Breast is best. We read it everywhere. Breastfeeding is an experience many mothers-to-be look forward to. It is the moment you get to bond with your child, to feed your baby the most nutritious meal at such an early stage of life. In some areas, it is a mother’s only option for feeding their little ones.
There was a period in my life when this topic was very sore for me. I was in a very depressed state, at a time that I was supposed to be enjoying my new born. I felt inadequate and like I was unable to give my baby the one thing a mother was meant to give her baby so easily. It hurt me so much that my breasts would not produce the right amount of milk.
It all started at the hospital. Due to low blood platelets, I had to have an induced pregnancy at 34 weeks. My labour was 12 hours long, natural and very physically draining. My baby’s first encounter with the boob happened as I was being wheeled out of the delivery room to the ward and I remember the nurse saying, she has latched. It was all a very blurry experience for me, to be honest, I was recovering from the labour experience that had felt like a lifetime to get through. Hubby and I settled into our ward and we were so excited and frightened at the same time. For the first time, our little human was with us and we only had a theoretical idea of what to do. I was flustered by the whole experience, I will not lie. I was under-prepared and very nervous about keeping that little being alive. She was extremely small, to make matters worse.
Our first night was hell. She was shrieking and I was so sure it was hunger. I had her on my breast long enough for something to come out so why wasn’t she satisfied? I went out to the nurses on duty and they were so insensitive about it all. They just yelled, “she is hungry!”. I explained that I had been feeding her all night but it didn’t feel like it was working. The lack of support was horrible, heart wrenching actually. Because what they didn’t realise was that I was a new mommy who had no clue what she was doing. My emotions were directing my every decision because I just couldn’t bear to hear her cry so much. One nurse suggested we supplement with formula without even sitting down with me to see how I was feeding my baby. I was so desperate and confused, so we went ahead with the formula. In the next few days I would put my daughter on the boob and then when I felt it wasn’t working I would move to the bottle. It was awful because it was not meant to be that way. Breast is best right? That statement really hit me hard.
I called in a lactation specialist when we got home. She was this lovely lady called Brenda. She told me immediately that my daughter was not latching properly and given that, there was no way the milk would come out. We finally figured out the latching part. I decided to buy some lactation supplements to just boost my chances and my sister in law also told me about Jungle Juice. I had two sessions with Brenda but honestly, at that time, we just could not afford to see her much longer. There was formula available and we were still supplementing but no, I couldn’t give up. I bought a breast pump, because that was going to encourage my milk supply. I managed to pump some milk but it was very little. I used the pump obsessively and it almost turned into my day job. My poor baby wasn’t getting the best of her mama because mommy was too busy trying to give her the best milk she deserved.
People around me had mixed advice, many told me to keep trying. My baby would not know I was her mommy if she didn’t bond with me through breastfeeding, I was told. My husband hated to see what the situation was doing to me and was ready to move to formula. He was just giving me time to get there. I went online and read similar stories of women who had struggled to feed. For the first time I felt normal and like it wasn’t such a crime to consider formula.
At 12 weeks, I decided that I had to choose sanity and happiness for me and my baby. I decided to drown out all the external noise that made me feel guilty and wrong. I moved my daughter onto formula and it was the best decision I could have made. You will never imagine how much judgement followed from strangers and friends. They thought I just chose to feed her formula, and so what if I did? At that stage I really didn’t care what anyone had to say.
The strength and confidence I gained from that experience was amazing. I learnt a lot and whilst I support breastfeeding week and I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding in public, I am very sensitive to women who cannot breastfeed or simply choose not to. Formula has adequate and highly nutritional content. Years of research have gone into formula milk.
With everyone saying breast is best, I say fed is best.