Unable to Breastfeed?? Don’t feel Guilty!

I had to ponder a lot before writing this post. Infact, this post has been on my mind ever since my baby was about a month old. It’s still hard for me to say it out aloud but let me go ahead and get it out of my system: I hardly breastfed!

Yes…now that it’s out in the open I’m hoping ill get it out of my head soon too. Ever since i understood the nuances of pregnancy and babies, I knew how important breast feeding is and knew with an utmost certainty that this was what I was going to do for sure when I had a baby…I grew up in a society where breast feeding wasn’t necessary..women around chose formula feeding to maintain their figures or even because it was more convenient to bottle feed..let me be clear here that I don’t judge them negatively. It’s an intensely personal decision and I would be doing a post about this later too but back to the original topic..

I never had a doubt in my mind that I would breast feed but it came as a horrific blow to me when I just couldn’t manage to. I have almost forgotten the pain I underwent during my preg when I was under risk of premature delivery..I’ve even almost forgotten the pain of the actual delivery..but the trauma of not being able to breastfeed is something I remember with utmost clarity.

Most women don’t like discussing this. I myself admit to having lied to a couple of acquaintances (ok..many) simply because I felt ashamed of not being able to breastfeed. But ultimately I realised this is nothing to be ashamed about. Many women go through this and the trauma of not being able to breastfeed I feel, stems from the fact that no one discusses it openly which leads us to believe that it’s a rarity.

My mom wasnt able to breastfeed me (she did lactate but I refused to feed) but she never worried about it like i did. After a lot of analysing I’ve managed to list down the reasons why I felt this way and have listed them below..I’m sure most women feel similarly and i just wanted to get it out in the open.

1. How I felt then- Fear of not being able to bond: I can still remember the day my baby was born and when she got up in about 3hrs and the lactation expert came in to show me how to feed. I remember how happy I was that FINALLY I would get to do what I thought would bond my child to me forever. However I wasn’t able to feed well. I was told it would happen in about a weeks time but I wasn’t able to feed my child more than a single time a day for the 1month I lactated. I remember thinking my child would hate me for this (the shrieking after not being able to get any milk at my breast made me feel that way) and this scarred me badly.

How I feel now: I know now that a child will bond with their parent no matter what. All claims of holding ur child to your bosom right at birth or breast feeding being the only things that bind you child to you is all hogwash! A child understands and comprehends only 1 thing and that is LOVE. You give you child love and rest assured your child will bond with you for life..

2. How I felt then- Feeling inadequate for the 1st time in my life: I’m not bragging but I’ve always striven to excel at everything in life..studies or activities I took up, I always pushed myself and did well. But I simply couldn’t understand why I couldn’t feed my child despite there being no health probs.

I felt like a failure..and every single day saw me slipping into depression. I’d break out crying every time it was feed time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.

How I feel now: This was a dark time for me truly but it doesn’t last. I had an amazing support system… A would coach me daily and my husband on more than 1 occasion would just take me in his arms and tell me he didn’t care about how our baby was fed as long as her tummy was full and both of us were happy. Everything else would iron itself out..I can’t tell you how much this helped..even now when things get too overwhelming I keep repeating that sentence to myself and it does make things better, believe me.

3. How I felt then- Fear  that my baby would have a truckload of deficiencies because of me: Pregnancy reading had me convinced that my already premature baby would have a ton of health issues because of me. Infact when my daughter was taken to NICUa night coz her jaundice level was a bit high, I cried like crazy and blamed that on my inability to feed her!

How I feel now: Now I haven’t done any research on this but my gynac once sat me down at the clinic and explained to me how the vitamins and nutrition in mothers milk all depends on the food intake and even then there’s no assurance that the child gets it all due to all the adulteration and also how the body absorbs the nutrients. On the other hand, formula has it all. So rest assured, even on formula a baby will be just as healthy as a breastfed child, maybe even more so!

4.How I felt then-  The false certainty that my baby was suffering all because of me: My daughter was a month premature and due to her low weight and my issues with feeding, was put on formula feed meant for premies and this was quite heavy. As a result she suffered from constipation from her 2nd week itself. The memory of that tiny, scrawny body gripping my arm and screaming in pain as she tried to potty still sends shivers through my body. I cried along with her every single time she tried to potty and cursed myself thinking she wouldn’t be in such pain had I been able to breastfeed her.

How I feel now: When I told my doc about this particular fear of mine she laughed and told me not to worry and just switched to a lighter formula. Farex tends to be on the heavier side and once I switched to NAN which is lighter and most similar to breast milk, there was no problem at all! So contrary to my thinking, this had nothing to do with my breast feeding at all!

5. How I felt then- Societal pressure: Relatives and other people can be awful during this period. Everyone who met me kept on telling me to breast feed and my statement that I couldn’t was met with horrified looks followed by pitiful looks or even some disgusted looks followed by statements like, ‘these days girls only care about their figures, not their children’ and ‘no wonder Pravi is colicky’ or even statements like, ‘you are not trying na?’..

Such statements just made me feel guiltier and I ended up thinking that maybe somewhere inside I didn’t want to breastfeed and this was translating itself through my body.

How I feel now: I’ve learnt to ignore these comments and give biting retorts to such people. All credit goes to A who literally whatsapped me what to say to which comments (since I can’t think clearly when I get such comments)

6. How I felt then- Feeling my body failed me even after the extensive medication: I took a ton of medication, both Ayurvedic and allopathy. From Shatavari to methi seeds which I hate, to pills that made me faint, nothing helped and finally even the doctors put their hands up and told me not to obsess about it and just to let go. After a colleague told me how breast pumps helped her increase milk flow, i went ahead and tried that too but even that didn’t help beyond a limitl. I couldn’t feed more than a max of twice a day (on a good day) and even then I had to give her top feed to fill her tiny tummy.

How I feel now: I admit to still feeling perplexed about this but I’ve made peace with the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed. I don’t obsess over it at all. It happens to some women and isn’t something to feel ashamed about. We live in times where we have good formula brands which ensure that our babies will get the best even if such issues come up.

All in all I feel very comfy now and even though I do feel a pang of regret when I think about how I couldn’t feed my baby, I don’t feel inadequate because of this. Everytime I feel such thoughts coming into my mind I just look at my healthy, smiling and hyperactive baby girl and these negative thought are wiped clean from my head!

Finally, Mothers-to-be, don’t overhype breast feeding in your head pls since it would just pressurize you further and such worries are said to cause breast feeding probs too. To New Mommies, if such issues are plaguing you, just let go..your baby will be just as healthy as breastfeed kids..and to Experienced Mommies who have gone through this, pls be open about it. Don’t wait for a new mother to come crying to you; I feel every woman should feel assured before they deliver so that such inane pressures don’t fester…

I do hope this post helps address a topid which most of here in India consider to be a taboo..Remember either breastmilk or formula will fill your babies tummy, but its your love and smiles which will fill their hearts and keep them happy..

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Sources: 1,2,3,4

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