If there’s one thing I hate about motherhood, it’s the guilt you feel when you don’t conform with the other mum’s in your playgroups. Another thing I hate is the term ‘breast is best’. Do you know what that does to a 20-something young girl, first time mum and a woman who can’t give her baby that? No, I bet you don’t even realise the pain she feels. The heartache she endures. You don’t notice the tears that roll down her face or the hatred she feels for herself knowing she can’t do that one simple task. Instead you carelessly throw around terms that make other mum’s ashamed of themselves, their bodies and their ability to be a mother.
During pregnancy I wasn’t bothered what I was going to do. Breast or bottle, who cares? Then my baby boy was born and I felt that rush of motherhood hit me like a tonne of falling bricks. Of course I want to be able to feed my baby. I selfishly wanted those moments all to myself.
Then, our little baby bubble was broken by our boy being taken away to special care. Drips, nil by mouth, alone. Days passed and to make him strong again he was fed formula. I was so angry that they’d done that without asking me. I wanted to feed him. But I reminded myself that as long as he was OK, then that was fine with me.
I spent hours trying to express milk into tiny little syringes just to be able to give my baby that ‘liquid gold’ that they bang on about. I remember being so proud of myself for being able to fill one syringe quarter of the way. “I did that,” I’d say to Chris as I passed him it to take down to special care on his next visit to see Archie.
In reality, I was just not enough. Archie needed more and I wanted to give him that.
It wasn’t the fact he didn’t latch, he did, perfectly. He just needed more. He was and is a hungry baby and I simply was not capable of filling him up. I could have persevered, but that wouldn’t have been fair to either of us.
Now, it all seems so pointless. I wouldn’t change a thing. Archie is healthy, happy and thriving. He’s growing well, developing amazingly and making me more proud by the day. Did feeding him formula harm him? Did it make him any different to the baby’s who are breastfed? No, of course it didn’t. But what does it give him? Well, it gives him the ability to bond with family, with friends. It makes him happy and content in anyone’s arms who feeds him.
I was angered by a recent advert I saw saying that breast milk is the best choice for your baby and that it gives your little one everything they need to start out life. Which of course, yes it does. We have gone through years of evolution to be able to produce milk ourselves and I am amazed that the human body is capable of such greatness, but fantastic research also goes into making formula. Just because I’m not giving my baby breastmilk, that doesn’t mean I’m not giving my baby what he needs.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that you should think before you say.