Boob or Bust: Breastfeeding Grief
My first post and I’m ripping the plaster off, starting at the end of my breastfeeding journey.
I have a love-hate relationship with milk. It nourished my minis but boy, did it put us through the wringer. Making the ‘choice’ to breastfeed is all it takes, right? But what about when your body short changes you? My experience of breastfeeding feels a million miles from the natural, and dare I say it 'best for my baby', dream I sold myself.
Between my two we battled latch, reflux and supply issues with varying degrees of success. With number two undersupply hit me where it hurt. We combination fed from four months and I stopped breastfeeding when he was seven months; after a lonely battle and long before I was ready.
I thought I was crying out for help. Despite telling anyone that would listen I was struggling, I failed to find the right support. Everyone said it was ok to stop, I had ‘done more than most.’ But it wasn’t okay. I wasn’t ready to stop breastfeeding even though every feed was a fight; my milk hating mini verses my own hunger to breastfeed. We were feeding on demand but looking back I wasn’t responding to my baby’s cues.
Mr Kate ended the battle with a single word ‘unhinged’. He was right I had run out of avenues and the capacity to explore them. I needed to stop waging this war and get back on board with my family. What I didn’t expect was accepting defeat would be harder to face than continuing the battle.
‘Time is a great healer’ and ‘head down and soldier on’ were my mantras. But as my mini passed each milestone the grief became more pronounced. I withdrew, avoided people, particularly breastfeeding friends and the reminder of what we had lost. I hated my body, felt it should be punished and my own relationship with food suffered. I was as tired as the clichés.
Talking to a lactation consultant was my turning point. She helped me understand I was grieving the loss of our breastfeeding relationship and made me realise I had the ability to soothe and bond with my boy in other ways.
As my babes move on from milk, I appreciate that nurture and nutrition are not synonymous. There is such an emphasis placed on the early years. But does is matter how your mini gets milk in the first year of life if you are going to feed them junk in the foreseeable future? Don’t get me wrong my toddler is partial to a ‘treat’. Fish fingers were on the menu tonight and there was the time that my minis lunched on biscuits. But the majority of the time my children eat home cooked meals. My toddler knows her veggies and not just thanks to Miffy. I hope that our ‘foodie’ family will brush off on my babes. Infant nutrition is undeniably important but so is fuelling them beyond the early years. As my minis mature I’m realising that being a mama takes more than just milk.
So I tell myself one boob or an udder? Bothered, feeding with heart is the most important part. I’m grateful for the time we could breastfeed and have made my peace with the bottle. I remind myself that my overall abilities as a mama to respond and engage with my minis are far superior when I'm happy and healthy. For anyone struggling with breastfeeding failure you need to hear this: Boobs are not the be all and end all. Feeling the failure is testament to how much you care - don’t let the boob overshadow your babe.
If you are Fed Up after ceasing breastfeeding, follow the link for some practical action.