The Big Taboob
Today marks the start of #WorldBreastfeedingWeek so we’d like to share with you some insight from the NMSG Committee on their personal breastfeeding journeys.
For those who have struggled and for those who haven’t, for those who have exclusively breastfed and for those who have combination or fully formula fed, our main message will be that ‘fed is best’ and the NMSG would like all their members to know that they are supportive of the choices us mothers have to make when it comes to feeding our babies.
Some feel that breastfeeding has become a taboo subject, mainly because there are very strong opinions about it but we all need to cut one another some slack. If you’re struggling, please tell somebody and if you are doing well, don’t be ashamed to say so. We need positive messages in motherhood. It’s scary enough!
So, if you are a new mum, have a read and know that you are not alone in your breastfeeding (or not) journey and if you need a friendly ear, the NMSG are here. Come along to our Baby & Bump sessions for unconditional support:
Baby & Bump Tanglin every 2nd Tuesday of the month, 10am – 12pm
Baby & Bump East every 4th Tuesday of the month, 10am – 12pm
Baby & Bump events are hosted by an NMSG committee member and a trained midwife. They are free. To register please visit our Meetup page. Don’t worry, if you’re not a member you can sign up on the day.
It’s easy to breastfeed, right?
“Breast feeding doesn’t come naturally to everyone, I expected it to be easy (I’d done the pre-natal breastfeeding class, all set right?) and it was probably one of the hardest and most exhausting things I’ve ever done. With my first my milk took ages to come in, my baby was hungry and losing weight and I was being told by people just to keep going (bleeding nipples/crying hungry baby), I should have given him a bottle there and then, but I didn’t, I was convinced he would have nipple confusion, the formula would damage his “internal gut bacteria”, etc. There were endless tears and I don’t know how I carried on (I was pretty determined to do it exclusively), we got there in the end and I fed him for 15 months, but I was never 100% comfortable doing it, I never felt that nursing sessions were a bonding experience for us, I just dreaded it and wanted it to be over.”
“I remember sitting in pre-natal class where every single mum-to-be had a breastfeeding question and most were more afraid of breastfeeding than giving birth! The fear of how hard it will be, how to do it, will I be able to do it, what will people think if I can’t do it and so on... this broke my heart to see the pressure and anxiety women were feeling on the topic of breastfeeding.
Then when it was my turn in hospital even though I’d been to all the classes I still felt un-prepared... night 2 when the cluster feeding started and I had no milk I wanted to quit right there! Sucking dry bleeding swollen nipples on the hour, for an hour, every hour!!
Told by the midwife it’s normal your milk will come just push through! By night 3 which felt like a life time of screaming hungry baby later and as recommended by my OB, I gave my hungry baby 10-20mls of formula between suckling.
Baby (& mum) happily sleeping, my milk came in on day 4 and after a toe curling massage from the lactation consultant we have been lucky to have breastfeeding go well since.”
“I also had a lot of pressure from my family to “give up”, I think a lot of people close to me weren’t really that comfortable with me feeding in front of them and also had the perception that formula kept them fuller and made them sleep longer. It’s really hard in the early days to believe in what you’re doing as you’re always questioning your choices and looking for guidance and confirmation that you’re “doing the right thing”. I found it really tough, glad I did it but would support anyone’s decision as to what suits them (I remember trying to feed my son his formula before we had our NCT Meet Up because I didn’t want the others to see, how strange looking back as now I wouldn’t care either way, the joy of experience and hindsight...”
“My Daughter was premature because I started developing preeclampsia and had to have an emergency c section at 36 weeks. though I thankfully didn’t have a supply problem it was quite difficult in the hospital because I couldn’t turn to my left and a short nipple on that boob as well, so my daughter nursed for almost three days on the right boob. in addition my biggest worry was that I am quite well endowed and my kid was about 5 pounds so her mouth couldn’t really latch perfectly but she managed to gain weight quickly and contrary to my paranoia she actually managed to nurse well. I think I was so traumatised from my sudden delivery that I kept imagining she was not feeding well and was weak, but I think around the four month mark I got really comfortable nursing her and had some cute moments with her.”
“I wasn’t really concerned about breastfeeding. I thought as a woman/new mum it would just come naturally and I’d be in a café with my new baby attached to my boob with no worries. I was wrong. I had a very traumatic birth and needed a lot of assistance in hospital with feeding. When I left I gave it my best shot but struggled and felt incredibly alone and guilty. I sought help from lactation consultants, but I really felt helpless and unsupported. They seemed to have a ‘one track mind’ when it came to feeding, ‘breast is best’ which in turn made me feel even worse. In the end I started introducing formula and combination fed for a few months which helped massively. It felt like something I should keep a secret when in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing. I’ve learnt that as a mum you really should trust your gut and when it comes to doing the best for your baby, in turn you should also think about what is best for you. If I have another baby I’m definitely going to try breastfeeding again, it might be a different experience this time but if it isn’t I’ll move on and won’t allow myself to feel so terrible this time.”
“With my second I was much more relaxed, keen for her to be fed by others and it was much easier, my milk was there straight away and she was a quick feeder, I combination fed until she was 7 months and my daughter seemed happy to go full bottle fed at that point and I can’t say I wasn’t keen either, no more tops with clips, cover ups, squirty nipples and bra pads!”
“Both my breast-feeding journeys for my children were very different, I didn’t realise that combination feeding was possible and worried about so much, I’d give myself a much easier time first time around if I did it over and I believe go with what works for you and your babies, there’s no right or wrong way and the journey is different for us all...”
Positive breastfeeding vibes
“I completely understand the frustration that many women have with the trite and frankly unhelpful "breast is best". I have to say though that reading up on breastfeeding in preparation for motherhood, I came across so much negativity and so many warnings of pain, pitfalls and potential failure that I began breastfeeding on what felt like the back foot, petrified and confused. What I did not expect was that it would work well for my son and me. He latched well, gained weight well and we both enjoyed it. I was shocked. Yes, it was sore at the beginning, and nothing can prepare you for the relentlessness of cluster feeding and growth spurts, but the biggest surprise of all for me was that it could be good too. I remember telling my midwife at my first postnatal home visit that it was going really well, and I was enjoying it. She said "that's great. I wouldn't l tell anyone in your antenatal class if I were you, hardly anyone enjoys it and it’ll make you very unpopular". This made me so sad. I realised it was as taboo to admit you were 'succeeding' as it was to say you were 'failing'. I felt it was such a shame. In the end I breastfed my son for 18 months and am now breastfeeding my new-born daughter. I don't think anyone can claim it is easy - it's a huge commitment and hard work - but I think it's such a pity that so many women don't get the support they need, whilst others who might be able to help and support them are told not to say that it's going well because it'll sound like gloating.”
“While fed is best and there should not be any shaming of moms who supplement or exclusively formula feed, I do think there is this whole perception that has been built up about breastfeeding being hard, not satisfying and sometimes even overrated in its benefits. It’s definitely not a walk in the park but it cannot be dismissed as no big deal. I had a tough time initially but I’m glad I persevered because it sets you up for being strong through other challenging times as well. Did I miss it? No I didn’t.. I was surprisingly non-sentimental about it. Perhaps 15 months was a good enough time for me to be the milk cow 😁”
The end of the breastfeeding journey
“I loved breastfeeding my 1st, loved it! The worst part was weaning, and I felt a lot of pressure to not breastfeed him for too long as that would have been ‘weird’. In hindsight wish I’d fed him longer!”
“It flips overnight from "you are breastfeeding, aren't you?" to "you aren't still breastfeeding, are you?!" And I started to feel A lot more self-conscious after my son turned 1 and avoided publicly feeding a lot more”
You’re rocking it mama!
“The most important thing is that your baby is fed by whichever way suits you and your family. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing but man it’s hard work!”
“I think the power of peer support is huge and would love to see this movement grow. Most importantly women should be lifting other women up, and this includes supporting them in whichever feeding method works for them. We all have enough of our own mum guilt without anyone adding to it!”
“Women need the right support to have an enjoyable feeding and bonding experience whichever way they choose”
“I think it’s so important a mom does what she is capable of - breast or formula!!! Babies take it out of you, so you need to give what you can and still be a happy mom! If that means no boob, then so be it. Better for baby if mom is happy!”
“A mum should do as she believes best and works and other mums should be supportive of their choice even if it is not what they personally believe is best”