I have no intention to offend those who advocate breastfeeding. In fact, I think breastfeeding has many benefits and I am still breastfeeding my boy who is turning 21 months. I feel compelled to share my breastfeeding journey with young mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding and mothers-to-be after reading about Koh Suan Ping, the mother who committed suicide with her newborn. I was deeply troubled to read that one of the reasons that could have contributed to her depression was her inability to produce sufficient milk for her newborn.
6 years ago, I slipped into depression after giving birth to my son. The primary reason was that I could not produce adequate milk for him. He was always crying after each feed and it didn’t help that friends and relatives harassed me over his poor weight gain. Their every well-intended comment piled salt to my wounded pride. Everyday, I was simply obsessed with his weight growth. As it turned out, there was hardly any weight gain over three months and I would cry daily over my inability to provide my son with what was the best (so it is claimed by health professionals). I was enmeshed in guilt each time I had to give him a bottle of formula milk. I called the breastfeeding hotlines a few times a day. Each time, I was told not to give up and to continue breastfeeding. I was sandwiched between two opinions and the mounting pressure planted thoughts of suicide in my mind.
Eventually, I did give my son formula milk but continued to give him whatever breast milk I could produce. After that episode and some encounters with other mothers, I realise that some mothers do have genuine reasons for not being able to breastfeed and we must not pressurise them. I remember a statement in one of the articles advocating breastfeeding, ‘All mothers can produce sufficient milk.’ This assertion made me very determined to breastfeed but it also left me disillusioned and distraught when I was not able to produce sufficient milk. I have a friend who has extremely sensitive nipples and would bleed each time she breastfed. I remember her showing me her ‘strawberry breast milk’ (milk mixed with blood). Needless to say, breastfeeding was a painful experience for her. Another lady whom I knew recently just could not breastfeed with one breast because she has a sunken nipple. In the end, the breast she was unable to get the child to feed from, became engorged, inflamed and infected. It brought her tremendous pain and she had to stop breastfeeding. These mothers should not feel guilty about not being able to nurse their children.
It is not a sin to give formula milk if you are unable to breastfeed. You are not a lousy mother just because you cannot produce sufficient milk for your child or that you simply cannot breastfeed. Your child is a wonderful gift and you need to do what is best for yourself and your child. You do not need to conform to what others say even if their claims are right and true. Remember, do what is good for yourself and your child. Taking good care of yourself is probably the best gift you can offer your child. A happy mother produces a happy and healthy child. While breastfeeding is a milestone in your parenting journey with your newborn, there are still many other important milestones ahead of you and your child.