When The Milk Runs Out…

When my son was born I was so excited to breastfeed him.

Two weeks of tears (from both of us), scabbed and bleeding nipples and sleepless nights later and we finally cracked it. Now he was never the ideal feeder. He used to like to hang out down there for 45 minutes at a time, which when you’re trying to get out of the house isn’t ideal. But I thought we were doing well.

So it came as a complete surprise when at 5 months he stopped gaining weight as well and suddenly feeding became a struggle. Finally when he was 5 ½ months I got lucky and met a health visitor who took an interest not just in my baby, but in me, and asked the most important question of all “How are you doing?”. Cue a total meltdown as I poured my heart out to her about how hard I was finding it all and how stressed and tired I was feeling. She sent me straight off to buy some formula with the instructions to start combination feeding immediately and within a month we had made the transition to completely formula feeding.

Just under two years later I find myself in exactly the same position with my daughter. She’s now nearly 5 months old my body has simply stopped producing enough milk to meet her needs. This time I have made the decision to switch to combination feeding by myself and I can tell you that after just a few days she is like a different baby; so much more happy and settled. People like to tell you that this doesn’t happen. That your body will produce the milk your baby needs. But I can tell you it does happen and there really isn’t much you can do about it when it does.

After my experiences with my son I had braced myself to go through something similar again, but what I didn’t expect was to have the same feelings of guilt, failure and shame that I did before. Before you judge me for saying it I know full well that there is no way I should feel any of those things. But the truth is I do. I feel as though my body has let me down and as a result that I have let my baby down. As a mother the one emotion that I think is the hardest to deal with is guilt.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a café breastfeeding my daughter and an older woman walked past. She stopped and put her hand on my shoulder and told me “Well done”. So my question is this: if that same woman saw me sitting and feeding my daughter a bottle would she still stop and tell me “Well done”? Because the truth is it would mean an awful lot more today than it did then.

Written by Rachel Bryan.