Sometimes, life can be very unfair, and we don’t always get what we want. Last week I was watching the TV with my husband when he switched the channel and on popped everyone’s favourite motormouth Katie Hopkins. Love her or hate her, her opinions are definitely controversial and upset a lot of people. Interestingly she was discussing breastfeeding and as such I told my husband (who sighed knowing full well that he was about to get his ear burnt off about breastfeeding rights, gender inequality and feminism – you know, all his favourite topics) to leave it on so I could watch her make a tit of herself (pun fully intended). Instead, I ended up coming to an understanding of Katie Hopkins that I never had before and I feel sorry for her, truly sorry for her because I’ve been there.
When I was pregnant with Reuben I was like so many first time mamas. I wanted a natural birth in a birthing pool and I wanted to breastfeed. So badly. If you ever read my story with Reuben (one of my first posts on the blog) you will know that I never did breastfeed him. I was one of the few unfortunate ladies would couldn’t feed myself because of bodily trauma. After I had my c-section, I became so ill and I genuinely couldn’t feed Reuben, I had no milk.
At the time I remember having a bit of a cry and then convincing myself I was fine, if anything, it was better this way. There really was nothing more lovely than watching my husband feeding Reuben and the love in his eyes. I ignored the anger I felt when others would just whip up a bottle and say, ‘Ohh my turn!’ and pass him around like a parcel. Bottle feeding was so much easier and, hey, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t ‘my special time’ with Reuben, right? I started telling myself that it was better this way, I could go out and enjoy my life separate to having a baby. That was great, right? I distinctly remember a couple of our friends were getting married about 3 months after I had Reuben, and of course we were invited to the wedding and all of the pre-parties, including the hen and stag doos, which were when Roo was 6 and 7 weeks old. I was adamant that neither myself nor my husband would go, he was adamant he would. It caused a big rift between us at the time and I was furious. He was meant to be helping me. When I looked around for support all I was told was, ‘You should go, you deserve a break… Adam’s so right to have gone out, after all, he needs man time too’ – a phrase I detest, his penis apparently means he requires additional time to be alone now? Ok, got it. I remember pressure from every angle (apart from my mum who knew me well enough to understand that I didn’t want to be separated from my new baby, even for a few hours) and I remember being told over and over ‘Gosh, you could leave him with any of us, after all, we can all feed him’. Each time, it was like a knife to the chest. I was just so… Unimportant.
You have to understand, this might come across as dramatic now, in fact, I’m reading it back and it clearly does, but at the time, I was hormonal and angry that my body couldn’t do what it was meant to. Even as I type in feeling that anger again. Listening to Katie Hopkins on TV, it struck me when she announced, ‘Breastfeeding in public is just another way of saying ‘Look at me, look at me, I’m better than you – I CAN DO IT!’ she is so resentful that she just couldn’t do it. That is a resentment I can not only understand but relate to.
Now I look back, I had such a chip on my shoulder when I would see breastfeeding mums. I would look and I would think, ‘Oh for goodness sake, I’m sooooo pleased I didn’t do that. I bet she’d judge me for feeding my baby formula… Well she can judge allll she likes, there’s nothing wrong with formula’. I’m not even kidding, I was that uptight about it. I couldn’t be more different now, yet at the time, the chip just grew and grew. I remember my mother-in-law sharing a pro-breastfeeding picture on Facebook, you will have seen it, three women in bikinis on the top half and three women feeding openly on the bottom, with the caption ‘If you don’t mind this, but you object to this, your a hypocrite’. I was sat with my husband when it came up on my newsfeed and I just rolled my eyes, ‘Ugh, look at this. Why is your mum sharing that anyway? She feeds Roo with the bottle… I don’t get it. No one cares if you breastfeed, stop shoving it in people’s faces.’
Yes, I actually said that. And, fellow breastfeeding mums, I’m really ashamed of myself for it. At the time, I would have told you that no one was bothered by public breastfeeding, it was all propaganda to shame formula mums. I became so negative – to be pro-breastfeeding was to be anti-formula feeding. If you were a breastfeeder, well, you were judging me weren’t you?!
I look back now and I was so sad that I couldn’t breastfeed, I became so resentful of anyone that could. I realise how incredibly immature and pathetic that is, I do, and I would probably think the author of this was just a spoilt brat if I wasn’t the author myself. Sometimes, when our hopes fall through, it takes time to come to terms with it, and we all handle things differently – I didn’t handle this one well at all. At the end of the day, the only one who was anti-formula was me, but I couldn’t see that because I’d convinced myself that I was delighted to be formula feeding Reuben. The colic wasn’t because of the formula, neither was the constipation, or the hard stools or the fact that he was such a chunky monkey… Nope, it would have been the same if he was breastfed.
Eventually I realised how I was behaving when I fell pregnant with Toby. I went to the midwifery appointment and my midwife asked me how I was planning to feed this baby. I said breastfeeding. Without a second thought, and I don’t know if it was the hormones or whether it was the build up of eleven months of feeling disappointed in myself, but I burst into tears and told her all my hopes and fears surrounding feeding, how I was so heartbroken and disappointed with not being able to feed. Katie Hopkins strikes me as the type of woman who can’t bare to be a failure at anything, but like me, she failed at breastfeeding. Is she still an asshole for the hatred she perpetuates against breastfeeding mothers? Completely, but now I get the why. She has that big ole chip on her shoulder. Judgement towards mothers of all kinds is rife, sadly it’s the society we live in, but if you are a formula feeding mummy, who really wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t or didn’t, and you are feeling those judgemental eyes from another mother, ask yourself, Am I being judged or am I judging myself?
Just came across this post and I just want to thank you so much. This is exactly my situation, an emergency c-section after a long weekend in labour, my recovery was very painful and breastfeeding was incredibly difficult, painful and became stressful for me and my baby. Making the decision to formula feed wasn’t an easy one at all for me and I still feel guilty making a bottle now 10 months later. But this post has helped me see I do hold a chip on my shoulder and constantly worry a breastfeeding mum is judging the bottle in my hand. I very much want to breastfeed when we have another baby and hoping it goes well. Thanks for this post. It’s been incredibly helpful.
I know this is an old post but even 3 years later I think it highlights a lack of support post-birth and just how there is such a divide. I was adamant about breastfeeding and 10 months in, I am glad to say it’s now ‘easy’ for me to just whip one out when required but it didn’t begin like that. Baby couldn’t latch properly and as much as I tried he lost weight too fast and he ended up back in hospital for help. Had I not topped up with formula the worst could have happened. So no, breast is not always best – fed is! I felt like a complete failure and even on the way back to hospital just kept crying and saying sorry – damn those hormones! I still topped up with formula on those days he just wasn’t getting it and realised how hard even that was. We had no perfect prep machine and he was screaming for milk while we had to wait 30 minutes for the boiling water to cool then for it to cool enough for him to drink. Told my GP about all the problems at the 6 week check (we’d finally got the hang of breastfeeding) and he told me if I still have problems to use formula – he was formula fed and turned out just fine. As much as as that advice is true, it wasn’t what I needed to hear after all those struggles and was glad of the support from the midwives and HV.
For those who are pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding, the best advice I had from the health visitor was that it takes 6 weeks for both mum and baby to get to know each other and how it works. It’s not as easy as it looks. I ended up using nipple shields for 4 weeks to help him latch with pressure from the midwives to stop within 10 days. I let my baby lead not the midwives dictate. Formula isn’t some evil substance. You are not a failure if you can’t breastfeed. Yes the breastfeeding rates in the UK should be higher but most women don’t get the support needed to be able to or continue to do so. But you could have all the advice in the world; with those hormones raging it only matters how you feel.
Literally no one gives a fuck
I do – I think this is a honest, personal account of how one woman dealt with not being able to breastfeed. I couldn’t with my First and it hurt.
However, the problem with nice people is they assume nice characteristics in others too – even when there is no evidence of that. You are saying we should feel sorry for the woman who a few days ago told a room full of American racists that they should arm themselves against the coming Muslim problem and fight back. Do I think she gave a shit about not being able to breastfeed, no. Do I care, definitely not.
When racism and a ‘call to arms’ of racists invades our cultures this badly, feeling sorry of those doing the instigating is not helpful.
Let’s also remember this was her comment to a hotel that had asked a breastfeeding woman to leave
“Free to feed protest tomorrow. Expect the mammary militia out in force. Stand firm @ ClaridgesHotel . Their sort shouldn’t be free to breed”
Sat here reading this post and I can’t help but nod at every single word you said. With my first I attempted to feed but she wouldn’t latch on and after 2 days I gave in. The feeling of failure is not a good one and I can relate to the feeling of resenting others. With my 2nd I lasted for 12 weeks but I had to combine under doctors orders as he was a little poorly and needed that top-up. I felt guilty that I couldn’t provide that for him solely. And yet again when I eventually have a 3rd I am adamant that I will be breastfeeding that baby and hopefully for quite a while.
I agree that in actual fact we are judging ourselves and perhaps too harsh but we do have these preconceptions of the type of parent we would like to become and sadly when we don’t match that we punish ourselves.
Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle fed – a loving home is what’s best. And in reality that is more important – love & happiness
I found your post so enlightening, thank you so much for sharing so honestly. I currently have a 5 week old, who during the first week of her life, was tube/bottle fed at NICU. I expressed every two hours whilst I tentatively waited for her to be returned to me. When she was, we weren’t quite getting it. She screamed at me in frustration and I blamed her stint in hospital. At a breastfeeding clinic I was told she had a prosterior tongue tie. We tried shields but I was watching my boobs reduce in size so I solely expressed…I was attached to the breast pump every hour, 24 hours a day. When she was three weeks old I had a massive secondary haemorrhage and nearly died. I was still on the hospital bed trying to breast pump until a midwife told me to “just stop already”. She was so right, I was run ragged and my obsession to breastfeed was actually more detrimental to my realationship with ittle one. I also couldn’t give her the breast milk because of the antibiotics I was put on. I cried for days knowing the inevitable was about to come and I sobbed as I fed her her first formula bottle. We’re at five weeks now, she suffers from terrible constipation and wind which is a constant reminder to me of my failures and certainly racks up my guilt. I too watch bf mums out and about and feel pangs of jealously and yes, resentment. It’s not reasonable and it’s not right I feel like that but I just so wish things were different. Reading your post and the comments from other ladies made me feel a bit better about myself and I thank you so much for that. It’s a very brave and admirable thing to do.
God bless you! My 3.5 month -old boy eats mostly my milk and has awful gas and constipation too. It’s their tiny immature bellies not being quite up to the task of digestion quite yet.
You are an excellent mum for caring so much and for making sure that your baby gets the nutrition she needs.
Be kind to yourself. Not everything can be your fault!
P.s. Please don’t feel guilty, you’re such a wonderful mother and I can see by the photos of your children just how loved they are. xx
I’ve just come across this post and I absolutely love it. (Secretly stalking your blog – it’s my fave!).
I felt really emotional reading this. My son who is now 7, was formula fed. I gave birth to him when I was just 17 years old and not once throughout my pregnancy was breastfeeding even mentioned to me. I somehow, stupidly believed that breastmilk was some sort of inconvenience you get after birth and you had to put your boobs into a bowl of warm water to help with engorgement. I am currently breastfeeding my almost 12 month old daughter and since I started breastfeeding her, I am forever feeling guilty for not even trying to breastfeed my son. It sounds silly, but I feel guilty for giving my daughter the best of what nature intended and not giving my son the chance of that too. No, formula did not kill him, he was very happy as a baby and healthy – but I just wish I tried, or atleast have someone ask me to. I’m still trying to let go of that guilt, and I hope one day it will go away.
I think how you felt was completely natural. If like me, that was how you’d imagined feeding your babies to then not be able to would be almost like grieving for an idea that you had for so long. You’re also trying to process that a traumatic birth tookthat option from you and now it’s adjusting to a new way of feeding.
I tried and after a while my milk dried and Ben’s need for shields was due to him being tube fed for the first week.
I’m so glad you have come to terms with this. My new found attitude is as long as they get fed that’s all that matter. I really wanted to boob feed but maybe his NICU stay made me come to terms a lot quicker as I was just so happy he was healthy. My initial feelings of failing soon went once I saw his weight jump up once he went onto formula!
Thanks lovely x
Can I just day that you don’t sound like you were being dramatic at all. You sound like you had a perfectly normal natural feelings of a new mammy. Big love xXxXx
Thank you Anna, that is a lovely comment xx
I didn’t breast feed my first baby as I didn’t know I was allowed to having had a c section. I was adamant it was going to be different next time and again I went off for my section that I had to have due to developing a tumour after the first section. I fed my beautiful baby girl who was a fabulous feeder, she would latch on wonderfully she knew exactly what to do but my body just didn’t make enough milk. My stupid boobs that had ached the whole of my pregnancy just wouldn’t produce enough milk no matter what I did and I had to admit defeat as the midwives were very concerned when she wasn’t getting past 7 pound 1 and I had to give her a bottle. It was the same after my third c section baby as well. I feel like a failure I can’t give birth and I’m rubbish at breastfeeding. If someone else said that to me I would point out they are wrong and all the wonderful motherly things they do so well. But it’s how I feel about me and I’m just grateful I live in a country where caesareans and formula are available.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to be reading when I came across this post just now, but am so glad that I did. I love how honest you have been, as I’m sure it really wasn’t easy to be so. I was a breastfeeding mum and am hoping I am lucky enough to be able to do the same in a couple of weeks when I have my second one, but I would never judge another mum for her choice (or lack there of) to formula feed. I have never thought of it from the perspective you have shared here, so it is definitely something I will be more aware of from now on. Thanks for opening my eyes up to how other people’s feelings can affect their attitude and behaviours even if they don’t mean them to. X
Thanks Aurelia x
I relate to this so much, i even shed a little tear. Sadly my four month old will be my last baby so i won’t have the opportunity to experience soley breastfeeding my baby. She’s formula fed and unless you’ve been unsuccessful with breastfeeding i think it’s easy to dismiss the topic because at least your baby is being fed albiet by formula.
Basically i think it’s natural to be upset when you can’t care for your baby in the way you have your heart set on, and that’s ok because these feelings will pass 🙂
Thanks lovely xx
Totally relate to this. I was fortunately able to BF eventually but it took a lot of hard work and pain to get there and I felt like a total failure for it not coming easily. Seems so ridiculous now. But if it’s what you want, to not be able to do it is heartbreaking.
It really is tough isn’t it?!
I really, really love your honesty in this post. Due to medication I needed to take three months after my first was born I had to stop breastfeeding. The guilt I felt not to mention the sadness was awful, even though I knew I was doing the right thing for our family as a whole. Second time around I was able to breastfeed until my second self weaned at 8 months. It healed a lot of past wounds that time. Bottle or breast, it really doesn’t matter, but what does matter is doing whats right for us and being able to admit when we’re frustrated or disappointed. Love your blog, lady! x
Oh thank you Claire! What a lovely comment 🙂 xx
Interesting post. I chose to breast feed Ethan as after all it is pointed out that breast is best. However my mum never breast fed me and i am fine lol. I enjoyed the closeness and bond you get from breast feeding however i had a very hungry baby and sadly my body would not produce as much as he needed! I was angry myself for a while that i could not produce as much as he required, especially as the lady next to me was producing too much that she had to express and freeze her milk. After 5 weeks i switched fully to formula, and the most important thing is my baby was happy and healthy! We are not alone in our bodies failing us at times, but we should find ourselves lucky and fortunate enough that we do have formula milk. I say this as if you look back in time there were women who did not have formula as an option and so as a result had to use what they called a ‘wet nurse’. Another words have another woman breast feed their baby! Imagine that? How hard must that have been? They were unable to feed their babies at all and had to rely on another woman, who could do what they could not! Times have thankfully changed and we are as mothers are able to create our own bonds with our children and still feed them ourselves weather it be by bottle or breast! In today’s society we sadly have become very judgemental of others, without giving situations a second thought. So maybe the lesson here is to stop and think before we judge! Not everyone is the same and everyone has limits and different opinions. You may not like someone’s opinion like Katie Hopkins but at least we still have our rights to free speech! The day we don’t is the time to worry xxxx
I do wholeheartedly agree with you on the point of free speech Kerry. Free speech is a wonderful right, and if people like Katie Hopkins want to use the right to make themselves look mean or bitter, then they can do so! Thank you for commenting, your sentiments echo mine totally – a fed baby is the only thing that counts, not the method! H 🙂
You don’t come across as dramatic in the slightest. Just wonderfully honest and brave. I really enjoyed reading your post, thank you xxx
Oh thank you so much Anna, what a lovely sweet comment to leave! You have brightened my day 🙂 x
Prior to having my first child I was that person who frowned upon those who ‘chose’ to bottle feed. It wasn’t until i went through the trauma of trying to breastfeed to tongue tied baby that i realised most people don’t really make a choice, it’s made for them. I put myself under immense pressure to continue despite being exhausted and in agony for fear of ‘failing’ my baby by giving in to bottle feeding. I took medications to improve milk supply and was using a breast pump but i was still not making enough milk so was having to top up with formula. I finally stopped breast feeding when she was 5 months old and it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
It made me even more determined with the second child to get it right second time around. With another undiagnosed posterior tongue tie it was like deja-vu. Unfortunately, although we had no idea at the time, baby no.2 was dairy intolerant. He refused all forms of feeding other than breast so i had no choice but to breastfeed. I felt embarrassed going to baby groups and breastfeeding in front of mums that were bottle feeding because i didn’t want them to feel as though i was looking down on them for bottle feeding.
bottle or breast, surely a healthy, well fed baby is what counts?
I absolutely agree Eve, a fed baby is what counts, not the way its done. I wish, looking back, I hadn’t applied that pressure to myself, but I guess we live and learn. H 🙂
Brilliant post! I only fed Sienna for 2 weeks and then I had to stop due to my nipples actually bleeding and were so painful, this made me not want to feed her and my milk started drying up so she was losing weight. I felt angry that I couldn’t do it as well and felt like my body was useless and I couldn’t feed my daughter, which is the only one ‘natural’ thing that is meant to happen after giving birth. I too felt like when I saw someone breast-feeding they were ‘proving a point’ or were ‘the perfect mother’. Or if other mums saw me using a bottle, I felt they instantly judged me and thought I hadn’t even bothered to breastfeed and took the ‘easy options’. I think it was more in my head than anyone else’s but it does make you think that way! x
It’s so distressing isn’t it? I really do think that we often create the ‘judgement’ in our heads more than we are actually being judged. Obviously, Mummy judgement is a genuine thing, but it doesn’t mean it happens every time. H x
Wow this is such an amazing post and so honest. I totally feel for you not being able to feed that must have torn you apart as you explained. i love that you have recognised your feelings that’s a beautiful thing in life in general with anything. I have been there. I breastfeed both my two I was one of the lucky ones but it didn’t come without its struggles. I put my hands up to any mum however they feed their baby it is the love that is most important how you love your baby and how you feel about feeding your baby is most important I have done a few posts on breastfeeding too because I feel some mums think because I post breastfeeding pictures and because I breastfed I feel I am better but that’s not the case at all I am just living my authentic life and trying my best like we all are. You should be proud of this post it is really powerful and you come across lovely not like a ‘spoilt brat’ at all. But a lovely caring mother who wants the beat for her child xx
Thank you Tanita – I really appreciate your comments, I definitely do want the best for my children, as do most of us. H x
Thank you Liz 🙂 x
I really enjoyed reading this it has given me more perspective. I really struggled to breastfeed my first child (Jacob) and was kept in hospital 3days because of it and just in that short time my conference was knocked and I felt so upset with myself thankfully we had a very close friend learning to become a midwife and she visited me on the third day and helped me out, I truely believe if she hadn’t I would never have breastfeed. I breastfed for 8mths and I’m very proud of that fact but not once did I think any less of those around me who couldnt I was to busy trying not to show more then I needed to. After the first 3mths I started using bottles and pumped milk so I coukd go out now and then or just have a night off, Jacob was very demanding wanting to be fed every 2hrs.
With my second it was very different it was like she already new what she was doing, maybe it’s because I was a little less stressed about it or maybe it’s because I already new what to do but with Emily but there was no effort it just happened. She was perfect she would have a big feed at 11 and not stir again a till 6 then go back off to sleep which was nice but pointless cause Jacob wakes that time anyway. I personally think there are so many things that contribute to wether or not we breastfeed, how we’re feeling how the baby feels I genuinely don’t think we get a choice but we should all be supportive to one another no matter what happens so long as the babies getting fed it shouldn’t matter how it’s done.
Thank you for sharing Lucy – Edith is super demanding too. I think it’s wonderful that you had such a supportive and helpful friend, what a blessing she was for you. I couldn’t agree more that we need to be supportive of each other and not allow differences to come between one mother holding the metaphorical hand of another. H x