I’ve always said I’m one of those people that would like to think that I don’t really suffer with my mental health. I try and keep myself balanced and don’t get me wrong I have over the years had a few bouts but nothing massive. This is quite a long post so please grab a cuppa and make yourself comfy. So I thought I’d talk about Breastfeeding and the effects it can have on your mental health. Now, this is my story and these are my experiences and not everybody is the same. I’m not a professional so please keep any negative comments you may have to yourself.
Let me start at the beginning. When I fell pregnant with Mason way back in 2011 I had decided that I wanted to try and breastfeed, now I did some research, but was still so naive and was hoping for some help and support at the hospital. The time came for me to go into hospital and have my first baby and I’ll admit, that in itself was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever done, it’s still so hazy and I don’t remember a lot of the details but that was because I was so out of it from having to have an emergency C-Section, thankfully my mum knew what I wanted and since I was unable to feed Mason straight away he was given donor breast milk. The midwives asked how I planned to feed the baby when I had recovered and gained consciousness from the C-Section and told me to try feeding him. The first day was a struggle as he wasn’t latching on and we found out it was because he was so poorly so they took him down to the neonatal ward and he stayed there feeding from a tube for a week hooked up to heart monitors and everything.
The midwives told me that since Mason was so unwell it wouldn’t be worth me trying to breastfeed and to just put him on the bottle but I didn’t want too, I was determined to feed him myself. With some encouragement from the lovely nurse from neonatal we managed to get Mason latched and feeding slightly. I was encouraged to pump to try and get my milk to come through and after a week of us both being in hospital we were well enough to go home. Home, for us at that time was back to my parents which was really overwhelming. I was left with a baby to look after that never slept and wanted to feed all the time, I was exhausted and barely eating as it was all such a massive shock to my system, I felt my mental health was declining. Looking back at it all I think it was the week in hospital and away from Mason that started it all.
I didn’t quite understand my feelings at all and I was just so upset, I felt like I didn’t bond with Mason at all and everyone else did, I was jealous of all my friends and even Darren because they could go out and have fun and I was stuck at home with a baby. I had my check at the doctors and they said that I had borderline Postnatal Depression. I remember locking myself away in my bedroom with Mason for 3 days and only leaving to get a drink or go to the toilet. I felt like my mum was trying to take over when in fact she was only trying to help me because it was clear I was struggling.
I was struggling to continue breastfeeding Mason as he was getting hungrier and hungrier by the day after being home only a week Darren and my mum both sat me down and told me that maybe I should stop breastfeeding as it was clear I didn’t have enough milk for him to keep him satisfied. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I cried and was so upset but this was something that I never really spoke to anyone about I just eventually carried on with life as normal and I’ll be honest, it’s a part of my life that is a bit blurry from how I handled it all. Looking back it was the week in hospital and not being able to feed straight away that affected my milk supply.
Fast forward 6 years and I found out I was pregnant with Arlo and all those anxieties that had happened with Mason crept back up I didn’t want things to end that way. I worried about my labour and birth about not being able to breastfeed again everything I failed at the first time I didn’t want to fail at this time. Thankfully my birth wasn’t as bad, I still ended up with another emergency C-Section but was awake through the whole experience was awake to see my baby when he was born, we even successfully breastfed within that first hour of Arlo being born.
All of these factors played a massive part in my mental health this time around, I was so much more happier and relaxed, my milk came in fairly quickly and I was overall feeling happy and confident at being a new mum again. All the professionals were happy with me this time around and said that I seemed much more relaxed and at ease. I have a stronger bond with Arlo, we enjoy the closeness and the feeding time. It did take me a couple of weeks to get used to it all but I’m still amazed at how amazing a woman’s body is. I don’t pump and never really pumped as I’ve just always been able to feed on demand. Arlo is a much happier and content baby definitely more relaxed.
For me breastfeeding has played a massive part in my overall mental health and I truly think it should be normalised and definitely encouraged. I understand that it’s not for everyone but for me it really helped with my mental health. I still have anxieties bit they were all job related and what I would do being away from Arlo for so long. Breastfeeding helps to release hormones that reduce the impact of stress and sleep deprivation on a woman’s body. I mean I know mums that have successfully bottle fed and never suffered with any mental health issues like PND but for me it really did help and I’ve been able to see the difference. I’ve successfully been breastfeeding for a year now and I’m so proud of myself at how far we have come.
Do you breastfeed?? What was your experience like?? Did you find breastfeeding helped with your mental health??