As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed our baby. My hospital bag was packed with lanolish, breast pads, breast feeding tops, nipple shields – you name it, I had all the paraphernalia.
After Archer was born he latched like he was born knowing exactly what to do. For the next couple of days he wouldn’t leave my boob for more then a few minutes, and if he wasn’t on there he was screaming, fidgeting or distressed. I thought this was completely normal and I know that cluster feeding at the start, is completely normal, but Archer very rarely seemed settled. It wasn’t until the fourth day that the obstetrician walked in as Archer was screaming and he exclaimed that he was starving and asked the midwife to get formula. After 60mls he fell into the most settled sleep he had, had since birth. The obstetrician examined me and asked me a number of questions and was concerned that I may not be producing enough food yet.
Before I left hospital I was given a prescription for Motilium to try and increase my supply. I was also given a routine to follow of breastfeed on both sides for twenty minutes each, top up with formula and then express every three hours. When we got home I was determined to breastfeed so followed the instructions to a tee.
However Archer instead of being “topped up” with formula was always drinking the whole amount. At times when I tried to just breastfeed him he would scream afterwards until he got a bottle. I began to dread him waking up for a feed and my sleep deprivation only continued to worsen as the whole routine would take so long that by the time I finished feeding it was time to start the routine again. Feelings of failure and shame were flooding my waking moments.
I persevered for four weeks. I was drinking lactation tea, downing boobie biscuits and visiting the MACH nurses where I was told to keep trying. However the amount of formula Archer would drink after each feed just kept increasing and I began to feel completely defeated. I am so grateful for my mum and Brendan stepping in and discussing my options with me. Neither pressured me to make a decision either way and I felt completely supported whatever decision I made for the future. Ultimately I decided a few days later that I couldn’t keep trying to breastfeed for any longer as it was causing me too much mental distress. I went cold turkey from that moment as I knew I would find doing a last feed far too emotional. While our journey wasn’t for long I am grateful for every moment that Archer and I had breastfeeding.
If anyone has quit breastfeeding cold turkey you will know that it is physically very confronting. For the first time my breasts went as hard as rocks and I was convinced that they would explode at any moment. However due to my low supply I was basically back to normal after 24 hours which I am grateful for. The only reminder I had of breastfeeding was when my boobs would leak if Archer cried which is just another slap in the face when you already drowning in guilt from no longer breastfeeding.
On reflection, four months later, I have absolutely zero regrets about stopping our breastfeeding journey early. Archer and I are both so much happier and less anxious and I immediately began to enjoy motherhood so much more. I don’t deny breast is best at all but I also think good mental health is best and this is what we needed to do to ensure that I could be the best mum possible. I am extremely grateful that there there is an alternative to breast milk available so babies like Archer can continue to thrive and live healthy lives or mums who are not comfortable or unable to breastfeed can still feed their children. I will try to breastfeed our next baby but I am also not going to let myself be eaten alive by the guilt and shame if it doesn’t go to plan like I did this time around. I know that those precious moments with a newborn are limited and I don’t want to spend them in the darkness that I did this time around.