Did I envision whilst being pregnant with my son nearly four going on five years ago that I would exclusively breastfeed? YES. Was I able to exclusively breastfeed him like I envisioned? NO. Did this break my heart? YES. Does it still break my heart a little bit after all these years? Yes and no.
Last week women were celebrating breastfeeding via social media platforms. Therefore, every time I opened up my Instagram account I would see very beautiful and intimate moments shared between mom and baby whilst breastfeeding. Those beautifully raw and sacred moments both captivated me as well as made me feel like I failed in that department.
Upon reading some of the descriptions/captions that followed after their breastfeeding moments, I felt a disconnect in my heart, like I missed out something that I could have shared with my son, through to thinking maybe my son missed out something life defining from me as a mom, and now I can’t take it back.
Sounds intense doesn’t it? Maybe you can relate to my internal dialogue, or maybe you’re judging me without knowing my breastfeeding journey or story…It’s okay, I still love you.
I had this notion that all women would be able to breastfeed easily and naturally once your baby was born. Ha! Being the little perfectionist that I was back then, I expected my “ta-ta’s” to breastfeed naturally, and to breastfeed like a machine. Well, I produced loads of milk, and Malakai ate like a little beast (and still does today) …
But transitioning into motherhood, whilst healing post c-section, through to struggling with anxiety and feeling constantly overwhelmed, if not dismantled emotionally from raging hormones and baby blues : Made me feel like my body and mind was failing me, and was ultimately failing my son.
Malakai from the moment that he was born cried, and cried, and well, yip you guessed it: cried. Which meant he wanted to be rocked – which meant I put A LOT of pressure on my body when my wounds were still trying to heal.
Most newborns upon being born for the first two weeks of life just sleep beautifully, which means most parents can ease into parenthood. Not with our little Mali, he screamed and cried, and only favoured one boob! Which meant my ‘nips’ weren’t healing and were constantly bleeding, which meant he would spit out the blood. Which gave us such a fright, because we thought he was sick and spitting up blood. He didn’t like nipple shields, and he latched beautifully, and like I said he ate A LOT. More than he needed too.
My husband and I suspected that something was up with Malakai, so we took him to a specialist. As it looked like he was in constant pain and discomfort.
Which made us feel so helpless and hopeless as new parents.
Because Mali was such a big baby considering me his mama being petite, he was squashed up in my womb. Which meant he had spinal tension on the one side of his back. The specialist managed to massage and straighten out his spine, and Malakai slept throughout the entire process! It was too sweet, and made me teary eyed seeing him so relaxed.
However, he ended up having colic and reflux too.
Which meant every single night he was up screaming and crying from 11 pm – 4 am. My husband and I tagged team with Mali and tried to take two hour sleep shifts, as we were beyond sleep deprived. It was crazy, so much so that I feared the night, and what it would mean for us once again. My husband and I were two passing ships in the night, passing Malakai back and forth in the dark.
I always knew that motherhood wasn’t going to be easy. But I felt almost as if I had been thrown into the deep end, where I was constantly sinking. I felt like I was failing, as I could barely keep it, or my tears together. My emotional sleep deprived state was taking over, so much so that I was scared of my newborn baby.
I knew that I loved and adored him, but the constant screaming, and not knowing how to fix it really broke me.
I knew that if I wanted to emotionally survive, and be of any good use to anyone within my home, some changes going forward had to be made. I spoke with women in my family who I trust dearly, and look up to as moms. Can I just say that these strong beautiful women in my family (my mom, mother inlaw and sister inlaw) just kept encouraging the same similar thought that has become my lifes motto when it comes to anything family :
“Do what feels right to you, what will work best for you and ultimately work best for your family!”
That meant (for me) looking at what I could change, that would in turn help all of us (Mali with his colic and reflux, me with my anxiety and baby blues, Rash working full day on no sleep) I made a decision after two weeks of breastfeeding, to express milk for Mali into bottles so that family members could help with Mali (as he had colic episodes every day, sometimes during the day and at night)
Upon deciding this, I cried like a baby. I felt like I was giving up and taking the easy way out. I felt like I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to push through it. I felt like maybe I was failing Mali, and not loving him fully by exclusively breastfeeding him.
There’s a pressure and an expectation when it comes to breastfeeding, isn’t there?
We often see it in statements that say: “breast is best, breast milk builds immune systems, encourages High IQ, makes children feel secure confident, and less anxious when growing up.”
I wanted to breastfeed. But it just wasn’t working for me, for us, like I wanted it to.
Our situation was different.
We had to adjust and make it work for all of us.
AND THAT IS PERFECTLY FINE.
It brought us closer as a family.
Family members built strong connections with little Mali from a young age.
Rash and Mali had the same amount of personal bonding time together during feeds, as we shared in it together.
We got to have date nights, or simply catch up on sleep whilst Mali hung out with his grannies and his milk bottles.
Mali only had breast milk for three months and then moved onto formula, as I was going back to work, and like I said the boy could eat! (moving onto formula is a whole nother story, for a nother day!)
Fast forward four years later, and Mali is confident, talkative, loving, extremely creative, strong willed and a VERY passionate boy. From being breastfed for only two weeks, to drinking expressed breast milk in bottles, to moving onto formula – he is a perfect and beautiful loving boy.
We are quick to judge and assume what we do not understand. And on the other hand, we fail ourselves as moms due to crazy expectations we place on ourselves. What will work best for one, won’t always work out well for somebody else, and that is okay. Instead of focusing on all of the things that you didn’t do, or couldn’t do due to your situation, look at all of the sacrifices and beautiful things that you did do, or provided for your family that is so perfect for them and for you.
If you had to place a room full of babies and kids in one room, I don’t think any of us would get it right when it comes to knowing by looking at first glance off hand if they were breastfed or formula fed. We would just see cute kids!
When I look at Malakai now, I see how loved he is, and how confident that makes him feel. And to me that is one of the best gifts that I can give him : MY UNWAVERING LOVE <3