deep look they give you. I loved her head in my hand and the grip her fingers would offer wrapped around my little finger. But, in the end breastfeeding wasn’t the best option for her or me.
I persisted with morning feeds up until two weeks ago, when my daughter woke in the morning I could sneak her onto my breast and hope she’d get involved and take what she could get in her drowsy state. But, whether from my daughter’s lack of interest or my bodies response to rejection I dried up the other week and I had to come to terms with the fact it was my last day breastfeeding my daughter. I cried with her in my arms knowing I would never have that closeness with her again, that true dependence a child has on it’s mother. But as I popped a bottle into her mouth and she wrapped her tiny fingers around my pinky and smiled up at me I realised I was pushing breastfeeding for me, for the idea that society pushes upon you that breast is best and anything less is unacceptable, for the midwives that applauded a hungry baby over a top up of formula. Instead of helping ease my child’s stress and hunger I made her hold out. The decision should have been made by what she was telling me and what was and is right for her is to be full, happy and content from a bottle.
I hope that if I have another child I can successfully breastfeed, but if I struggle again I will know next time not to fear the looks from breastfeeding mums when I produce a bottle to feed my child with, not to kill myself and my body every waking minute if it’s not the right decision. The day I accepted that formula feeding would be the predominant form of milk for my child I changed, I remember it being week 10 and I finally thought, wow, I love this gig (motherhood) my baby was full, happy and smiling during her feed, she wasn’t fighting me, she wasn’t complaining. I relaxed and enjoyed motherhood on another level that I hadn’t felt before. I stopped caring what others thought because I knew I had a happy baby and that made me a proud and happy mumma.
So when I was able to pack away those horrendous maternity bras last week I went out and celebrated with buying some new bras. (Bendon have a great sale on at the moment check it out here). My Nana used to say to me ‘in proud moments in your life you have to go and buy yourself a new bra’ I remember when I was 16 asking why I needed a new bra for being proud and she responded, ‘well if you’re proud of yourself you’ll push out your chest and let everyone know it.’
So I guess I had more than one reason for buying a new bra.
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