Just recently, I learned some very devastating news about a local mom who took her own life after suffering from postpartum depression. My husband sent me an article on this story and the husband of this local mom urges moms who can’t breastfeed to seek help.
As a nurse, I understand all the benefits of breastfeeding. When I was a child, I knew nothing about breastfeeding and thought babies drank from bottles and formula was the best nutrition for them. Years later, practices have changed and it is well taught to the new moms out there that “breast is best”.
GIVING MY SISTER ADVICE ABOUT BREASTFEEDING
When my older sister had her first child, I had just started out in nursing school and was thrilled that she just had a baby. When she told me that she was having difficulty breastfeeding, I quickly explained to her that she needs to keep trying and went over all the benefits and why and how she should do it. Man, was I insensitive. At the time, I was young and naive and had no experience having a baby so I really didn’t understand what it was like.
When you just have a baby, so many things are changing. You are learning so much about yourself and your baby and how to care for her and you’re completely exhausted. Not only are you exhausted, but you’re in pain, recovering from the delivery. The last thing you need is your little sister nagging you and telling you what to do.
After sometime, she told me the truth about how my comments made her feel. She was trying her very best but it was just too painful and so she decided to give formula. My comments made her feel guilty that she wasn’t breastfeeding. I felt horrible about what I said. I mean, I meant well but, we need to be more supportive of moms who decide to give their babies formula. Yes, breast is best, but when it’s just not possible, then fed is best.
According to the article, the husband said that his wife may have felt like a bad mother for not exclusively breastfeeding. He says she may have felt pressure to exclusively breastfeed from all the posters and brochures that they saw in the hospital and in the classes. Although he agrees that breast is best, he believes there’s a need for everyone to know that formula is still a viable option.
MY BREASTFEEDING JOURNEY
For myself when I had my first child, I was lucky that I didn’t have too many problems breastfeeding. I mean, it was still really hard learning it. I did it by the book, just like I was taught in nursing school. It was such an endeavour, you had to get into a certain position and you had to make sure the baby was alert and awake enough to feed and then you have to get them to latch.
Once they latch, you have to make sure it was a proper latch, etc etc…It was not easy let me tell you. Then you want to make sure that the baby was getting enough, by keeping track of her pees and poops. Thinking back on it, it was pretty scary because it was my first time and you want to make sure you’re doing it all right.
I can just image if it did have problems, it would be even more exhausting, painful and stressful.
Then you have the pressure from the family, telling you to do it their “old school” way, which was contradictory to the way you were taught. Because of your inexperience, they insist that they know better than you. Man, does this bring back the memories of having my first child. It was pretty rough.
With my second child I supplemented with a little bit of formula just so I could be away a bit longer so my baby wouldn’t go hungry while I was out.
With my third child, I was way busier so she ended up having the most formula out of all three of my kids. I just had way more things to do and I wasn’t always able to breastfeed. I was giving her as much breastmilk as I could but gave her formula when I was away or couldn’t comfortably breastfeed in public.
The more kids I had, the more ok I was with giving formula. Everyone has their own values and beliefs and we all need to respect each other’s choices. We do what we think is right for ourselves and for our kids.
I’m very fortunate to have never experienced postpartum depression but according to the stats, a lot of moms do. The Canadian Mental Health Association says that 50 to 80 percent of new mothers suffer from a mild depression or “baby blues” within days or weeks of giving birth and up to 20 percent of births lead to debilitating depression. Here’s a scary statistic, the suicide rate for women with postpartum depression psychosis ranges as high as 1 in 20.
MY ADVICE FOR NEW MOMS
I remember how tiring, stressful and scary it was to be a new mom. My advice for new moms is, go easy on yourselves and have faith that you are doing the very best you can for your baby. Trust your instincts and do what you feel is right for yourself and your baby. What you decide to do is not necessarily what someone else would do. We will all have our own journeys and experiences.
If you are feeling the baby blues or feel that you have signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, seek help. Call your public health nurse or see your family doctor. Talk to someone about it as soon as possible.
This article is written in memory of Florence Leung, a beautiful BC mom. May you rest in peace.
To read more on this story, click here.