Last week was National Breastfeeding Awareness week. Many ladies blogged about their breastfeeding experiences – some good, some bad – and I enjoyed reading all their posts. It took me a while to decide on whether I wanted to share my story… Mostly because it’s such a ‘hot’ topic. And also, to be honest, I didn’t want to be judged.
Please know that if you breastfed your babies, or are still breastfeeding – I admire you and I will always support you. But…
I didn’t breastfeed my baby. There. I said it.
I was prepared to. I had bought nursing bras, breast pump, nursing pyjamas and tops, breastfeeding pillow, the lot. I was scared. I had heard so many horror stories from so many people and quite frankly, it terrified me. I wasn’t too worried about what would happen if I couldn’t. I’d switch to formula. No problem. Voicing that opened up a whole can of worms. Hub and his brother were breastfed, so he was very keen that I nurse. My in-laws were very keen that I breastfeed (and repeatedly said so). My brother-in-law kept going on about how I must breastfeed. And I started feeling a little stressed out. It was too much pressure! And the baby wasn’t even born yet and I was still worrying about the birth! I wasn’t even sure if I would actually *be able* to due to a surgery I’d had ten years previously. I was nervous, but I was definitely going to try.
When Vindoo was born, he was underweight. He was 2.5kgs (5.8lbs). The doctor said that he should have formula for his first two feeds before I started nursing. They whisked him away. And while they were stitching me up, the midwife gave Vindoo his first feed.
I gave him his second feed. I couldn’t stop staring at him and marvelling at how perfect he was. This is the little baby that grew inside me for nine months and finally I was holding him! This is the little baby who kicked when he heard ‘Oh My Gosh’ by Usher. This is the little baby that ‘made’ me eat all that McDonalds. It was at that moment that I decided I didn’t want to breastfeed him. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know what happened… But I bottled it (no pun intended).
Many will think I did the wrong thing by him. I know about all the health benefits for baby and mum. I *know*. But I also knew that I was doing what was best for both of us at that time. If I didn’t *want* to do it, then neither I or my baby would be happy.
Hub was disappointed, but he stood by me (eventually). I wasn’t breastfed and neither were my sister or brother (and we are all perfectly healthy). Someone asked why I didn’t want to do what was best for my son. The day after he was born. While I was still in hospital. I wasn’t starving him! He was clearly happy and content! I was doing what was best for him. This pressure and ‘line of questioning’ continued for a day or two and then stopped. (Thank God – I didn’t know how much more I could take).
All the midwives in the hospital were great. No one made me feel guilty at all. I realise how lucky I was. I was worried about going home and having midwives and health visitors coming to our home and making me feel like a failure for not feeding. Again, I was extremely lucky. They were all great! What frustrated me was that EVERY single person that came to visit asked if I was nursing. Every single one. And each one of them wanted to know why I had chosen not to. Or they asked if it was because I wasn’t ‘getting any milk’. Maybe it annoyed me because I felt a little guilty?
We came back to Lagos when Vindoo was 12 weeks old. They are *very* big on breastfeeding here. VERY. I avoided taking him into school to see colleagues because I knew they would ask me if I was still nursing (which they would fully expect). And when I did take him – when he was four months old, I was surprised only two or three people asked. I just said, ‘no’ – rather than, ‘No. And I never did’. I thought I’d save myself some explaining which I knew would fall on deaf ears. Even with just saying, ‘No’ – I got a lecture or two.
It took me a while to realise, to *really* realise and understand that choosing to breastfeed (or not) is a woman’s choice. No one can make you do it. Not Hub, not parents, not in-laws, no one. They can’t force you. And that you have to do what you have to do. My boy and I have a strong bond. We are close. He is strong, happy and healthy (touch wood). I love him more than anything in the world. I would do anything for him. And I didn’t have to breastfeed him to form that bond.