Katie went into her infant feeding journey with an admirably relaxed and undogmatic outlook and a lot of that was due to her own Mum, Rosemary, being so honest. Not only does this experience show that it doesn’t need to be all or nothing, but you can see that the way you feed your baby will never diminish love because we can see it transferred across generations.
I was a bottle fed baby. My mum told me her story of schoolmarm-ish tellings-off and sighing from midwives as she tried to feed me. I failed to thrive but it was my mum who felt like the failure. For any worried or guilty mothers out there I was a ridiculously healthy child who once got an award from school for never having a sick day. I recently found an old A-level photography project about growth and nurture where I had used an old photograph of my mum feeding me with a bottle. I wasn’t being controversial, it just hadn’t occurred to me as a 16 year old that the image represented anything other than love. ‘Failure’ had nothing to do with it. That project is still up in my parent’s bed room.
Fast forward 30 years and I was expecting my first child. I was excited, terrified and oddly guilt ridden that it had happened for me, that I was going to be a mummy. As for feeding I hadn’t decided but I was ready for the fight. I would try breastfeeding but I would not be made to feel like a failure if it didn’t work out for whatever reason. I had no expectations, no goals, just to try. I vowed to swear loudly at the first person who said ‘breast is best’ because I know this is absolutely not true and a potentially damaging belief.
My son was born. His first breath animated him, he was placed on my chest, I pulled up my bra that I had forgotten I was still wearing and to my great suprise he lifted his head and latched straight away. This kid knows what he’s about. Unfortunately I then haemorrhaged losing a fair amount of blood rendering me totally useless for the next…some time.
I lost all brain power and was just in a new mum daze. This probably didn’t help my milk supply and over the next few days my son started to lose weight. He was sick after every feed and like me he had been slightly jaundiced too. I wasn’t as worried as I should have been I just couldn’t comprehend anything. Day three (still in hospital) and he was taken upstairs for tests. I fell asleep while my partner stayed with our son. They came down to ask me to express but I was completely out. They gave us bottles and formula that night without question. I didn’t feel guilty. I felt…tired.
The staff were lovely and full of praise that I did not deserve. This was luck, not me being clever. We supplemented when we needed to (or wanted to; sometimes my partner would like to feed his son) and slowly and painfully we got to grips with breastfeeding.
I was lucky that it worked out but if it hadn’t I would love my son with the same gut wrenching love that every parent feels for their child.