"Post Birth – I would like Emily to be placed on my stomach/chest immediately after delivery and have skin-to-skin contact for as long as possible, and to allow her to find my breast...
Feeding – I would like to breastfeed Emily. I would like her to self-attach but if this does not happen then I would appreciate some help getting her latched on and getting my positioning right."
This is a direct quote from my Birth Plan. My intention was always to breastfeed. I never considered not breastfeeding Emily. To me, if you have a baby, that's the way you feed it - at least for a few months. I knew it wouldn't be easy but I was determined to get at least three months of breastfeeding in before I moved on to formula. More, if it went well.
Emily never self-attached. She never even tried to look for my breast when she was placed on my chest after birth. She laid there gazing at me, and cuddling. Then when the complications set in, she was transferred to her father for skin-to-skin contact while I was seen to.
Afterwards, the midwives were excellent. They gave me so much help getting my positioning and technique right for breastfeeding. I was a natural, they said.
And yet Emily wouldn't feed for longer than a couple of minutes. That first night was horrible: she screamed and screamed and was obviously hungry and yet wouldn't feed. I was convinced that *I* was the problem. So convinced that I chose to stay in hospital for an additional night to be able to attempt a second night with the midwives around for support.
But the second night was the same. Everything's fine, the midwives assured me - I wasn't doing anything wrong. Emily simply was impatient.
Sleep-deprived thoughts surged through my mind - "This would be so much easier if I were bottle-feeding" and yet I dared not suggest it to anyone, I was so scared that I would be being a bad mother if I so much as mentioned it out loud. So I suppressed the thoughts, reminded myself that I had known it wouldn't be easy, and tried to get on with it.
My breasts became engorged - I was producting far more milk than Emily was ingesting. Expressing only helped for a few minutes before more milk would be produced and I could barely move or even hold my daughter for the pain. I started dreading feeding Emily, knowing it would be yet another fight to get her to feed for more than a few minutes. There certainly was no bonding happening during feeding times.
The second home visit from the midwife saw Emily becoming jaundiced because of lack of feeding. Again, thoughts of formula milk flooded my mind but again, I said nothing. I felt so guilty to be thinking that way, knowing all the benefits of breastfeeding for Emily, knowing also the stigma associated with mothers who formula feed their offspring.
On Day 5 of Emily's life, I finally burst. I had a call from the midwife and all I could do was cry. She came right over. And that was when I finally opened up: I wanted to stop trying, I wanted to give Emily formula milk, I wanted nothing to do with breast milk any longer. And when I finally made the decision, it felt like the weight of the world was suddenly lifted.
And the midwife smiled and told me I obviously loved Emily very much, and that she would be fine no matter what method I chose to feed her, so long as she got fed. She said that if I was finding it so difficult, if it was making me that upset, then it was only going to cause further stress. And Emily needed a happy mummy more than she needed to be specifically breastfed. I was amazed... she hadn't judged me.
I ran basic sterilising principles past her, asked a barrage of probably stupid questions (remember, I'd never even considered not breastfeeding Emily!), and she answered everything patiently.
We never looked back. David himself says that I became a different person that day. I became noticeably happier, I began looking forward to feeding Emily - and we were able to bond marvellously as she eyes me up over her bottle, which she loves very much.
My point is this: if you are in a similar situation, take heart. Don't be afraid to ask for advice, there's a good chance you are the only person judging you! If you opt to stop breastfeeding or not do so at all from the start, make sure you have a tightly fitted bra (you may want to wear a crop top over said bra, and make sure you wear it at night also). If you've been expressing, stop altogether. Be prepared for a few days of quite some pain until your body realises that it shouldn't still be producing milk and begins to slow down.
I'll make it clear - I am in no way against breastfeeding. I am completely in awe of mothers who can keep going, selflessly, for months and even sometimes years. The one or two times Emily did feed for longer than two or three minutes, it was a beautiful thing to be able to give her. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work. And it's not always you.
Related & Recommended Reading:
Breastfeeding: Lessons Learned 0 – 5 Months
In Defence of the Boobies