For all intents and purposes, I have had success when it comes to breastfeeding.
I am the first to admit that I have been incredibly lucky. Physically I have had fairly smooth sailing, apart from one bout of mastitis when my little one was 3 weeks old, and one biting incident when Abbie was teething at about 8 months old. Otherwise, I guess you could say that I've had it fairly easy. The thing is though.... It's not always as easy as it would appear. You see, my struggles didn't lie in physical side of breastfeeding, but the mental. I'm not sure that I would have believed anyone had they even told me how difficult it can be.
The first few days, even weeks were a bit of a blur. I'm pretty sure all new mothers run on pure adrenaline, I'm not sure how any of us actually survive, or what other explanation there could be. We left the hospital a mere day and a half after Abbie was born, and it seemed we were on cloud nine. Breastfeeding did come fairly naturally. Not to say that there wasn't a hell of a lot to learn, or that I didn't have 50 million questions for every healthcare professional that happened to come my way, but it was going well.
As the weeks and months wore on, I began to feel the mental pressure that can come with breastfeeding. Especially if you have a baby that doesn't sleep for long stretches. To say it's exhausting, is actually an understatement. I never once took my ability to breastfeed for granted, but I began longing for an out. I almost wanted to have a reason to stop because I was starting to find the pressure to be completely draining, to say the least. What I didn't realise at the time, and what I can see clearly now, is that I was starting to develop PND around this time.
By the time Abbie reached about 8 months, I think I had finally cracked. I had been bitten so badly that I could see flesh, and I lost my marbles. I sat on the floor and sobbed, I couldn't imagine doing one more feed. I ordered Nath to go and by some formula, because I was done, I simply couldn't do it anymore. I needed a break, and thought that maybe one less pressure would help the feelings I was having. Before Nath had even reached the door though, I told him to stop. What would people say? I'm failing. I have the ability to breastfeed, and I'm choosing not to. I couldn't stand the thought of being judged, being judged for one more thing. So I fought through the pain, I cried at every feed, to my own detriment, for fear of judgement.
The saying, 'Tomorrow is a new day' rings true here. The days following, I began to gain some clarity. I recognised my need for help, and I set out to find some. I managed to get my hands on some formula, and gave it a whirl. After all, I didn't even know if Abbie would take a bottle, so what's the harm in trying? Low and behold, the little gremlin drank the whole thing. She didn't even bat an eyelid. I was amazed, and excited to say the least. Suddenly I felt a whole weight lift off my shoulders, yet simultaneously feeling so much guilt. The guilt parade rolled in every, single, time... without fail.
However, that ability for Abbie to take a bottle of formula opened up so many doors for me. It allowed me to be able to head out with my girlfriends, or a walk on my own, to head to the supermarket alone, while Nath stayed at home with the baby. It allowed me to lessen the pressure I had placed on myself, and allowed us to continue our breastfeeding journey for another few months. In the end, Abbie self weaned when she was 15 months, I think around the time my milk changed due to being pregnant again with my second.
By the time Eliana came around, exhaustion was at a whole new level, but I had already been through so much, and changed so much myself that I had a whole different outlook. I knew that I simply couldn't put that much pressure on myself again. It wasn't just me and a baby anymore, I had a toddler to think about this time too. I realised that it wasn't just my fear of judgement from others, it was fear of judgement from myself that gave me just as much anxiety. That judgement stopped me from being open to other avenues for us when Abbie was little, but the second time around, I think I'd managed to rid myself of most of that fear. Mental exhaustion aside, I found my mindset was different.. Not to say that the exhaustion didn't make life incredibly hard, and put immense pressure on me and my body, but I was so much more open to going with whatever worked. By some miracle, we made it to 12 months before I had to admit that I'd had enough. Sure, I could have kept going, but I knew deep down that I needed to call it a day.
I think what I was missing during my first year of motherhood was that, sometimes what's best for the baby, is what's best for the mumma. The airplane oxygen mask analogy comes to mind. Where, it's so important to look after yourself first, put your own oxygen mask on, and then help those around you. If you lose consciousness, your ability to help others becomes non-existent. The same goes for motherhood. This is a lesson that I've learned over time. Ultimately we all want what's best for our baby, and sometimes, that's as simple as putting mumma first for a change.
Behind the blog...
‘The Mummysomniac’ is a lifestyle, motherhood and most recently, pregnancy blog, founded in 2015 by Kirsty McKenzie. She’s a mum of three, blogging about the highs and lows of motherhood, with a straight forward and honest approach, as well as a little bit of humour. Kirsty is passionate about sharing the realities of #MumLife, not the cookie cutter, high gloss version