Breast feeding guilt


I have a confession. I failed at breast feeding. I always thought I’d got the right equipment so to speak and with a background in healthcare as both a nurse and a midwife; I knew the benefits of breast feeding so for me it was a no-brainer to breast feed.

When we had our son back in 2003 and armed with what I thought was the right equipment and a Degree in Midwifery, I was confident that I could do the job. I was given a sterilizer by a friend who no longer needed it but certainly didn’t bother with bottles as why would I need them?

Our son was a little slow to start feeding, probably due to the long labour but we got going and I left hospital (planned home delivery that didn’t happen but strangely enough I don’t feel bad in the slightest about that one) full of optimism. By day 3, his first weigh day, he’d lost a bit of weight but was fine. By day 7, he’d gone from 8lb 1oz at delivery to 6lb 13oz.  A weight loss that your average woman at Weight Watchers would be happy with.

As a mother, all I could see was that I’d failed my son. I’d literally starved him and he’d gone from chunky monkey to a scrappy little thing. I had been feeding him regularly but he just wasn’t getting enough. We went out to buy bottles and formula and I started that wonderful routine of feeding, expressing, topping up with a cup of formula because I wasn’t producing enough when expressing.

I did that for 4 days. On day 4, he decided he wasn’t going to do the cup feeding thing anymore and just spat it out.

I cried. I made a bottle and gave it to him and cried some more. I’d failed as a mother. I couldn’t even feed my baby.

He ate. He put on weight. He grew. I switched to pure bottle feeding as I felt that I’d failed at the breast feeding malarkey.

Yes, I had breast feeding guilt big time!  I felt so guilty. Why? I honestly don’t know. There was no family pressure to breast feed. The health professionals were just keen for him to gain weight and once he did, then that was absolutely fine.

It comes down to me and my ability as a mother. I wasn’t able to provide the one thing that we should be able to provide for our children.

It’s now 13 years down the line. My son is taller than me, doing very well at school – particularly in maths and he doesn’t stop eating. He has a particularly sophisticated taste loving fish in all forms (I blame his Aunty who fed him scallops in garlic and Gruyère when he was about 18 months old) and when I offered to treat him to lunch after he’d taken the 11+ expecting him to choose a burger, he rather enthusiastically declared that he wanted to go for sushi instead.  He loves cooking and I know that when he leaves home, he’ll be fine in the kitchen.

A similar thing happened with my daughter although I did mixed feeding for about 3 months until I decided that as she was taking a full bottle following me feeding her, she probably wasn’t getting much so I stopped.

I have two healthy happy children who enjoy a variety of food, giving everything a try even if they then don’t like it.  I know there’s more to being a mother than getting everything perfect and I make mistakes like everyone else but on the whole, I’m not bad.

There’s plenty of research to suggest that breast feeding is best for your baby and I certainly won’t argue with that but the point of this very personal blog is to share the fact that if you don’t breast feed, for whatever reason, then that’s fine too. We live in a world where there are good alternatives and being a good mum is about so many things, not just getting one thing right.

I truly believe that all women should have support to breast feed if they want to but the important thing is that you recognise that feeding your baby is what matters. Babies need 3 things; food, warmth and love. As long as you feed your baby it’s fine. I still feel an occasional tinge of breast feeding guilt 13 years down the line because I ‘failed’ at breast feeding and no one puts that guilt on me, just me.  It’s perfectly manageable and I don’t dwell on it.  I know I did the best for my babies and will continue to do my best although I am human and make mistakes like everyone else.  The important thing is that I can see the bigger picture.

If you are struggling with a sense of guilt around any aspect of being a mother, there are a number of ways that I can help. Why not drop me a line today at Catherine@hopebirthandbeyond.co.uk and find out how I can help.

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