The ‘feeding’ conversation is one most new mothers will be familiar with, it starts before you even give birth with questions along the lines of ‘do you plan to breastfeed?’ and for most mothers the answer to this is ‘yes’, I fell into that category for sure. I couldn’t wait to breastfeed my daughter, I had seen my mother breastfeed my sisters and it just seemed, dare I say, the natural choice! Once you give birth, the questions continue ‘are you breastfeeding?’ usually followed by a congratulatory comment if you are and commiserations if you have not managed it.
It seems when you are due to have a baby, older generations of women feel the need to share all of their breastfeeding stories with you and explain why they didn’t/couldn’t breastfeed or why they only breastfed for X amount of time. I figured there is SO much in the media about normalising breastfeeding these days that any difficulties I encountered would be overcome with the help of nurses/midwives/health visitors and didn’t take much notice of the horror stories.
When Emilia was born, I’m pretty sure I exclaimed ‘oh my gosh I love her’ and ‘is she tongue tied?’ in the same breath. I was paranoid through the whole pregnancy that she would be tongue tied because her father was. Our lovely midwife told us that all of the worrying was for nothing and Emilia was not tongue tied … relief!
I spent the next week in hospital watching my daughter struggle to latch on, I tried every position and I asked every midwife or nurse for help. I hand pumped into a syringe in order to fill my little newborn’s tummy, hoping in a few hours time she would have miraculously learnt how to feed. I let so many women try to position my breast into my daughters mouth as I watched on feeling helpless. By the end of her first week of life, Emilia had learnt to latch on but would never stay at the breast without losing her latch for more than a few sucks. I had failed, and Emilia was dropping weight quickly.
Over that week in hospital I asked continuously if Emilia was tongue tied, she dropped weight and was hungry but everyone reassured me that she was not. We were discharged and sent home with our hungry baby who I battled to breastfeed in front of an influx of visitors. Our midwife wouldn’t sign us off to the health visitor because of Emilia’s weight loss and I asked again if there was any chance she could be tongue tied. Finally we were referred to the hospital for diagnosis and yes, you guessed it Emilia was 80% tongue tied and they performed the frenectomy (division of the tongue tie) that day.
I still feel failed by the delay in diagnosis and I hate the thought of my daughter spending her first weeks hungry, but what upsets me more is that some women would have given up breastfeeding because of the lack of support for what I now know is such a common problem. I went on to breastfeed Emilia for 6 months but it was never easy or natural for us.
Normalising Breastfeeding gets a lot of press, this baffles me. Not once in those 6 months did I feel judged when I breastfed in public, not once did I feel as though breastfeeding needed to be normalised, I felt proud of us and what we had achieved and I still do. So why am I writing this blog post? Because there was a time when I felt judged… I felt judged when I asked to warm my daughters bottle in a restaurant, I felt judged when the bottle was slightly too hot during a baby class meaning my daughter had to wait to be fed, I felt judged when I bottle fed my daughter in a cafe, the list goes on.
Bottle feeding is not met with any understanding glances when you do it in public, it doesn’t cause people to praise you for feeding for this long, no one offers up stories about bottle feeding their own babies. In my opinion, the bottle feeding world is a much more judgemental place to be. Feeding babies in public should be normal, which ever way you choose to do that is your prerogative and all a part of your own individual mothering journey. I don’t know any mother who made a decision for their child lightly so I’m pretty sure I can trust they have chosen what is right for them.
I still feel a twinge of guilt when I see other mothers breastfeeding and my instagram feed is often full of breastfeeding advocates who sometimes inadvertently make me feel bad for choosing to stop. It makes me wonder if this pressure to breastfeed has been around for a long time, maybe this is why all of those older women felt the need to get their own breastfeeding stories off their chest (no pun intended), were they warning pregnant me about the difficult journey ahead, who knows?
I guess my point is, as long as your baby is fed, please don’t feel uncomfortable or guilty about it. Your baby will love you unconditionally whether you breastfeed them, bottlefeed them or both!
Thank you for reading, if you liked my post, find me on Instagram @emiliaandmummy!