So as mums, before our babies are even born we’re flooded with questions: “Are you planning on breastfeeding?”, “You know breast is best”… it’s almost as if people are making our feeding choices for us. I wanted to breastfeed from day one, I wanted to have that bond and be able to create my baby boy’s food. When my son was about a month old we faced our first hurdle – yep, he was tongue tied, but, as Sarah posted previously, you can still breastfeed with a tongue tie.
The next hurdle came when Oliver was about a month and a half. I wasn’t producing enough milk to keep up with his feeds, despite drinking water and trying all of the other myths, nothing was making me produce milk like a dairy cow, so we decided to try combination feeding (a balance of breast milk and formula).
As my mental health deteriorated, I found myself surrounded by anxiety towards breastfeeding… I was doubting everything I had been doing since Oliver had been born. I’m holding him wrong. This isn’t working, I’m not good enough. Oliver was still crying during his feeds and I now recognise that this is because he was picking up on my anxiety.
It’s no surprise that 20% of new mums suffer from mental health illnesses within the first year of their child’s birth, with the amount of pressure new mums receive, especially first time mums. As I found my mental health deteriorating I could feel myself becoming more and more reluctant to breastfeed. I would dread it when Oliver would cry for a feed and at some points would find myself crying. I couldn’t bear to do it anymore and found myself saying something I never wanted to: “Just give him a bottle.”
I would then beat myself up for hours on end. What was wrong with me? I wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t bring myself to. I would sit in a daze as my son cried for a feed. I could hear the people around me telling me he needed a feed but I couldn’t bring myself to feed him unless it was a bottle. I became scared to breastfeed, I would become paranoid that my milk wasn’t enough for him and he wouldn’t get anything. Gradually, between this and the tongue tie, it was no surprise that my supply dropped rather quickly.
I sought comfort in a mum & baby group on Facebook and one lady commented: “sounds like breastfeeding avoidance, I suffered it with 2 out of 3 of my children, speak to your health visitor.”
When I took Oliver to the clinic to be weighed, I mentioned it… Though I didn’t get a very helpful reply. I was simply told, “well he’s a good weight so you must be doing something right.” It took some explaining and a few tears but we had a breakthrough – she mentioned breastfeeding avoidance isn’t a diagnosis, it’s more a symptom, but she didn’t seem too concerned as Oliver was a healthy weight and seemed happy.
My breastfeeding avoidance became so critical at one point that I let myself become so engorged and was crying in discomfort. I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to look at my breasts, I didn’t want anyone to help me I just wanted to close my eyes, wake up and for my time of breastfeeding to be over.
But then it was over. And it was over too quickly, by the time I came to terms with my breast feeding avoidance, it was too late. My boy was formula fed and my milk had dried up and my window of opportunity to breastfeed was gone and my boy was showing no interest in me for food anymore. I sat and admired family members feeding my son a bottle… he seemed so content. “He doesn’t know the difference,” a family member tried to reassure me, but he could tell the difference. I could tell the difference, the one thing that was meant to help us bond, I pushed away and let my mental health come between. Still to this day, I regret letting my mental health control my ability to breastfeed, however I had no say in the matter, and should I have more children in the future (unlikely but a possibility nonetheless), I know what to expect and will not let my mental health affect the matter.
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