BREASTFEEDING GRIEF AND TRAUMA
This is a very real experience for many people and the topic needs to be raised and validated.
GREIF: is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died to which a bond or affection was formed.
When a mother stops breastfeeding prematurely (before she wishes to stop) this can have devastating consequences on the Mother’s emotional wellbeing and bonding between herself and her baby, sometimes even between herself and her partner.
Throughout pregnancy Mothers are constantly being told that Breastfeeding is best for infant health, both short term and long term. They are told about the nutritional benefits for baby, the personalised milk cocktail, jam-packed full of exactly what YOUR baby needs with every different feed, the abundance of health benefits for both mother and baby, less risk of PND, the list goes on! All very valid, might I add.
So why then, when a mother finds difficulty in breastfeeding her baby, because believe me, it really is a new skill for you both to learn, are they so quickly given the alternative of formula, when actually the help they are really asking for is breastfeeding support and education? If 45% of mothers stop breastfeeding before they really want to, then medical professionals really need to signpost for these mothers to receive the help and support they require, otherwise they are left to feel like they failed to do the most natural and biological thing for their baby. A huge cloud of guilt follows the mother wherever she goes. It is not the mother who failed. It is the system that failed.
As there is such a strong focus on breastfeeding during pregnancy, there should 100% be a strong focus of support postnatally too.
Breastfeeding mothers always have so much blame and failure pointed in their direction. They really feel this too. It weighs very heavily on them for months, sometimes even years. Only last year did several of my hypnobirthing mothers receive these comments from their health professionals:
“Your milk is not rich enough.”
“You are not making enough milk.”
“You need to eat more oats.”
“You’re losing weight too quickly. That’s not normal.”
“Just give your baby formula top ups.”
“Where do you feel most comfortable feeding your baby?”
“How do you feel when you feed you baby?”
“How would you like to feel when you are feeding your baby?”
“Do you have anyone at home who is nourishing you?”
“How would you like me to help you today?”
Do any of my suggestions direct blame towards the mother? No, they do not. What they do, however is offer communication and space for her to open up and let me know:
a) how she is feeling
b) how does she want to feel?
c) what support is she looking for?
These questions I mentioned alone will provide a sense of support and allow the mother to discover how important this journey is for herself. Does she want to continue? Does she want to start mixed feeding? Would she like to move onto formula milk completely? None of the above provide blame or a sense of failure at all.
The problem is GPs and Midwives are not all trained in breastfeeding support unless they themselves have a genuine interest in the subject. Therefore, when you think you are going to the right establishment to gain help, you are actually more likely to not be given help (maybe just a quick look at positioning and latch?) but actually be recommended formula, which was never in your plan.
The other issue we have is that breastfeeding is not just about ‘feeding’ for many mothers. It is a bonding, loving, nurturing, comforting experience (for many, not all) that many mothers wish to experience for themselves. When this doesn’t happen, of course they grieve. It can be devastating. Absolutely devastating. Just seeing an image of a mother breastfeeding can cause all kinds of difficult emotions. Breastfeeding is NOT just about the baby. It is hormone driven and is very much about the mother as well. It is an oxytocin dance between mother and baby.
If you have suffered (or are experiencing breastfeeding grief or trauma right now) I just want you to know that you are so welcome to DM me at any time if you wish to chat.
If you are pregnant with a subsequent baby do get in touch so I can go through some Mindful Breastfeeding techniques and exercises with you to help you get off to a better, more supported start with your breastfeeding journey this time around.
Sending so much love to you all. You are ALL amazing!! ♡
NOTE: There is a really amazing pocketbook called “Why Breastfeeding Greif and Trauma Matters” by Amy Brown if you fancy filtering through it. You may find ways of finding some light and acceptance to prove that you are absolutely not to blame.