One of the most common questions I was asked throughout my pregnancy was “are you going to breastfeed?”. My response remained the same throughout – I’ll do my best.
I wasn’t born yesterday, I am fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, especially in those first crucial few days. I am also fully aware of the issues that many of my girlfriends have had on their journeys through motherhood and that breastfeeding is not always as easy as hoped.
I knew that I definitely wanted to try to breastfeed for at least the first couple of months. I was prepared for the late nights feeding my son when my boob was his only option. I was prepared and excited about the bonding that comes with feeding. I was prepared for the benefits of a massive cleavage and the inevitable weight loss that goes along with exclusive breastfeeding.
I was not prepared for the issues that I encountered.
I was less prepared for the emotional turmoil that comes along with feeling like I failed my son.
I was totally unprepared for the abuse I received when after just 6 days, I had to start giving my son formula.
The long and short of my story is that due to a tongue tie that my son was born with and an inability to latch on correctly, my nipples were so badly damaged in the initial few days that my body went into shut down, my milk dried up and formula became a staple in our home. That makes it sound so simple and matter of fact.
It wasn’t. It was traumatic, both physically and mentally. The physical part I could handle. The emotional impact was tougher. Breastfeeding was impacting my ability to bond with my son and nothing is worth that.
Thankfully N saw what was happening and held my hand through the tears as I realized that my boobs were betraying my baby and I. We have an amazing Child Health Nurse who also recognized that the best thing for Archer and I was finding an alternative.
So my family, partner and direct career all agree that breastfeeding, although a fabulous option for most new mums and bubs, was not working for my son and I.
Why is it then that certain lactation consultants within the community have found it suitable and necessary to inform me of the error of my ways? Telling me that “breast really is best”, “you should push through” “just hold your baby differently” “here, let me show you”.
It’s not working for us. My baby isn’t happy! I’m not happy! You are not in my home at half past three in the morning to see our struggle. Don’t tell me what is best for my son when you don’t know either of us.
The lack of support and self-righteousness of these women has been something I was totally unprepared for. I’ve had phone calls from a lactation consultant telling me that she knows better than our pediatrician how to treat my sons tongue-tie – stopping short of telling me I was a bad mother for listening to the doctors. I’ve had another practically wrestle my poor son by the neck to try to get him to latch on differently. I could go on for hours about the ways in which I have been insulted and offended by this certain breed of lactation ladies who lack empathy, manners and decency.
I know that not all lactation consultants are the same. There are some who are warm, kind and supportive – regardless of whether you breastfeed or not. Unfortunately, the ones like those I encountered, damage the industry as a whole and leave a bad taste in the mouths of new mums that take a long time to fade.
Speaking with other women about their breastfeeding journeys, I find that my story is not unique. Many have had encounters with lactation consultants that have left them traumatized, teary and questioning their decisions and ability as a new mum. How is this helpful? An occupation which is designed to encourage breastfeeding and provide support to women at an emotionally and physically fragile time is doing the opposite – instilling negative emotions, fear and feelings of failure.
So to the lactation consultant community – I beg you…. Calm the fuck down. Stop for a moment and listen to your patients. Open your eyes to each individual mothers situation and help to guide her to a solution for her and her baby. I know it will pain you to hear it but breast is NOT always best.
Some of us are betrayed by our boobies. It doesn’t make us failures. It doesn’t make us bad mums. Please don’t make us feel like it does.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/goetter/3588637633/”>Raphael Goetter</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>