I’ve never been that comfortable with my body. When my friends would be changing in the open locker room for sports classes, I would be hiding in the bathroom stall. This didn’t change when my now husband and I started dating. Being comfortable around him changed, of course, when I had our baby. There’s something about recovering from a c-section and not being able to even dry yourself after a shower (among other things) that throws all modesty out the window.
When we found out I was pregnant, my immediate reaction was ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to have to pull my boobs out in public’. The thought alone made me feel queasy. I know there are wraps and covers you can use to protect your privacy, but even that seemed unpleasant to me. I knew, deep down, that even in my own home, I would have to take myself out of social situations to go and feed in private. This is no way for a new mother to feel.
And, when it came to my emotional state, this was only one element that needed to be considered.
Taking stock after loss and grief
Losing my mum aged 57 and my nana, and falling pregnant, all within 18 months of each other meant a whirlwind of emotions. Having gone through such trauma in such a small amount of time, I knew that I was susceptible to post-natal depression.
Let’s be honest, while things are slowly changing, many people don’t talk much about PND. I, myself, have been very open about it, knowing that my circumstances could result in some very low days and knowing that I may need some extra help to get me through. I have been careful to acknowledge my feelings. I have let myself cry, and straight after my tears have fallen, I’ve peeked in on my sleeping baby and all seems okay with the world again.
Finding my feet without my mum
I have been very aware of the fact that my mum isn’t here to help me find my way through temperatures, vaccinations and everything else that comes with a child.
I have an incredible support network in my father, my sister, my in-laws, my extended family, and of course, a very doting husband. But, to be frank, when you’re that close to your mum, no one can ever replace the advice she would have given you.
I have also, however, been very careful to acknowledge my good days. And by acknowledging my feelings and allowing myself to wallow and feel sad, I’ve realised there have actually been far more good days than bad.
Breast or bottle? The choice was a hard one
When it came to feeding, I agonised over my decision for quite a while. My husband and I talked for hours on end about what was better – formula or breast milk, boob or bottle.
And at the end of the day, we both decided, that no matter where our child’s food came from, a fed baby is a happy baby. And a happy, relaxed mummy, is a happy, relaxed family.
I know breastfeeding comes with a multitude of difficulties. I’ve spoken to many friends about how hard it can be. I’ve also spoken to those same friends about how incredible the experience is, how close they feel to their children when they’re up at all hours feeding – just mummy and child.
Bottle feeding was the right choice for us
But truth be told, I’ve bonded just as much with my little boy. We talk while we feed, we smile at each other, we sing. I can see his beautiful little face light up when the bottle comes near his mouth.
Whenever people ask whether we’re bottle or breastfeeding, the subsequent question is always whether it was a choice to bottle-feed. Yes, it was a choice. I recognised that my emotional fragility could impact my relationship with my baby. I recognised that breastfeeding would make it much harder for my son and I. I recognised that the best thing for my little family was that I was happy, comfortable, and able to get out and about, ensuring my mental and emotional state was cared for. And I recognised that by bottle feeding my child, someone could help me look after my baby if I was ever feeling too sad to care for him to the extent he needed.
I’m fortunate that I was able to pre-empt these things
For many women, PND creeps up on them, like those little monsters your children are convinced are under their beds.
We need to talk about the impact PND can have on a family, and how the ‘breast is best’ message can sometimes hinder a new mum’s ability to enjoy the time with her child.
We need to acknowledge that while breastfeeding is great, it is not always best; fed is best.
We need to acknowledge that many mums cannot breastfeed. And we need to acknowledge that many mums choose not to – and that’s okay too.
We need to acknowledge that bottle feeding has its place.
I know I’m not completely out of the woods when it comes to PND. It can happen weeks, months, even years after giving birth. But I believe I’ve made the right decision in trying my best to pre-empt it and combat it.
My baby has had formula since birth and he is thriving, he is happy, and he is perfect.