July 1st was Samuel’s official due date, but he was born May 19th. Anyone with a premature baby will be familiar with the term ‘adjusted age.’ This is where you deduct the number of weeks premature from the date of your child’s birth to determine its adjusted age. So this week, Sam turns 12 weeks old, which minus his 6 weeks premature gives him an adjusted age of 6 weeks. So while Sam is ‘older’ than his adjusted age, it means he will develop more closely to his adjusted age than his actual age. So milestones you’d expect at 6 weeks will occur closer to 12 for him.
And I am so pleased to say that this is most definitely the case with Breastfeeding. Sam has finally grown strong enough and mature enough to develop a proper latch and suck, which means we are now finally able to breastfeed!! I am so beyond stoked to report that literally the day after my last blog, Sam had an hour-long feed, and continued to get stronger every day. We now have a lovely routine locked in of our morning feed, where I get to sit in my beautiful nursery chair and soak in the endorphins and calm of breastfeeding my son. I get to finally stop condemning myself mentally for what I perceived to be a failure of my body. I can finally hold my head up high and say “Yes, we breastfeed.”
While I am so ecstatic to be able to check off accomplishing this one thing that I held onto with stubborn determination and sheer grit, through tears and frustration and many moments of throwing my hands in the air and saying “I quit! This is too hard!” I am also really sad for mums out there who for whatever reason don’t breastfeed and feel guilt and pressure to do so. We all know the saying “breast is best” but I honestly feel like what’s best for baby is what’s best for mum. There is so much pressure to breastfeed in today’s society, and so much pressure to do it ‘discreetly,’ whatever that means, when you have a screaming hungry baby throwing themselves around because they’re so beyond hangry it’s impossible to calm them any faster than ripping off your shirt and shoving your breast into their mouth, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Or fair. To mum and baby.
I know the stress I felt trying to get Sam to take the breast was enormous. More than once I was reduced to tears in my attempts. I felt like a complete and utter failure as a mother. I thought of all the centuries of women who fed their babies this way, and how I was somehow a genetic failure destined to be bred out of the gene pool for my inability to do something so natural, that so many others had done without effort. But it’s simply ridiculous to place so much pressure on a mother to do so, right from the moment of conception your entire existence is about the little life growing inside of you. You give up everything you’re told could cause you illness and the baby harm. You forego things you love to give your child everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. You spend 9 months cultivating a human life to be able to sustain itself outside the womb with basic human needs. Your body swims with hormones. You cry over all the things you feel you’re doing wrong or not able to control from the minute you know you’re pregnant to the moment you die. You literally bleed for your child. And yet if you can’t breastfeed, you somehow feel like a failure.
It breaks my heart that the link between failure to breastfeed and post natal depression is so high, and I can’t help but wonder how much of that is because of the mental and emotional pressure women feel, from society, from family, friends, from themselves. At the end of the day, the most important thing is a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy mother. How you get there should be nobody’s business. So think before you ask a new mother if their baby is breast or bottle fed. You may actually be adding to a new mother’s anxiety!
I am admittedly still mixed feeding Sam and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I am perfectly content with my morning and evening snuggles during our breast time, but I am also content with bottle feeds in the middle of the night, which ensure I know exactly how much Sammy is eating, and can be shared with Stu as well.
I’d like to encourage mothers using formula. Your reasons are your own. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. You are doing great.
I’d also like to encourage mums out there who might be struggling to breastfeed. It’s ok to formula feed. It’s ok to breastfeed. Stick to your guns either way and don’t let the outcome affect your sense of value and worth as a mother. To your little person, you’re everything. Formula or breast. You’re doing great.
It’s up to you to find the breast outcome possible. For both you and bubba. xx