This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.
After years of trying, our IVF daughter finally joined us. Before having her, I had always expected to breastfeed. I bought nursing bras, tops and a breast pump while pregnant—ready for her arrival. I’d seen some friends struggle, saying it was painful, but I was determined that even if that happened to me, it wouldn’t matter. After all, I’d gone through so much to get pregnant; surely I could handle the pain? I’d take such care with what I ate while pregnant to nurture her growing body; surely I would give her the best start in life?
When it came to it, I hated breastfeeding. Everything about it. There was the pain—she would pull her head back, breaking the latch to my nipple, which, within a week, was a bloody scab. It was as bad as a contraction, but was something I had to do for one hour in every three. No matter how many operations I’d gone through, how many injections I’d done, it turned out that I couldn’t handle that pain. I would lie awake between feeds dreading the next one and the pain I’d have to go through.
However, what I never expected was my emotional reaction. It wasn’t the amazing bonding experience I’d expected. Instead, I felt like a cow being milked. I was needed to produce milk, but it didn’t make me feel at all motherly—more like a machine.
I wasn’t even doing it well. She lost too much weight, she was failing to thrive, and they threatened to take her into hospital and told us we had to top up with formula. I felt like a total failure. Not only did I not enjoy what I was told should be a wonderful natural experience, I wasn’t even taking care of my baby.
After 3 weeks we switched to formula only. At the time I felt guilt and shame. A friend told me my daughter would end up in hospital as a result. Midwives kept telling me to keep trying and there was no reason I couldn’t make it work. I would bottle feed covertly, worried about judgemental looks from breastfeeding mums in public.
With the benefit of hindsight (and fewer hormones!), I realised I shouldn’t have felt like this—I was doing what was right for my family. Once I stopped, my breasts weren’t painful and I could hold my daughter without wincing. My husband could be more involved. I felt a much stronger emotional bond as we looked into each other’s eyes while bottle feeding.
Giving up breastfeeding allowed me to enjoy my time with my baby daughter and bond with her. That was far more important than any benefits breastfeeding could bring and I don’t regret it at all. Four years on, I’m formula feeding my son, feeling confident about the decision, and can see he is doing brilliantly.
My advice—do what is best for you. As long as you love and care for your child, you should never feel like you aren’t a good parent because of your feeding choice.