Ditching the guilt…

I’m writing this to the sound of my breast pump whirring away. Yes, I’ve begun the very unglamourous task that is expressing. I hadn’t wanted to start expressing until at least 7 or 8 weeks but, I’ve started. I’ve managed to build up a nice supply in the deep-freeze too. There’s something strangely satisfying in seeing your breast milk stored neatly and ready for your baby’s consumption, should you not be available to breastfeed directly.

But that’s not the only reason I’ve started expressing. For quite some time now, Mika’s not been settling well between feeds. By “not settling well”, I mean being wide awake and generally pretty unhappy as a whole. Crying and only really calming down when he’s held. Now, I know every baby is different, but Luca was never like that. He would wake, eat (breast-fed), occasionally poop and then go right back to sleep. And his awake times were calm and easy. I don’t really remember ever feeling stressed out by him crying. Not the case this time around.

Anyway, Dave came home on Thursday evening, to a particularly frazzled wife. It had rained most of the day, which meant that I had been “trapped” indoors with a whining toddler and a screaming 5 week old. NOT fun. I was reaching the end of my proverbial tether. I had snapped at Luca more than once and also felt incredibly guilty about having to say, “Not now monkey-moo, I’m busy with Mika” every time he asked me to play with him in his room. I felt as if I was drunk with exhaustion. You know that feeling when you “miss” a couple of hours in an evening because you’re so hammered? I felt exactly the same way, but because I was so freaking tired. So all the pain of the “hangover” without the fun of getting drunk. I was irritable, tired, dirty (you know those days when it’s impossible to even bath because your newborn just needs you THAT much? Yes, that!) and very despondent. Dave walked in and said, “Would you like me to go get some formula?” The dreaded F word. I immediately got a lump in my throat and my knee-jerk response was, “NO!” The guilt set in immediately. Just THINKING about giving him formula already felt wrong. But, as he continued to wail in my ear, I thought about it. He weighed more than Luca at birth. He never stays awake longer than a couple of minutes on the boob, or fusses uncontrollably and then starts I cry. He wants to eat EVERY TWO HOURS, day and night. My poor boobs. Every TWO hours. So, I took a deep breath and allowed Dave to buy the formula. He came home with it and I cried as I made the bottle. I cried as I sat down to give it to him. And he wouldn’t take it. Shit. What if he won’t take bottles?!?! Will I be chained to him every two hours FOREVER?! (Dramatic impulses kicking in here, obviously). I thought about my stash of breastmilk in the freezer and took a container out, preparing a second bottle for him. We did the old suck-on-the-dummy-then-quickly-whip-it-out-and-replace-it-with-the-bottle trick. It worked. He downed that 120ml of breastmilk faster than you could say GUILT. His arms instantly relaxed to his sides, his body unclenched and he assumed the adorable milk-drunk look that he hadn’t had for ages. And I then realized, he’s using me (my boobs) as a soothing device. He’s using me to relax and go to sleep, but not to eat. I pretty much cried myself to sleep that night, wracked by the guilt of giving him formula already. A bottle already. That night I breast-fed him twice and gave him one formula bottle. He had a great night. As soon as I got home from taking Luca to school, I breast-fed him again. But I still felt like a failure. Cue a voice of reason…on the way to Tanya’s blogging workshop at Manna Cafe, I called Roz. I cried. I told her how terrible I felt and how much of a failure I believed myself to be. My special and darling friend spoke the kindest, non-judgmental and caring words. She pointed out how tired I sounded, from the obvious lack of sleep I was experiencing due to the two-hourly feeds, lasting for anything up to an hour at a time. Roz helped me, in that conversation, to see that I wasn’t a failure, that I was trying too hard to be the “perfect” mother and, in the process, destroying my own sanity and general well-being. I needed someone to commiserate with and to look for reassurance with, and she was that person.

I still felt pretty down for most of the day. Mika was SO chilled, so relaxed. Was my own milk THAT useless? Once home again later that morning, I breast-fed Mika again and this time he drank with gusto, remaining awake until he was satisfied. To say I felt proud is an understatement. I could do this! I could do a combination of actual breastfeeding, expressed and bottled breastmilk and formula as a form of “top-up” to keep Mika’s hungry little belly nice and full.

Just as an added bonus, Mika gave me his first proper smile shortly after a bottle feed that morning. The first time in almost 6 weeks that he looked satisfied after a feed. I knew then, that I had made the right decision. For both Mika and I. Saturday has come and gone and I have spent the whole day, marveling at how relaxed and settled my baby is. Tonight I am going to sleep with a smile on my face and contentment in my heart. It’s what’s best for us both.


21 thoughts on “Ditching the guilt…

  1. I went through this exact same situation! Well not exactly the same but close enough. Jae-Lyn was born weighing 4.5kgs and would ONLY drink off my left boob. I started expressing almost straight away because of her refusal of my right boob and the fact that my left boob was flat after feeds and my right one was HUGE! By the time she got to 6 weeks (and had not dropped weight since being born) she was crying and trying to drink from me the whole day. I was frazzled and my boyfriend suggested we get some formula. I felt like such a failure! If I couldn’t feed this baby when I was the food how on earth was I going to do anything properly. To say she loved the formula is an understatement. She took to that bottle straight away and slept wonderfully that night. After a good night sleep for me I felt a bit less guilty I must say. Now I look back and laugh, I mean honestly, who in their right mind is going to get a 4.5kg baby fed on 1 boob!

    • It’s crazy what we put ourselves through as mothers … there is just so much pressure from every which angle, so it’s literally impossible NOT to feel guilty about SOMETHING! Glad I did what I did … Mika is SO settled, so chilled and just a far easier baby! x

      • Absolutely! When my nephew was born my sister lived with us and after 2 days of non stop crying I said to her ‘listen babe, he is hungry, get some formula’. I then proceeded to put her to bed (she was exhausted), gave him a bottle and put him to sleep. And that was the end of that. My sister milk never came in. Its just one of those things. But Raiden is awesome and healthy and just plain scrumptious. Formula is not the devil.

  2. I loved your blog, it makes one feel soo much better when you know you are not alone. When Jade was 8 weeks old, my hubby got home to find me sitting in an empty bath tub, crying and Jade on my lap also crying. I felt so helpless and alone. I hope everyone reads your blogs and realises that as mothers we should stop trying to be perfect.

    • It’s so hectic Kim – being a mother is something that NO ONE can prepare you for. The new emotions that come with it seem so overwhelming … but we all make it through. Thank you for your awesome comment 🙂

  3. Aw chick! You are doing so great. Cameron used to feed all the time – I hated it. I was so stressed out and exhausted which made him niggly and as a result he screamed, so I got more tense and and and and.

    I found with Jack that he was lazy to suck – he wanted to feed but didnt want to suck for it – once he cottoned on it went much better!

    Do what works for YOU and Mika 🙂

  4. Thank you for writing this. I have been so lucky up until now and Friday night was a nightmare. I got a glimps into what you were going through and I can completely understand. The fear I went to bed with last night after feeling so broken from one night of restless baby was almost enough to make me not want to even try go to sleep

    My guilt sits in a slightly different place, I went back to work after 6 weeks. Leaving him each morning still breaks my heart.

  5. Pingback: 3 days later … | One of The Boys

  6. You are the best and I love you heaps my friend! You are doing such a fabulous job…keep believing in yourself and the decisions that you make! xxxx

  7. Hey Nicki am in same boat!! Am now combining breastfeeding, expressing and formula. Chloe was not gaining weight well either, so it was pretty imperative. She’s getting fatter and I’m more at ease… It works! Xx

  8. Ah man…i think most mama’s go through that anxiety. I did TWICE – i lasted 4 weeks with BF & that was me (done & dusted & an emotional wreck). Being a mama is tough…& we always carry that guilt, but WHY? Because we just do…(am i making sense?)

    Please remember – next year – i might be crying over a tweet to you because my newest addition might not be drinking either. HA HA HA!

  9. Well done NIx, proud of you….(tears rolling down my cheeks). Youre a lot braver than you give yourself credit for. Enjoy him xxx

  10. Thank you for being honest. Kade was feeding in his first 3 weeks every hour and a half – it was taking me min 40 mins to feed him so as you can imagine I was getting ZERO sleep… I was a wreck and crying for nothing (I am not a crier at all)… Once I started topping him up and doing one breast one formula combo feeds it got much better, he was still getting breast milk and the antibodies that come with it, I was enjoying breastfeeding and he was getting full and gaining weight…

    Happy Mamma = Happy Baby = Happy Mamma = Happy Baby 🙂

    You’re doing a GREAT job Nix.


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