I came across the picture of model, Nicole Trunfio, breastfeeding her son Zion Rain Clark on the cover of Elle magazine, Australia, last week.
I marvelled at how easily she was able to breastfeed standing up, looking glamorous and gorgeous and making it look so easy. Vertical breastfeeding must surely be a super-power.
The next image that flicked into my mind was the polar opposite. Cut to, my uncomfortable attempt to breastfeed my first child that made me look like a contortionist.
My daughter was a couple of weeks premature and necessitated an emergency caesarian. Being plucked suddenly from the comfort of her mother’s womb, didn’t seem to ingratiate her into the breastfeeding process. Over the next couple of days she wouldn’t latch on. I tried all kinds of positions, but it just didn’t work. This was a bit of a shock as I am pretty well endowed in the breast department so it seemed ironic that all I could squeeze out was a pathetic offering that couldn’t even fit on a teaspoon.
I live in Brighton and the ethos is very much that breast is best, and whilst this is very true and well-meaning it didn’t half make me feel inadequate when I couldn’t achieve this seemingly simple act. Still determined to be a good mother I used a breast pump to provide for my daughter and all I can say is there was a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears involved. I felt like a cow, sitting up in my bedroom 24 hours a day continually pumping and feeding in one giant blurry loop.
I found it difficult to go out for too long as I was tied to the call of the pump. It’s not as if you can just casually and noisily, pump away at the local baby music group, breast hanging out and milk dripping out into a bottle, whilst singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle.’
I kept the pumping up for 3 weeks until my partner begged me to stop beating myself up. Feeding her some formula would not mean that our baby would suffer in any way but it did feel like the end of the world to me at this point. I fed her some formula and what a relief I felt not to be tied to the pump but I was left with a niggling sense of failure all the same.
Two years later when I gave birth to my son I was even more determined that it would be successful this time. Thankfully breastfeeding worked (no don’t be silly, not standing up!) but he fed and fed and fed, almost all day and night and nothing seemed to satisfy him. Initially, I thought, what a hungry baby I have, but then the hungry baby stepped up a gear and turned into an insatiable milk vampire. After 6 weeks the midwives noticed that he was tongue-tied. My poor son had been trying to feed for 6 weeks and wasn’t ever able to get enough.
The hospital made a little snip under his tongue and he was no longer tongue-tied but from that moment on he stopped breastfeeding. I had given him a few bottles of formula over the 6 weeks and the clever chap just worked out it was so much easier to glug a bottle. So that was that.
Back then I felt like the worst mother in the world because I couldn’t breastfeed but now I know that there are other issues to consider like mental happiness. Babies and children will pick up on how you feel so if you feel happier they will feel happier too.
I just did the best I could and that’s all you can do as a mum. So, my advice is, please don’t give yourself a hard time if breast-feeding continues to thwart you, just do what works for you and spend all that beating-yourself-up time having fun with your baby instead.