The Breast is Best debate
It's world Breastfeeding week this week, and seeing so many breastfeeding photos and stories on social media has prompted me to share mine.
I wrote this when Sadie was near on 10 months old, and was feeling a little raw about the Breast is Best campaign, which caused me so much grief with my mental health at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey with both babies.
10 months tomorrow and this morning marked our last breastfeed.
Feeding you has not been an easy journey, and I have loved, loathed, struggled and persevered with it. After a difficult time feeding Isla, followed by my accident when she was 8 months old, and the stress of it causing my supply to disappear almost overnight, I was hoping for a smoother experience the second time around with you....
Initially, you lost too much weight. As with Isla, I had a fairly substantial blood loss and my body put all its energy into replacing that instead of producing milk. My midwife arrived one day and I was in tears, exhausted and anxious about not being able to feed my baby. She told me I didn’t have to do this, it was OK to formula feed. I already knew this, but felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and guilt for contemplating this. I told myself I was going to give it 4 weeks, not put myself through 8 weeks of it like I did with Isla. 3 weeks of feeding, topping up and expressing, 60mg/day of Domperidone later, and I was able to feed you solely from the breast.
Next came the bottle refusal. Despite having been topped up with a bottle for 3 weeks, your preference lay with the breast, and you slowly started taking less and less from a bottle when offered, until you stopped altogether. This led to huge stress on my part, trying to get an extra feed in before I left the house for a consultation, as I knew you wouldn’t make it all the way through your lunch nap otherwise.
Then at about 2 months, your inability to feed anywhere but a dark room with white noise playing sprung. You would quite literally starve yourself to avoid feeding anywhere but there. Another huge stress, as this meant I couldn’t feed you when we were out and about, leading to us staying home, a lot.
At 5 months, you were so fussy when feeding. You wouldn’t feed properly for a few days and I got mastitis. Thank god for my double electric pump, antibiotics and paracetamol!
At 6 months old, I tried weaning off Domperidone to see if my supply would maintain itself. After several weeks of long periods of crying at bedtime, broken up by frantic attempts to feed, and more frequent, hungry wakes overnight, it became apparent I once again, could not produce enough milk without it. My wonderful GP asked how long I was planning on breastfeeding you for, as she is was hesitant to continue prescribing Domperidone for off label use, without some kind of time limit. At this stage, my hope was a year.
At 7 months, you finally took a bottle! I put on my brave pants and left you with your nana for the day. After trying all the bottles and teats under the sun, it was the original bottle you ended up taking. This marked a huge change in our lives, as I was no longer solely responsible for providing you with milk. What a relief!
This last month, I have been replacing breastfeeds with bottle feeds, dropping pumping sessions, and reducing my Domperidone dose. Being the easygoing, happy wee thing that you are, you haven’t minded, or even noticed.
Now at 1 day shy of 10 months, our breastfeeding time has ended. And while I’m looking forward to wearing normal bras again, I’m feeling a strange sense of mourning over this. You are our last baby, and breastfeeding is something I will never do, or feel again.
For some women, breastfeeding comes easily. I am not one of these women. Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing you can do, it’s said to be the biological norm. I persevered with it because I understand the benefits of breastmilk. But pumping my breasts with an electric pump and pumping my body full of pharmaceuticals to aid in breastfeeding certainly doesn’t feel natural or biologically normal to me.
I’m thankful that I was able to continue feeding you for as long as I did, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it has been more of a rollercoaster ride, than a journey