I wrote this for a print publication but for whatever reason it wasn't used, but I thought as I'd gone through the emotional mill a bit in writing it, it would be a shame for it never to see the light of day or to go on record. It's still a bit upsetting for me to think about, but perhaps putting it here will help me draw a line under things and move on. Something I think I now need to do for my mental state and for the future too.
Anyway, here goes. It is unedited so the writing isn't as good as it could be:
Before I had my baby, I had always assumed I would breastfeed him. I didn’t really give it much more thought, so when James was born 6 weeks early by Caesarean section, weighing 5lb 1oz, and taken away from me to the Special Care Baby Unit it was a real shock that I wasn’t able to breastfeed him. At first, he was fed through a tube in SCBU, but they switched to bottle-feeding without discussing it with me first. I didn’t really question this, as I just assumed that the hospital knows best.
In SCBU James’s weight was monitored constantly, and when I started to try breastfeeding, rather than just expressing milk for him, on about day 5 or 6, he lost weight on that day. This meant that we couldn’t take him home and the nurses insisted on feeding him from the bottle themselves to make sure he took in enough food. This was incredibly upsetting and in the end I gave up attempting to breastfeed in the hospital. I decided to carry on expressing and wait to try when I got home.
I had no one to turn to for advice on how to start breastfeeding from this point and was panic stricken that if James hadn’t gained enough weight by the time the midwife came to visit at home he would be taken back into hospital. Every time I tried to feed, he wouldn’t latch on, so I would switch to giving him a bottle for the rest of the feed. My milk never really came in and after 6 weeks of trying, expressing milk and feeling totally shattered I gave up on breastfeeding completely.
I felt that I had failed James and it still upsets me to think about how little support I was given in the hospital to establish breast (rather than bottle) feeding before bringing him home. I am convinced it is because he was healthy in all other respects and they needed the space in SCBU for another less fortunate baby.
Mums in this country are made to feel pretty guilty if they don’t breastfeed, but almost no support is given to make sure this happens. This contrasts with other nations where full support is given and breastfeeding rates are higher. Until we stop simply paying lip service to the breastfeeding message and actually start supporting it, the UK will remain at the bottom of the breastfeeding league tables, and sadly there will be a lot of mums out there with stories like mine.