I have had my morning rant today on British Mummy Bloggers where CraftyCreative has started a conversation about breastfeeding in light of a Norwegian study which debunks the claims that breast is indisputably best for babies.
What a lot of links for a Monday morning.
Now I have a confession to make, and one that I kept for my own blog. Breastfeeding turns my stomach. It always has and it always will. Now I am not saying this means no one should be allowed to do it, this is a personal phobia and has no bearing on how other mums choose to feed their babies.
I remember as a child feeling physically sick when my mother told me she had breastfed me. Just the idea of suckling had my stomach turning in an ominous way. Even as I type the words now I feel a bit queasy. My mum always told me that when I had my own babies I would feel different. My maternal instinct would kick in and suckling my young would come naturally.
Errr...no. Perhaps it might have worked better if son number one had been a natural breastfeeder, but he took one look at my poor engorged boob and turned his head away in disgust. Like mother like son it appeared.
I struggled on, brainwashed by the breast is best message. I latched him on to bleeding nipples, I clenched my teeth in agony as he listlessly sucked and dropped off time and again. I refused to let a sip of the poisonous formula pass his precious lips and weight fell off him. He screamed with hunger for most of the time and his skin turned an alarming shade of yellow as his dehydrated body couldn't wash the jaundice out of his system.
What made it worse was that I had had gestational diabetes while pregnant (and me a breastfed baby!) and so he had to be forced to feed frequently from the moment he was born to regulate his blood sugar. One particularly humiliating memory is of an Irish midwife, with very poor personal hygiene, grabbing my sore breasts and literally milking them into my screaming baby's mouth. Frowning and complaining all the time that I was too useless to get my own baby to feed.
This for a woman who was so freakishly afraid of being seen in the nude that I had always covered up, even when stepping from shower to bathmat if anyone were present. The pain and shame will be forever etched into my memories of those horrific post-natal days with my first newborn.
I had thought that as my mother had claimed, breastfeeding would come naturally. That I would pop a beatific baby onto my boob and hey presto he would suckle away, and then loll off in a drunken haze to sleep, satiated on his mother's milk. But far from this heavenly scenario, breastfeeding for me was like the inner circle of hell.
Every time my baby cried I would cringe away from him. I grew to almost hate him with his constant need for feeding. I despised everything about breastfeeding, from the blue veins that marbled my enormous breasts, the constant leakage, the aching pain of let down, the lumpy soreness when we failed to empty my breasts, the sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, the ugly bras stuffed with breastpads that constantly smelled like rancid cheese.
Ugh, just the memory of it makes me so glad I will never have to do it again.
But, and this is a big but, I know it's not the same for everyone. I started off with a disadvantage in the shape of my strange phobia and perhaps if I had begun with son number two who was happy to take food from any medium, things might have gone more smoothly.
I don't judge any woman for breastfeeding - yes it still turns my stomach, but that's my problem - and I can see the lovely, cosy relationship breastfeeding engenders. In fact sometimes I have envied the closeness that breastfeeding mothers have with their babies. My sons have generally been happy to go to anyone, which does make my life easy, but also sometimes made me feel less special to them than those babies who could only be comforted by mummy.
As I have said in a previous post I am a firm believer in each to her own when it comes to mummy tactics. However, I do feel that it's crucial that new mums aren't made to feel guilty, or failures, if they decide that breastfeeding isn't for them or their child. There is so much more to being a mother than how you choose to feed your child, that it seems a shame to feel as if you have let your baby down just because you can't breastfeed for whatever reason.
If we could just respect each other's choices the experience of becoming a mother would be so much less fraught. After all when you are dealing with sleepless nights, the shock of becoming a parent, the fear of keeping your baby safe from harm, the last thing you need shaken on top of that is the sour opprobrium of others mothers as they mutter darkly about your choices.