“Fed is best”. The first time I heard that phrase was when I was having a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend after having my daughter. Prior to having my daughter I had attempted to collect breast milk antenatally, without any luck. After having her, I attempted to breastfeed, without any luck. I attempted to express breast milk, without any luck. This process involved syringes, midwives getting up close and personal, an expensive lactation consultant, a store bought breast pump, a hired hospital grade breast pump, Motilium medication and more. Eventually, on the phone to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, the experienced breastfeeding counsellor told me the reality that I was likely at the end of my journey of attempting to breastfeed. After 14 days and not one drop of breast milk, I too came to this conclusion.
And so, my daughter was only ever on formula.
One thing I realised recently, through the help of a counsellor, was how my inability to breastfeed impacted on me. I was well aware of how this inability may have impacted my daughter, but I had neglected to realise the compounding effect on me. The big lightbulb moment occurred recognising the link between my inability to breastfeed and my own insecurities of being Mum to my daughter. I had incorrectly subconsciously believed that because anyone could actually feed my daughter with formula, that she actually did not need me. This perceived lack of need from my daughter for me made me disconnect from the fact that I am her mum. Whilst there were several others that I allowed to bottle feed my daughter, each allowance blurred my understanding that my daughter is primarily my responsibility. In the same way we tend to like people who like us, parallel to this, I needed to be needed by my daughter. Feeling obsolete or redundant because I didn’t breastfeed, gave me the false belief that I wasn’t the provider for my daughter. My body and mind made an unhelpful correlation that if she didn’t need me physically, she wouldn’t need me in other ways, thus creating an emotional disconnection.
This revelation has had great positive outworkings. By highlighting the unhelpful beliefs I had about being a mum, it in turn renewed my focus. I now understand that not being able to breastfeed, when I had intended to, was an acute loss to me. While I pushed through at the time, needing to be ready for the next obstacles I would face in early motherhood, reflecting back on this recently has helped. I now can look at my daughter and see her as mine. This allows me to enjoy the daily motherhood experience substantially more. It has shifted something within me.
“Breast is best”. It’s funny how I had heard that phrase since I was a young girl, but I had never heard the equivalent phrase of “fed is best”. Insufficient Glandular Tissue was another term I hadn’t been acquainted with either. But there would be many things I would learn over the next few months and onward. She is now almost 21 months and she is going great. I am supremely grateful for being able to talk to professionals and friends about these things. Moreso, I am thankful for the refreshed relationship I have with my daughter. I am sure it will be an ever evolving relationship as she grows and changes, while I do too.
Elizabeth is a Mum to Grace, step-mum to Will, wife to Ricky. She is very changeable. Sometimes she'll identify herself as a social worker, other times as a writer or even as a Christian. She loves her town of Dubbo, New South Wales. Elizabeth studied a Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University.