This morning I read an article that told the stories of six breastfeeding women. Each woman was pcitured with their baby (or children) and their story was told below the photo. This was all very lovely until I read that one woman who has autism and Borderline Personality Disorder, panic and anxiety disorders(as well as a history of panic attacks and anxiety disorders) had felt suicidal about pumping. Her baby was tube fed and on IV nutrition so she had to pump her breastmilk. For eight hours a day. She had D-MER- dysphoric milk ejection reflex. I had never heard of this before and so looked it up. It is a condition that means you get an influx of negative emotions just before milk is released and for a few minutes after. There are techniques you can use to distract yourself but most often what is needed is time to allow your hormones to even out. However, at 6 weeks this particular woman was diagnosed with severe post-partum depression. Her partner even noted that she had been suicidal when faced with the pump. Yet she pumped for 6 weeks despite all of this. Despite it clearly being a risk not only to her mental health but to her life as well. It was decided due to the PPD (not to mention the risk of post-partum psychosis) that she should stop pumping. Her wife, who was still nursing their older child, intended to take over. For various reasons this didn’t work and they relied on donor milk. All well and good. But my question is why?
Why pump for six weeks when you know (and your partner is fully aware) that you are putting yourself at risk? Why did they choose to do this? Why? Have we become so obsessed with Breast is Best that women are now risking their own mental health to avoid going down the formula route? This is not healthy people! Motherhood is so much more than breastfeeding, it’s so much more than feeding full-stop. Being a mother is a huge, complex, multi-layered job and we have reduced it to breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding in some frankly weird attempt to make bottlefeeding mothers feel like failures. Women will now go out of their way to ensure they do ‘what’s right’ and breastfeed despite obstacles like having to come off anxiety medication to do it, risking a return of depression due to lack of sleep etc. I cannot believe that this is the best thing for new babies.
I think what babies need more than anything is a healthy and happy mother whether that woman is breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, pumping, using donor milk whatever. The important thing is that you are healthy, both physically and mentally. People are forgetting this in a rush to sign up to Breast is Best and we need to consider how this slogan may be contributing to many women putting themselves under enormous pressure to feed their babies. Please let’s support not pressure women during the vulnerable newborn period. Allow them to make the choice that suits them best and remember best fed is fed.