When I Wrote to the Breastfeeding Support Group; and When They Replied.
As promised below is the email correspondence between myself and 'the breastfeeding support group'. This is a very personal snapshot into my mindset at a very vulnerable time. The only changes I have made is to remove the identity of the group.
Dear Breastfeeding Support Group,
Thank you for welcoming me into your home. I was recommended your group by many different people.
I had a lot of difficulties postnatally with breastfeeding my first child, who is now 15 months old. These predominantly were:
1. Breast engorgement
2. Milk over production
3. Pain throughout feeding.
4. Poor bonding with my baby due to feeding difficulties.
I had many other problems that stemmed from the above. After being in hospital three times in the first two weeks after the delivery of my son, I made the very difficult decision to stop breastfeeding.
This was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Whilst I know that for my own sanity and the relationship with both my baby and my husband it was the only choice I could make, I still find my apparent failure very difficult to come to terms with.
I am currently 34 weeks pregnant. I am very keen to try feeding again but as I have been lactating since 22 weeks, I anticipate similar problems. I have tried to get as much support prior to the birth as possible and thus I came to you for help, both physically and emotionally.
You were very welcoming and did listen to what I was trying to tell you. However, when we went into the living room I began to find the meeting not only unhelpful but I felt judged.
The cards that were passed around and the conversations thereafter was most unhelpful. Every single person in that room, and I assume that attends your groups, knows the benefits of breastfeeding and why "breast is best".
I was the only person in the room who had not managed to feed my baby. I left feeling that my son was going to grow up with poor oral hygiene, low IQ, constantly poorly and with a husband who is unsatisfied.
The following days after the meeting I felt very low again and have struggled to talk about it. I wanted to contact you because I think it is very difficult for people who don't have such difficulties to understand how people like me feel. It is very intimidating being in a room with other mums, all of whom have breastfed their babies successfully.
I came to you for help and support. The experience has highlighted to me that I potentially have a rocky road ahead. Perhaps this was a good wake up call for me.
Thank you for your time.
..... And the Reply
Thank you for your thoughtful email. I am very sorry that you felt this way at the meeting. As I mentioned, I have been leading the meeting for a long time, so you are not the first person to have felt this way. Over the years, we have had mothers who were unable to breastfeed or had a caesarean when they had really hoped for a home/natural birth. There have been clashes of personality and not everyone is sensitive to the differing views/experiences of others.
I missed the discussion as I was helping with latching in the other rooms. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently or changed the cards if I had been there. I did see you leave and appear upset and I didn’t know why.
As leaders, we are meant to let the discussion flow but also to mediate if we feel that the discussion goes off topic/becomes unhelpful etc. Sometimes it is too late once a point has been made though. I know that pregnancy and being a new mum is an emotional time with broken sleep/anxiety. I know as a new mum I often felt judged and criticized by family and friends and it is not helpful. Parenting issues elicit very strong emotions not only on breast/bottle but also home/hospital birth, cloth/disposable nappies , returning to work etc. By beginning a group discussion, it can be risky, as these issues can run very deep. However, often, they raise helpful advice and others can see that they are not alone if they are experiencing difficulties.
I am sorry I did not have more time to spend with you. Some meetings are quite quiet but that one was busier than normal.
I am happy to have you come back and see me one on one and we could chat privately. I will also pass on your comments to the group leader of the discussion.
All the best,
If you have any thoughts, or similar experiences, I would love to hear from you. If you would like to share your own story then please get in touch via Your Voice.