Breastfeeding Facts Are Not Attacks

Photography:Rachel Burt Photography

By Sofie Eriksson

How I beat the odds, and successfully breastfed my second child! 

Previously, I have shared how I was unable to breastfeed my daughter and the heartache I feel daily as a result of knowing I could have given her a better start. It is truly devastating for me, as a mother.  What I didn’t mention was the defensiveness that came with my failure to breastfeed her and how all things boob suddenly felt like an attack. 

Literally every time someone told me they were breastfeeding, I would jump in with my explanation to as why I wasn’t, stating how hard I had tried and how hopeless my attempts had been. I would make sure that they understood that it had nothing to do with me. I had indeed tried so incredibly hard and now facts  felt like attacks.  

If someone ever queried the quality of formula milk, I would repeat the words of the health professionals that had previously reassured me: “Formula is the second best option. It’s quality milk and your daughter is thriving”

If someone told me that breast milk was optimal, again I felt attacked and acted unreasonably. I would respond that formula was just as good, although I knew that wasn’t the case – it made me feel better!

When I heard about someone who had had an easy time establishing feeding, I felt bitter and jealous.

Feeding choices are so personal and the biological need to be the best mothers we can, often makes us defensive instead of honest.  

When we decided we wanted to add another child to our family, I knew I needed to take control and educate myself rather than rely on health professionals to make breastfeeding happen. I spent day and night researching issues that could arise, read stories from mothers with the same physical issues as myself and started using aids to help “loosen” my nipples in the same way a glass of wine does with my non-existent rhythm.  

It was painful and exhausting, but I knew it would be worth it. 

We were blessed with another pregnancy and I knew I had to do everything I could to make sure I didn’t “fail” to breastfeed him as I had my daughter. I went into efficiency mode for 9 months. 

You see, I’m one of these people who like to be freakishly prepared and when it came to breastfeeding, my tendencies of perfectionism didn’t disappoint. I had a copy of my birth plan prepared in a neat bullet point presentation and it included a harmonic home birth. Unfortunately, as I developed pre-eclampsia towards the end of pregnancy, my plan never saw the light of day and an induced labour in hospital took the place of my perfect home birth. 

Upon arrival at the hospital, my husband carried a red backpack filled with my breastfeeding essentials. The bag never left my side and accompanied me to the labour suite. In it I had a breast pump, Lansinoh nipple cream, breast milk storage bags, an SNS system and sterilised nipple shields, ready to go. This time I would breastfeed, against the odds. 

With my daughter I was only told of nipple shields when she was 10 weeks old! At which point it was too late. Yet these would become the aid that made breastfeeding my son possible! 

After a speedy delivery, our son had arrived but due to complications he was taken away. I was so distraught. I had pinned my hopes on the magic of skin to skin and suddenly it was just me and my concerned husband in the room! I felt empty and confused and watched the seconds tick by on the supersize wall clock. I didn’t speak, I just waited.  

Although we were only separated for a few hours, it felt like a lifetime. When he was finally back in my arms, pink and snug, I wasted no time. I instructed my husband to hand me the nipple shields and received some odd looks from the midwife. 

“Shall we try without shields first?” she queried. 

I knew this question would be asked but with my daughter’s nipple refusal fresh in mind, I had decided to use shields from the first feed. I would rather feed with a shield than not at all. I do wonder if a shield at the first feed would have changed the outcome of how I fed my daughter. 

Soon after my daughter was born, I asked for support to latch her on. The midwife repeatedly jammed her little head on to my non-existent nipple causing her distress.

She kept doing it until my daughter turned purple from crying hysterically. I should have spoken up. I should have said “stop“. 

My daughter became petrified of my chest and I was determined not to let this happen again. I dismissed the suggestion of a shield-free feed and asked her if she could please help me latch my son on with the shield. The midwife complied and helped me fit the shield. She fiddled about with positioning and helped me support both baby and breast like only an expert would.  

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