Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.
Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
Gemma talks about feeling disconnected from her body while nursing her son in the story below. These sensations are in such contrast to much of the rhetoric we read about breastfeeding – how it is conducive to bonding; a way for mother and baby to connect. Obviously, for many women this rhetoric is reality – but for others, breastfeeding can provoke feelings of anger, isolation, pain, and sadness. This can be due to emotional reasons or conditions like D-MER, but it also can be provoked by the pain a woman experiences due to a bad latch, breast infection, or some other physical problem. There’s no doubt chronic pain can lead to depression. According to a 2004 Harvard Medical School Mental Health Letter, “Pain, especially chronic pain, is an emotional condition as well as a physical sensation. It is a complex experience that affects thought, mood, and behavior and can lead to isolation, immobility, and drug dependence…it resembles depression, and the relationship is intimate. Pain is depressing, and depression causes and intensifies pain. People with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms — usually mood or anxiety disorders — and depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain.”
We can’t underestimate the effect of intense breast pain on a woman’s postpartum mental health, and vice versa. If this pain can’t be mitigated or conquered, it may very well be in the mother and baby’s best interest to end the breastfeeding relationship, so that a real relationship – one based on love, connection, and actual bonding – can develop.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
The birth didn’t feel traumatic at the time – baby was breech, planned c/s arranged but waters broke in middle of night with no prior contractions 2 weeks before he was due.
4 hours after waters broke I was 8cm dilated and had barely had gas and air for 15 minutes by that point. The spinal was then administered and he was born 5 hours after my waters had broken.
Let me be clear – breastfeeding had been a long held ambition, desire and belief. It was what I was most looking forward to in raising my baby. I knew it might be a bit toe curling to start and expected that.
I fed the colustrum with ease on first feed but every time after that seemed a struggle, and most of it had to be expressed. There was plenty of it which I thought boded well for the milk coming in and getting in with the real feeding.
We were discharged 36 hours after birth as I couldn’t stand it on the noisy hospital ward (this is not the place for a rant about the NHS) and I had to prove I could feed him alone with good latch and position. This box was ticked and tongue tie was ruled out.
Each day at home with the baby got progressively worse…I was being very well supported by my husband, mother, and extended family with all aspects, including the BF, whilst some feeds were slightly less painful than others as the week went on I dreaded the latch and feed, more and more and more. The baby was being cared for by husband and mum so I could ‘rest’ but then being brought to me when he was so hungry it made the hell that was developing even worse.
All I could see was my husband bonding and loving the baby and I was disliking the baby, afraid of the baby and by the 9th day I was loathing the baby and devastated that I wasn’t loving him or having the relationship I wanted and intended.
Every feed was so incredibly painful at latch and then would only marginally reduce through each feed. The midwives who visited all reiterated that’s latch and position were correct and he was feeding correctly. I tried nipple shields, lanolin, breast shields, airing nipples, hydrogel dressings. It all made no difference. I became exhausted by conflicting information, it shouldn’t hurt, it will hurt, it improves after 10-14 days, it either works easily or it will always be a struggle…on and on with ‘information and evidence’…and I was sick of professionals looking at me and the baby, I felt, inspecting us which prevented me seeking the lactation consultants or other BF counsellors. . .
The pain on latch was worse than what I had felt in my labour, and I think I made more noise at times as he latched on than I did through most of the labour.
My husband helped me decide to stop BF our first born when he found me inconsolably sobbing over him while trying to get him to latch on at 9 days old. It was the third major breakdown over feeding in 3 days…and we had already been giving formula for two nights to help my nipples rest, which made me feel bad, but then the first early morning feed was less painful…so I accepted it thinking it would help the BF get better established.
He told me we had to use formula then and there. I resisted and we briefly fought before I relented.
After I slept for an hour I woke and realised I would stop loathing and start loving my baby as soon as he didn’t represent pain. I realised I had not been ‘present’ at all since I got home. I know the first week is said to be difficult but I had totally ‘checked out’ it didn’t feel like I was in my body at all.
The next morning I woke feeling my soul had re-entered my body. I loved my baby and haven’t stopped since. He is so calm with me, and is on a mix of formula and expressed breast milk (more F than BM, and still navigating this dynamic).
No doubt there are still storms to weather but now I know that caring for my baby doesn’t just mean BF him. It means being present to love him, being calm enough to take care of all his needs as well as feeding him with my soul and personality in tact.