The hardest thing about writing this post is definitely in the relieving it, because although I know I made the best decision, although I know that my breastfeeding journey played out exactly how it was supposed to, sometimes going over it still brings up the old emotions that I felt when I was in the midst of it. That being said, if I can help one mama feel less alone then that is all that matters.
Breastfeeding started out great, in fact so good that I felt absolutely elated and grateful that I wasn’t having any struggles. Fast forward a few days and things look remarkably different. We’d had a few issues mostly with pain and latch which I know can be common but Hadley then stopped feeding from my right side entirely and no matter what I tried I could not get her to latch. With help from my community midwife and a lactation specialist and we finally managed to get her back and things seemed as though they were moving in the right direction.
Only things weren’t moving in the right direction as Hadley was loosing weight (we’re talking way beyond the usual drop from birth weight that most babies experience) and medical professionals were showing up to weigh her daily, all looking more concerned than the one before that she wasn’t gaining any weight.
And then there was me. I was struggling but I really didn’t know how to verbalise it, especially as all this hit around the same time as the hormonal drop known as the baby blues (not to be confused with postnatal depression which is something very different). I was struggling both physically and emotionally with breastfeeding; I was in so much pain from being so sore from a bad latch, I was bleeding, I felt so lonely when I was up alone feeding. I shared my feelings of loneliness with my husband who from that moment on made it a priority to wake up with me for every night feed and let me tell you I felt so grateful. And if all of that wasn’t enough I then got double mastitis, twice.
Let me tell you this; I have never felt more of a failure than I did in those moments. Never have I ever felt so alone and hormones definitely didn’t help when it came to rationalising what I wanted or needed to do. Hadley was still losing weight and on the cusp of being readmitted to hospital (there was also worry surrounding her jaundice from birth as it was assumed that maybe I wasn’t producing enough milk, so she wasn’t getting enough which meant she wasn’t excreting enough to clear her jaundice).
I knew that I had to make a choice, was it the right one? For me, in that moment, yes. Do I wish it had been different? Also yes. All I knew was that I needed to feed her, I needed her to thrive and our decision was to supplement her with formula. Watching her drink down her first bottle of formula gave me so much joy while simultaneously breaking my heart. One week on from her birth and for the first time she became a contented baby we hadn’t yet seen. I think it was correct that I probably hadn’t been able to produce enough breast milk for her, as from that moment onwards she was happy, content and has thrived ever since. Some from then on we combo fed her until I felt like my journey with breastfeeding was done.
Stopping breastfeeding was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. People told me to just stop but nobody tells you how difficult the emotions attached to it are (so much so that I pumped one extra week longer than I gave her breast milk because I wasn’t ready to stop).
My breastfeeding journey wasn’t easy and for so long it has hurt my mama heart so much and I am sure every time I look back on it will always be a little tinged with sadness. BUT that being said, I know I absolutely made the best decision for my baby, however hard that was for me, as she very quickly became the thriving baby we all see today.