Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breastfeeding pride

It's national breastfeeding awareness week! I've been wondering why I've been reading so many posts about breastfeeding, and I found out today. Yesterday, the midwife at aquanatal told us all about a free pampering session at our local children's centre today, for mums and mums to be. It turned out to be as part of the breastfeeding network group I attended a few times (and became friendly with a few of the volunteers), and put on in honor of national breastfeeding awareness week. Who can really say no to a free indian head massage and all the crumpets and cake one can eat without looking a pig? So I celebrated in style, especially since Boy was with Nana this morning due to another hospital appointment....

I asked at the group for any advice on things to do differently this time round, as I only managed 4 weeks exclusive breastfeeding with Boy (during which he became skeletal, despite feeding on demand, and topping up with expressed milk), and 4 months combined breast and formula. I say "only", because if I had my way, I'd still be feeding him. I loved (almost) every second and fully intended to feed him up to and beyond the 12 month guidelines. Still, today, 14 months after giving up breastfeeding, tears choked my words as I talked to the volunteers. I do wonder if I'll ever get over the guilt I feel for not being able to sustain my baby with my own milk (due to a genuine health condition, unlike me, almost 100% of women can make enough milk if supply is boosted by varying techniques. All of which were exhausted by me). I feel less guilty than I did at the time....

In my logical head, I know that every day makes a difference to your baby, the NHS slogan of choice. And my own doctor insisted the first two weeks were the most vital, and I managed that! But I can never quieten the mother inside me whose sole ambition as to nurture her baby, and she failed. I remember my mum coming to visit me when Boy was a month old with a tin of formula, crying, and begging me to feed my baby. She had been the one who noticed his tummy rumbling constantly....I just thought babies tummies must do that, he was my first!

I know,in my brain, that I made the right choice to feed my baby with formula, but my heart just can't hear the reasons.

I do intend to breastfeed the new baby, and although the specialist said it is very likely that my condition will remain the same,it's not a dead cert. And I know this time to force myself to ignore the formula-guilt, and combine if/when it becomes apparent that baby is hungrier than it needs to be.

The volunteers at the group told me that I did everything I could last time, I couldn't have done a better job. HID pointed out that he has been saying that for upwards of a year, but that's why I married him, he says all the right things. It seemed more comforting to hear it from a pro-breastfeeding stranger.

As I left, a volunteer I knew quite well insisted I take her phone number, and to text her when the baby was born. She is coming to the hospital to help me establish breastfeeding. "The midwives are often too busy to do much more than check your latch. I'll stay with you until you get it right." I almost cried. The woman has no idea how much relief washed over me as she wrote down her number. I did get help last time,but this time I'm feeling fully armed.

By the way, the picture at the top? Checkout mama merit badges.
Even if you managed one feed, stop beating yourself up and feel proud: you breastfed your baby. There is no need to feel guilty that you didn't feed up until school age. All those fellow breastfeeders out there, well done!

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At 10:05 pm , Blogger Margarita said...

Those merit badges are such a cute idea! Don't beat yourself up over it, society puts this message into our heads that breast is best, and while I mainly agree, I don't think it's right that mommy's that have trouble are deemed failures - you did your best, you gave him a great start in life! Any breastmilk is better than none, don't worry!

At 7:31 am , Blogger Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Yes, it certainly sounds like you did everything you could. That must have been so hard and I can completely understand the feelings of guilt, regardless of any logic. (We tend to throw pretty constant guilt at ourselves as soon as we give birth!)

The volunteer who has offered to come and help when baby is born sounds wonderful. We need more of them. As she said the midwives can be too busy to help as much as someone might need. Rosemary was in SCBU for her first week and I had a lot of difficulties establishing feeding. The SCBU nurses weren't really in a position to help, try though they did and it was a health care assistant who came down to help me in the end. She had been on training with one of the breast-feeding charities so that she could help new mums.

Good luck with it this time round. I hope that you have better luck, but don't beat yourself up about it if you don't. If you can stop yourself, anyway!

At 1:53 pm , Blogger cartside said...

Well done for trying so hard! Please don't feel guilty, you did your very best and remember, you nurtured you baby all on your own for 9 months! Isn't that amazing enough?!

I know the guilt feeling too, been there, and it's not society who puts the guilt feeling on us, it's just that wish to being able to nurture your child, but we nurture in so many different ways, and that's even more important than breast-feeding.

At 7:21 pm , Blogger Maternal Tales said...

What a wonderful post - even though you couldn't breatfeed for longer than a month, the feelings of love you have for your child are so evident - and that is the important thing. It's true that they say 'breast is best' but only if it's possible. You want to do the best for your child and if formula feeding is best (ie doesn't leave him hungry when breasfeeding does) then you are doing what's best by giving him formula. I fed my first one for 10 months and thought I would do the smae for the second, but I found it much harder. It was probably something to do with moving house when the second one was two weeks old and having another child to run around after, so I started bottle feeding at about 3 months and completely finished with the breast at 4 months. My feelings of guilt for not being able to give my second what I gave my first were overwhelming, but my baby was much much happier...and that was the most important thing. Try not to be too hard on yourself. The most important thing is that you want the best for your child, whatever that turns out to be. Good luck (and sorry for such a long comment)!!

At 9:24 pm , Blogger allgrownup said...

Margarita: Thanks. At least I don't feel like everyone is staring at me when I get a bottle out in public anymore!

Tasha: It must have been very difficult to get feeding established with a special care baby. I'm having a c-section this time, I hope it won't affect bonding and feeding, I'm sure it won't really, but people plant these ideas in my head! Argh!

Cartside: I'm hoping to come to terms with the guilt eventually! :-)

Maternal Tales: Don't apologise, it's always lovely to hear from you. I do realise in hindsight that formula was best for us....couldn't see it at the time! I think my difficulties last time may have been related to my painful post-partum, so this time, after my c-section, I'm hoping it won't be as bad (it can't possibly! ha ha). And a relaxed and happy mummy surely makes for a relaxed and happy newborn...I hope.

Thanks all. x

At 9:58 pm , Blogger Katherine said...

Well done you, a lovely and insightful love your child and did everything you could to b/feed. I never really had any problems feeding my #1 but struggled with #2. I was on my #3 when a very good friend of mine (she on her 1st) rang me in tears because she just couldn't feed, but her baby hadn't fed for over 24 hours...what are you to do?? You are nurturing your baby....they just want to be with you and to be loved...take all the help you can but you're obviously a loving mother so DON'T be too hard on yourself.

At 8:46 pm , Blogger Maternal Tales said...

Little award for you at mine x

At 2:49 pm , Blogger Cave Mother said...

As the others have said, a lovely post. Thanks for your comment over at mine - breastfeeding mums unite! I wrote something quite similar to your post earlier this month (also inspired by breastfeeding awareness week) -

At 7:38 pm , Anonymous Laura McIntyre said...

I am a breastfeeding , breastfeeding is a big part of my life and i will never understand those who use bottles without a second thought.

BUT more importantly im about the health of the child , and in some cases like yours seems to be then breast was not best. You should not beat yourselves up about it but instead realise you done amazingly to breastfed at all


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