It’s a decision I made fairly early on in pregnancy and one that I’ve been questioned on a significant amount since. Right from the get go, I knew I didn’t want to breastfeed my baby.
I have never questioned whether breastfeeding is the best thing for babies. I believe in all the health benefits for both mother and baby. I know it would have saved us a significant amount of money too, but I just didn’t want to breastfeed.
Having thought about it many times since having our daughter, I think there are a number of reasons which led to my decision.
She’s lost Control
I think the biggest factor in my decision was the lack of control. I think there is a lot of pressure put on women at the moment to be the perfect Earth Mother and some people just don’t subscribe to the philosophy. I wanted to know how much my baby had had to eat and when she might want more. Don’t get me wrong – on arrival she had an insatiable appetite like most babies, so we were constantly feeding her, but at least we knew what she’d had and when. We even kept a notebook.
When people see new mothers bottle-feeding a newborn baby, some also judge them. Many’s the time I felt the sympathetic glances of those who may have felt that by bottle-feeding I must have failed at breastfeeding and had to resort to using a bottle. Many is also the time I almost wanted to shout from the rooftops that it was my choice to bottle feed!
A Fear of Failure
The greatest myth out there about breastfeeding seems to be that everyone can do it. Having seen (or heard about a few weeks down the line) a lot of my friends struggle to establish and maintain breastfeeding for weeks after birth, I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I had no intention of setting myself up to potentially fail that early on in motherhood when I knew there would be plenty of opportunity for that further down the line.
I also knew from the get-go that I had absolutely no intention of resembling a dairy cow and attaching myself to anything electronic or hand-powered and milking myself. All at a time when, pregnancy love-in hormones or not, I knew I was going to be overwhelmed by the task at hand of rearing my own little calf.
Getting them out in public
Whilst I am no Jordan or Dolly, I’m certainly no Kate Moss (in more ways than one) and I do believe that plays a part in those who are successful in breastfeeding and feel confident to do so in public. I for one, wouldn’t have felt confident and probably would have bought any number of the breastfeeding modesty products on the market to try and hide my insecurities (and my boobs).
Nine Looooong Months
41 weeks is a long time. I know, because with no job for 39 weeks of my pregnancy I practically counted down every second of it. Once done with labour and birth, obviously my life would just get back to normal, but with the addition of a very little person in it, and as such I also wanted my body back for me. The thought of giving part of it over to said very little person for another six to nine months (or longer if Little Britain is to be believed) frankly filled me with dread. I wanted to know that I could put my old bras back on (eventually) and get back to being me.
Many people have been shocked and almost saddened when I’ve been quite open about my decision. In the early days of pregnancy my partner tried to convince me it was a good idea, but then it wasn’t going to be him who had to do it! I remember the hushed silence of the course leader and the other couples at our ante-natal classes when the question ‘So, is everyone planning to breastfeed?’ was asked and I said that I wasn’t. Half an hour of the course then ensued on all the benefits of breastfeeding which left me a bit numb.
All of this is not to say I didn’t try. Very shortly after the birth of my daughter I conquered my fears and put her to my breast to see what happened. I endured everything that I didn’t want in terms of it suddenly being perfectly acceptable for foreign hands to be grabbing my boobs and pulling, pushing and squeezing them towards this expectant little mouth. My husband also got his hand in there too. Perhaps not so foreign, but still as unwelcome at that moment. Whether she got any colostrum or not is beyond me as I may have been there in body but certainly not in mind. It was hardly the beautiful bonding experience described and experienced by many.
In the end it was my body, and not my mind, which let me down. The traumas of labour and birth (one for another time) meant my milk didn’t come in for a week anyway, by which time, our little girl with the insatiable appetite would have been a bit peckish. I have to say the lovely midwives at our hospital were extremely supportive in helping us bottle-feed and I didn’t experience any of the patronising, dismissive treatment I was led to believe would be coming our way.
Don’t get me wrong. I have so much admiration for those who do breastfeed. In all likelihood because they conquered something I didn’t even truly attempt to – my own fears. Whether our daughter has suffered any detrimental side effects of my fears and anxieties about what should apparently be the most natural thing in the world, we’ll have to wait and see. But at the moment, she seems happy, healthy, not too fat and not too thin (but quite exceptionally tall), so who knows?
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