‘It’s Devastating’: Irish Mothers Are Getting Real About The Struggles Of Breastfeeding

Women are discussing their experiences as part of World Breastfeeding Week.

Breastfeeding is held up as the best, most ‘natural’ way for women to feed their babies. For lots of mothers, this is true, but often it’s not that simple.

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week this week, many women have been sharing positive stories about breastfeeding their children – and some Irish mams have been getting real about the struggles and pressure associated with it.

In a post on her Instagram, TV presenter Angela Scanlon (who gave birth to her daughter Ruby back in February) said few people talk about the ‘relentlessness’ of breastfeeding.

“The pressure of feeling like you’re the sole source of life for this brand new baby. The idea that your ‘inability’ to get it, to master the bloody latch means you’re failing,” she wrote.

It’s easy to feel the weight of pressure from other people but it’s mostly your own head you battle with… It’s f*cking hard as hell but we can teach each other and support each other when it doesn’t just happen like in those damn videos (finger length nipples are not gifted to every woman!) and to women who choose to not to do it, or who can’t do it for a whole host of reasons – we are all in it together.

2fm’s Louise McSharry shared a post about her difficulties with breastfeeding her son Sam, and how this week brings up the “guilt, regret and sadness” she feels around the subject:

A couple of minutes after this photo was taken I tried to breastfeed for the first time, having woken myself up every two hours during the previous two nights to milk myself to ensure my milk would come in. It didn’t happen… Midwives tried to help. Lactation consultants. Nipple shields. I was really committed to breastfeeding. So committed that it took me six weeks of abject misery to accept that it was ruining my time with Sam.

She ended up pumping before switching to formula, and while she wishes it had been different, she knows she made the right decision for her family.

“Should you find yourself feeling sorrow or guilt this week, you’re not alone, but you don’t deserve it either,” she said.

Journalist and host of the podcast Mother Of Pod, Sophie White, said she had two very different experiences breastfeeding her two kids, admitting she was very hard on herself for ‘failing’ at this “natural, supposedly-essential-for-bonding thing” the first time around.

Please don’t @ me for depicting breastfeeding as a struggle, this is my experience and it has value for others even if it’s not the usual ‘breast is best’ narrative. A week of awareness and celebration of breastfeeding is so important, but I feel it’s also an opportunity to tell lots of stories about it, especially if there’s a woman suctioned on to a pump and a baby and thinking she’s doing something wrong because it doesn’t feel bond-y or look Instagram-worthy, boobing looks different for everybody.

“The main thing to remember with babies is: Put stuff in the top, it comes out the bottom,” Sophie concluded. A good lesson for us all, whether we’re mothers right now, planning on being mothers, or just landed with babysitting one day.

If breastfeeding has not been the Zen motherhood experience it’s often depicted as for you, know that you’re not alone. You’re a rockstar, and you’re doing just fine.

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