A FEW days ago I posted on Facebook how I was bored of the whole breastfeeding thing – and as a result people went a little bit nuts, either agreeing wholeheartedly, slagging me off personally, or getting into pretty heated arguments with each other. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?
Many seemed to miss my point entirely, many seemed to just jump on the bandwagon of ‘debating’ the whole breast v bottle issue, without actually realising this wasn’t what the post was about in any way shape or form. Maybe I should have written that I was bored of the whole ‘feeding’ thing. It seems to me people can’t just let mums feed their babies how they want (or have to) and keep quiet about it. That’s what I’m bored of.
Some mums left funny jokes to lighten up the mood (definitely needed), some posted selfies of them breastfeeding (not really sure why, but thanks anyway), and others helpfully shared my post on a local private breastfeeding support group for the ‘debate’ to rumble on – although I can’t help thinking this must have been rather one sided seeing as, well, everyone was a BF mum. But it gave people another chance to slag me off, especially when they knew I couldn’t respond, so it achieved one thing, I suppose. Being called a ‘knob’ has literally been the highlight of my blogging career so far!
Trying to do my best
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bothered about people attacking me personally. I’m a blogger and was fully aware a post referring to BF was likely to provoke a reaction, and was totally expecting a response. (The post reached over 2,450 readers, people were always going to have something to say) I’m also a journalist and with 15 years experience, I’m used to reaction and am pretty hard-nosed. But, now here’s the shocker, I’m also a person and a mum of three young children trying to do my best.
So after being accused of judging people, not supporting other mums, and being a ‘breastfeeding hater’, I thought I’d ride the wave, and reiterate that my whole point was not about breastfeeding versus bottle feeding and whether people should or shouldn’t do it (an age-old, really quite dull debate) but about how some people feel the need to go on and on about it like it’s the be all and end all of parenting. Clearly it’s not.
This has to be one of the most contentious issues connected to motherhood, and I’m by no means professing to be an expert – as you’ll see if you read on, I’m probably the least expert person ever, and maybe that’s the problem. But blogging is all about opinions and I just happen to have a platform in which I can share things.
Obviously I’m not generalising about every single breastfeeding mum out there, before everyone gets the knives out again, and I’ve heard and agree with the whole analogy of BF being like running a marathon and it’s an achievement if you do it successfully, but there is a very small minority who (in my opinion which I’m completely entitled to) seem to want to boast about it a bit too much. What is that all about??
As a few people pointed out on Facebook, we’re all mums trying to do our best for our children. Why do some people feel the need to act like their way of doing it is better than other people’s? This of course goes for all aspects of parenting whether it’s feeding, sleeping, or even screen time. (I’m thinking of my three year old rather than my babies with the latter, before someone starts judging again).
Backlash both ways
One Facebook commenter said that anytime there is a mention of breastfeeding there is always a backlash by the formula feeding mothers becoming defensive and unsupportive. But I would say this definitely works both ways. A large majority of the comments on the thread were from breastfeeding mothers being seemingly defensive and frankly quite aggressive, many telling everyone how long they breastfed their children and their own story. No bottle-feeding parents did that. But why should there be a backlash in either direction?
Now don’t get me wrong (although some will anyway), I have lots of breastfeeding friends, and just as many bottle feeding friends. One of my bestest friends is feeding her three year old and one year old at the same time, and I love her to bits. My friends and I all bring our children up differently, but it doesn’t define us, nobody is judging each other – we don’t even talk about it which suits us all just fine. Because we’re all just getting on with it.
Nobody is right or wrong
So I thought I’d share my own personal experience, and that of a few other mums who joined the Facebook thread – both breastfeeding and formula feeding. Clearly this could be the most stupid thing I’ve ever done and open myself up to even more attack, but the whole point is that nobody is right. Nobody is wrong. And those that preach about a certain way of doing things are plain idiots if you ask me.
I massively struggled with breastfeeding when Toddler was born. He wouldn’t latch, I had a different midwife and support worker at my house for 10 consecutive days trying to help me, and as much as I was very grateful for their efforts, the conflicting advice coupled with hormones and sleep deprivation became too much. I just couldn’t get my head round being told so much contradictory information. I was a new mum with no clue, and all I wanted was someone to help me.
Desperate to breastfeed
I was desperate to breastfeed because that’s what I’d told myself I ‘should’ do. That’s what a ‘good’ mum would do. Everyone I knew was breastfeeding, and this was clearly the best thing I could possibly do for my newborn baby.
On day three when my baby was losing too much weight and heading back into hospital unless something changed urgently, I was put on that hideous routine many will have experienced of feeding/expressing/topping up around the clock, and spent the next week crying over why I couldn’t make it work. I was failing and I didn’t like it. Breastfeeding was supposed to be a natural thing, so why couldn’t I do it? One midwife suggested the roof of my baby’s mouth was particularly high and that nipple shields might work to provoke the latch action. This was a lightbulb moment in that horrible first fortnight, and eventually he was feeding – albeit painfully slowly because of all the extra effort needed to get milk through the shields. However it was more than he was getting before, and I thought it was a solution.
But then other midwives, health visitors and peer support workers told me I shouldn’t be using them. What was I to believe? Another thing to beat myself up about until a midwife friend joked that I was hardly going to be arrested for using nipple shields longer than recommended!
So for the next month or so they were my new best friends – despite them being a MASSIVE pain in the arse, especially in public. The number of times I dropped the f*cking things on the local National Trust’s cafe floor and have to start all over again was ridiculous. But I persevered because you know, that’s what ‘good’ mums would do. There are also no pictures of me using them (in fact there are only 3 BF pictures in total anyway) as I was ashamed I wasn’t doing it all perfectly.
Never mind the fact he would take an hour to have just one small feed as he was having to suck twice as hard through them, then would tire himself out and fall asleep, so I’d have to go through the whole hour again 30 minutes later. I’d often try without and he wouldn’t get a drop, so the shields stayed.
Never mind the misery
And never mind that it was making me miserable, and my husband miserable because I was so upset and stressed at not being able to do what is supposed to come ‘naturally’. Friends and family suggested I stopped, but I was having none of it. Breast is best and all that shit, was what I believed, despite the fact I wasn’t enjoying new motherhood one little bit because of it.
I continued in defiance until our six week GP check when reality hit. He wasn’t putting on weight, and I was told in no uncertain terms I needed to do something about it. The doctor told me I had to seriously think about stopping BF as he wasn’t thriving.
I was GUTTED. Not because I was about to stop BF, but because I’d been an absolute dick for continuing with something that clearly wasn’t working. I’d put my baby in danger because I was determined to breastfeed. Breast is best when it works, but in my case it wasn’t best, it wasn’t working – it was clearly damaging. All my ideals of what a new mother did led back to how they were fed. And it took a stern word from a doctor, to make me wake up and smell the coffee.
She told me there was no shame in stopping, and that I had to do what was right for him. It was actually a relief to be told by a medical professional that it was okay to stop, that it didn’t mean I wasn’t a ‘good’ mum, and that I wasn’t failing my baby. So at two months I stopped. I wished desperately that it had worked, that all those tips and tricks I’d been given to help by countless advisors had been successful. Looking back I was pretty low about the whole thing – not that I let anyone see that, of course. I totally get how breastfeeding and the problems people encounter with it can lead to postnatal depression.
Then there were twins
Two years later, I was pregnant with twins. I vowed my entire pregnancy I wouldn’t put myself or my babies through that again. I would try, and if it worked, great, if it didn’t, I’d move them onto formula instantly and not beat myself up. Not really sure how I thought I was going to successfully breastfeed twins at the same time as look after a toddler with a husband who works away a lot, but I was open minded, at the same time as being realistic.
Hormones clearly do silly things to you though, as despite everything I’d told myself not to do, there I was in hospital, dead legs still from the epidural, with two lovely healthcare assistants trying to get the Twins to feed. There I was again crying in bed, beating myself up at why it wasn’t working. Less than 24 hours after giving birth I had a peer support volunteer next to me, telling me to make my nipple look like a beef burger (I’ll never forget that one!) and trying to advise me whilst tears welled up in my eyes as I felt a failure all over again. Yes it was early days, but it brought back my previous disaster and all the crap feelings that went with it.
I was doing exactly what I’d vowed not to do, and it was only after a serious chat with the Other Half that I decided my own well-being and that of my family as a whole was more important than breastfeeding. (I secretly think he just couldn’t stand the thought of that noisy breast pump at 3am again!)
Breastfeeding is HARD. Breastfeeding twins is even HARDER. So hats off to everyone who does it successfully, especially those who initially struggled. But despite my warped ideals two years ago, it doesn’t make you a better mum. It just makes your bank balance better off not having to fork out for formula!
So clearly I’m not a ‘breastfeeding hater’ as I’ve been accused of. Or I wouldn’t have even bothered trying. What I am a hater of is how some people (me included, although I’m totally over it now) are made to feel inferior, or a failure because they didn’t or couldn’t breastfeed. Everyone is different, everyone has their own experience, and not everyone wants “oh I breastfed my children until they were nine” flaunted in front of them. Well done you.
Of course my bad experience of BF has shaped how I feel about the whole subject. That’s called life. I’m definitely envious of others who do it so successfully. And thousands of women have had a much worse experience than I did. I wonder how they feel.
Bored of hearing about it
I totally stand by my original post about ‘being bored of BF’. I’m bored of hearing about it. As I’m sure many of you are if you’ve read this far! The irony of now writing even more about bloody BF is not lost on me, believe me 🙂
Why do some people (I’d like to hope it’s a small minority) make such a big thing about it? And I’m sorry, but who the hell has come up with the phrase breastfeeding “Army”? What an absolute crock of shit that is. To my mind it has aggressive connotations, is intimidating and militant – surely the total opposite of what people need when looking for support during such a vulnerable time.
At the end of the day – and exactly what my Facebook post said if people read it properly – it’s about choice. Albeit I totally get that some people don’t have a choice to start/stop feeding if there are problems, me included.
So there you have it. Seriously people, get over it. We all know a fed baby is a happy baby, however much of a cliche that is. Even the Royal College of Midwives’ now say women should be supported if they choose to bottle feed.
Just let everyone get on with their own thing. And THAT is why I’m bored of it. Not because I’m judging anyone, not because I’m not supporting other mothers, not because I’m a breastfeeding hater, (although I am massively jealous you don’t have to wash and sterilise what feels like millions of bottles every week) but because I DON’T CARE how you feed your baby – just bloody well feed them!
Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee
Did you enjoy this post? You might like some of my others, so how about you have a read of 10 ‘must haves’ to survive the early days with a newborn and toddler or 10 things I wish I’d known before having children
Or if you fancy a bit of social media madness, pop over to my Facebook page where you’ll be able to have a laugh at what ridiculousness goes on in my house with three very small boys on a daily basis. Warning – there is often sarcasm, and usually swearing. There are also great travel reviews and some AWESOME giveaways. Feel free to join my Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee – Shits and Giggles Parenting Group too, where everyone shares their hilarious stories.
And if you want to work with me, feel free to give me a shout here, and I’ll get back to you during naptime/screentime (!)