I’ve been really saddened over the last few days to have people assume that, because I breastfeed, because I trained as a mother supporter and because I have set up our local breastfeeding support group, I am some kind of militant breastfeed or else type.
And even worse to discover that they haven’t shared their difficulties and worries with me because they assumed I would judge and dictate what they should do and potentially make them feel guilty because of their decision. I can’t even start to express how much that saddens me.
Because how wrong could they be.
Breastfeeding for me hasn’t been easy – with both Toddlergirl and Babygirl I got thrush, got exhausted and then had to find a way to combine with working which meant a rather too close relationship with my breast pump.
I came close to giving up many, many times but for me with Toddlergirl, breastfeeding became my totem, the thing I could do for her that nobody else could – the thing that wiped out my confused feelings about her, her preference for Mr Muddling and my confusion over my own identity and whether I could become a good mother. I also had incredible support – my own mother was there to sit with me, helping me with problems, understanding that it was tough and sharing her experiences (and feeding me cake regularly), Mr Muddling spent hours caring for us and helping us and I had friends to share the experience with.
But it was hard – really hard and having gone through that I wouldn’t blame anyone else for making the decision to not push themselves down a path into pain, misery and potentially post natal depression.
And with Babygirl I have to say that I’m really not enjoying feeding her – we haven’t yet got to that place where it works for both of us and frequently it doesn’t work – its painful, it makes my skin crawl sometimes and I hate that she vomits back what seems to be most of what I give her (there’s gratitude for you!). There are moments when I’m incredibly close to giving up the breastfeeding, to saying that this isn’t working for me and I need a break. But I’m not at the stage yet where I feel that moving onto formula is right for us and I’m very very glad of the support I have that help me continue and I know without that support I could easily have given up many times.
This is why I’m so saddened, I know that breastfeeding isn’t easy, I know that it isn’t as simple as a baby and a boob and there you go, I know that without really good support moving onto formula is the option that works best – yes, formula is in many ways a great thing, without it babies would die and yes, without it, many women would have been driven beyond a point they should ever go trying to feed their babies. Yes in an ideal world all women (and families because it is about more than just the woman) would have lots of support, lots of help and unlimited cake and it would all be easy but it isn’t. And you know, most people who support breastfeeding know that – we’re not here to judge, instead we’re here to talk to if you need us, to help if we can and to share our experiences in the hope that they will perhaps help other people.
Surely a happy mother = a happy family and that’s what we should be aiming for, not setting women at each other, creating additional mother guilt and ensuring women don’t seek out the support they need for fear of being judged ?