My Breastfeeding Story

I hated breastfeeding. There, I’ve said it. I never had a good time with it and I felt utterly useless that I couldn’t do it very easily. What’s really irritating is that I spent my 20s wishing to have a boob reduction but never did, as I knew it would affect me being able to breastfeed. Having big boobs and not being able to breastfeed is a bit like having a big nose and not being able to smell. I have quite big boobs and it is never something I’ve really appreciated or wanted. I think if you have larger breasts, to look good, you often have to dress in a very feminine manner like Marilyn Munroe but I have never been that sort of girl. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and I like the sort of rocker look or herion chic, which I felt was hard to pull off with knockers. I would like to say, dress how you like and who cares, but it’s hard when you’re vain like me. Another issue with having big breasts is that it’s not something people generally ignore. I’ve never enjoyed the attention they draw and I am unlikely to wear low cut tops, which is apparently according to Trinny and Susana, is what I should be doing to look good. The ladies, unfortunately, never mentioned another way to dress if don’t like that sort of clothing. What if you prefer to dress like Kate Moss rather than Sophia Loren?

A prime example in my life, of people not being able to ignore big boobs or comment on them, is my nickname at school, ‘Breasts’. My peers thought long and hard to come up with that name. I don’t think at the time I really thought how completely inappropriate it was. I had a big group of friends and it always felt affectionate but still, come on people, way to give someone a complex!

I kept my giant, voluptuous boobs intact because I wanted to feed my future baby. When I became pregnant my already quite large cup size of FF’s went up to K’s – I didn’t even know that size existed. I would tell friends and they would laugh, which I get it’s ridiculous but to be honest, I wasn’t laughing. I hated it. But here it was again – all this attention onto this body part that I have never appreciated. When my little baby J came along I thought,

‘Well, they will come into there own now, these giant boobs of mine. I will be able to feed my baby and nourish her and they will do the job that nature intended.’

But it was so hard. J didn’t latch very easily and my boobs got so full that J couldn’t get a grip on them. I felt like this tiny baby had no chance with my whoppers. Having big breasts also meant that I couldn’t breastfeed very discretely. I really wanted to be able to breastfeed by just popping my boob out and having my baby’s head block the onlooker’s view but it wasn’t possible. At the very beginning of me breastfeeding mission, I went to a friend’s birthday party and one of the women said,

“Oh you are good using a cover, I’m so lazy I never do” as she whipped one of her breasts out and stuck a baby on without anyone seeing a thing. But when I did that my baby’s head had no chance of covering me and I didn’t want everyone seeing my boobs. I didn’t even like wearing low cut tops so showing off my nipples at lunch felt a bit too much.

I was very unlucky as I got mastitis twice that left me feeling like I had flu. I remember sitting in a hot bath shivering like I was in naked in a snow storm. These experiences really hindered my breastfeeding progression and my ability to like it. I kept going back to the breastfeeding clinics, which were helpful, but J was crying a lot and never seemed satisfied. When I went to get J weighed with the midwives she had lost weight and they told me they thought I should top up with bottles of formula. I asked them how I should go about it? I’d had no advice on bottle feeding. I’d had advice on breastfeeding but mentioning bottlefeeding in an NCT class felt like swearing in church. I’d heard this mantra, breast is best, and so when the midwife told me that I needed to top up with bottles I felt like I had failed. Breast is best, and I was going to hinder my child’s development and give her a bottle because I wasn’t able to do my basic job as a mother. After the appointment I sat outside the doctors in my car and cried. I rang Eddy and told him and I remember asking him not to tell anyone else that she had lost weight – I felt so ashamed.

I was concerned that my daughter would take a bottle and then not want to go back to the breast but I was lucky she was happy to do both. I would give her breast first and then top her up with a bottle and this worked fairly well for us. My breasts and I never really relaxed into it though and I felt I struggled through breastfeeding for 5 months. After a while of feeling ashamed and slightly embarrassed when I got a bottle out, I started to see some advantages. I talked to other mothers who were wanting to have a night out and get a babysitter but couldn’t as their baby would not take a bottle. J’d had both, bottle and boob, from around two weeks so was unbothered which she had as long as she was being fed. It was first time I felt a bit smug.

My bright doctor friend had thought through and carefully planned the beginnings of her son’s life. She had foreseen this issue and came up with the clever plan to exclusively breast feed for 6 weeks and then after this dropped her 6 o’clock feed for a bottle. This way, when it came to her needing a break or having to go out, her baby had no problem with having a bottle. Clever lady. This same lady told me that, whenever she took her bra off, her milk would shoot out like a milk hose and she would have to put her son on her boob while being careful not to spray him in the face. Ah, the wonders of motherhood.

I was not alone with my struggles with breastfeeding. My buddy from my NCT class felt my pain and she had the added difficulty of a mother who couldn’t remember what it was like and often would tell her how easy it had all been for her. After around 5 months of us sharing horror stories of mastitis, nipples nearly falling off and accidently flashing father-in-laws she rang me sounding elated,

‘I’ve given up breastfeeding and it’s amazing! I just feel so free!’

I admired her happiness and also how she had gone for it without worrying or over thinking. I mentioned it to Eddy and he urged me to stop as well.

I thought about it for a few days. I wasn’t far off the 6 months I had intended but it was making feel miserable and was it better that I was happier and in turn would probably make my daughter happier if I stopped? I decided to stop. I cried. There’s a lot of crying involved in motherhood. It felt like an end of an era and that again, I was failing.

Once I moved on it was easier, I could ask for more help and I felt happier. I think in hindsight it was the right decision for me.

I feel like J is fine but I do wonder if I had breastfed for longer would she still be obsessively putting things in her mouth? I can blame Freud for this thought process. Thanks Freud for adding to my mother paranoia. Freud’s oral stage haunts me. He basically says if people don’t get breast fed for long enough or too long (ya see you can’t win!) they get orally fixated and this often produces people to have unhealthy habbits that involve oral sensations, for example, nail biting (J bites her nails) or overeaters. I can torture myself with this for years to come. If J gets caught smoking behind the bike shed I can think,

‘Maybe I should have breast fed for longer?”

As a mother, I have endless ways of torturing myself over the choices I have made – it’s what we do right?

But whatever way you look at it something I stand by is a mother’s happiness is vital for your baby. If you’re breastfeeding and it’s going great, you’re going to feel really happy and in turn so is your baby but if it’s tough and making you really miserable is it worth it? Surely a smiley mother is the best thing for your baby’s mental well-being and if your baby is happy isn’t this what we as parents are striving for? If breastfeeding is the thing that is standing in the way of you being happy then perhaps stopping is OK.

Whatever way you decide to go, I hope you get the support and encouragement you need and don’t worry what everyone else is doing – take it from me you’re doing great.

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