Thursday, 14 November 2013

Why I don't want to give up breastfeeding

In case I haven't moaned about it enough, I go back to work in 3 weeks. When I say back to work, I mean I start my first day ever as a doctor. No biggie. On top of that, my first shift ever as a doctor ever also happens to be 9-9.30. Just casually thrown in at the deep end.
All my friends have done. They have done their first days, their horrible long shifts, the 12 days in a row, the 'this is your annual leave days and you have no say whatsoever', the days where you don't get out until 2 hours after you were meant to, the very few days where you actually do get out on time... And they will all tell you that it's not easy.
4 months later, and I'm going to be giving all of the above a bash. With a 5 month old baby. And while breastfeeding.

I'm no stranger to a challenge. I sat my finals 9 months pregnant, and I did very well, thank you very much. I then battled my way with the foundation programme back into a job. Not an ideal job, but a good one none the less. But this is terrifying me. I don't know if it's the mixture of the whole starting a completely new job thing, or the fact that the first day I'll be apart from Cleo also happens to be the longest shift ever, but whatever it is, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't had a good cry about it. Because, man have I cried.

Then why, might you ask, am I so adamant to increase my stress by putting so much pressure on my milk output? I'm currently trying to pump enough milk so that I can have Cleo's first month apart from me frozen... and I'm struggling. I'm getting upset when I only manage 2oz. I'm worrying that I'm not feeding Cleo enough because I'm pumping. I'm stressing about how on earth I'm going to be able to ensure I get enough breaks to keep pumping while I'm running about being the ward monkey. It's because breastfeeding is not just what is best for Cleo, but it's best for me.

When I was really anxious, in those first few weeks, I felt like I couldn't do anything. I couldn't see myself being good for Cleo. I found myself feeling like I'd made a mistake. But through it all, I was able to feed my little girl. And people kept telling me how good it was, and that I was giving her the best. And it helped me. I felt like less of a failure, and it gave me the strength to get on with other things. If I could do this, if I could provide for this tiny human, then I could get myself back on track. And I did. Then whenever I was feeling anxious, I'd cuddle up with Rob and Cleo, and I'd feed her. And I'd think about feeding her. It was like my deep breathing exercises, and having Rob there, helping me with everything else, whilst I did this one good thing... well it was amazing. And my memories of that first month, all the little good moments, I was feeding her. It created a bond between us that I don't think I could have had any other way.

I am not saying that people who feed their babies formula don't have a special bond. But, for me, I needed that physical connection to feel it. It was what worked for me.

On top of it all, I knew that I was helping her little tummy, her immune system, her growth. All the good things about breast milk. Knowing that kept me level headed. I was doing good.

Now that she's older, some people have told me that they don't see the point in me continuing. I've had the usual comments of 'X was formula fed, and they're fine' or 'X had to give up breast feeding, and they're fine' or 'there's nothing wrong with a top up of formula.'
I have no doubt in my mind that if I had to switch to formula, that Cleo would be fine. I know that plans are not full proof and that I may find I have to stop. I am prepared for that. But I am not giving up breastfeeding just because it is the more convenient option. Yes, it will take the pressure off me at work, and I'm sure that not having to think about pumping at 4 in the morning would be a big load of my mind, but I'm not giving up without a fight.

I will be working 50 hours a week. That's 50 hours I will be apart from Cleo. If in that time I can have an hour or a day that I'm doing something for her, then I can continue to stay level headed. I can come home to her, and I can feed her while I catch up with Rob. And that's how I imagine us all working.

If it so happens that I can't express at work for whatever reason, I will try my best to not feel like I've failed. Of course I will give her formula when I'm not around. But if I'm with Cleo, and she wants fed, then I will be feeding her myself.

I don't want to be asked 'when do you plan on giving up breastfeeding'. I don't have a plan. I'm going to feed her for as long as it continues to be beneficial to us. Both physically and emotionally.

Although the toss up between getting my highlights done, or buying the Medela Swing breast pump was a tough one...