Why I Struggle with World Breastfeeding Week

4th August 2021

It’s World Breastfeeding Week at the moment, and for nine years I’ve found this week difficult.

My social media feeds are swamped with photos of breastfeeding and captions that insinuate good mums breastfeed no matter what.

Yes breastmilk is amazing and full of everything a child nutritionally needs, but:

We cannot all breast feed, whether it be due to physical or emotional reasons.

Some just don’t want to.

Does this make them less of a parent?

I don’t think so, and I’m sick of the stigma around bottle feeding.

My Experience

When my son was born I attempted to breast feed, but had problems from the start.

I produced little milk and within one week of the birth, he was back in hospital as he was losing too much weight.

He had a 100% tongue tie that the maternity ward didn’t notice the two days I stayed there after the birth.

This meant despite midwives telling me he was latching on perfectly, he was getting hardly any milk.

Years later I found out that most women with hormonal conditions like PCOS, which I have, don’t produce much, or any, breast milk.

This explains why my own mother was unable to breast feed me, and my sister had the same issue too.

I wish I knew this back then, as I wouldn’t have beaten myself up for so long about not managing more than a couple of weeks feeding.

Many would argue that perseverance is key, but not always. If the milk’s not there, it’s not there.

Myself holding my son as a newborn with a feeding tube in his nose
He has a feeding tube at a week old

My Defences

During his first two years of life I was very defensive about my choice to bottle feed.

We would go to various baby groups, and many of the mums would be breastfeeding whilst talking about the importance of it a lot.

Ladies, if this sounds like you, please think about the mum in the corner listening, whose unable to breast feed, and how this makes her feel.

It’s very isolating, not to mention the judgmental stares I often got when I got a bottle out to feed my son.

Defending myself, even before people said a word, became my thing.

I would openly talk about how much easier it was to use a bottle, and how much better he slept through the night than other babies I knew.

That was true, but I didn’t need to defend myself.

Trauma

It’s shocking to think that women can be judged for not breastfeeding when they are physically able too.

Some women have experienced trauma within their lives which stops them from mentally being able to handle feeding.

Whilst I physically didn’t have much milk, I also found it mentally triggering emotionally.

I was abused as a child and the breasts were a huge part of that abuse.

This could contribute to how I’ve never seen breastfeeding as natural, even though I know scientifically it is.

I’ve always cringed and felt very uncomfortable whenever a friend has breastfed near me or I’ve seen it in public.

Breastfeeding my son, but there is a tree graphic over his mouth.
I tried my hardest to feed him

This is very hard to admit, because I’m all for women feeding however and wherever they need to, but my body has an automatic negative response when I see it.

Before I had a child I used to imagine myself breastfeeding and would feel ill. I didn’t want my breasts sucked by a child, it almost felt abusive to them and me, due to my own childhood experiences.

Reflecting on this, I think I see breasts solely as sexual objects and I feel uncomfortable seeing children near them due to the way I was abused. Knowing this, I cope with it a lot better now.

So if other women out there have similar traumatic backgrounds, they shouldn’t feel like they’re failing as a mother for using a bottle.

If it messes with your head too much, why put yourself through it?

A stressed out, traumatised mother is more damaging for that child than whether their milk is from boob or formula.

The Guilt

Mum guilt is awful, let alone when it comes to this topic.

My son has mild eczema, which many would think is due to being bottle fed.

There’s also kids out there with much worse eczema conditions who were breast fed, so it’s hard to know.

Aside from eczema, my son’s intelligent, a healthy weight and very strong.

There’s research that says issues can arise from formula, but if that’s all you can give your child, what can you do?

There’s breastfeeding mothers out there who have poor diets, misuse substances or use medications that affects what their baby’s consuming.

Everything has it’s pros and cons.

Acceptance

Being able to accept I’ve done all I can for my son has been a long journey, but I’m glad I made it.

I was told by specialist nurses a few years ago during some medical training, that breastfeeding for the first 48 hours of a child’s life is the most important thing.

Baby drinking from a bottle.
Bottles worked best for us

This sets them up for life, as they drink the best part of the milk, the colostrum.

They said if a mother then stopped breastfeeding after this point, this was fine and they should never be made to feel less than for this.

The Method Doesn’t Matter

At the end of the day, the method of feeding isn’t what’s important.

As long as the child’s fed, clean and loved, why does it matter how these things are done?

If you also struggle during weeks like this, just remember, as long as your child is healthy and happy, you are doing an amazing job!

Support

If you’re trying to breast feed and struggling, the NHS have a Start4Life page which offers advice.

There’s also a National Breastfeeding Helpline that can offer support over the phone.

Sadly, I tried to search for support for coming to terms with not breastfeeding and couldn’t find any.

If you know of any services please comment below.

No payment was made for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.

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