As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I decided the I would exclusively breastfeed my baby because quite frankly, I was curious at the idea of a baby suckling on my breast for their survival (I’m just being honest)!
Breastfeeding to me has always seemed like the easiest, most natural thing for a woman to do. In my head, I just knew that when my baby was born all I’d have to do is stick my nipple in her mouth and we’d get the party started. After all, this is what I’d seen my mum as well as other women do. I was so excited to embark on this bonding journey with my baby and provide her with food that was tailor made only for her. Add that to the endless Instagram posts I’d seen of mummies breastfeeding their babies and toddlers and campaigning about the goodness of breast milk and its health advantages, I just knew that I wanted to be one of those mums and ensure that my kid got a great start in life.
My midwife had suggested breastfeeding classes to teach me how to properly breastfeed a baby. I honestly thought it was ridiculous – even when she told me that it wasn’t always easy or possible. I mean how hard could it be? Wasn’t it the most natural thing only second to actually giving birth? So imagine my surprise or more like heartbreak when baby girl was born and i couldn’t get her to latch properly!!
When she was born and had been checked, she immediately given to me to feed her. I cockily tried to put my nipple in her mouth only to be told that I wasn’t doing it right – that I had to place my whole areola in her mouth. Talk about abloody reality check!!
Because I developed gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and was on insulin towards the end of it, baby girl’s blood levels were low and had to be tested every two hours after birth. Also because I wasn’t able to get her to latch ‘properly’, the midwives decided to top up with formula just to regulate her sugar levels and avoid going to the care unit.
I felt so crushed and defeated as I gave my newborn her first bottle of formula. I felt like kicking myself for not going to the highly recommended breastfeeding classes but I was nonetheless so determined to breastfeed that I stuck to it although it was proving to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done – besides child labour of course.
I’d cry every time I tried to feed her and she wouldn’t latch properly. I was so angry and frustrated with myself – not to mention extremely exhausted and couldn’t for the life of me understand why it was so hard. To top that, my milk didn’t fully come for the first five days. I watched all the YouTube videos there were to watch and read all the web articles, downloaded apps – you name it. I even attheded breastfeeding clinics and spoke to Consultants. I felt like a failure. I tried to express but very little would come out. Top that with family pressures on the importance of breastfeeding and how Breast was best, I started to fall into depression.
At this point baby girl was mainly taking formula rather than just as a top up and I honestly wanted to quit each time I attempted to breastfeed because it only made me miserable. I was however really determined to give it my all before throwing in the towel. Luckily, I had mummy friends who constantly called or texted to give me encouragement and also share their breastfeeding stories. I was shocked to learn that what I was experiencing was more common than I had thought. Knowing that I wasn’t alone made me feel slightly better about the whole situation. I soldiered on for a few weeks until one day bangs girl just latched and has never looked back.
I now do a combination of breast and formula, giving her a bottle at night as it’s just easier with the sleepiness but I have come to learn that giving your baby breast is not the be all and end all. Sure, it is especially designed for your baby but sometimes is just not possible to do – for a number of reasons. Although I stuck to it, I realise that some mums give up after a while and I can’t blame them. I too waned to give up every day.
The lesson I got out of my experience is that though breast may in fact be best – fed is fed. A fed baby, irrespective of breast or formula, is a happy baby!