When breast feeding ends

When my breastfeeding journey took a turn for the worse (i.e. our struggles landed me in hospital with post natal depression), I was horrified. And I mean horrified.

How could it be my body couldn’t meet my baby’s demands no matter what I tried? I mean I’d had the perfect natural birth of my dreams: my body was clearly born to do this. How amazing! How miraculous! How quickly things turn sour.

Feelings of pride and accomplishment at the start soon turned into feelings of sadness, frustration and despair. I’d rocked the birth but my body had somehow let us down afterwards.

The weight loss, the unsettled baby, the pressure; I felt I was sinking into a dark black hole and I didn’t know what to do. I saw a number of professionals who gave me conflicting advice and the stress I felt to continue and ‘get it right’ was enormous.

I’d been so adamant that I was breastfeeding, no matter what. I totally agreed breast feeding was paramount for my baby. But I hadn’t thought about the costs of this mindset. My black and white thinking had become my enemy. I would not succumb to formula feeding, no matter what.

At 4 months, the sleep deprivation was getting to me a lot. My husband being called home from work again as I couldn’t cope. I was exhausted with a totally unsettled baby, feeding and crying endlessly.

It took time but he managed to convince me that he would feed a formula bottle at night and let me sleep. I had no choice. It didn’t feel good but I knew we couldn’t go on this way either.

And so it was. My husband took on all the night feeds. I expressed what I could and the top up came from formula. I felt refreshed and (in part) human again. Unbeknown to me, this was the start of our weening journey.

But still our struggles continued in the days. Hours of feeding. Unsettled baby. Fears of a decrease in supply now I’d stopped feeding in the night (even though I was still pumping like a demon). Then one day it was all too much. I caved in. I prepared a bottle of formula. And I wasn’t prepared for the feelings that would come next…

I looked down at my baby. My baby looked up at me. He looked so content. I felt so happy and at peace. In that moment I bonded more with my son than ever before in the 4 months we had shared. It was pure bliss. The best feeling EVER. For us the breastfeeding did not help our bond, it was the formula feeding that did it. It was quite an amazing surprise.

But no-one quite prepares you for the emotions that come next. The disappointment, the feelings of failure, the beating up of yourself. The pressure placed on women to breast feed from professionals is absolutely insane. It’s best for baby we hear. But what about Mum? What about MUM?

Well for this Mum, it landed her in hospital with Bub for 3 weeks. Is this best for Bub? Mum breaking down? Where is the balance? When is breast feeding becoming detrimental to Mum and Bub? And why are important wider factors, like Mums mental health, not being taken into consideration?

There is a long way to go in this area and so many improvements required to truly support the new Mother (as well as baby) effectively. The Mother needs to be right up there in importance, not just the baby which is were so much focus sadly lies.

I can say our experience helps greatly. My difficult  journey with my first has helped me to understand what I NEED TO DO. No professional can truly help with some of this. Nervously, as I await Bub number 2 and embark on my next breast feeding journey, here is what I’ll be thinking about:

  1. Mums mental health is paramount above everything else.
  2. I will try my best with breast feeding but if formula top ups are needed I will not feel guilty.
  3. I will keep my thinking open and away from black and white; finding the grey.
  4. I will listen to myself and my intuition, above professionals.
  5. I will only talk to few professionals to avoid getting bogged down with conflicting and confusing information.
  6. Every bit of milk my baby gets from me is good for bub: I’ll remember to praise myself with all I do achieve, rather than be a harsh critic at what I don’t.
  7. I will ween when I need to ween and remember one thing: fed is best!

So, any ladies out there struggling with breast feeding and considering weening, try not to feel guilty. Formula feeding is ok. Babies survive and thrive being fed this way. It really is ok. It’s more than ok. You are doing a fabulous job however your feeding your bubba.

And importantly, you are not invisible. It is NOT just about your baby. It’s most certainly about you too. You are paramount to your baby’s health and wellbeing in so many ways. You are much more than just a food source. Your feelings and experiences matter for you too, aside from bub. You are important.

Be good to you. You deserve it. Every single one of you, baby aside.

With heartfelt love, Cat x

 

 

 

 

 

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