With May being Maternal Mental Health Month, we wanted to shed light on an important story that we hope helps other mothers who are unable to breastfeed feel less alone and more at peace with this reality.
Midwife, Perinatal Mental Health Specialist and friend of Sprout Organic, Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub, came to us with this story from a member of her community, Lisa Brown.
We are honoured to share Lisa's story about her feeding journey with her beautiful baby.
I had always dreamt about my breastfeeding journey. The day my baby was born, she didn’t latch. My antenatal classes had left me with the impression that if I had my vaginal, drug free, golden hour birth that breastfeeding would follow suit - it didn’t. I had midwives check her latch every single time I fed her, but we just weren’t getting anywhere. I was sore, and she was large for gestational age so there was concern for her sugar levels and urine output. I was asked if I would like to give her formula, but it was done with such reluctance and hesitation that I thought this must be a bad option - then when they brought in the disclaimer/consent form I felt like I was really doing something wrong as a mother (I might add, it was unfortunate that I had to have all these discussions on my own because my husband wasn’t there due to covid). So that was the start of the trauma for me.
I persevered for 6 weeks of 1.5hr+ long feeds, feeling constantly anxious that her nappy output wasn’t enough, of feeling in pain, lonely and like I wasn’t doing it right. I felt like I had no time to breathe. I remember thinking one day that it would be a good day if I could just brush my teeth. I would sob myself to sleep, knowing that I would need to wake up again in an hour or two to do it all again, feeling like there was no way I was a good mother. It got so bad that I didn’t even want to hold her when I wasn’t feeding her, just incase she smelt me and would cry. I would ask my husband to burp her, I wouldn’t put her into the car seat, I wouldn’t baby wear, I wouldn’t even hold her to sleep.
Then one day, at about 10 weeks my husband said to me “I think we need to stop”. At this point I was triple feeding - breast, pumping, formula. I had zero time to do anything but feed or clean. My husband saw in me what I failed to see in myself - that I was depressed and that I was sliding further and further. I spoke to my health professional and she recommended seeing a lactation consultant (LC) at the local breastfeeding drop in clinic. I had tried to go to this clinic at 4 weeks but it was closed due to covid, and when I called at 10 weeks at my health professional’s advice, they told me that it was still closed and that no one could help me until Feb (this was at the start of Jan). I cried so much - was I meant to make my baby starve for a month? I just needed help. I called the hospital for a LC and the best they could do was a video call two weeks later. That’s the day I stopped.
My husband told me that our baby needed me, more than she needed my breastmilk. That she needed me to love her, to hold her, to enjoy being her mother.
Formula saved my life. I had so much grief and guilt, but it was like night and day - for both me and my baby. It is so sad that there is not more support of information for mothers when it doesn’t work out. I am so lucky that I had a supportive family, some people don’t have that.
I have become so passionate about the mental health of mothers who have found their breastfeeding experience difficult and traumatic - it happens a lot more than I ever realised. I’m part of a formula feeding Facebook group and every single day there are new mums joining the group with heavy, sad hearts - feeling so guilty and fearful of switching to formula. That was me a few months ago and I’ll do anything I can to be the person that I needed back then, for somebody else.
Thank you Lisa for sharing your incredible story. If you are experiencing a similar journey to Lisa and are in need of support, click here to reach out to discover how Beyond Blue can help.
Stories like Lisa's are the reason why we started Sprout Organic - to give parents a choice. Our range of certified organic plant-based milks for kids will be launched online and in selected stores June 7, with preorders now available. Click here to preorder yours.
Please note: This story is in no way endorsing formula as a superior nutrition alternative to breast milk. This is simply providing guidance and comfort for those who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed.