Breastfeeding can be challenging and many of us experience advice along the lines of, “Just wean!” or “Why are you putting yourself through this, just give your baby some formula” while we are working through these challenges. For many of us though, breastfeeding actually helps us (and our babies) and we not only choose to continue to breastfeed but look at it as the one thing that saw us through. Here is Amy’s story about how breastfeeding saved her from post partum depression and was the one thing that kept her going…
When my daughter was born she had a serious undiagnosed tongue tie, she was so in-efficient at removing milk that I completely lost supply in my right breast (never to return), and she dropped a lot of weight. She was already petite, but without efficient feeding she had lost 9% of her birth weight. I was encouraged to supplement feeding (I was donated breastmilk by a wonderful woman). But I kept breastfeeding. I kept going. One boobed. I saw a multitude of lactation consultants, went to breastfeeding clinics, I did everything they told me to do. But my supply still remained pitifully low, my right side remained dry. I kept going. I got mastitis in the one side, obviously extremely painful, but I kept going. I wasn’t making enough for my daughter, but I kept going. For months I kept going, one sided and in pain. I knew breastmilk was healthiest for my daughter, but that’s not why I kept breastfeeding…
I kept breastfeeding because it was literally the one strand tying me to her. The one tiny, delicate strand. I battled depression my entire adult life, and after my daughter was born I had horrible postpartum depression, (among other depressing and tumultuous life circumstances) and had a terrible time bonding with her. the the only thing that kept me from leaving her was knowing she needed me, literally, to survive. It sounds dramatic. But it’s the honest to God’s truth. Every day I stared at her, this tiny stranger, and felt nothing. I cared for her because I am human, but not because I felt she was ‘mine.’ I went to mom group and sat there, looking like every other somewhat disheveled and sleep deprived mom, hiding the fact that I didn’t love my baby. I felt alone. I was alone. What kind of person doesn’t love their own child? Me. This kind of person. But still, every day I dreamed of returning to my old life, where I worked my dream job in my dream location and I didn’t have this burden. I cried to myself in the bathroom when I had a tiny moment alone, mourning the loss of a life that was MINE. And I blamed her. I blamed my daughter. But I kept breastfeeding.
Without breastfeeding I would’ve left. I would’ve left her and my husband, and wouldn’t look back. I know in my heart I absolutely would’ve left them both. I didn’t feel bonded to her, I didn’t love her, but the one piece of rational mind I had left knew that if I continued to breastfeed I’d stay, I’d try, I’d hopefully come out of the fog and bond with her, love her.
Everyone in my life, including my husband, family, and therapist, told me ‘it’s ok if your body can’t breastfeed her. It’s ok to quit. You tried. That’s why there’s formula. You did your best.’ My husband even called me stubborn at one point, saying he felt I was keeping on this breastfeeding path not for her, but for me. In a way, he was right. I was trying to save myself from riding off into the sunset, alone. I was trying to cling to that tiny strand connecting me to this little being for whom I felt nothing. No one understood the vital role breastfeeding was playing in my ability to even hold my child. No one understood that without breastfeeding I was gone, with a handful of belongings, chasing my old life and free from the burden that this tiny 6 pound person was to me.
So, here I am. 8 months later, and still feeding her with one boob. I’ll be honest, poor leftie has been through it. But it has continued to provide life to my daughter, despite what countless people said it could do. My body stepped up. Although there are times I still need to supplement with breastmilk so kindly gifted to me, for the most part, Leftie is making it work.
My daughter is fierce. She is extremely sensitive and aware. She feels deeply. And I love her now. I am bonded now. But had I quit breastfeeding, I would’ve cut the one string that held me to her for those early months. Believe me, it took time. So much time. But here I am. Here we are.
Breastfeeding mother Amy
And as researcher Dr Maria Iacovou states, “Breastfeeding has well-established benefits to babies, in terms of their physical health and cognitive development; our study shows that it also benefits the mental health of mothers”.
*If you are experiencing depression or feeling as though you are overwhelmed or cannot care for your baby, please seek help from a health care professional. If you are looking for breastfeeding help please head here to schedule a consultation with me.