The *not/didn’t* breastfeed guilt!

Recently this blog has had alot of breastfeeding posts. That’s because I was successful feeding number2. But with my first son it wasn’t the case.

Turn the clock back 6 years. I was 16 and determined I would breastfeed. To the point I knew zilch about formula, had no bottles or sterilisers… And then he arrived. In a dramatic, 24 hour induced labour, failed ventouse, emergency csection with complications type arrival. Then in HDU I clotted seriously. Had my heart rate go sky high and required a blood transfusion of 6 pints. We went through the wars. I was unconscious and unable to feed so my mum cup fed him as she knew I wanted to breastfeed and a breastfeeding counsellor she knew about latch. Then he went off to scbu the next day for further complications. I visited him that night and painfully fed him. I couldn’t sit up straight without my whole body hurting. He had a good feed. The next day I expressed for him. It hurt. I had hard painful boobs. However despite me wanting to breastfeed I quickly fell into a depression as a result of the birth and being separated from my son and I couldn’t carrying on fighting. I gave into formula.

That decision haunted me for 5 years.

Every time the ‘breast is best’ message was mentioned in the media I would feel like a total failure. I knew in my heart formula had done him no damage and he had thrived on it. But still I’d failed. During that time though my understanding of his birth wasn’t great as I didn’t remember much.

In 2010 when I was pregnant with DS2 I went to a birth reflections midwife. We went through everything I’d been through. Everything I’d forgotten. We talked about my guilt. She made me see I’d done everything I could and she was amazed I’d tried despite the birth. After that I made peace with the fact I hadn’t managed to. And it fuelled my determination that I would try again. And the second time I’ve been successful. 18 months and counting.

Days like today when a new campaign is launched to tackle the dangers of 3rd world babies being formula fed when they don’t have clean water shouldn’t fuel negativity of the breastfeeding guilt. We can’t change the past. But we can accept our past and learn from it.


Above: 2006




3 thoughts on “The *not/didn’t* breastfeed guilt!

  1. I couldn’t breastfeed and my trying stubbornly for five days resulted in R failing to thrive and being submitted to scbu. even then I.kept trying until I was finally told I.had no milk and she would do amazingly on formula. I beat myself up with guilt for over five years before I finally forgave myself and I have no doubt the guilt made my pnd much worse than it otherwise would have been. well done for highlighting the other side, it’s so hard.

  2. SUCH a difficult birth, Hayley! You made such an effort to breastfeed the first time and your should be proud of that and of the milk your first did get and of moving on to do whatever you had to do, including the Birth Reflections counseling. Fantastic that you’ve been able to continue this time!

    I think it’s a real pity that people hear the message about breastfeeding’s benefits and focus on their guilt instead of wishing the best for other women and babies whether in the UK or other countries. Even if things don’t work out for us, do we have to be so inward looking that we don’t hope others get the protection and support they need?

  3. All the breastfeeding propaganda you get exposed to as a new mother can be really upsetting when you’re a willing breastfeeder but baby isn’t. My son was born at 29 weeks and wouldn’t have a suck reflex until he’d have been 34 wks gestation. I expressed until he would have been term but the reality was, despite my enthusiasm he wouldn’t play ball and I couldn’t keep up with the effort required to express, bottle feed and sterilise expressing kit on top of the bottles. I would have liked the convenience of breastfeeding when out of the house but there would have been downsides too.

    After such a difficult birth, you had every barrier in front of you and hospitals don’t always make it very easy for new mums. Even though there’s supposed an agenda to encourage breastfeeding, there is a lack of support for mums in High Dependency Unit after problematic births. I had to fight for access to a pump and was only allowed to use one once every 24 hours and not for the first 2 days – more because it was inconvenient to them rather than me not being well enough. It flies in the face of what’s medically best for the baby.

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