Before you read this, this is my disclaimer. I am pro happy mums and happy babies. I am pro breast feeding and formula feeding and this post is in no way an anti breast feeding rant. It is hopefully a post to give others encouragement if they are struggling with breast feeding or switching to formula from the perspective of someone who also found it tough.
This is a post I never wanted to write. I wanted to breast feed both of my girls because I had not avoided the ‘breast is best’ message (how could you?!) and I felt it would help me to bond with my children etc. Let me ask you this, has there ever been another time when you have wanted the best for someone else more than you do for your own children? I would love to give Tigger and the newbie the very very best of everything in their lives and that wasn’t any different when it came to breast feeding. However things changed when I had my first. After 5 weeks of exclusively breast feeding, I felt I could do nothing right. Tigger wasn’t receiving what she needed from me mainly because I was completely exhausted, run down and overcome by anxieties about whether I was a good mum or not. I was ill. I didn’t know it at the time but I had started my journey with post natal depression.
The night I first gave Tigger a bottle, I cried so hard my husband called for back up in the shape of my mum! I struggled so much with the decision. It got easier don’t get me wrong but I still found it tough when I saw mums who were breast feeding. I felt like I had failed her. Why couldn’t I give her what she needed? Why was I struggling so much?
I had a lot of guilt around changing her feeds to formula. This wasn’t helped by the fact that everywhere you go people ask ‘Are you feeding her?’ This question is my pet hate as the answer is of course I’m feeding her otherwise she would be screaming right now, am I giving her a bottle or my breast is a different question and in my humble opinion is none of your business! Of course at the time this was not my answer, my answer was usually something along the lines of ‘No she was breast fed for 5 weeks at the beginning but it was really tough so now she’s having a bottle’. Why the justification? Why the need to share that she was breast fed to begin with? Guilt. Is there any other decision you make for your children which comes under such scrutiny? Not in my opinion.
Here’s the thing though stopping feeding was absolutely the best thing for me at that point. My mental health was rapidly deteriorating and I was struggling to just do the normal things in a day. Bottle feeding meant that on the worst days someone else could help me out. I also didn’t feel a huge pressure that it was only me who could provide leading me to feeling trapped on days I was struggling.
It was by no means the only aspect of being a new mum I struggled with and by no means the only thing that helped me feel better but it was one of them. That was my experience and here is my encouragement to you if you are struggling with breast feeding your baby, you feel like it may be contributing to you feeling unwell and the main reason you are not giving up is guilt related then please don’t be scared. It is important for you and your baby that you are well, formula is safe to give your baby and feeding your baby can still be a precious bonding time. Do not struggle in silence, speak to someone you know and remember spring is coming.