I was in the exact same boat. I only managed 6 weeks because my nipples were shredded to pieces, I was sleep-deprived and couldn’t remember the last time I’d showered and was beginning to hate this beautiful baby girl who just seemed to be attached to me all the damn time!
And then she started losing weight and failing to thrive and my midwife told me that it was time to stop. She sent my husband out for a tin of formula and then we gave it to her, she chugged it back and then promptly fell into a well-fed coma-like sleep for three hours.
I went and had a bath — the first since she was born and I just sat there in the tub weeping hysterically because I was a failure as a mother. Never mind the fact that I had been doing everything humanly possible to make breastfeeding work. Members of the local milk-sharing community turned their backs on me and only reinforced the idea of me being a failure.
But then I realized something. How could breast be best if she wasn’t getting what she needed from me? How could I honestly continue when I knew that it was doing her more harm than good, not to mention the damage it was doing to MY mental health. My daughter deserved a mother who was just as happy and healthy as she is.
So I stopped. And started feeding her formula exclusively. Which turned out to be a blessing because that meant my husband could take the 2am feedings on certain nights and allow me to sleep through. So I became more well rested, more present. And most importantly I was able to start loving my daughter again instead of resenting her.
What really irritates me is the fact that here in New Zealand, the breast is best message has weasled its way into pretty much everything. Antenatal classes that receive government funding aren’t allowed to even MENTION formula, let alone teach expecting parents how to prepare it safely. The hospitals enforce rooming in and supplementing is a big no-no. Instead you are given a hospital grade pump and are expected to pump constantly when your baby isn’t on the breast in order to build up your supply. And tins of formula here legally HAVE to have a message printed on them somewhere saying that breast is best and that you should talk to a health professional before using it.
And that saddens me. Because we shouldn’t be putting so much pressure on new mothers. We should be saying, ‘breastmilk is ideal but if it doesn’t work, no biggie.’
Fed is best. And we need to leave it up to women to determine what that is for them.