A Note To Wednesday

Wednesday was all about the emotions of feeding infants and how intense society is about it.

As an exclusively expressing mama (we’ll delve into all of that in due course) I quite often feel like neither fish nor foul.

The question is always posed as breast or bottle, and I’m sitting thinking it’s breast IN a bottle…

Does that still count? Does the mode of delivery matter?

The answer (because I did indeed ask this at my 6 week check) is YES.

What the various eyes in the waiting room don’t realise is that the medical professionals who ask that question are interested to know whether you as mum are still producing milk (as it has different implications for your breast tissue and hormone levels) and exactly what baby is receiving in case any health concerns arise as it could be allergies and so forth.

That’s the end of it. No opinion required.

Fed is best.

No one else should be asking.

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Fed is Best

Breasts, bottles, both…

I’m not really ready for this yet but let’s talk about the emotions of feeding.

Before we start, please reread the title, FED is BEST. This has nothing to do with the options available and the choices made when it comes to feeding our children.

This is all about acknowledging that feeding is the most talked about, emotionally loaded, hot topic out there.

It’s the one everyone has an opinion on and can be surprisingly hypocritical about. The most prominent example are those who lecture new mums on the properties of breastmilk but then flip out at mothers breastfeeding in public.

There is a particularly prickly minefield for those who do not direct nurse and express milk to take out and about. This may be because there have been challenges establishing direct nursing or because you don’t want to direct nurse in public. Even before I started exclusively expressing I was planning to pump for feeds beyond my front door because I am so uncoordinated I couldn’t envisage a time when I wouldn’t flash someone by mistake. (Those of you who can seamlessly and confidently lift up tops, pull down bras and simultaneously get a baby to latch on are magicians in my eyes).

Let’s Start Here

Although it is the most talked about and heavily advocated, breastfeeding is hard.

It is painful, hormone-fuelled and difficult to master. Even for those who pursevere with nipple cream in hand and come out the other side successful, it is a long slog of especially sleepless nights, anxiety over the quantity being consumed by your little one and hours of crying.

The crying isn’t just from mum either. My husband found our (eventually unsuccessful) breastfeeding attempts to be heart-wrenching, anxiety-inducing affairs where both baby and I were in tears and he felt utterly helpless. (I actually think it was more intense than the birth from his perspective).

If breastfeeding is not established; latching difficulties, challenges with milk supply, exhaustion, and so on, it can result in a huge amount of negativity.

A lot of this is from mum herself. Feelings of guilt, anger, disappointment, of failure.

If there have been supply challenges then formula feeding is often the next step, and many feel this is the most sustainable option as expressing can be all consuming. Some will still be topping up with formula despite putting in the long hours it takes to express. Some do a combination of breast, expressed and formula.

There are those for whom formula feeding is the most suitable and sustainable choice right from the start. This is perhaps the hardest choice of all because of the continuous pressure, attitude and opinions piled on by society, friends and family. These mums face harsh judgement, constant commenting and the most vicious external obstacles.

Let me know your feeding stories. As mentioned in the main body of the post, I did try to breastfeed so have no experience of choosing to formula feed from birth so I would especially love to hear from you. 

Breast-pumping Blues

Whir clack
Whir clack
The pump churns out its rhythm

Stretch slack
Stretch slack
My breasts worked by the system

Perusing the dream
Keep mining the seam
Of milk the colour of cream

Return to Work: What’s Good for Baby, What’s Good for Mum?

I have a new emotional expedition I hope you will join me on. 

The time is approaching for me to make a big decision: to go back to work, to extend maternity leave or to stay at home. I have a few weeks before I need to give a final answer and, as ever, this is my exploration space. 

Before We Begin

There are so many factors that go into every individual’s choice that the concept of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of mothering needs to be exterminated. Unless you are outright neglecting, manipulating or abusing your child, there is not a wrong way to parent. 

I find it’s often women perpetuating these notions of right and wrong, I suspect driven by our own insecurities. We are desperate to be perfect, a desire fuelled by hormones, anxiety, love and the pressures of society (real or abstract). 

As ever, opinions are polarised, and the middle ground, although walked by so many, is obscured almost entirely by the prevailing opposites. In this instance, the two extremes are full time work and staying at home although a range of alternatives exist including working from home, being self employed, part time work and I am sure many more I have just never considered. 

Where I Am Right Now 

As I say, there are many, many things to consider, and I want to begin by acknowledging how fortunate I am to have maternity leave in the first place. I have the good fortune to live in a country that has statutory maternity leave, to be an employee and work for a company that I trust to uphold my rights. I am very blessed as not only is this not the experience of women in many other countries, it is not the security afforded to all in my own. 

Currently, beyond going round in circles about the choice and logistics of each outcome, I am aware of the implications of all options on my mental health and wellbeing. 

There have been great blessings to maternity leave but, as a workaholic, there have also been struggles. 

Therefore, there are not just the practical influencers such as finances, child care, the dog and our schedule as a couple to consider, but also emotional; family considerations, couple time and my own well being. 

Some might think it is selfish, but this decision is not just about what is best for baby, but also what is best for mum.