When I had my daughter I was unsure about many aspects of parenting. Would I cosleep? Would I let her cry it out? Would I have any fucking idea of how to do any of it (spoiler – I didn’t)? But one thing I was sure of, without a shadow of a doubt, was that I would breastfeed.
I knew all the benefits – for health, for bonding, for my wallet. Who wouldn’t be sold on that?! And I was sure I wasn’t ‘blessed’ (*slow look to camera*) with these H cups for nothing.
Turns out breastfeeding wasn’t as easy or as blissful as I was sure it would be.
I swiftly learnt that this is totally normal, but nobody told me that snippet of information until it was too late.
I had a really shit time with breastfeeding, and not nearly the level of support from midwives and health visitors that there should be. A bad latch, intrusive visitors, embarrassment, and a lack of knowledge led to hand expressing for four weeks before eventually giving up in a puddle of tears on the kitchen floor asking my mum to go and buy some formula.
My experience with breastfeeding definitely affected my mental health, which in turn affected my experience with breastfeeding. It was a vicious circle and I know I’m not the only woman who’s PND has been made worse by expectations vs the reality of breastfeeding.
Now I’m nearing my due date I’m starting to think about feeding my baby. My boobs are already swollen and leaking. They’re ready, I’m just not sure I am…
I want to try again, to step up to the nipple shield with more knowledge, understanding, and patience. I want to do what’s best for my baby. I know the first couple of weeks at least I’ll 100% be breastfeeding. But I’ll be honest – I’m fucking terrified.
I’m scared of the pain, of the exhaustion, of the public feeds. I’m scared of the possible failure, of the judgement. I’m already convinced that I won’t be able to do it, so am probably setting myself up to fail.
I so vividly remember the pain of cracked and bleeding nipples. The agony of being swollen and blocked. I so vividly remember the jealousy and resentment I felt towards friends who found it all so easy. The shame I felt when I failed. The judgement I was sure was directed my way – from friends and professionals alike. I so vividly remember how hard I found breastfeeding, and now that I’m so close to trying again those feelings are as strong and as raw as they were then. It honestly makes me feel physically sick.
One difference this time is that I am more aware of the lows of breastfeeding, I don’t expect a beautiful, easy, natural journey that we’re so often promised. I’m more prepared for the pitfalls and I am determined to put less pressure on myself. I know that it won’t be a comfortable experience, so this time around I won’t be convinced I’m somehow broken. I also know that if does all get too much, if I can’t do it, then guess what?! My baby will still be healthy and awesome. More so if it means my mental health remains intact. TI grew up alright, I don’t think the Aptamil left any long term damage. Plus I do really love a gadget and that Perfect Prep machine does look damn cool…
I cannot shake the feeling of dread and fear I have for breastfeeding. I don’t think I will be able to until I know how it goes either way. I think the only thing I can do for now is to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
And stock up on nipple cream.