When I thought about having children, I was absolutely certain that I would breastfeed them. It seemed fairly obvious that natural food was better than formula. I was also in that naive before children state when images usually in a sepia tone of me and my babe in arms would flutter pleasantly through my brain.
I do remember that lovely feeling when my first-born was put on my breast. Such closeness and intimacy, my first blood relative too adding to that joy.
That did not last long as I found breastfeeding painful, difficult, annoying and the first step on the road to feeling like an inadequate mother. Torture springs to mind as an all-encompassing description of the experience. I was in a Maternity Unit where the midwives seemed to pick the most inopportune times to come round and force the baby onto the nipple whatever I said to the contrary. Exhaustion is another word that suddenly flashes through my mind.
I breastfed for 2 weeks with no sense that my baby was actually getting enough to eat. I was so stressed that my husband took the decision away from me and got all the bottle-feeding parephenalia from the supermarket. The relief was immense. I felt I was off a very unpleasant hook.
With breastfeeding out of the way, I was able to concentrate on loving and getting to know my baby. Of course, the media would add in the occasional torment about how any baby taken away from the breast would turn into a axe-murderer or fail all their future examinations. Let them carry on! At least my nipples were not sore.
When I got pregnant with my second child, my fear was breastfeeding but what I would call and enlightened midwife said as a mum I had quite enough to stress about without adding in breastfeeding if I did not like it.
So Number Two and Number Three have never tasted breast milk, have not turned into serial killers yet and appear to be doing very well indeed at school. Funny that!
My mother waited till I failed at breastfeeding to tell me that she too could not do it. My best friend also hated it.
Do I wish I breastfed successfully? Of course I do but I felt I had no support and just a heap of bullying and guilt laid on my already exhausted plate.
Does that make me a bad mum? It probably makes me like thousands of other mums, real and struggling with some of the challenges parenthood presents.
I admire any mum who manages to stick with breast-feeding and I deplore any cuts in support services to new mums, including those that promote breastfeeding.
Of course, some mums do find it easy. I don’t have any sweet images of me breastfeeding so this will have to suffice.