When I was first pregnant, I would imagine holding my precious newborn baby in my arms, gazing at the person I had created. I wanted to do everything right for my girl, from having a natural birth to breastfeeding. All the research said that breast is best. For the baby, and for the mother. What I didn’t expect was how tough it would be to breastfeed my baby.
You may have read that my natural birth turned to a caesarean section when my daughter proved determined to be breech. It was tough enough dealing with the c-section, the shame and the pain. I didn’t expect that it would take a few days for my milk to come in, and by then Moozles was hungry and jaundiced. At the hospital we had to give her formula from a little spoon. It was such a stressful time, and I just wanted to go home.
But the midwives at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, did not want me to leave. They kept pressuring me to breastfeeding, even using the pump. But nothing. No milk would come. They told me that I would not get such support at home, that the hospital was the best place for me. Normally one will be discharged from the hospital 3-4 days after their c-section, if there are no complications. I stayed for five days. On the fourth day, the midwife said that my heart rate was high and that I needed to remain in the hospital. And even on that fifth day, they wanted me to remain but Husband and I were united and strong that we would not be staying another night.
At home, my milk came in. But by then Moozles wanted nothing to do with my breasts. She screamed every time I tried to bring her close to me. It hurt my heart. So Husband went to Mothercare and bought a breastfeeding pump and a breastfeeding book. That evening Husband used the new breast pump to withdraw my milk. I remember the pain of the first pump. He had to do it for me (luckily it wasn’t a manual pump) as I was crying in agony. But we were able to finally feed our baby with breastmilk. But it was not how I had imagined it.
For one week, I expressed my breast milk for Moozles. And she continued to reject my breast. I planned to quit breastfeeding after the first three weeks. I knew I could not continue with the heart break. The only positive for me was that Husband was getting the opportunity to feed our baby. But then, we followed a tip from the breastfeeding book. I used nipple shields, and all of a sudden Moozles would take the milk from my breast. It was not exactly how I had pictured it, but it was more like the idealised version. I decided to give myself small goals–breastfeed for two months, then four, then six, then we would see. I used the nipple shields until she was five months old, and then I breastfed normally until she was almost one.
I am so glad that I breastfed my daughter (and later my son). But I never felt like I was a better mum than the mothers who fed their babies formula. I think some people don’t realise that breastfeeding has its own problems, and many of us struggle and feel inadequate. As mothers, we put enough pressure on ourselves. We do not need other mothers or health professionals putting unnecessary stress. Whether we breastfeed or bottle feed, surely it is about doing what is best for our child and ourselves. As long as a child is well fed, it should not matter where their milk is made. As long as it is given with love.