Written by: Penny from @meanmumsy – a Mayarya Woman.
During the long nine months of my pregnancy, there was one over-arching message that I was made well aware of. I heard it from close friends, I heard it from health experts and I heard it from the brands I trusted. These people continually spruiked, “breast is best.” In my tunneled pregnant world, I felt like I attracted the message, like it was posted on every billboard I came across. And I knew that was the only way I was going to feed my unborn child. Of course I would breastfeed my child and of course they would be fed my breast milk. That’s the whole point of the ‘fun bags’ anyway isn’t? I knew of a few girls who had gone through their pregnancy before me and they just gave their newborn a bottle. Are you serious?! That would certainly not be me. I instantly judged these ‘lazy’ new mums and thought they were in some way ‘selfish’, depriving their newborn of the most valuable nutrients only they could provide. I wouldn’t be ‘selfish’ like these women. I wouldn’t be ‘lazy’. I would exclusively breastfeed my child for at least 12 months, just like my mum, just like my friends did and every other mother before me. That was my plan and it was the only plan I had. Full stop. That was until my newborn arrived.
He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I was going to be the best possible mother I could be for this little boy. So naturally once the moment to feed him for the first time came around, I would be the best possible mother and give him all those nutrients he needed to thrive. Except it wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t like they advertised. This pain, this difficulty wasn’t what I read about in brochures at the doctor’s office. My breasts were letting me down. They produced small amounts of milk, nowhere near enough for a 9-pound plus baby boy. But the lactation consultants continued to tell me that my milk was ‘on its way’ and I hung on with so much hope.
And I tried and tried and tried some more. I sat in tears too many times than I care to remember, while I struggled to feed my boy. He would scream. He would bite. He would be frustrated. He was starving. I was struggling. The milk wouldn’t come. I would pump for hours and only produce 15mls. I was forced to give him the bottle and doing so felt like I was feeding him poison. I had very quickly become one of those ‘lazy’ mothers I had judged for so long. How could breastfeeding my baby be this hard? What about that lady I saw smiling at my local cafe that attached her baby to her chest with such ease? What about that girl I went to university with who breastfed her baby until she was 18 months old? What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t that my story?
This inner monologue played over and over in my mind for the first months of my baby’s life. I felt so alone. I felt like I not only let down my baby down, but that I let myself down. But I had to open my eyes and see my baby who took to the bottle better than a fish to water. He couldn’t get enough of the powdered stuff! He was thriving. He was super healthy. He was absolutely perfect! By the time he was 6 weeks old, I had ‘given up’ on breastfeeding. I was exhausted and I had to be true to myself. I had to treat myself better and this was the only thing I could do, as ashamed as I was at the time.
My son is almost a year old now, but there is still a small part of me that carries guilt because I couldn’t breastfeed. And to be perfectly honest, I shouldn’t feel like that at all. While I was struggling through the continual messages of ‘breast is best’, it was finally a social media post that changed my world for the better. “Fed is best,” it read simply. And no words could ever be truer. No words could have ever provided more comfort to me.
Breastfeeding, I agree is a very important source of food and nutrition for a newborn and if you are able to breastfed, I celebrate you, albeit with a hint of envy. But if breastfeeding just doesn’t happen for you, that is actually ok. It really is. At the end of the day, as long as your child is being fed and is thriving and healthy, that’s all that matters, not whether the original source is bottle or breast. Know that struggling to breast-feed is not a new-age thing. It’s actually happened to more mothers than you realise. Talk about it. Talk about it all. Talk to your partner, friends, doctors, other new mothers, anyone you trust. Talk and talk and talk. It’s so important. And know that these early days are only such a very small part of your wonderful life together.