Breastfeeding: the awe, the joy and the mental torture.

July 2, 2012 · 25 comments

Breastfeeding.  Just the word itself is enough to elicit a truck load of emotions in me.  The total awe I felt knowing my body could, not only grow a new life, but sustain it by producing exactly what’s needed at exactly the right time.  Oh and that blissful feeling when you put your baby to your chest and it nuzzles in and makes those magical feeding noises.    But what about when it doesn’t all go to plan?  The frustration when no matter how hard or how many times you try, your brand new bundle of love just won’t latch on?   Or when they do finally attach, the pain is so unbearable you simply can’t stand the thought of allowing your hungry baby near you.   Gut wrenching and guilt laden pretty much sums that up.    And it’s supposed to be the most innate and natural thing in the world – isn’t it?

You see I know about these things because I’ve been on both sides of the emotional mountain of breast feeding.  My first two babies were born just knowing how to feed.   The moment they were lifted to my breast they latched on and were happily suckling away – right through until they were both almost one.    Added to that my midwife told me, with glee like excitement, that I had the perfect breast feeding nipples.  (Now that’s something a girl can add to her resume!)   And I had a great supply of milk to boot.   It was simple and natural and I smugly didn’t realize just how easy I had it.  Queue the wonder and awe feelings.

But then along came baby number three.  I still don’t know exactly why but baby number three was never going to ‘get it’.   (She was born by caesarian section and had bruised cheeks – which may have stopped her learning to open her mouth wide enough.) Suddenly I went from being the gold star breastfeeding mother (you know the ones the midwives love) to having my breasts manhandled and a baby thrust at my sore and unhappy, but still perfect, nipples.   No matter how hard I tried she just wouldn’t latch on well enough to draw out my milk supply.  Within hours I was forced to start expressing – as my little girl sunk into sleepy jaundice territory.   Each successive midwife gave me her own set of instructions and in my own sleep deprived emotional post birth state I started to feel every shred of confidence drain away.    The stories I’d heard and scoffed at, about bossy overbearing midwives materialized in front of my eyes and I was in no state to stand my ground – let alone think clearly enough to string sentences together.

By the time I was allowed to take my baby home I was expressing for every feed.  I’d put my little babe to my breast for 10 minutes each side and then give her a pre-expressed bottle to actually fill her belly.  The hospital rented me a double electric breast pump and I spent thirty minutes every 3 hours hidden away from my family with my boobs ensconced in dual suction cups.  With a 2 and 4 year old at home already I’m guessing you can image how much fun this was.    My most vivid emotional memories of this time (now almost four years ago) are the overwhelming indecision about what to do and a heavy feeling of failure – because we all know breast is best!   I wanted so badly to do the right thing but was struggling to have the energy and desire to keep the expressing up.

There were trips to lactation consultants, maternal child health nurses and many words of encouragement – but things didn’t improve.  My little baby just didn’t get it.   After a month of semi-mental torture I finally gave up.     I needed to make the decision for myself and my two other children, but a war was raging in my mind and I felt selfish and like the world (or the professionals around me ) thought I’d failed.   Looking back now I can see I did all I could do and made the right choice for me, and my family, at that time.  But amid that post birth, sleep deprived emotional roller coaster, I simply didn’t have the presence of mind to know this.

I’m writing about this today because I know this is such an important and emotive subject.  I still think about this four years later and wish I’d had someone impartial to really talk to.   I was happy to hear recently that MumSpot have produced a beautiful and information DVD called how2breastfeed which is filled with advice and support from other mums (along with some professionals).  You can check out their website and join their facebook page if you are in a situation where you would like support and information about breastfeeding – or if you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story.  I know how important it is feel supported and heard when you are a new mother – and this is one great way of making that happen.

 

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post for MumSpot and the How2breastfeed blog but am posting it here to help spread the word about this fabulous DVD.

1 Lee July 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I have been so lucky to be able to feed both my two post-12 months with relative ease. I do not take this granted one bit. My sister had horrific problems and persisted through absolute hell. I don’t know that I would have. I have had mastitis 6 times, which isn’t all that pretty, but pales in comparison to what some mums go through … even with perfect nipples.
Thanks so much for sharing your story Caz. It’s so important for women to not blame themselves for not being able to breastfeed and to know that there are many breastfeeding stories. Some of them extremely painful. 🙁
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2 Laney July 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

I can relate. I breastfed for 16 weeks before I finally had a feed without pain. I was ridiculously stubborn and also suffered everything that could possibly happen to your breasts! But again it was the guilt that kept me going. I was already guilty about her arriving so early, I just couldn’t give up. I had the bossy midwives too and then some nice ones. Finally someone with more sense referred me to the loveliest lactation consultant on this earth (believe me!). I would travel out the hospital once a week to get her help and we finally got through it all.
CrashBoy? No worries! The end.
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3 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Hi again Laney, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting! Deb is offering compensation for post too.

4 Tracy July 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

I’m still hanging onto breastfeeding my little one. One feed a day followed by a formula top up – he drinks the whole bottle, so I don’t think he actually gets that much from me. He latched on beautifully from the moment he was born and for the first 5 weeks it was bliss. Then for some reason he just stopped attaching properly and my supply started declining rapidly as a result. He was hungry and screaming all the time. I kept trying, but the more tired I got, the worse my supply got and the screamier he became. With two other children, it was so hard. I switched to formula for mine and my family’s sanity. I feel bad about it, I second guess myself about it all the time. Maybe if I kept trying, maybe it would have come good? But ultimately if I wasn’t happy then baby wouldn’t be – and he’s a very happy baby now.
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5 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Hi again Tracy, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting!

6 1000homesofhappiness July 3, 2012 at 8:48 am

The social torment if you can’t is horrific. All mothers want to do the best for their child. Breast or formula, leave the Mumma’s be I say. I’m sure they have absolutely exhausted all options before they get to the point of using formula.

Great post Caz. xoxox
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7 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi again, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting!

8 Emma July 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm

just like me, 1 & 2 fed fine #3 didn’t!

9 Rebel July 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I am currently best feeding my second baby. I’d be devastated not to be able to. My mother in law had problems with her second child, her middle baby. Today, 30 years later she still feels angry that she didn’t get the support she needed.

10 Caz July 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I really is a deeply impacting and emotional thing and I can understand how your MIL feels. We do a least have some good support options these day. Enjoy those magical feeding noises. When ever I hear a little baby feeding I just melt!

11 Glowless July 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I had a rollercoaster of an experience with breastfeeding too. My boy latched on really well straight away and, despite some tenderness (they weren’t quite used to that much action!) it was OK and the midwives generally left me alone because “we got it.” The day I left hospital it became apparent that I had a massive oversupply and my boy would pull off because I was almost drowning him, which meant poor latch, bleeding and ultimately a massively painful golden staph infection IN MY NIPPLE!
But we got there with help from a lactation consultant and lots of visits to my local ABA group.

It is such a journey and I know of so many people who have had opposite experiences with their different children, and while the decision to feed or continue to feed is up to the woman, having support to make that decision is so desperately needed. Thanks for sharing this.
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12 Caz July 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

It sure is! Just having someone to really listen to you helps A LOT. Funny, my girlfriend had an oversupply too. Her baby used to just hold as much as she could in her mouth and then pull off and spit it out all over everything near and far. Actually, rethink, it’s probably not that funny – but they way she told the story was 🙂

13 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hi again, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting! (She is also offering compensation)

14 Glowless July 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Happy to help, Caz. The more support out there for women who are trying to breastfeed the better. Very rarely do we do things for the very first time when we’re hormonal and sleep deprived, no wonder we need a lot of support!
She can email me at glowless@wheresmyglow.com 🙂 Thank you x
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15 Kylie Ofiu July 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Breastfeeding was a nightmare for me, and I am one of the few who are medically no good. I tried, had lots of milk, but my milk had no nutrients and I was starving my babies, so was told to stop and I had to use formula.

I was sad I couldn’t do it, felt guilty and like I was a bad mum. The thing that comforted me was something I learnt about Aborigines in year 4 and that was that in their tribes they all helped and so if someone had a baby and couldn’t feed it or something happened to the mum, another member of the tribe fed it. (We had also just done sex ed which is why the feeding was brought up).

That knowledge helped me immensely. One of my friends had someone yell at her “Well, if this was the olden days your baby would STARVE because you are too selfish!” She had inverted nipples and massive problems feeding, despite desperately trying. When I told her what I had been taught she was so relieved as she felt so guilty for being unable to do it. I also pointed out that rich people in the ‘old days’ hired a wet nurse, so another mother who was breastfeeding would be hired to feed their baby, they didn’t do it themselves.

I do think breast is best if you can, but some of the abuse that happens if you can’t is terrible. Thanks for sharing you experience Caz. xx
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16 Caz July 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

That is a really comforting thought Kylie – nice one. There are such a lot of horror stories out there – but also some great ones about lactation consultants. It’s all very emotional and obviously impacts deeply on women. Oh and I can’t even begin to fathom how people used wet nurses – seems bizarre these days.

17 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hi again, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting!

18 Bec Mason July 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Such a good post! After 4 kids now, I dont listen to what others think on the matter but it took me that long to get to that point! There is so much criticism out there of bottle feeding mums it does my head in!! My first breastfeeding experience was horrendous…baby born at 25 weeks so I was forced to express…I did so for 3 mths (which is much harder to do when you are seperated from bubs in a milking room where I had no contact with my baby and expressed, bottled and froze with no cuddles, cries or anything to help with that feeling to induce a real letdown) I had lactation experts help me until I cried to stop when I was only producing about 20 mls…the guilt of trying to keep a sick premmie alive was intolerable!
2nd baby I got to experience the pure joy of breastfeeding…it just fit with us both to begin with but supply dropped. 3rd and 4th baby got those precious few days in hospital before my nipples bled and split and I was in agony!
I think the best thing we can do as mothers is not judge anyone for their choice…as most of us know, there is a story behind every birth, every baby and every one of us!!

19 Caz July 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I actually thought of you when I was writing this Bec 🙂 Agreed %100 the best this is for us to be supportive and not judge.

20 Karen July 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I think it is so important to have honest stories out there of breastfeeding for new Mums (and experienced Mums). I remember feeling like I was the only one who couldn’t get it right, and struggling with being a failure for the first 6 weeks, until we finally got it right, it felt like an eternity. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m working on mine too.
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21 Caz July 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Karen, I so agree. Life in general would be so much easier if we could all be more honest and open about things!! I was just thinking this morning how lucky I was this happened on my third child. How difficult it must be for new mums when it happens with their first bub. I had some positive experience to fall back on – and even that was not enough. Thanks for visiting and leaving such a lovely comment.

22 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Hi again, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting!

23 Catherine Rodie Blagg July 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Breastfeeding can be a bit of a roller-coaster. You should post this on the ABA’s facebook page too – good for mums to learn from each others experiences x
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24 Caz July 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm

thanks for the tip Catherine 🙂 Great idea. Shall do. Thanks for visiting.

25 Caz July 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Hi again, just a little more feedback 🙂 The lovely lady who organised for me to write this post is interested in getting others to write for her too – and the review the dvd. She was very happy with the discussion in these comment as it’s exactly the type of feedback she is looking for. If you’d like to share your own breastfeeding story can you let me know and I’ll forward your details to Deb so she can contact you. If not – no worries at all – but thanks again for commenting!

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