Notes from Motherhood: Breast is Best, except when it’s Not!

Notes from Motherhood is written by Anne, Mummy to Francesca, Molly and Benjamin. Anne is the BornFree Social Networking coordinator for the UK.

We all know that Breast is Best, of course it is, otherwise what on earth is the point of being a mammal?

But what if for some reason you can’t breastfeed your baby?

The World Health Organisation actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for babies and it is understood that support for mothers is essential. This excerpt is taken from their website:

Breastfeeding has to be learned and many women encounter difficulties at the beginning. Nipple pain, and fear that there is not enough milk to sustain the baby are common.

As a mother who breastfed three children I am certainly familiar with the difficulties encountered and also the pain involved each time. After 2 weeks of trying to get my first baby latched on properly, without success I may add, I was suffering from agonising cracked and bleeding nipples. I was ready to give up but my husband, who knew how much it meant to me to carry on, found me some silicone nipple guards to use until my nipples had healed. It stated very clearly on the packet that they were a short-term option. This was confirmed by my health visitor, who told me that my baby would not be able to feed properly unless I stopped using them. Well, me and my bouncing baby girl used those guards for 6 months, and despite many efforts to stop, it was clear she couldn’t feed with out them.

When daughter No2 was born I was determined to get it right and I must admit it was a lot easier. Marvellous! 6 months of blissful bonding and satisfied burps. Until I tried to wean her off the boob and onto a bottle that is. She wasn’t adverse to taking a good slug of water from a bottle, but try and put some milk in it. NO WAY! It didn’t matter if it was expressed boob milk or formula, it just wasn’t welcome. I was told by experienced friends and family that I should have introduced a bottle earlier so that weaning would go more smoothly. I was so busy doing the ‘right thing’ that I’d inadvertently done the wrong thing.

When baby No 3 came along I was convinced, smug even, that I had this breastfeeding lark under control and had learned from past mistakes.

Ha ha. How wrong was I!

This boy was determined to cause me constant pain by not latching properly, or forgetting to suck when he finally did latch on. How can you forget to suck? You’re a baby, that’s your job!

If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was extremely well supported at home for the first 8 weeks (this was my 3rd child in 3 years and my 2nd c-section in 18 months-my family rallied), and due to the daily support of a dedicated and wonderful health visitor; I may have had to give up on the idea of breast feeding altogether. I’m pretty sure I would have sunk into a bad case of PND because I was grimly determined that my son would get the same treatment as his sisters and be breast fed for at least 6 months NO MATTER WHAT! And I can tell you now that it was a long and very painful, sleepless 15 weeks before he finally settled into a routine that didn’t make me cry with pain and frustration at each feed.

Amazingly, despite all the agony suffered by me and my breasts, all my children thrived throughout their first few months and gained weight rapidly as if everything was fine. I think this was my first introduction into the lifestyle. I’m no martyr but being a mother has taught me a level of selflessness that I don’t think I would otherwise have attained.

One of the reasons for me writing this post is to illustrate just how difficult it is to breastfeed. Nothing and nobody can prepare you for the bone aching tiredness, the agonising nipples, the back ache and the overwhelming feeling that you have become a big unwashed, undressed cow, trapped in your chair under a cute but tyrannical child. This is to say nothing of the pressures exerted on you from outside sources. We live in a Breast is Best climate now, although bizarrely this is still not fully endorsed by all members of the general public. I am lucky in that I have a ‘don’t look if you don’t like it’ mentality and I was never too shy about whopping my boobs out to feed my hungry babes. However I know there are some women who are more self-conscious and I can understand how hard it must be to try and maintain your modesty under those disapproving stares.

I have only touched upon my own personal experience here, there are many medical and psychological reasons why women find it impossible to carry on trying to breastfeed. Not least the fact that as long as your attempts are failing your baby is losing weight and become more and more ‘sleepy’. A terrible responsibility but one with a clear objective-keep the baby alive!

I agree that, when possible, breast milk is clearly the best food for a child up to 6 months. However I disagree very strongly with the lack of support for mothers who can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason. There is very little advice from the ‘experts’ on bottlefeeding a newborn and most women feel judged because they are not following NHS doctrine.

I read a blog post from a young mother recently and it was this and the comments that it received that inspired me to write. I don’t know what the answer is but I do feel that a compromise needs to be reached by the experts who are offering advice. Women need to be supported through the first few months of their child’s life what ever their chosen feeding method is.  Mums who bottlefeed their babies are not enemies of the state, they are vulnerable people who need the support and love of society just like all new parents do.

Have a look at this moving blog post from Me, The Man & The Baby and see for yourself why this is such an important issue.


1 Response to “Notes from Motherhood: Breast is Best, except when it’s Not!”

  1. 1 Feeding your baby: Breast or Formula? Read these testimonials! « A Mother' Secrets Trackback on June 20, 2010 at 21:13

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