This morning the lovely Kate from katesaystuff tweeted a link to an article headlined “Australian Breastfeeding Association class told baby formula ‘was like AIDS'” this morning which caused me to have a little flashback to my own breast vs. bottle experience.
I was in labour with Boy Wonder for quite a while – I think I was awake for 36 hours. Happy, but exhausted, I was thrilled when he latched on and started to feed. It wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences but I couldn’t deny the positive benefits for both of us. One thing was for sure, Boy Wonder loved it. He loved it so much that he wanted to do it ALL the time. Not for him a feed followed by a nap, oh no, he wanted to feed for HOURS. Day AND Night.
I was beside myself with tiredness, on the brink of madness (I was weeks away from being diagnosed with PND) and had no family support. One morning The Saint called the Health Visitor. He could see I was struggling, he was so worried. He had begged me to give Boy Wonder a bottle, but I felt that was like admitting defeat and he knew I wanted permission from a higher being.
The Health Visitor arrived. She clucked over the baby and barely gave the haggard new mum a second glance. I falteringly started to explain my concerns. “Could I try mixed feeding?” I asked? “Maybe it’s what he needs, he seems so hungry, maybe my milk isn’t enough?” I rambled on.
She sighed. “Well you could… but you’ve been doing so well…. Giving him a bottle of formula now would be like spraying paint stripper over a freshly painted wall…”
I had no idea what to say. I was so embarrassed that I’d even dared mention my concerns to her. On my knees mentally, I just accepted that as a professional she knew best.
I persevered for 5 months, during which time I was diagnosed with PND and started to take anti-depressants. I did give Boy Wonder a bottle eventually, but the guilt I felt was all-consuming at times.
Looking back I feel angry that one Health Visitor could have been so unsupportive. I feel angry that she couldn’t see how desperate I was. Surely a healthy, happy mama equals a happy, healthy baby?
There are many reasons why some women do not or cannot breastfeed. They need to feel as supported as those to can and choose to do so.
(Incidentally, I had an excellent HV with Cheeky Monkey and thankfully history was not repeated.)