A Mama's Breastfeeding Journey - Breastfeeding came naturally, so why did I develop an aversion?

A Mama's Breastfeeding Journey - Breastfeeding came naturally, so why did I develop an aversion?

Meg is a Mother to two girls + a Doula, a hypnobirthing teacher and antenatal educator based in Leeds. Living slowly, sustainably and with Montessori-style parenting — our type of mama!  

Specialising in hypnobirthing and 'badass birth' practices, Meg is passionate about supporting women's birth rights and holistically guiding mums to be through all aspects of birth and care after.

Which we love, as the 'fourth trimester' after the baby is born is so crucial to look after the mother too. 

mum-breastfeeding-on-sofa-with-laptop-on-knee-dungaree-doula 

My First Breastfeeding Journey

I have been on 2 breastfeeding journeys, well I’m technically still on 1 of them, on paper they look dreamy like I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

I breastfed my first babe until she was 10 months old (and we kept night feeds a little longer, maybe around 1), I hadn’t been ready to give up but I had to leave her for 2 nights unexpectedly when she was 6 months old and I hadn’t expressed any milk as I didn’t know I was going to be away from her, luckily she took to a bottle fine and weaning from then on was easy - I went back to work and was a single mum so giving her a bottle was the easier option by this point.

I grieved the end of our breastfeeding journey, it had been lovely and I wasn’t ready to stop. I felt it was a part of our close bond, a part of my day where I could sit down a relax just us two but I was young and uninformed, I didn’t know how to make it work around my new job, childcare, her visiting her dad and so it came to an end, we’d had a pretty spot on run, breastfeeding came naturally to both of us and I never experienced any of the common problems others do, I have no complaints except for wishing I’d done it for longer.

Breastfeeding With My Second Baby

When I was pregnant with my second I had hoped for the same ease this time around and I armed myself with information to ensure that we wouldn’t miss any of my goals so that I wouldn’t be left with grief around how it ended again. And we got it, kind of. Again breastfeeding came naturally to us both, I never suffered from blocked ducts, mastitis, tongue ties or anything else that could have put a dampener on our journey, yet by 10 months I was absolutely ready to throw the towel in and never breastfeed ever again.

What was different? I don’t really know, it feels almost selfish to even put this out there because I know there are SO many people who would have loved to have been in my position, people who so desperately want to breastfeed their little ones but can’t because they’re let down by the system, or their babies struggle to latch, or they don’t produce enough milk and here I am almost bragging about how well it was going but how in my head feeling like I couldn’t go on.

The Reality of 2 Under 3

I just hit a wall, breastfeeding this time felt all-consuming, it felt so demanding, it felt like it was never-ending, it felt like it was getting in the way, it felt like I was constantly being touched and grabbed by pairs of tiny hands that needed something from me every minute of the day. I think it’s all just a part of having 2 children, 2 children 3 years apart who have very different needs, and there’s just me meeting them. We don’t have family around, we don’t really have friends around who have children either so it’s just us, mum and dad doing it all, except for a lot of the week it’s just me, one person trying to meet every single need of two completely different children. It’s beautiful and it’s lovely and rewarding and fun but it’s also exhausting and difficult and it comes at a cost.

I got to 10 months of basically living in a constant state of burnout - the kids, trying to run my own business, well 2 businesses, trying to not neglect my friends or my social life (reader; they were both very much neglected), trying to not neglect myself even though there’s literally never even a minute for any semblance of self-care and I was a frazzled mess. My postpartum mental health was also in a terribly bad state, as a postpartum doula I know how to nourish new mums, but I wasn’t nourishing myself at all, I just couldn’t work out how to fit in any time to look after myself. My brain was constantly running at 100 mph and I was SO anxious it was unreal.

I was in a constant state of panic 24/7 and that made breastfeeding more difficult because I would panic about feeding her, panic about “wasting” time (time spent breastfeeding is *never* time wasted, my brain just wasn’t functioning properly), I felt panicked by the toll it was taking on my body, panicked about it interfering with my relationship with my 3-year-old, just panic all of the time. And stress, and exhaustion and I think this is what led to an aversion.

mum-breastfeeding-sat-on-floor-in-pjs-dungaree-doula

Breastfeeding Aversion 

The breastfeeding network describes breastfeeding aversion as follows “Breastfeeding or Nursing Aversion (aversion) is when breastfeeding appears to trigger particular negative emotions like anger and agitation, skin-crawling sensations and an overwhelming urge to de-latch’ and this is exactly how it felt for me, I would see her showing signs of wanting to feed and feel the anger start to bubble up, I would feed her and be desperate to de-latch straight away. I wanted it all to stop, I wanted something to get easier, I would go back and forth with myself in my head - if I stop breastfeeding everything will get easier (would it?) but if I stop breastfeeding it won’t be fair on her, she’s clearly not ready to stop.

If I stop breastfeeding it will lessen the load and I will have more time to myself and with my other daughter, but if I stop how will we get her to sleep? How will we comfort her? I didn’t know the solution and I didn’t know what to do so I rode it out for a bit. I tried to work on improving my mental health, I’d been having CBT with a therapist and it had helped a little, I sought out more therapy and other things I could do to help myself and then I finally asked for help in a local breastfeeding support group on FB. I said I felt that I had no other option but to stop but would love some help in doing so, I got some lovely and very helpful comments, and also a couple of judgy ones as you always do when talking about breastfeeding, and I took them all on board.

Nothing Lasts Forever

I never actually managed to implement any of the advice, in the end, my babe just turned 1 last week and we’re still feeding now. She got ill and it definitely wasn’t the right time to stop and then since she’s been better, breastfeeding has gotten slightly better. She started sleeping longer in the night, not being exhausted to the point of depletion makes everything seem a little more bearable doesn’t it, and I’ve been trying to practice gratitude for being capable of doing this for her, I take time to myself when I can to recharge and rest, I’m not putting as much pressure on myself if things don’t get done and I’m not afraid to ask other for help now.

My mental health, whilst not where I’d like it to be, is definitely getting better and that helps too. But I still have bad days, I still have days where I wish I wasn't tied to breastfeeding, or when I wish someone else could feed her and put her to bed instead of me, days when I feel the aversion and the anger and the conflict starts raging inside of me again about quitting. How long will this go on? I’m not sure, this stage of parenting won’t last forever even when it feels like it might and so for now we’re just riding it out, seeing how things go and hoping for the best.

mum-babywearing-with-bon-and-bear-leoaprd-print-wrap

Gratitude

I wanted to share my story because I don’t think people talk about aversion enough, how all-consuming it can feel and the dark places it can take you to - if you’ve ever felt this way just know that you’re not alone. Just because things seem perfect from the outside, it doesn’t mean that’s how they truly are. One last thing,  I love both of my children more than I could ever explain and this account is no reflection on either of them. These struggles have been personal and are rooted in my circumstances and my postpartum mental health problems, nothing to do with anything my children ever did. I’m grateful I can meet all of their needs and ensure that they are parented with love and respect at all times and I will never regret the feeding journeys we have had.

My Top Tip

Make sure you know what to expect, even if the whole thing comes completely naturally to you it's still super handy to understand feeding patterns, positioning, latch etc: either join a preparing to breastfeed course (I run them as do lots of other birth workers/breastfeeding peer supporters), read a book (e.g the positive breastfeeding book) or go to a breastfeeding local group. Ideally, you'd do all three!

Meg x

Follow Megan on Instagram @thedungareedoula

You can find out more about her services over on her website thedungareedoula.co.uk or by checking out her Instagram full of handy tips and advice for pregnancy, birth and postpartum life.

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