Before I had my baby, I wasn’t sure I wanted to breast feed. I always found the idea a bit ‘icky’. But then she was born, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to want to feed her immediately from my body because that’s what we are made to do right? I mean we are provided with the equipment. My body had not failed me yet. It had managed to get pregnant despite being old and knackered. Had grown a perfect baby and sustained a 39-hour labour to get her out. So, squeezing out some drops of mother’s finest milk was going to be breeze or, so I thought. But my body had other ideas. Apparently, this is where it drew the line.
My milk never came in. I was man handled by a midwife who caused me more pain in those five minutes of squeezing than my baby did coming out of the birth canal. I cried when she walked away from me. I had been a mother for all of 3 hours and I was already failing at it. I look back now and I see it in a different light. I had been up for HOURS. I had a pushed a HUMAN out of my body. It was 2am but my other half was told he had to leave, and I was left on my own.
The next day I was told I couldn’t leave the hospital because ‘feeding wasn’t established’. She might as well have rubber stamped FAIL on my head in red letters.
What followed was two weeks of me trying to pump whilst we tried to get formula into our baby and she began to lose weight. My healthy 8.3 baby was now dropping on the centiles and I was being threatened with the term ‘failure to thrive’. Eventually another midwife sat in my house on my sofa with her clip board and said ‘You have no choice, give up and give her formula’ so I did. And at this point my PND took hold. I couldn’t get past the feeling that I had failed my baby. Everywhere I went I was surrounded by women whipping their boobs out and breast feeding with abandon. I felt that l each time I had to get a bottle out and make up formula in public I might as well have been giving her crack cocaine the stares I would receive. Of course, they were probably all in my head. But I wasn’t strong enough to say ‘Fuck you I can feed by baby how I want. It’s not my fault that my body wouldn’t play ball’.
A study by the Journal of Maternal and Child Health found that mothers who plan too breast feed but can’t are more likely to suffer from PND. The study of 14,000 women who had planned to breastfeed but couldn’t were 2.5 times more likely to have post-natal depression. The study is not conclusive but demonstrates a strong link.
Whilst no one can’t deny the benefits of breast milk the slogan ‘Breast is Best’ is detrimental to the mental health of all those women who find they just cannot do it.
We need to remove the guilt and shame women feel if they cannot do it. Fed is Best. That’s what I say.