When you are pregnant, preparing for the birth can be all consuming. It was for me anyway.
I attended prenatal yoga and did 15 squats daily to prepare my pelvis for an easy arrival. I drank raspberry leaf tea, listened to hypnobirthing and even endured the unpleasantness of perineal massage. And when I went into labour, it all seemed to pay off – or maybe I was just lucky. Ajax arrived like a lightening bolt and was delivered within 2 hours and 20 minutes of my waters breaking. No stitches, no drugs.
I felt smug… until God decided to deliver me some humble pie.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that breastfeeding would be hard. I was fed a soft-focused version of nursing that involved bonding and smiles and easy attachment.
But it didn’t happen like that.
After six weeks of pumping, four lactation experts, three different types of nipple shields, and Ajax still not latching, I eventually gave up. It turned out my son had a double tongue-tie issue, which the first operation hadn’t resolved.
As a nutritional therapist, you can imagine how devastating this was.
We all know that breastfeeding provides maximum nutrition for the baby. I should know; five years ago I wrote an article on the subject, which included the following:
‘Infants breast-fed for more than six months may be 5-9 IQ points smarter than formula-fed infants. Another study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics found that prematurely-born babies who were fed natural breast milk performed better on tests of cognitive development than formula-fed infants. The researchers found that the more the babies suckled, the higher their scores.
Aside from the cognitive benefits, babies weaned on pure, unadulterated human milk also have stronger immune systems, heavier body weights, and better overall health than those weaned on formula milk. And, if you think that partial breast-feeding will cut it, think again. A study of 1000 babies found those exclusively breast-fed for six months had significantly fewer ear infections, respiratory infections and thrush than those who were either partly breast-fed or fed formula.’
With all these studies ringing in my ears every time I made my son a bottle, I started to lose the plot. I refused to feed him in public; I found it humiliating. I imagined judgemental voices in every pub/cafe and couldn’t bear the thought of what the powder was doing to his gut flora.
When the plumber said to me ‘you know that breastfeeding is really the best’, it was the final straw. The only way I finally managed to move past the guilt was to make my own formula with unpasteurised goat milk. You can find the recipe in Sally Fallon’s brilliant book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Childcare.
Although I would have loved nothing more than to nurse my baby myself, I am grateful for what the experience has taught me. While books can provide a guide, the ultimate teacher will be our own book of life. I am now more humble and compassionate and will never again judge another mother for the choices she makes.
Header: Photo from VictoriaPenafiel.com