Breastfeeding Made Me The Mother I Am

I wanted to be a breastfeeding mother, but when asked, I’d modestly add, “if I can”.

I wanted an unmedicated water birth, but when the doctors suggested induction, I politely agreed.

I wanted delayed cord clamping, but when no one asked me, I didn’t say.

I thought I’d read enough books. I thought I’d been to all the classes. I thought I was prepared.

But not for a 4 hour labour. Not for syntocinon contractions, nor the heady blur of gas and air. Not for a retained placenta, spinal block and surgery. Nor for being separated. Properly meeting my baby all swaddled and sleeping in the hospital crib.

Tired, hazy, unable to move and in shock. Wheeled up to the ward and told to sleep.

No one told me to feed my baby.

She slept and slept. I watched and watched. Too hot, too wired. In shock.

No one told me to feed my baby.

Phone calls happened, friends came and visited, and she slept and slept. I smiled and smiled.

I was told off for removing my bed socks, told off for still being dehydrated. Not allowed to have my catheter and cannula removed until my urine was clearer. Not allowed out of bed. Unceremoniously washed by the healthcare assistant.

No one told me to feed my baby.

Until I asked and was met with surprise, had I not tried to feed her yet?

Breastfeeding began with hand expression. The tiniest drops of colostrum to rub on her lips, over and over.
When finally she made a latch, no one was there to see. In my curtain-walled cubicle, just me and Bee trying to figure it out until morning.

Once at home I fell apart. In shock and overwhelmed, as milk came in and hormones surged, I spiralled out of control. Dehydrated and unable to sleep, fear dragged me through that first week. Terrified of failing this new little person, so long yearned for, so long wanted. Too scared to leave her side, pushing away from her every need.

I’d verse Dan in how to care for Bee – just in case I couldn’t do it, in case I really did shatter into a million pieces. My wholeness held together by spider threads, a ghost from one feed to the next.

Every time she cried my heart would pound. No time to breathe. No room for love.


The internet said, “Stopping breastfeeding eased my postnatal depression.”

Friends moved to formula, “It’s so much easier.”

The health visitor said, “Why not try a bottle here and there?”

The doctor said, “Formula isn’t evil, it really won’t hurt.”

But I had to breastfeed.

It was all I had that made me feel like a mother.

My hospital notes lay on the kitchen table, ferried to weigh-ins and postnatal checks.  On one page the scribbled note of a busy midwife, sending a lifeline.

La Leche League.

Driving over the moors at 12 days old, desperate to not be the only one.  Just to see another mother breastfeeding. Someone else choosing to feed this way. Not one, but a room full.  Mama’s breastfeeding their babies, their toddlers, and children.

A room full of fighters, of warrior women and mighty mamas.  All with their breastfeeding journeys, their stories and love to share.  A space held for who ever should need it.  A place to admit, and a place to build up.

A place I returned to month after month, refuelling my confidence, confirming my instincts.

I watched and listened, I grew.
I had this.

Breastfeeding when I hated it.

Breastfeeding all night when I needed to sleep.

Breastfeeding in lay-bys and car parks, on benches and in train stations.

Breastfeeding through “colic”, blocked ducts and thrush.

Breastfeeding alone in a playgroup full of bottles.

Breastfeeding in front of uncomfortable men.

Breastfeeding tiny tears away.

Breastfeeding smiles and milk drunk bliss.

Slowly I noticed my fear less and less.

Until one day, there was enough space for love.

I found it in Bee, where it had always been waiting.