We quit breastfeeding and we haven’t looked back. There are so many reasons to breastfeed but sometimes it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for the mother or it doesn’t work for the baby or both. These days with the ‘Breast is Best’ campaigns, you don’t often hear about when breastfeeding doesn’t work, when mums give up. But I know there must be a mum out there, struggling to make that decision that it just isn’t working. I’m here to tell you that it is ok to stop. Your baby will be fine & you will be fine. I stopped and my kids are fine, in fact, I’m better for it and my family is better for it. This is my story of how we came to quit breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding didn’t work with my first baby. She just was not interested in breastfeeding and would scream and scream and scream if she came anywhere near the breast. No point in torturing the poor kid so we quit trying to breastfeed and switched to bottles very early on. I continued to pump for three months & she had both formula and breastmilk during that time. Bottles meant that my husband was able to feed her too. He liked that he could settle her, it wasn’t just the job of the person with the boobs. I could leave the house for an hour or two and know that she wouldn't go hungry waiting for me to return. It also facilitated a quick return to my day job because she was already settled on bottles. As for bonding, it turns out that you don’t need boobs to bond, she has a healthy attachment to both myself and my husband.
During my second pregnancy, I was asked quite often how were we going to feed her. I always said that we would give breastfeeding a go, but that we were not going to stress about it. Bottles worked well for my first baby so they’d be fine for my second. Things ended up not going to plan with my second. My plans of another vaginal delivery were dashed when at the 20 week ultrasound I was diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers the cervix. In most cases the placenta will move as your pregnancy progresses, but if it doesn’t move, you will be required to have a Caesarian section. The risk of haemorrhaging for the mother and the risk of death for the baby is far too high to proceed with vaginal birth. Needless to say I was a little worried about the whole thing. While I did not have any bleeding, my placenta did not move. My pregnancy progressed with no other complications, until at 34 weeks 2 days, I went into labour.
I had taken the day off work as I was just feeling like I needed rest and that evening I started feeling nauseous with upset bowels, which it turns out are signs of the onset of labour. Contractions then started. At the hospital I was given a steroid shot to help the baby’s lungs develop and then monitored closely for the next 12 hours so that another steroid shot could be administered. After the second steroid shot I was taken to theatre and our beautiful baby was born. An emergency caesarian section means that after there is no cuddle time with the baby, no time for her to rest on my chest and feel her way to the boob. The baby is put straight onto oxygen and then taken up to the nursery as soon as they are stable enough. I found myself in recovery with my midwife expressing colostrum from my boob. This was then fed to the baby through a tube, up in the nursery, without me even there. Not the best start to breastfeeding.
We were very lucky in that our baby did not need to go in a humidy crib, nor need oxygen. She was allowed to come into my hospital room for periods of time. We slowly began to explore breastfeeding by expressing a little onto the nipple and she’d lick it up while trying to suck. She was then given a tube feed. I continued to express and over the next few days my milk slowly came in. For the first week and a half we continued with trying breastfeeding and topping up with tube feeds but it became clear that she would never leave the nursery if she was only having breastfeeds. She just wasn’t getting enough to eat from the breastfeeds. I then insisted that we try bottles as well. Much to the midwives surprise, my baby managed to have a breastfeed, then a bottle, with a tube top up if needed. At this stage this was solely my expressed breast milk, though she had had formula in the early days before the milk came in. Eventually she passed her birthweight and the required weight and was able to leave the hospital.
At home the 20 min breast feed plus bottle top up, then expressing, began to not be realistic. I had a four year old who needed my care and attention two. I became stressed when I couldn't attend to everything that I was used to tending to. I cried a lot and I didn’t feel like me anymore. I suffered from mastitis which re-occurred as she wasn’t draining the boob. Let’s not dismiss the pain of mastitis. It made me feel weak and nauseous. I was in bed all afternoon one day with an extremely high fever until I had managed to drain the boob enough. And the pain, oh the pain of a blocked duct. It only drained slightly with the ultrasound at the hospital and slowly went away over the next week with a lot of massage and expressing.
It seemed like we would always be stuck in this cycle of her needing a bottle after a breastfeed as the breastfeed just wasn’t enough. Or I would need to give into the fact that I’d need to just sit and breast feed her all day long. For some mums, this is what they do. Had this baby been my first baby, I probably would have. But this wasn’t my first baby. My first baby needed me to make her snacks, to draw with her, to play, to take her to preschool. I couldn’t cope with being the only one who could take care of this baby. I couldn’t spend the time pumping after a breast feed and a bottle feed, there was a four year old who needed me too. The baby still wasn’t feeding from the boob properly, coming on and off, nor was she drinking properly from the bottle either. She’d take 40 plus minutes to finish a bottle as well! So for my own mental health and the health of my family, we quit breastfeeding.
We quit breastfeeding and we haven’t looked back. In the whole breast is best campaign I don’t think there is enough emphasis on the health of the mother. Is breast best when the mother is stressed out and crying every other day? For us it wasn’t. My baby was able to have breast milk in those crucial early days, but you know what, even if she hadn’t, she still would have been fine. Breastfeeding is great when it works for you. But it doesn’t work for everyone and it is ok to quit breastfeeding. Your baby will be fine and you will be even better. A healthy family needs a healthy mum.