When breastfeeding just isn’t working

“Breast is best” was literally on a repeat loop as I cried my way through another power pumping session only to get 20mls of milk for my 3 week old son who was devouring 40mls a feed every 3 hours. I was not producing enough milk to feed my offspring and my heart was breaking.

My plan was to exclusively pump and ideally feed my son “the best” until he was 6 months old at least. This didn’t happen and that doesn’t make me a bad mother (please know this revelation wasn’t immediate and took time to accept – like weeks of time).

I kept my fluids up and did everything the breast support lady advised, massaging while pumping and power pumping sessions. Again, side note, the breast support lady made me feel the size of an ant for not allowing my son to latch but once I battled through that degradation her advice was helpful.

By week 5 I was pumping as much as he was eating and my supply had not increased. At this point he was drinking 90mls per feed and I was only producing 40mls per day! It was time to call it quits and making this decision broke me but my consistent failure was a flurry of loathing multiple times a day and I just couldn’t hack it.

There is so much judgement around how we feed our children and this pressure reduced me to a puddle when I was battling hormonal shifts and emotions I couldn’t understand and the professionals I went to for help looked down their noses at me. This was one of the most challenging hurdles I faced as a new mom.

My breasts never filled, leaked or became hard and sore after I stopped pumping which suggests that my milk never fully came in or wasn’t stimulated enough. This justification aside, even if I had chosen to formula feed from the get go – this is completely ok.

My relationship with breastfeeding began badly in the hospital when a stroppy midwife told me that my son would be sickly if I didn’t breastfeed him and she grabbed him from me and stripped him and forced him onto my nipple. This happened less than 24 hours after I gave birth and I was weak, vulnerable and being bullied. This made me panic so much that when I got home that afternoon and I couldn’t hand express colostrum I gave my son formula because I truly believed he would get sick if I didn’t feed him immediately. I later told my community midwives and they were very upset I had had such a bad experience and reported the incident so it wouldn’t happen to another first time mom.

Having gone through this negative experience with breastfeeding and expressing as well as the disappointment, self depreciation and feelings of failure I know how intense it can be when you want to get things right but sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it doesn’t feel right, sometimes it isn’t meant to be and hell, sometimes you would rather formula feed. As long as your baby is eating, giving you plenty dirty nappies and gaining weight – everyone else can bugger off!

© Images do not belong to The Sanity Fairy

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