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*This is a collaborative post
From the moment I found out I was expecting a baby, like most soon to be parents I’m sure, I started to get ideas in my head of how it would be. I had visions of a couple of “gilmore girls” with very few worries, drinking too much coffee and having the kind of relationship people were jealous of. Obviously, nearly 4 years down the line we’re still a little while away from the coffee drinking age but we do get on pretty well. During the first few years of her life though, I have been plagued with mum guilt at various points which is again part and parcel of parenthood. However, none more so than when we she was 10 weeks old and I had to face facts, that I’d failed her in the most basic of motherly ways and the guilt still stays with me in some form years on.

I knew right from the start that I wanted to breastfeed Alyssa. It was just what I had in my head and I knew it was the right decision for me. Her entry into the world wasn’t quite planned at 5 weeks early, and a few hours after her emergency delivery, I had to try expressing, whilst looking at her picture (she was in SCBU) with the midwife holding a syringe to the end of my nipple to try and catch every drop of precious liquid gold.

I was fortunate in that my milk did come in fairly quickly, and whilst she had an ng tube, she was being tube fed my expressed milk and then we were also able to start trying to feed. It didn’t go well the first day or two, until an observing SCBU nurse offered me some nipple guards as my nipples were quite flat and little miss latched on and took her fill. I was disappointed when she still needed some of my milk expressed in a bottle to top her up but at least it was my milk and she was growing.

Once home, I carried on expressing and storing my milk but we pretty much exclusively breast fed. Man those next 6 weeks were hard – she didn’t want to sleep anywhere but on me and it felt like she was constantly feeding, which she effectively was. I looked down one day when I felt a sharp pain to realise that my nipples had cracked and were bleeding and each time I had to feed her, she was re-opening the wounds. It was hard, I was exhausted but I kept on pushing, trying, I did not want to fail.

At 10 weeks old, my family staged an intervention. She constantly fed, I was bleeding and in pain and neither of us was happy. They suggested I try a bottle just for one night to see if it made a difference. Through tears, I sat and bottle fed her and she dozed off. I placed her in her cot, climbed into bed and we woke up 8 and a half hours later. I had to admit defeat. I spoke to my health visitor who agreed that no matter how much she fed from me, she simply wasn’t getting enough. It wasn’t my fault it was just one of those things.

It didn’t feel like one of those things. I’d fought through cracked nipples, mastitis, the embarrassment of trying to feed in public and feeling peoples stares and then the horrible crushing words I said to myself when I realised I’d failed. It took a long time to be able to hear the words of others that told me, I’d done everything I could, given her the best start and that the decision to bottle feed going forward was the right thing for Alyssa – would I rather have a hungry baby, who couldn’t sleep or a happy and content baby?

Of course then came the guilt that I’d kept trying so long and the worry that all this time she had simply been hungry. Having to stop breastfeeding so early on, it felt like we’d been robbed of something I had so been looking forward to sharing with my little one but it obviously wasn’t meant to be.

Three years on, I know I was not a failure and that it was the right decision but I still experience sadness and of course the dreaded mum guilt over it. I am not an avid breastfeeding supporter and nor am I all about bottle feeding. I am on the fed is best train and as a mother who has done both, I appreciate that there is more than one option of how to feed a baby.

Something that perhaps would have helped, would have been something like the Minbie Breast Pump. I originally had a portable small one from a popular well-known brand which literally did nothing for me. So, I ended up renting one like I had used in hospital which yes worked, but it was by no means portable. It was a great big, heavy thing on a stand that needed to stay put.

Something like the Minbie Double Breast Pump would have been perfect. This is what Rebecca, Minbie user had to say;

“I started to look for a bit of freedom outside of the everyday single feed. That’s when the Minbie product came in. I pump when I need to have some time off. I use to be able to jump on a big boat and go long distances.  Now with Bubs, I still can do that, and that’s my freedom. It gives me the opportunity to have some me time. 

A great feature of the Minbie breastpump is this handle. You can pick it up and move it around, it’s really easy to pump in a bag or in the car from my scenario sometimes a boat. It just sits really easy. It’s light and the handle makes it so that you have got one hand you can move around.”

I think if I had been able to pump on the move and perhaps had more advice, I’d have been able to perhaps push through, increase my supply and perhaps continue the journey I had wanted to take us on.

 

43 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing about this. There is so much pressure on mums and so many conflicting voices. During a time when we are at our most vulnerable, we have people insisting that breastfeeding is the best way and we must try our hardest, while others (often from the older generation) are nagging us to give them a bottle.

    What we need is the opposite of advice. We need support. Support when we want to try and support when we need or decide to bottle feed. There should be no shame in either path, and no guilt. A fed baby is a happy baby and that’s – quite literally – *all* that matters.

    Massive props to you for getting through what sounds like a right nightmare, and for having the courage to post about it. You’re amazing.

  2. Emily says:

    You certainly weren’t a failure – you did all you could to give your baby what you felt was best at all times. Alyssa couldn’t ask for more. Personally I hate the phrase fed is best as surely fed is essential – however breast is best is also far too simplistic. I feel mothers need to be both informed and supported in their decision, whatever that may be.

    The link for the giveaway doesn’t seem to be working for me?

  3. Katie says:

    I totally agree that each mum has to make whatever decision is best for her and her baby. I’m lucky that I was able to breastfeed both babies (we’re only 6 weeks in with the second but she’s feeding like a champ), but despite what health visitors often tell you, breastfeeding is NOT easy. It can be painful at first. They’re attached to your boob constantly. There’s no break. I think we should definitely encourage mums to breastfeed if they can, but we need to be realistic about the challenges and give them the support they need.

  4. Sue McCarthy says:

    I don’t have any children but would love to win this prize to donate to charity, to go to Romania.

  5. iain maciver says:

    breast ,this would be perfect for my wife

  6. Clara says:

    I did both

  7. Lucy says:

    Breastfed

  8. Solange says:

    Breast feed.

  9. Ursula Hunt says:

    Breast feed for the first 6 months

  10. Margaret Gallagher says:

    I don’t have children – I encourage breast feeding – still some mums like to bottle feed – would love for my neice who will be breast feeding as soon as her new arrival comes

    Its whatever mum feels comfortable with

  11. Neha Chauhan says:

    I did both and plan to do the same for my second one

  12. Rachel Butterworth says:

    Neither. I’m winning this for my sister in law. She breastfed her two other children.

  13. Rach says:

    Lovely blog post about something so important. It’s such an emotional time with hormones flying everywhere and people giving their ‘advice’ about what you should be doing.
    It’s bloody hard, breast feeding, and the first few weeks are the hardest so you did brilliantly.
    I’ve heard other mums say they wish they’d given up sooner for their own sanity.
    I feel privileged to be feeding still at 8 months and I’m sure if I wasn’t so lazy with cleaning I’d have considered the bottle to save my nipples and let daddy do more night feeds. You have to do what works best for you.
    It should really be as simple as doing what is best for both baby and mum. End of. No ifs or buts. Baby gets fed, mum isn’t made to feel like she’s doing something wrong or has failed.
    We’ve a long way to go before people see #normalisenormal for what it is – a mum caring for her baby in her very own best way. I love that so many mums are getting the message out there. X

  14. Helen Stratton says:

    I breastfed all 4 of mine to over a year, but I feel it is everyone’s own journey and you have to do what works for you and your child.

  15. Rach says:

    I wrote a long reply in the early hours whilst breast feeding but it seems it didn’t work when I hit post.
    So to summarise – I think this article is fab! Well said!

  16. Amy Denney says:

    I breast fed my last one baby. I will be breast feeding my new arrival coming in the summer. Thank you for the chance to Win.

  17. Gosh, it’s amazing the pressure we put on ourselves to meet some imagined standard of perfection. You went through so much to give your daughter what she needs, and then it was supplemented by bottle feeds. That’s all. You did brilliantly and she is thriving: that’s what matters. #ABloggingGoodTime

  18. Sonia says:

    Not only is each mum different but so is each baby! I had a similar experience to you with my first as I wasn’t producing enough milk and had to supplement with formula and though I continued to breastfeed too, felt a total failure. When my second was born I could have fed every baby in the street with the amount of milk I had! Then that bit me on the bum as she wouldn’t take a bottle so getting a night off was nigh on impossible! My third had a tongue tie and nearly crippled me trying to latch on so I had to express and bottle feed until that was eventually sorted out- which I hated! As long as there is a healthy baby (and mummy), every feeding method is fine- there are no failures! #ablogginggoodtime

  19. Laurie says:

    I breastfed my children, but they also got used to taking a bottle. I had to work when they were little, so it was a necessity. I agree that breastfeeding is best, but I don’t think we women should beat ourselves up if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for us. Using a bottle allowed Hubby to feed them too, which was nice at 3:00 a.m.! 🙂

  20. Although I breast fed all four of our sons, it did not come easily, and I also struggled with mastitis and exhaustion. I’m so happy to read that there is now a group of supportive people who are advocating for those who choose this approach to feeding–but no one should feel like a failure over this decision!

  21. I too had problems breastfeeding. My boy was violently sick every feed, then he would feed gain as he was hungry & the cycle continued. In the end we had to switch to formula but that made things worse. The dr prescribed lactose free formula which stopped the sickness. Our boy was lactose intolerant

  22. Well done, I’d call that a success not a failure! Those early weeks of breastfeeding are hard work and being able to decide what is best for your child means you did right, not a fail at all. #ablogginggoodtime

  23. Rebecca Whatmore says:

    Trying to win for my best friend who is planning to breast feed

  24. Great post. I tried to breast feed, but it didn’t happen for me for various reasons. I felt pretty guilty about it too. #ABloggingGoodTime

  25. sam says:

    I can relate I struggled because I have poor coordination because of autism, I spend hours and then I was depressed and glad I did chose formula because my mental health was deteriorating. I am lucky had a health visitor who also bottle fed and I felt much better knowing I wasn’t alone. No your not a failure – you did what was right for you and your baby X #ablogginggoodtime

  26. Laura says:

    I breast and bottle fed with varying results across my 4 (soon to be 5 this year) children. I think women need to support each other regardless of their choice 🙂

  27. Rosie Doal says:

    I was unable to breastfeed both of my two for more than three weeks because I had infections. I felt guilty for such a long time and people were looking down on me because I wasn’t feeding my children with my breast. It was so disheartening and upsetting. But I look back now and know I did the best I could and both of my kids are happy and healthy at 13 and 9. So what works for one doesn’t work for another x #ABloggingGoodTime

  28. Kate says:

    You were not and are not a failure. You are a good enough mum which is good enough. I wanted to breastfeed and managed for just 2 weeks. I was so stressed out with it that my husband went off and got bottles and formula and I was so thankful that he almost took the decision away from me. It helped me bond a lot better as both me and my son were less stressed once bottle feeding in place. And yes I still feel sad I could not do it properly and that my next two were not breastfed at all but it’s life and we just have to do our best and most of us do #ABloggingGoodTime

  29. Amy Briscoe says:

    I’m due in a week and a half. I plan and want to breast feed however I’m not going to beat myself up if something happens and I can’t. Unhappy mum = unhappy baby

  30. Ruth lee says:

    I breastfed but not for as long as I wanted

  31. Wendy Guy says:

    Baby due am going to breastfeed.

  32. Naomi Blackmore says:

    Pregnant with my first so neither yet, but I hope to breast feed!

  33. felicity Williams says:

    Bottle feed

  34. Diane Carey says:

    I haven’t done either as I adopted both my daughters. My daughter bottle fed her daughter. She is expecting again in August and is talking about breast feeding this time

  35. Katie Skeoch says:

    I have done both, I’m due my 3rd in June & plan to breast feed until I can. Please don’t feel like a failure, you have a beautiful healthy babe. Bottle or breast is a debate I hate X

  36. Tracey Carr says:

    I had the exact same problem. I totally wanted to breastfeed my daughters but there just wasn’t enough milk coming out. I tried both times but had to surrender. I like you felt like something was missing – a crucial element in the bonding process? But then we bonded regardless and they were both happy and content because they were getting what they needed. That in turn, even though I was disappointed, made me happy. After all that is all that really matters in the end isn’t it? Happy babies! #ablogginggoodtime

  37. Tammy Neal says:

    Bottle feed x

  38. Natalie Crossan says:

    I did both 🙂

  39. MotherGeek says:

    I combi fed my son – expressing and bottle feeding as he wouldn’t latch at all. No mum guilt necessary xx

  40. GirlsGospel says:

    You were amazing to stick with it for so long! Less bad mum, more Super mum in my opinion!

  41. MumFounded says:

    I had a similar experience with my daughter. I literally didn’t get into bed until she was 7 weeks old and I finally switched to a bottle. I remember the guilt well. It took me a while to realise she was happier than ever on bottles.

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