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There's More To Being A Parent Than Feeding

Updated: Jan 26

While I was pregnant my Aunty warned me that I would experience a lot of pressure to breastfeed. At the time, I was a bit surprised by this and really hoped things had moved on since she had her children.

Turns out she was right. The pressure from midwives was pretty overwhelming, and comments from others awoke old insecurities within me.

In hospital, I listened to one health professional after another pressure another woman on the ward, whose baby had been readmitted with complications, to solely breastfeed. After some terse instructions another midwife left and the woman began to quietly sob. Basic kindness was sorely lacking in these interactions.

I thank god my Aunty very clearly told me to ignore what was going on around me and do what’s right for me and B. After three weeks, I developed sharp pains on one side that did not abate with pain relief. I began to dread feeding my baby because of the hours of pain that would follow a feed. 

My mum encouraged me to take breaks and a very sympathetic GP told me that my baby doesn’t care where the milk comes from, as long as he is fed. A kind friend assured me that breastfeeding has to work for me. If it doesn’t, it won’t work for my baby. Even so, I still felt like a failure as a mother when I began to taper off breastfeeding.

My mum told me she ended up staying with her mum for a couple of weeks after giving birth. She struggled with breastfeeding and my nana said to her, 'oh for heaven’s sake, just use a bottle. In Africa, we didn’t have formula. You’re lucky to have these things.' 

My nana hinted at a brutal truth. For a lot of humanity’s history, and still true in parts of the world today, if a woman could not breastfeed, their baby simply would not eat. 

Behind the myth that the natural ways of the body are best is the stark reality that malnutrition causes infant deaths. Nature is unforgiving.

I came to the realisation that fearing a feed could easily transform into fear of my baby, and I didn’t want to get to that point. The breast pump I tried didn’t fit me and wasn’t efficient.

I decided I wanted as many loving and positive interactions with my son as possible, particularly in those early weeks. If that meant using a bottle, so be it. After all, there’s more to being a parent than feeding.

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