Here’s the thing, breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
We all know the numerous benefits of breast feeding. Colostrum – the first milk is packed full of nutrients, antibodies and other bioactive molecules. The amount of colostrum produced is around 5 – 10ml which is the perfect amount for the tiny newborn stomach, which is the size of a large marble. Milk production starts between day 3 and day 7 after birth, which is triggered by the birth of the placenta. Breast milk contains essential fats, minerals, nutrients, antibodies, the list of components is huge, thousands of components go into breast milk. Absolutely the best start in life for your baby through to and beyond toddlerhood.
Breastfeeding At What Cost?
But there are so many women who try their absolute hardest and breastfeeding does not come easily. And quite often comes at a price of utter shearing pain of shredded nipples, mastitis, infections. And the societal pressure to keep pushing through. I’ve had far too many clients, friends and family in absolute disarray, begging for help, pushing through extremely painful feed after painful feed. Dreading baby waking up for the next feed. Anxiety and possible depression. Of course we try to find a solution, try to find mum some relief to keep breastfeeding. But it isn’t always possible.
Sometimes having mum express as many feeds as she can is a solution. Sometimes expressing as much as she can, doesn’t cover the amount of feeds baby needs, so formula can replace those feeds, or donor milk. And sometimes mum can’t express at all, either due to the pain involved or she’s one of the many women who do not respond to a pump.
Fed Is Best!
And that is fine, at the end of the day, as long as your baby is fed. That is the most important thing. Tying yourself in knots, spending hours crying and stressing, spending the majority of your time in pain trying to feed a baby, who is obviously picking up on your stress, is no way to live and certainly no way to enjoy your new baby. No one goes into motherhood thinking that they are going to have problems with feeding and just give the kid formula. We all try our hardest, and we all have a very romantic view that motherhood will come easily, breastfeeding will be a breeze, and our baby will sleep all night.
But that isn’t reality. Inverted nipples, flat nipples, tongue tied babies, babies with a shallow latch are a reality. Babies with colic, babies who won’t sleep, babies who only sleep in mum’s arms. Many times, actually a lot of times inverted nipples don’t put a stop to breast feeding, nor do flat nipples. Tongue ties can be corrected, shallow latch can be corrected – but not always, sometimes there isn’t a solution to be found to continue breastfeeding.
Save Your Sanity
The most important thing to remember is that yes, breastfeeding is best. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. And it doesn’t mean all or nothing. You can mix feed, you can express or you can resort to formula or donor breastmilk, if it is going to save your sanity, and your baby is fed.
I know this must sound out there for me, to be condoning formula, but I have never been one to judge or force my beliefs. And as a doula, it isn’t my place to tell anyone what my beliefs are nor tell them what to do. My job is to educate and to support.
I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, I breastfed all of my 10 kids, I encourage and help my clients, friends and family to breastfeed. I help solve problems to keep mums breastfeeding, I know probably a lot more than most, the huge benefits to breastfeeding. But that doesn’t mean I will force the facts or my beliefs on women who are struggling and in pain, and who’s quality of life is diminished because of the stress they are under, trying their hardest to breastfeed. And nor should the rest of our family or friendship groups, or society as a whole. Our beliefs, our thoughts, and yes even the scientific facts should not force women to feel as though they must breastfeed, when dealing with horrific pain and complications. Like everything that is supposed to be natural or normal for people, there are always exceptions, that can’t be helped or solved.
At the end of the day, we all know the benefits of breastfeeding, but we must all agree that a fed baby is the most important thing.