A Letter To All Those Struggling With Breastfeeding

Emily Sethi felt judged when she fed bottles in cafes
Emily Sethi felt judged when she fed bottles in cafes
New mum Emily Sethi suffered anger and grief when she struggled to feed her first child, Iyla. Second time round she has found solace in a new website frankaboutfeeding.com set up to reduce the isolation felt by another mama on her feeding journey.

Dear Holly #dontjudgejustfeed, Kate & Rosie #frankaboutfeeding and ALL new mothers struggling with feeding,

I am six months into my second baby. I started both feeding journeys with high hopes and commitment to exclusively breastfeed.

Latch, supply and who knows what else have meant that this was not possible. With my first I persevered for six weeks surrounded by advice such as “just keep going”, “this (almost 24hrs a day) cluster feeding is just normal and will pass” and lots of “if you give any bottles at all you’ll miss feeds and it’ll mess up the whole thing”.

Looking back I was blinkered and entirely focused on breastfeeding, unable to raise my head out of the newborn fog and take time to consider other options. Around six weeks Iyla had lost so much weight that we were admitted to hospital and they told me I had to start topping up with formula.

My grief was deep. If anyone asked about feeding and any time I talked about it, I sobbed.

I cried as she had her first bottle, feeling like a complete failure and utterly rejected.

My grief was deep. If anyone asked about feeding and any time I talked about it, I sobbed

I was angry with my body, my breasts and it overtook the whole experience. Looking back at photos, she was skinny, very skinny and I just wish someone had said “hey she’s really looking thin, why don’t you just give her some formula milk, it’s ok”.

A couple of months in, with the love and support from my partner, family and friends, I began to move on.

I remember one night clearly saying out loud, just to myself “I forgive you” and that feeling like a real turning point.

I combination fed my daughter until she was nine months and am now able to focus on the breastfeeding success within that. My daughter grew and flourished and she’s now an incredible three year old.

Before having my son, now six months, I committed in my head to giving breastfeeding a go whilst being gentle with myself and having a confident back up plan of formula milk.

I had some sessions with a lactation consultant but despite a positive start he began to show similar feeding behaviours to my daughter.

When at six days his weight began to drop, I was really proud of myself for reaching for a bottle of milk. I still felt sad but knew that I was making good strong decisions for my little boy and I’ve continued to combination feed him.

This time I’ve struggled more with the real or perceived judgment; feeling as though potential mum friends ‘turned off’ as soon as they saw me get out the bottle or wondering if people were watching or judging me whilst feeding in cafes.

I’m still combination feeding my son but choose to bottle feed when out and about.

This campaign has given me real ability to be proud of those feeds, to smile broadly at anyone that looks at me and choose to focus on how I might be giving them hope and confidence in their own feeding decisions.

Even sitting alongside a beautifully breastfeeding woman and feeding my guy his bottle, which used to be one of my hardest moments, I feel proud of myself. I have faith that I’m a wonderful mum making hard and brilliant decisions for the health and wellbeing of my baby. And most importantly that feeding is just one part of being a mum, not the be all and end all or even the main part. For me that’s filling them to the brim with love.

A long story but one I wanted to share to demonstrate my thanks and the benefit of your work.

Thanks again and love and hope for the future,
Emily S.

  • This post originally appeared on frankaboutfeeding.com a website set up to reduce the isolation felt by another mama on her feeding journey.  Emily wrote to Holly at the #dontjudgejustfeed campaign to share her story and her thanks.

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