I’ve seen a few forum posts, Facebook posts and TV programmes about ‘bressure’ after a survey found that 4 in 10 women feel they’ve ‘failed as mothers’ for bottle feeding their babies.
On seeing this on the tv this evening I had a small debate with my mother on whether there is such pressure. Her instant response (after bottle feeding 3) was to say ‘nope, there’s no such thing’ but this is based on her believing that no one should be embarrassed by breastfeeding and that it’s such a natural thing that anyone who disagrees is wrong (an opining formed partly because of her feeling she has to defend me for my choices for some reason). It’s worth pointing out that my mother often doesn’t fully listen to news/family/anyone so picked up slightly the wrong end of the stick with this particular discussion.
My take is that there is a massive amount of pressure but although a little of this (for me) has come from health visitors etc the absolute worst, crappiest person for heaping on untold amounts of pressure to breastfeed on me is…..me.
Let me start by explaining where I am with breastfeeding to date.
When I was pregnant with no.1 my attitude was a somewhat arrogant stance of ‘six months is easy, it’s natural so who the hell can’t do it?’. When no.1 was born I was brought back to earth with a massive thump. Amongst other things I got a bug in hospital resulting in such bad dehydration that I couldn’t walk (it took 10 days to get this taken seriously), little one had such a bad tongue tie that even now, two years later, she has a split in her tongue and her weight was dropping so much they were threatening to put us both back in hospital. Baby wasn’t getting any food whatsoever and cried constantly through hunger.
I began expressing and was advised to do a formula top up plus wake her every 2 hours. This meant waking then trying to breastfeed, giving a top up then heading downstairs to try and express – this was a good 90 minute process with 30 mins of sleep then back to it. I was in agony, I was exhausted, I was dreading feeds and more often than not I was in tears, crying as she tried to feed and dropping tears over her face praying she’d hurry up and finish so I could put her back in the cot and get on with the next part of the
ordeal process. It was hardly bonding and I’d say I was very close to developing PND, I certainly did not want to be feeding her and was praying the two hours would come round slowly so I wouldn’t have to feed too soon.
Eventually, after weeks of trying to help me breastfeed, a health visitor decided enough was enough and gave me a talking to about my own mental health with the result that we grudgingly moved to formula. I will be eternally grateful to this HV; a sensible, practical woman who wanted to put the health of baby and I at the forefront over a professional obligation to encourage breastfeeding.
You’d think that would be the end of it but instead I beat myself up terribly. I was convinced that people were judging me every single time I pulled out a bottle of formula when in reality no one ever said anything bar the people who thought it was fair game to ask how I was feeding baby, I didn’t have the confidence to just reply with ‘yes, I am feeding her, I’d never let her starve’ and leave it at that. I used words such as ‘failed her’ and ‘failed at feeding’ and always launched into a longwinded explanation of why I didn’t end of breastfeeding whenever anyone asked.
Over a year later I was still feeling crap about ‘failing her’ so when I found out I was pregnant again I decided that I needed to get over it for all our sakes and decide from the start that my choice was formula over the feeling of failure.
As the pregnancy went on I started to turn to the idea that I’d do the first day, then the first week and finally I decided I’d try as long as I could but no pressure and if I had to stop then so be it but under no circumstances would I put myself under the same pressure I did with no.1.
Roll onto April and our beautiful little boy was with us. I still had a little worry about mentioning formula so I decided I’d try breastfeeding until I was out of the 10 day health visitor visits so I wouldn’t be ‘judged’.
The first night was fine but the second we caved and gave an oz of formula. I hid the evidence when the health visitor came the next day and ditto of the following. On the third day after a successful night and feeling more confident I casually mentioned to my health visitor that I ‘may at some point give formula’, her response was ‘do what’s right for your family, it won’t hurt so don’t stress’. Her attitude was amazing and made me feel I wasn’t failing this time but just doing what I could to keep my hungry boy happy and fed.
Where I am now.
To my absolute surprise I’m loving breastfeeding and I swear that by adding the odd bottle of formula I’ve not damaged our breastfeeding success but rather I’ve extended it and guaranteed it’s worked so far. Yes I’m occasionally in pain, yes there are days I can’t get off the couch and yes there are times I’d love to be able to skip a feed in favour of a bath but I am so unbelievably proud of myself for continuing to breastfeed but more importantly I’ proud that I’m continuing with a healthy attitude.
It’s worth noting that I have dramatically changed my attitude since no.1 and my aims are far more realistic, I’m taking everything two weeks at a time and I’m now about to hit the 6 week growth spurt – I’m sure this will be a testing time but I’m determined to get through it.
So where do I stand on bressure?
I definitely believe that there are people out there who love to make formula feeders feel like crappy, uncaring mothers who feed their babies fish eyes (yeah, I did get told that once) and others who love to label breastfeeders as exhibitionist hippies but hell, who cares what these small-minded idiotic people think? We’re all just doing whatever we can to keep our babies healthy and happy.
After two vastly different experiences I now firmly believe we mothers all need to stop caring what stoopid people think and for gawds sake…please, please to amy mother’s reading this and working about feeding, PLEASE agree that we need to stop taking it all so personally and putting OURSELVES under pressure.