When my daughter was first born, I thought I would be some kind of natural ‘Earth Mama’ and just naturally breastfeed all day. I thought I would have a strong breastfeeding connection with my baby. My hope was to breastfeed for at least a year, maybe longer. To prepare, I took courses, watched countless videos, and made sure I talked to a lactation consultant right away after giving birth. I did not want to struggle with breastfeeding, and was committed to making it work.
The start of our journey went well. My daughter latched with no problem minutes after being born, and aside from some cracked nipples we were doing great. She was gaining weight, and breastfeeding often. The first month of breastfeeding went as I had hoped it would. We had a connection, and it was the one thing I knew how to do as a new mom.
After about 6 weeks, my feelings started to change.
Despite the physical part of breastfeeding going well, it did not feel natural to me. Over time, I started to cringe at the thought of breastfeeding. My baby was up breastfeeding every 45 minutes through the night and all day long. If she wasn’t breastfeeding, my boobs would become so sore and leaky that I had to have breast pads on at all times. My baby also didn’t like to be still when breastfeeding, and she was always on the move. This meant that a blanket cover was not an option, and despite my uncomfortable feelings, I breastfed in public many times.
Over time, I started to feel touched out and exhausted. Why didn’t I love this? I felt much more bonded to my baby when we did other things like read books, snuggle, or play with her toys. When it came time to breastfeed, my whole body would want to stop it from happening. I would cringe and sometimes cry during the session, waiting for it to be over. It did not feel natural to me, but my guilt kept me going.
My anxiety and feelings of resent towards our breastfeeding relationship was getting worse.
I didn’t want to be touched anymore, not by my baby and not by my husband. This continued happening until I got mastitis, which felt worse than labour. My whole body ached like I had the flu, and I was so sore that I couldn’t even wear a shirt. I had to go to the doctor two different times to get stronger antibiotics because they were not working.
It was during this time that I was encouraged to quit. I broke down to my doctor and told her how I felt. I told her that I didn’t want to let my baby down, but that I couldn’t handle breastfeeding any more. She kindly told me that she agreed it was time, and that there was nothing wrong with formula. So after the mastitis was cleared, I started to wean. It took me about a month to slowly wean my baby onto a bottle.
I was a better mother when I started formula feeding my daughter.
It was as if my anxiety went away over night, and motherhood became a whole new world for me. For the first time in over a year, I felt like myself and started to love my role as a mother. I was able to bond with my baby through bottle-feeding, and we had a better relationship. Now that I have gone through this experience, I know that I have a stronger bond with my daughter now then I ever have. Forcing myself to breastfeed through emotional and physical pain did not serve my daughter or myself best.
As moms, we often forget that our own needs are important too. Doing what is best for our babies means that we need to take care of ourselves too. Breastfeeding might be what is best, or maybe combo feeding, pumping, or formula feeding is best. Find the rhythm that works for you and your baby. It might take some testing to find out what is best for both of your physical and emotional health, but it is so important.
Are you struggling with breastfeeding?
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, talk to your doctor. Tell them how you are feeling. Connect with other women who have been there, and share your story with them. You may be surprised to find that you are not the only mom who struggles with breastfeeding.