It was completely out of my hands when it came to the matter of feeding my son. I was born with Poland’s Syndrome which meant that my breasts didn’t form properly and my milk ducts were unable to be reconnected after reconstructive surgery on both my breasts. Breastfeeding simply wasn’t an option for me.
My need to bottle-feed my son formula should have been guilt-free; it was the only way I could nourish my child. So when my baby was born and I started feeding him, I was shocked by the overwhelming sense of loss I felt at not being able to breastfeed. I began to resent my body for failing me and I mourned for the breast milk that never came. I was depressed about my identity, not only as a mother, but as a woman. Biologically, women only have breasts because they are designed to nourish a baby. Mine couldn’t.
One day, I was staring in the mirror at my ‘useless’ breasts when my baby started crying. I held him close to me and comforted him until he was calm. As I looked lovingly at my son in my arms, it suddenly hit me. He felt the connection and familiarity of me soothing him on my chest. He mellowed to my voice and heartbeat, all whilst resting peacefully on my breasts.
That was the moment of change.
I was so focused on what my body couldn’t do, that I forgot what was most important from a mother; the ability to provide warmth, love and comfort. I was already providing my baby with the best nutrition I could.
After that I embraced the tender bottle-bonding moments; our eyes gazing into each others, little fingers clasped to mine, the peace. They are precious memories I will cherish forever.
Breastfeeding grief is very real. It appears that there are lots of women out there who have developed post-natal depression as a direct result from their struggle/inability to breastfeed. I encourage any woman who is experiencing sadness from their feeding journey to get help and advice from a medical professional, as well as support from their family and friends. Keep reminding yourself that you are doing an amazing job by keeping your baby fed. That’s all that matters, the method is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Don’t feel hopeless at the fact you are grieving, you’re more than entitled to. In the meantime, surround yourself with people who bring love, positivity and comfort to your life and with time, you will find your moment of change. I promise.
(originally published on Red Tricycle)