If there’s one thing about motherhood that completely rocked my world – it was my breastfeeding journey.
As you know from previous posts, the first few months of motherhood wasn’t an easy one. Postpartum hit me hard and I struggled to leave the room I confined myself in with the baby. Whilst recovering from a surgery and trying to function with little to no sleep, I had a list of things to accomplish each day: take care of baby, eat food, try walking around as much as possible, but try not to open up stitches under the stomach, keep up with medication aaaaand the hardest part of all: pump some milk!
For context, my baby girl was born slightly early due to complications in my pregnancy. So after the c section, there was literally no milk. At the time, I knew this was common and that I would have to keep getting the baby to latch on to get the milk factory going. I thought it would be easy but I didn’t realise how much my mental state would affect this process.
In the hospital, I was given some formula to feed the baby whilst trying to get some milk out. We can’t starve the child now! One particular woman who was a breastfeeding consultant came in to advise me on techniques. Looking back, I don’t know why she bothered to talk to me because I was so out of it. I don’t remember a single thing.
But once I came home, I rented out a pump that would help do the job. It costs about £40 per month and I was advised to pump up to 8 times a day so that my body understands the demand for milk and gets to work. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? Well, for the life of me, even with the pump right there, I just couldn’t do it.
The first pumping session was a nightmare. Fun fact: I didn’t know that cramps would hit you HARD when you start pumping/breastfeeding. I had to take ibuprofen. My uterus was contracting as I was pumping and it was excruciating. I sat there for about 20 mins and only produced about 10ml of milk. A very small amount. I continued giving the baby some formula during this process.
As days went on, I found myself pumping only once a day. If there’s no demand, why would my body keep supplying milk? And I knew this. I knew I should be pumping more. But deep down, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t have it in me to consistently pump. However, the pressure to breastfeed was IMMENSE. Some nights I would let the baby latch on and then she’d get irritated because… “where’s the milk, mum?”
Each time I reached for the formula during feeding times, I thought: “This is so much easier. At least I know how much I’m giving her and her stomach will be full.”
Don’t get me wrong, if I had milk flying out of me, I would’ve happily breastfed. But when you’re already in a bad state and you lose motivation to even feed yourself, pumping is a lot of work. And it requires consistency. Also, in order to produce a lot of milk, I had to eat good food, drink plenty of fluids and take care of myself. I wasn’t doing that either. I was just exhausted.
“Breast is best!”
I know. I completely understand how beneficial and nutritious breast milk is. It’s literally milk that God has given me to feed my baby. It’s the most natural and beautiful milk you can get. Breast milk can even be used to unblock a baby’s nose! Another fun fact. A few drops in their nostrils can clear it! How amazing is that? It works as medication too. When a baby is sick, a mother’s body can transform milk to help soothe them.
The fact that I knew about how MIRACULOUS breast milk is and yet I had zero motivation to continue is what killed me everyday. Depression really is a madness.
That’s what made this breastfeeding journey so conflicting for me. I kept reminding myself of the benefits. I kept telling myself that this is best for the baby. But I didn’t do it. I gave up. Now when I look back, I do feel a bit sad and sometimes ask myself, why? Why did I not try harder?
Just a few days ago, someone made a comment in passing that really triggered me. As I’m writing this, my baby girl is going through her teething stage and usually, babies get sick during this time. She’s had a fever and developed a runny nose. It could be because she’s teething … or she could be suffering from a cold and teething at the same time. It’s out of my control. I feel bad as it is. But I had someone say to me:
“She wouldn’t be sick if you had breastfed her.”
My heart sunk to my stomach when I heard that and I had to swallow my rage. My short-lived breastfeeding days came back to haunt me. I started to really hate myself for a moment and had all sorts of thoughts in my head. Do breastfed babies not get sick? Am I to blame for this? So what do you say to women who cannot produce milk at all? Why do you think formula even exists?
I had to snap myself out of these thoughts that I am to blame every time my daughter gets sick. At the end of the day, winter is coming. I got sick twice already – of course my baby is going to get sick too. She’s always with me.
So, I need to forgive myself. I gave up breastfeeding not because I didn’t want to do it, but because at the time, I gave up on myself. The decision was made during a time when I was extremely down, lacked motivation and just wanted to find a quicker solution to feed my child so that she didn’t starve. To be honest, if I was in a better place mentally, I would’ve done it. But there’s no point in dwelling on the what ifs. It happened.
I forgive myself because each day that comes, I’m still getting up and being a mum despite whatever mood I’m in, despite the sleepless nights, how much my head bangs, or when I’m going through life’s everyday challenges. I still show up everyday. I forgive myself because it’s time to just let it go and realise that it’s totally okay to use formula milk.
I forgive myself because my baby girl is gaining weight and she’s healthy. She’s starting to experiment with baby crisps, biscuits, yoghurts and mushy vegetables.
And she is satisfied.
I forgive myself because when she’s older, it’s not going to matter whether she was breastfed or not. It’s not going to pay her bills and it sure as hell won’t keep her up at night.
Why am I beating myself up for a decision I made when I was not okay and struggling? That decision was best for me at the time. Why am I so caught up in the past when I should be present in the moment? Why am I not proud of myself for striving each day?
My baby girl is doing just fine. Alhamdulilah.
So, I have forgiven myself.