How breastfeeding went tits up.

Breast feeding…what emotions or words spring to mind?
Love, care, nurturing?
Pain, discomfort, dislike?
Regret, guilt, inadequate?

I thankyou, Mia Scotland, for naming  something so significant in the video post I saw this evening on Facebook – “breastfeeding trauma”.

I really struggled with my first born child to breast feed and it came as a huge shock. I’d bought the bras, the clothes, the breast pads, all I needed was the baby and away we’d go….ready to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes as I provided her with the most natural nourishment a mother could give. Sadly, it was not to be.

I had a great pregnancy, wonderful birth and was able to go home that day. I felt as fit as a fiddle. However, I asked to stay in a night just to make sure breast feeding was going well and established. I reflect now and wish I had never asked for this.  I felt labelled as the “mother struggling with breastfeeding” on the ward. 3 days I stayed in even though I wanted to go home.  Women who had caesarean’s were going home quicker than me.  I really felt that my high of giving birth had come crashing down with the reality of breast feeding.

I remember lots of grabbing, pulling, sitting around practically with my boobs out most of the time while staff “helped” me and commented on them which started to leave me feeling inadequate. My little lady was tongue tied & I apparently had ill-equipped boobs. In my mind, we were not compatible, my body was inadequate.

I suggested nipple shields…no, not allowed apparently. I was finally “allowed” home with an industrial milking machine on the promise I’d express and keep “trying” with the breast feeding. I battled it out for the next few weeks (with help from professionals), and even when her tongue was snipped I was still so anxious and felt inadequate. Yes, it hurt a bit as I was expecting but my self confidence, esteem and expectations of motherhood hurt even more.

I remember a midwife who visited me at home helped me to latch her on well one morning. I did not move from that position for the next 2 hours, scared to lose it. I expressed mainly, trying occasionally to feed again but every time I brought her close, I would tense, feel upset, anticipate myself failing again. And I’d give in, back on the bottle.

As a professional who works very closely with Attachment Theory (not boob attachment, just in case you are wondering) I was so preoccupied with making sure my emotions were at their best for my baby. I did not want my baby to feel and absorb my stress, upset and anxiety. So after a few weeks, I made the decision to stop trying and stick solely with expressing and the bottle. And, do you know what? I was relieved, very much so…but totally riddled with guilt & felt so sad about it.

I’d say it took me about 2 years before that guilt and sadness started to ease. I would find myself triggered when seeing friends or family breast feed, even strangers. I would jump in and offer people explanations as to why my baby was on a bottle, trying to justify my actions and offer an apology – when it was never even asked of me. I’d question if I quit too easily, why I did not speak out in hospital when I felt I was being made to feel inadequate? I should have persevered with it, been stronger than I was, surely?

3 years later and then comes baby number 2; tongue tied. And guess what? I have the same boobs, no surprise (ok, so a little smaller after my first born child!). This time an emergency c-section, just to add to the breast feeding curved balls. So you’d think it would be the same disastrous story?

THANKFULLY, a whole different story…
Thank god, I’d become a much stronger being since the birth of my first child. More confident to put my foot down and speak out about how I was made to feel and how it shattered my confidence. I told staff about my experience and explained I wanted to be left to it; I’d ask for help if I needed it. So when my second latched on straight after birth, it just worked. And that’s how it has been ever since; very little discomfort, a relaxed baby, a relaxed mum, plenty of milk, plenty of boob too!

A midwife actually came to see me during her night shift while I was on the ward and apologised for how the staff had made me feel over 3 years earlier regarding breastfeeding with my first born. That meant a lot to me. It showed me that she, as a specialised professional, understood the impact that the words and actions of others had on me the first time around. It showed empathy and care.

Back to “breastfeeding trauma” – I can totally see how it exists. After being so preoccupied and consumed with strong emotions attached to breastfeeding, I appreciate why this needs to be recognised and how the Rewind Technique (as explained by Mia Scotland and Mark Harris in the world of birthing) could benefit many women in relation to breast feeding.

It’s one of my short term career goals to train in the Rewind Technique as it fits well with the trauma work and training I have completed in my previous professional role. Hopefully, I can help women who struggle similarly with the traumatic emotions attached to breast feeding, as well as those who have experienced traumatic births.

This blog has been something I have been meaning to write about and get off my chest (no pun intended) for a while…feels very cathartic too x

#birthingforblokes   #mamlearning   #miascotland