*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.