My Failed Breastfeeding Story {Looking Back #5}

breastfeeding

I failed breastfeeding. The first time around in 2011 when I was a new mummy to Eva, I failed.Now I know that bottle feeding is still feeding, I totally support this. I know there is no right or wrong and people make their own choices, but to me, I just wanted so desperately to breastfeed.

All through my pregnancy, my insane amount of research, countless books and late night googling told me I could. The NCT classes I paid out for, which in hindsight didn’t really teach me much at all, led me to believe that of course I could. If I wanted to make that choice, then it was so natural and instinctive that this tiny little baby would basically come out of the womb with just gas and air whilst Eddy massaged my pain away and practically crawl itself up to take that first suckle. That would be it. Easy, convenient, free, done.

The most I would have to worry about was getting comfortable with my breastfeeding pillow and making sure that someone was on hand to bring me water and snacks. Breastfeeding is hungry work you know, think of the calories burnt. Choice made, sign, me, up.

What all of this failed to tell me however, was that for some women, for most women, it isn’t like that at all. Breastfeeding is hard, really really hard, and it hurts. Breastfeeding is a skill, an art, something you and baby have to learn and master and not always something that comes oh so naturally – although I am sure that it does for some don’t get me wrong.

Eva was born 3 weeks early and was an assisted birth with a just little bit more than gas and air – we are talking a two day induced labour and epidural here. Anyway she was born in theatre and the little 6lb 10oz dot was placed on my chest in recovery to have this first feed. In recovery, in a glorified cupboard, which is exactly how it felt and I was a little overwhelmed that it was just us, and that she did not in fact seem to know what to do. She hadn’t got the memo. She didn’t reach, she didn’t suckle, she didn’t open her mouth wide when placed nose to nipple, she just cried.

We did manage to sort of get the hang of it, or so I thought, but it hurt so badly I kept asking the staff if it was ok. I was brushed off and told from the other side of the room that her latch looks just fine and it would get better. I was ‘reassured’ that I was doing great and sent home not wanting to make a fuss. By the time I was home and visited by the lovely community midwife the next day I was informed that actually I had burns, yes apparently there is such a thing as nipple burns and I had got them from her poor latch. The damage was done.

She would feed and I would cry, for hours and hours and hours. I had no idea what to do, had no-one to turn to. But I still did it, tried all different positions, tried to stay positive that maybe she was just a baby that seemed to feed for a long time. I really really tried.

Then I remember so vividly standing in the kitchen on the cold tiled floor with Eva next to me in the moses basket and I was sobbing. Like real fat ugly tears streaming down my face as Eddy got the steriliser out of the packet for the first time at 1am to try a bottle (note to anyone, ensure you know how to use it and have unwrapped it ‘just incase’.) Eddy couldn’t understand why I wasn’t rational and that a fed baby was a happy baby. That surely that would make me happy too?

I can’t say that I can really explain that either, maybe it was sleep deprivation, or hormones, the pressure put on us by society that if we start breastfeeding then giving formula is failing. Or the pressure I put on myself. I had the worst pregnancy, and now I couldn’t even give her this to make up for it. Yet I know that it wouldn’t make up for anything and that really I had nothing to make up for. That bit wasn’t my choice. But in that moment of newborn haze and not really having a clue what I was doing I didn’t want to feel like I had given up, failed, and that I wasn’t doing what was so clearly best for my baby.

For weeks I persevered and tried combination feeding, expressing, I basically felt like I was doing it all. Then she started having skin issues and sickness and if I am totally honest after pregnancy and everything we went through part of me just wanted my body back again. To not have to fight to do something that was causing so much pain, both physical and emotional and to feel like me.

I don’t remember that last feed, I am sure at the time I did. I must have wanted to soak it up, or maybe I didn’t and have blocked it out entirely but I know that by 6 weeks she was a formula fed baby. A statistic of failed breastfeeding and a red mark in her little red book when asked the dreaded question of “are you still feeding her yourself”.

Like making a bottle from scratch at 2am with stinging eyes and aching limbs isn’t feeding her myself. Yes I’m feeding her myself. With a bottle. I held her close into me and watched that sleepy feeding face as her eyelids dropped and her feet twitched as she fell into slumber. I felt her eyes burning into mine if I wasn’t looking at her as she sucked, and I soaked in all of her delicious baby smell that undoubtedly changed with her feeding but was still deliciously her. So yes, I was still feeding her myself.

I actually became quite protective over feeding her and really liked to do that myself. I know anybody now could feed her, but I still always wanted it to be me. I loved that time together, that bond, that closeness, especially at night.

She ended up being allergic to cows milk and so of course I feel guilty because that is my default! Did I do this? Should I have tried harder? Got through it? Would it have prevented her eczema? Ashtma? Allergies? The truth is of course there is no way to know and there is no way to go back and relive a different scenario. So I just have to trust that I did what I could and what was right at the time, and give myself a big Mummy break about it.

This picture here is literally the only one I have of me feeding Eva. Honestly? At the time I was a bit annoyed at Eddy taking it as I didn’t exactly feel at my best. Over the years I have come close to deleting it so many times. But now it is actually really special, because no I wasn’t able to breastfeed her for as long as I would have liked and yes I do feel bad about that. But I did breastfeed her, I did try my best and I did spend so long feeding that I had no choice but to multitask and do my make up at the same time. So I will stay away from the delete button and hope that I always feel like this slightly awful, grainy picture will always remind me of those special breastfeeding moments we had.

The photo below is also one of the very few I have of her bottle feeding. Again it was taken by Eddy who thought it was lovely her holding her own bottle, a really nice moment. Yet I somehow hated to see photos of her with a bottle at all. Even though that was our reality. How ridiculous is that? This is how she fed. She fed, she grew and she was nurtured into the perfect little person she is today. So breastfed or bottle fed, they all come good in the end. Though it still wouldn’t stop me trying the second time around.

xxbreastfeeding

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30 Comments

  1. March 30, 2017 / 12:29 pm

    I managed to breast feed for 10 weeks before my milk started to dry up so had no choice but to go on the bottle. But you’re right. It can be hard and it can hurt. Before you have kids you imagine you just plop in nipple in their mouth and off you go. It was nothing like that in my experience! #SharingtheBlogLove

  2. March 30, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    You didn’t fail, if anything you were failed by people who were supposed to help you but didn’t xx

  3. March 31, 2017 / 9:55 am

    Beautifully written post. I also struggled with breastfeeding. I HATED the question EVERY time I saw a HV if I was BF or not. I wish they could just read the book and have a quick check themselves, it made me feel so guilty. I saw a doctor who told me that I mustn’t worry about it quite so much, that it is TOUGH and I would do myself some harm if I continued to feel guilty and upset. I enjoyed reading your experience because it reminded me again of how difficult it really can be.

    #SharingtheBlogLove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:34 pm

      It does seem to make you feel worse every time doesn’t it and it really shouldn’t. I am sorry you felt this way too x

  4. March 31, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    I can relate to this so much. I also had the impression that it would be me who was learning about feeding – that if I just held him right, his mouth would open and he’d latch on. That he would do that ‘crawling up the chest’ thing and just latch. I’d heard about friends who didn’t produce enough milk, but I just assumed that if the milk was there then the baby would know what to do. But Max was exactly the same as Eva – he just didn’t seem to know. And it hurt. Everyone had said ‘if it hurts then you’re doing it wrong’ – so of course I worried and worried that it wasn’t working, that he wasn’t getting enough milk. I persevered, with some great support from my local Baby Cafe, and eventually we did get there, but it was a real struggle in those first few months and I’d never judge anyone who chose to formula feed, for whatever reason. I really do think that there should be less emphasis on the benefits of breastfeeding, and more support offered for mums – it’s a really difficult time and you’re pretty much just left to it, but guilt tripped by health professionals if you move to formula. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:35 pm

      You are absolutely right support is key, when I had Roma I knew I wanted to do everything I could and actively sought support, it wasn’t easy but we did get there in the end x

  5. April 3, 2017 / 8:53 pm

    You definitely are not a failure lovely, please don’t think this. I found it hard with Alice to begin with and oh my goodness some days the pain!!! We did get there eventually and then as she grew I wasn’t producing enough milk and I did combined feeding. Holly was so much better, she seemed to know what to do and we got a better start. I also ended up having to do combined feeding with her. A fed baby is a happy baby, however that baby is fed. thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:36 pm

      I did find that Roma seemed to know what to do and although it wasn’t easy still we got there and I fed her for 6 months, but I actively sought support then too x

  6. April 5, 2017 / 11:35 am

    You were definitely not a failure – you were a huge success! You kept going for 6 whole very important weeks, even though the odds were against you. That’s some achievement! It makes me so sad that there isn’t more help out there, and the help you do get is often woefully inadequate. It’s really heartening though that you say you’d try again. My second was the more difficult for me, but knowledge is power, and I knew my baby wasn’t feeding right, and I needed help, so I demanded it (rather loudly!) and eventually got it sorted. Good luck if you do ever try again, and thank you for sharing your story. #SharingTheBlogLove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:37 pm

      Knowledge is definitely power, as is hindsight and I did go on to breastfeed my second little lady for 6 months, it wasn’t without it’s pitfalls but I knew by then I could persevere and that it can be difficult and you can get through x

  7. April 6, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    You didn’t fail – the medical staff failed you! I was the same and couldn’t believe how unnatural and painful the whole thing was. I asked for help countless times to get the latch right but none of the “experts” were any help at all. For 8 weeks I suffered with cracked, bleeding nipples. Please don’t blame yourself. Your baby and you survived 🙂 #sharingthebloglove

  8. April 6, 2017 / 6:03 pm

    I failed four times over, and yet when I look back I didn’t fail, I WAS failed. I think there is very little help out there if you aren’t aware where to find it, and breastfeeding is hard work!! Three of mine were premature and in ICU and I wasn’t given any support on expressing, and although I bf my eldest for 3 months I genuinely believe it contributed to my PND because of how utterly horrendous I found it. You didn’t fail though, you’re an amazing mummy. #sharingthebloglove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:39 pm

      You are totally right there is only help if you know where to find it or are comfortable to access the cafe type support which I know I am not. I am sorry you went through this and we are all feeding our babies no matter what x

  9. April 6, 2017 / 8:43 pm

    I’m quite sad you felt you failed. When you really want to breastfeed and work hard at it, it must be painful to have to give up. But if your baby is well fed and it works better for your family to bottle feed, I’m all for it.

    We didn’t even get as far breastfeeding. N was a csection (although easy pregnancy and no stress induction that just didn’t get anywhere) birth, and he did latch, but just wouldn’t suck. The breastfeeding ‘expert’ midwife came to check, and we tried another position but still no suck. So hand expressing was tried, and he slept in bed with me in the hospital in the hope he’d get hungry and feed. After 2 nights they checked his blood sugar and he needed formula because nothing was still happening. I had wanted to breastfeed, and tried to continue at home, then giving that up and trying to express. But that didn’t work well enough. Formula worked for us, and in the end I was happy to give a bottle. It turned out to be so much better for us as well – time, flexibility, easy enough when out and about. No pains and stress over breastfeeding. I don’t feel guilty – I fed him the way he needed.

    It turned out he was tongue tied but noone picked up on it.

    What annoyed me was that I was expected to be marched off to the pump room at hospital. I also expected the ‘expert’ to be one but she obviously wasn’t a proper breastfeeding expert. To find those you need to be able to get to baby cafes (I couldn’t because I wasn’t allowed to drive), or call someone in (I didn’t realise you could do that and don’t think I’d have wanted to have to call someone).

    Out of our NCT group of 8, 2 had to bottle feed (both csection boys), 1 had no problems. The others all had help either at breastfeeding cafe or getting someone out to see them. That just proves how hard it is, but also how the onus is on the new mum who usually knows nothing to find the solution. I found heath visitors and midwives were fine about me bottle feeding. They didn’t even suggest I try different things.

    Hope you get over the feeling of failure. Because it isn’t.

    #sharingthebloglove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:42 pm

      Oh no how heartbreaking that the tongue tie wasn’t picked up I am so sorry that happened and there should definitely be more support that isn’t relied on sitting in a room full of people you do not know just because you have breastfeeding your baby in common. x

  10. April 7, 2017 / 6:43 am

    You absolutely did not fail. You tried everything you possibly could. You didn’t get the help and support you needed at hospital. I feel like I failed too, as I only lasted a few weeks of exclusive feeding. It was so hard. #sharingthebloglove

  11. April 7, 2017 / 9:31 am

    My story is very similar to yours, but whilst I saw it as a failure at the time I’m not sure I do now.

    Breastfeeding, although natural etc, is a skill for both mother and baby. And just like all skills, not everyone has it or is capable of learning it for many reasons. Some of which are completely outside your control. And you’re trying to do this after a major medical and life changing experience. With no sleep.

    If your child is fed, loved and well cared for, then it doesn’t matter how. And it isn’t anyone else’s business or right to judge.

    Sending hugs and tea.

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:49 pm

      Thank you I guess I may never get over the guilt that I could or should have tried more especially as I was so determined with my second that it happened, it wasn’t easy but it did happen in the end x

  12. April 8, 2017 / 7:53 am

    The fact that you tried at all is proof you didn’t fail. You did the best you could and persevered even when it pained you! Bottle feeding isn’t a failure either. The most important thing to remember is that you’re doing the best for both you and Eva! I’m sorry you didn’t get the help you needed at hospital, they should have listened and tried harder with you.
    I hope you don’t feel this way for too long, because you shouldn’t feel a failure for this. #SharingTheBlogLove

  13. April 8, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    She’s a cutie. I don’t think I have any photos of my breastfeeding Peachy and I did it for over a year. Our journey was pretty hard too. I also developed sores within the first few days and cried when I fed my baby due to the pain. I had to supplement formula early on and rely on strictly pumped milk for a while. Peachy didn’t want to have anything to do with the boob for a long time. Eventually we managed to nurse somewhat successfully and I was able to do half pumped breastmilk and half direct nursing. It was a long and hard journey. I enjoy the freedom of not having to nurse but I do miss it sometimes. #SharingtheBlogLove

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:51 pm

      It is just so different for everyone isn’t it and I guess that is what you don’t realise, I never got chance to really miss it with Eva but I definitely did the second time around as i fed for 6 months x

  14. April 9, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    I am very lucky that I only ever experienced the shaming once. You did not fail you did incredibly, and you did what was best for your baby. #SharingtheBlogLove

  15. April 12, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    I can relate to this. I found the first few days and weeks so hard. I was forced to stay in hospital for 3 nights because they wouldn’t let me home because I couldn’t feed my daughter on my own. I think in hindsight I asked for too much help. Sounds odd but I just assumed that’s what you were supposed to do but it meant I didn’t just try enough myself. My daughter was very sleepy and didn’t know what to do either. Eventually I got home and then I sought support from my NCT breastfeeding counsellor who was amazing. And I went to the local bf cafe which was also very good. It’s such a stressful hormonal time I think we do put too much pressure on ourselves. But you most definitely haven’t failed. #SharingtheBlogLove x

    • April 13, 2017 / 2:52 pm

      It is definitely hard to strike the balance of asking for help especially as a new mum in all the new territory. I am glad you managed to get the help you needed though, I definitely learnt for the second time around and got much more help then x

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