Family, Motherhood, Parenting

Breast Brigade

We reach the end of another ‘National Breastfeeding Week’ in the UK. I’m floating the idea of a new week… ‘National I Can’t Breastfeed Week’.

Breast is best. We know that. With all the campaigns, adverts and leaflets, it’s difficult not to know the benefit of breast milk. It’s been rammed down pregnant women’s throats from the very second a sperm found their egg.

I’ve got to the stage where I’ve finally had it with the huge pressure put upon mothers to breastfeed. And I want to write about it. I don’t want other women to feel as shit as I did when it comes to the simple process of feeding their own baby and if I help lessen the hell of bottle feeding guilt for just one mum, it’ll be worth divulging my most sensitive and personal secret to you all. So here goes…

Has it actually occurred to anyone within the pro-breast campaign that some ladies may not be physically able to breastfeed their child? It certainly didn’t seem like it when I was sitting in my prenatal class and the midwife called everyone forward to enrol in the next mandatory breastfeeding session. Now I realise this applies to the minority of women, but I actually fall into the category of physically not being able to breastfeed. So this mandatory course would be a complete waste of time for me, not to mention a massive kick in the teeth. “So why can’t you breastfeed?” is usually the invasive, blunt and quite frankly, rude question that follows my admission… Well, midwife/nosy fellow mums-to-be I’ve just met at my prenatal group, I have a condition called Poland Syndrome.

Never heard of Poland Syndrome? You’re not alone. However if I said the phrase ‘Beadle Hand’, many UK ladies would have an idea of what I’m talking about. Back in the 80’s/90’s there was this irritating TV presenter called Jeremy Beadle and he had a very small right hand. He was massively ripped for it and even now, people shrink their hands into their sleeve and wet themselves with laughter at mimicking him and creating the image of having disproportionate hands. Er, funny. Anyway, the official condition poor Beadle had was Poland Syndrome; a rare birth defect characterised by underdevelopment or absence of the chest muscle on one side of the body, and/or small and webbed fingers of the hand on one side of the body. Beadle had the hand version, but to my joy, I have the chest version. My right breast developed but not in a ‘regular’ shape; my left breast didn’t develop at all. It was quite simply a nipple and that was it. You can imagine how amazing I felt as a self-conscious teenager. My mum literally saved my life by padding out my left bra cup for my developing years. When we realised nothing was going to change, my parents amazingly stepped up and paid for me to have surgery. I ended up having an implant in the left breast, reshaping of the right, and both breasts had the nipples removed and sewn back into a new position. Obviously they tried to reconnect everything that should be connected to a female nipple, but there was no guarantee.

This brings me back to breastfeeding. Throughout my pregnancy, my breasts didn’t change. They didn’t increase in size and it certainly didn’t seem like they were producing milk. I therefore had to make peace with the fact that I had to bottle feed my baby from the start. This should of been a guilt-free moment for me but I cannot express how terrible I felt at the prospect of not being able to give my baby ‘the best start in life’. The judgmental looks I received when I told people I couldn’t breastfeed made me blurt out the aforementioned at any opportunity and that’s so wrong. Why should I have to justify the way I choose to feed my baby to others? Formula has been specifically designed by scientists to provide all the essential nutrients babies need to develop and thrive into healthy, happy little people. Formula wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t a safe option, so it is beyond annoying that we are interrogated for choosing this over breast.

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The combination of yet another celebrity mum endorsing boob products that keep her ‘doing the best for her child’, in addition to a week of yet more breast milk worship led by health organisations, healthcare professionals and the perfect parent police, and I snapped. So let’s just take a moment to highlight just some reasons I can think of which may prevent a Mum from breastfeeding:

  • She may have undergone breast surgery
  • She may need to receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy
  • Her baby could have a rare metabolic condition known as Galactosemia (my brother in law has this)
  • She may suffer from a chronic illnesses and her health may suffer as a result
  • She may have an infection requiring antibiotics which are harmful to the baby. Let’s not forget women who may have a more serious, existing infection (HIV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II or untreated, active tuberculosis)
  • She may end up suffering from post-birth complications

And then we have the mothers that try to breastfeed. Really, heartbreakingly try. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about the amount of wonderful mums who have had breakdowns over the struggles with breastfeeding.

  • Lactation issues; sore nipples, engorged breasts, mastitis, leaking milk, pain, and failure of the baby latching on.
  • Insufficient milk supply
  • Post natal depression
  • Working mums and the practically of breastfeeding
  • EXHAUSTION
  • And let’s not forget, some women just hate the feeling of it.

I’m sure I’ve missed a million other reasons too.

Ladies, it’s hard enough that we’ve just spent 9 months developing a human being inside us and then we push our body to the limit by birthing them, naturally or by c-section. We’re exhausted. We’re in pain. We’ve just discovered a whole new hormone surge we never knew existed.

So please, Breast Brigade, can you just cut us some slack?

We know that in an ideal world, breastfeeding our baby is the best way forward.

WE KNOW.

Stop with the judgement and pressure when it can’t or doesn’t happen.

PS. If you need evidence of a thriving bottle fed baby, here’s my beautiful boy

24 thoughts on “Breast Brigade”

  1. This is all very true!! The hardest and most stressful time for me having two children was the change over from breast to bottle at a couple of weeks as I dint supply much milk. But the amount of pressure is unbearably.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s seriously insane isn’t it?! Hope you’ve managed to get over all the feeding struggles now and that both you and your little ones are healthy and happy (and full!!) xx

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  2. Oh well done you for writing this and sharing a private issue to make other women feel better. Personally I bottle fed too and have written on my own blog about it so that women know they aren’t alone if they use formula. There is so much negativity towards bottle feeding and it breaks my heart how guilty and shameful it can make mothers feel. Best fed is fed full stop and all mothers need support not judgement so thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As much as I understand why they encourage breastfeeding, these awareness weeks just make the women struggling feel terrible. It’s infuriating! Really appreciate your added words of support for all us bottle feeding Mums X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Encouraging is great but pressure isn’t. What we need is the right support for people who want to breastfeed but equally support for people who can’t or prefer not to. No woman should ever be made to feel guilty or bad for how she feeds her child. The more we can support every mother in her choices the easier the journey of motherhood will become X

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A small period of time dedicated to celebrating breastfeeding isn’t a dig to those who can’t. In fact it has nothing to do with those who can’t or don’t breastfeed.
    Complaining about such things like it’s a personal attack on your own unique circumstances is exactly the same as someone feeling offended on Mother’s Day because they are not a mother/don’t have a mother or Valentine’s Day because they’re single etc etc.
    The list of issues that mothers who “Really heartbreakingly try” are all issues that many mothers who successfully breast feed face – it isn’t easy for most. Perseverance, education and support help but doesn’t make those issues disappear or suddenly become a walk in the park.
    If you’re feeling defensive about swing someone celebrating something that is an achievement in their life it’s you that has to look inwards and deal with your own issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Natasha.
      I think you’ve truly misunderstood the purpose of my post. I wouldn’t normally respond to such aggressive messages but this is a topic that is very, very personal to me. And many other of my followers.
      The fact that the Nation celebrates breastfeeding is not a negative thing at all; if you can breastfeed. I state this once again because you’ve clearly missed the point that some people can’t physically breastfeed. I also think you’re very blinkered to the fact that some mothers have worse symptoms when is comes to mastitis, infections etc.
      I’m not taking anything away from the lovely ladies that can breastfeed. Yourself included.
      This post is simply one mother saying to another mother that it’s ok it you can’t succeed. A week of nationally celebrating all you breast feeders; one post, that takes minutes to read, supporting those who can’t. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t add anymore negativity to a post designed to help non breastfeeding mums.

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    2. I completely agree with motherofallcurves. I tried for weeks to breastfeed and my baby just kept losing weight as I was just not producing milk and has obviously not been able to produce much as my breasts has not changed in size at all. So I combination fed and breast pumped to ensure my milk supply didn’t dwindle too quickly. I managed this for three months before my milk supply just completely dried up. And the entire time I felt wretched. Wracked with guilt for not being able to provide my daughter with the “best start”, useless that my breasts main function didn’t actually, well, function. Belittled by the earth mothers that could breastfeed all day long if needed. Pressurized by health care professionals that although they were actually really lovely and meant well, made me panic about my daughter’s dwindling weight.

      So think maybe Natasha you should have thought A LOT more before posting the above. Also I think your comment about how people felt sad on mother’s day or Valentine a day just shows how insensitive you are! What about mothers that had lost children? Women that cannot conceive? People that have lost loved ones, or been jilted, or cheated on? EVERYONE’S feelings are justified and I think your lack of empathy is disturbing.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. You’re belittling breastfeeding mothers here and your angry response to Natasha’s very good point was uncalled for. Breastfeeding is hard, it’s really really hard at the start especially, and we all face loads of difficulties and worries which we work so hard to overcome. I’m sorry that you can’t breastfeed, not everyone can and I certainly am not judging you for this. Formula was invented for those who can’t breastfeed. Just as diabetics can be thankful to live in an age where insulin has been invented, can’t you recognise how fortunate you are that you had your baby now when formula exists and your baby can thrive in your care without breastmilk from you? Breastfeeding awareness week is not a dig at you or anyone who doesn’t breastfeed. It’s about supporting those who do breastfeed, to give us confidence to feed our babies in public (there is still so much negativity directed towards us, from you included) that we never truly feel comfortable feeding in public as we don’t know how others will react to us when we’re at our most vulnerable, feeling exposed, and worrying about calming our babies. As a fellow mum don’t you think we should all be on the same side?

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    1. Totally agree with you – we are on the same side. A side that provides the best nutrition for our babies. I apologise if you were offended by my response to Natasha’s comment, I felt she was aggressive in her writing, hence my defensive response.
      But as I said, this article is to make struggling/unable to breastfeed women have just 1% of the international support that breastfeeding women have.
      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. We are all just doing our best , breast or bottle xx

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    2. Ps. I have absolutely no negativity towards any mothers who can breastfeed. Public or not. Feed your baby however, whenever you can!! At no point have I, or am I, slating women who can breastfeed; just the relentless pressure to breastfeed. Very different. X

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  5. I really struggled to breastfeed my baby, the pressure to turn to formula from medical staff, Friends and family was huge. I topped up but also decided it wasn’t for me and I expressed for 8 weeks until he figured it out.
    I’ve never felt pressure to breast feed and genuinely would never put pressure one anyone to do it.
    It’s right for me and my son and I absolutely love that I can nurse him. I do think tho that there is a pressure to use formula before allowing a mother to explore reasons why nursing might be challenging.
    We’re all mums and should support each other not judge.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Please don’t think that the valuable information and education aimed at encouraging and supporting people to breastfeed and to persevere at breastfeeding through all the difficulties and worries, many of which you listed in your article – mastitis (did you know continued breastfeeding is the best way to deal with it?), worries about supply, latching difficulties, etc etc, is aimed at making you feel like you’re doing any less than your best. You and I both know (but not everyone does) that breastfeeding is best for mother and baby wherever it’s possible, therefore surely it’s no bad thing to make all that support and information available to mums. Perhaps rather than reducing these supports during a period of worryingly low breastfeeding rates, to spare the feelings of the (I think it’s) two per cent who can’t breastfeed, we’d do better to make a concerted effort to also show support and understanding as a society to the mums who can’t breastfeed (as your article aims to). I know that if it hadn’t been for the information I’ve been given at baby groups about the amazing antibodies in breastmilk, the vulnerability of premature babies to infection and the fact that not all mums are able to produce milk right away or at all, then I wouldn’t be a breastmilk donor for premature babies whose mums can’t breastfeed x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I struggle to see any negativity in this heartwarming and very personal story. For someone to comment on how this is sending a bad message and how this is insulting breastfeeding mums is unnecessary! And perhaps instead of viewing this story as negative, people should take a deeper look in to why they’re actually getting upset and nasty towards a very positive view on feeding your little baby. Because ultimately, it should not be breast ‘VS’ bottle, it should be breast ‘OR’ bottle. Mums should be encouraging each other and open to listening to other mothers (or even fathers for that matter) views! Health promotion is about promoting what is right for that individual and this story was perfect in promoting that!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m currently a breastfeeding mum and felt no ill feeling after reading this blog post. I am three painful and stressful weeks in to my breastfeeding journey and the support I’ve received has been amazing and has kept me going through mastitis, thrush and general anxiety. Breastfeeding awareness week has been amazing and empowering for me (which I know this post fully supports) but I can also see the flip side. With my first baby I tried to breastfeed but had not enough knowledge or support so ended up on the bottle after 3 days- I (to this day) have struggled to forgive myself. I can see now as time has gone on that my cruelness to myself about bottle feeding was actually because I was so worried about what everyone else would think. I felt like a bad mother, I would not be able to take part in breast feeding selfies as I had wished, my child would be forever doomed with poor health, she would hate me because we hadn’t bonded properly and a whole load of other issues. And after all of this I had post natal depression, so I genuinely felt like I had failed myself and my baby. I see now this is wrong, I have a wonderful healthy baby who adores me and now adores her baby sister, who I will breastfeed to the best of my ability. But if it doesn’t work out, I will bottle feed with no shame! And that’s the point of this post- to empower EVERY woman who is fortunate enough to have a beautiful baby. Women should be supported through whatever journey they chose. Breast or bottle shouldn’t be a debate, it’s about making sure your baby is fed.

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    1. Beautiful Megan. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
      You’re truly winning at motherhood by doing the best for you and your girls. 😘❤️

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  9. After a lot of stress I breast fed my first son for six weeks as I was told it was the very best start in life for him. I had my second son and wanted to do the same. I started to breast feed him but he became very ill, it turned out my breast milk was making him worse as he has Galactosaemia and has a Lactose Intolerance. He was then bottle fed a special formula. I did worry not being able to breastfeed as I thought my second son wouldn’t have the same start in life but both of my boys have grown up into strong healthy men! ( I am so proud of both of them)Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to do if it suits you and your baby but if you cant or its not for you, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

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  10. Brilliantly written and some great points made! I’ve been fortunate enough to have a smooth breastfeeding journey but have total respect and understanding for bottle feeding mums. Ultimately every baby and every mums circumstances are different and you make the best choices based on those circumstances.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Just wanted to let you know that when I’m in bed, crying while pumping or making a bottle of formula, I go on your IG or read your blog and I feel a million times better. Thank you for shining a light on momma’s who struggle and aren’t able to EBF. The whole push of breast is best campign and mommy shaming those who choose to or are forced to formula feed was the driving force of my post partum anxiety that landed me in the ER 6 days after baby was born. Thank u times a million.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve brought me to tears Lisa. I feel the emotion and truly wish you peace when it comes to feeding your baby, whichever route you decide to take. If you power through with breast milk and pumping then I applaud your strength and determination. And if you decide that formula feeding is the way forward then I applaud you for making a decision to keep your baby fed and you sane! 😘
      I’ve seriously been trying to drive this campaign forward so that it reaches mother (and fathers) in need of bottle support and recently, I’ve just felt like it’s been falling on deaf ears. Publishers I have approached so far are either not interested in the campaign as ‘it’s not the right fit’ or they are just avoiding responding to my request of a feature or help to spread awareness. So this message is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. To realise that this isn’t a lost cause and that it’s helping you to battle and/or overcome this very difficult moment in your motherhood journey.
      Please know that I’m here if ever you want to talk/vent/cry! And just know that you are doing an amazing job.
      So much love to you and your family xxx

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