This week is World Breastfeeding Week. I believe breastfeeding is something that needs to be talked about. I’m writing this post while breastfeeding. It’s often my best chance. I’m using my left hand to write, which results in awkward typos such as ‘beastfeeding’. To be honest it does feel like beastfeeding sometimes, when she’s hungry and goes for my jugular instead of my jugs.
No-one should be belittled for the way they feed their child. This still happens often. For every story that hits the media and instigates a feed-in there are so many women who stay quiet about their experience. Some feel shunted out of public life or pressured to stop breastfeeding altogether.
Breastfeeding my second child has been a relatively easy experience so far. In this case, that means I only had the normal quota of clusterfeeds, blisters, painful contractions and lumps to deal with in the first month or so.
Breastfeeding my first child was very different: I don’t know if I could do it again. I had bad supply problems when E was a baby. She did not feed well. By her fourth day she had lost 14% of her body weight and was exhausted, so I was instructed to pump 30ml of milk to give her by bottle after each full breastfeed. If I couldn’t pump enough milk (which was usually the case) I was to supplement with formula. We needed to use a syringe at times to dribble the milk into her mouth. My husband and I spent 12 hours of the day each just feeding her over the following weeks. E had sleep problems on top of this. I was getting between four and six hours of very broken sleep in a day. It affected us all both physically and emotionally. Eventually E began to outright refuse the bottle so we gave up the supplementary feeding although her weight was still a concern. It could have gone the other way – she could have rejected the breast. We started E on solids early, but I kept breastfeeding her until she was two.
Breastfeeding problems are not uncommon. My point is this: don’t judge someone for feeding their baby with formula. You don’t know what they may have been through. And don’t judge someone for breastfeeding. You don’t know how hard-won it might have been. Just let the baby eat.