Little Sunday Story Time Peach written by An Anonymous Mama

This is my husband is an only child. His father passed away from brain trauma two years ago, it was short and sudden battle. We were not prepared. But then my husband's mother, my mother in law, moved in with us. And one month later I became pregnant, with our first child. Which was ironic because I was waiting for the perfect time to have a baby. I was lucky enough to get pregnant as soon as I started trying. But I wasn't expecting to have my mother in law live with me, my entire pregnancy and post birth.

During my pregnancy I spent a lot of time consoling an inconsolable woman. Partially because I wanted her to help and partly because I wanted her to move on and move out! Sorry to say. But it is difficult living with a parent, especially one who is not your own. She did things differently to me and I found it difficult sharing my private space. She would walk into our house, she had a key. She would never say she was coming round. She would invite people over. She never really helped. She was a lovely lady, don't get me wrong. But she was going through a hard time and I couldn't exactly complain about her bad habits. My husband stood by my side, because he's a good man. But also because he was conscious of my feelings affecting our unborn child! I struggled to enjoy my pregnancy until a month before I gave birth she moved out. And I made the nursery I had planned for. Then I gave birth and she decided to come back to "help" us. She didn't really help at all. And this is where breastfeeding became my thing. 

I didn't really think much about breastfeeding before I gave birth. I had the dream birth - basically a hypnobirthing dream. But breastfeeding was painful, worse than labour. I had oversupply of milk, plugged ducts, mastitis, blisters and thrush all in the space of three months. I battled with breastfeeding. I kept fighting, determined to make it work. All the while being told by my mother in law - give her a bottle, so we can help i.e. I could get a chance to cook and clean and she could have fun with the baby. To this day she doesn't understand that when the baby wants to sleep you can't play with her. Anyway she wanted to take part in the fun stuff. My breastfeeding meant the baby had to come back to me. That's why I continued breastfeeding because I felt threatened and breastfeeding protected me. Even though I wanted to do it from the start, I was passionate about it and I read up on all the misconceptions. I called the helplines at least 20 times, I had a lactation consultant come round many times. I kept going and I think subconsciously I knew that no one could ever take my baby away, if I breastfed. 

We're at the six months mark now. I don't feel as threatened but I keep any bottles out of grandmas sight (baby drinks expressed milk from a bottle sometimes). I don't want her to know there are other options. My milk only, because I want her to come back to me. I've spoken to a counsellor about my anxiety issues. But now I've come to a point where I no longer feel as threatened and I've spent so much time pushing myself emotionally and not giving myself a break that I realised...I don't enjoy breastfeeding, the way some women do. 

I want to talk about it because I don't want women who WANT to breastfeed but don't ENJOY it all the time to be shunned. I recently spoke to one of the top lactation consultants in Sussex about how my baby wouldn't feed outside and it was giving me so much anxiety. Because she wasnt getting milk and expressing milk took a long time. She was getting so distracted. She said to me give her water. She wouldn't utter the word bottle. But what I noticed is she wasn't listening to me. I was telling her it's stressing me out and she was so blinded by her agenda that she couldn't hear what I was really saying. In that moment I was saying I hate this, I want to stop, I feel depressed but I feel bad. Help me to feel better. Give me a break. Cut me some slack. Stop making me feel awful. Tell me its OK to stop. Even though I won't stop but I want to hear it. 

I see people talking about breast is best, gold liquid and platinum breasts and I want to remind you that breastfeeding is not a competition. It's not something we should pressure women to do. We need to acknowledge that for some women, breastfeeding is a struggle emotionally and physically, because breastfeeding hard. There is research that shows that for women who already have low levels of anxiety and depression - breastfeeding does not elevate their mood. The way it does with women who don't have an oxytocin imbalance. 

Therefore I suggest that women are encouraged to give expressed bottles so that women have the option of a bottle. They should be taught how to do this without affecting breastfeeding, not scaremongered. Like my friend who needs to go back to work, in a month, 
and her son is exclusively breastfed and she has no way of putting him to sleep without her being there. And that women are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for six months and then if they decide they no longer want to breastfeed they can either do combination or formula feed. This doesn't make them any less, or a bronze, breastfeeding mum. This makes them a platinum mum - just like a woman who can breastfeed for a year or two. They did the best that they could, with what they had, where they are. Let's be reasonable. Let's not make a woman feel like the longer the better. Yes it gets easier with solids being introduced and with setting a bedtime routine. But some things stay the same. You can't gave a night out because if baby us awake whose going to put them back to sleep?! Let's be honest. 

I could give her formula now and I am really trying to stop myself. It's not poison but I feel like I have milk. But I would consider it at some point in the next weeks and I would like a lactation consultant to tell me its OK and well done. We should celebrate the end of any breastfeeding journey. And that's the thing I don't want it to end. But I want to be taught how to give her the odd bottle of formula and give myself a break (as selfish as that might sound to some pro breastfeeding groups) and be taught how to maintain my supply for at least a year or however long I can. I would like more support and I would like to not feel guilty. 

Really I think we need to stop sugar coating breastfeeding and making it sound like it's always the best thing. What is the point of breastfeeding if you feel depressed or anxious? I want women to acknowledge how hard it is, how lonely it can be. When you're stuck in a room and feeing for four hours straight during a growth spurt. When all your other 20 something year old friends are out having fun, going out without their children, sending you photos and you're stuck at home. When you go online and look at mums and judge whether they are BF based on their clothes and makeup. Because you know BF mums get less time and occasionally less sleep. Because if you're not co sleeping and you don't want to you may get less sleep. And your baby will fall asleep on you during nap time and so you won't get time to get dolled up. Let's talk about the reality so women know it's OK to feel this way. A friend I made at a class told me recently that she felt so anxious and tired from breastfeeding, she had to go seek help. It shouldn't be that way. 

Breastfeeding is great from a health perspective but it can be emotionally draining. I want to continue but I want someone to tell me how to enjoy it more. Because I have spent six months feeding and feeling rubbish. Yes I have a stressful situation but I do feel BF babies depend on us more. I write this as my daughter is feeding to sleep. I know she fell asleep twenty minutes ago but she hasn't come off yet. And I really want to take off my contacts and go and watch telly and sit in peace.

You may not agree with everything I've said or any of it but please respect this is my journey and its been a tough one. Thank you.