When my daughter was born in 2011 I had high hopes for my breastfeeding experience. We still don’t know why, but she did not latch at all. I pumped and bottle fed her until I got her to latch onto a nipple shield. At the urging of lactation consultants I tried to stop using the shield and was finally successful. Except, with her direct latch into my nipple I made more milk even though I had had enough and she choked and sputtered until she refused to feed awake - breast or bottle. I started to freak out. But she was almost five months and was continuing to gain. She was my only responsibility so I could stay home and feed her every time. Then she didn’t like purée. I freaked further. I don’t think it was aversion, she still hates mushy food, but no one in my community had ever heard of Baby Led Weaning. Eliza knew what she wanted and it wasn’t until she was ready to pick up chunks did she eat anything at all. She was about eight months by then. She turned into an eating champ, but my psyche was a little dampened.
Onto child number two. With Nathaniel feeding was going to be different. He would latch and I’d feed him until he was 15 if he wanted When he was born he latched great. Sore, but he gained and I grinned and fed and was happy. At about eight weeks he started to show distress at the breast. I started to panic. I flew to Ottawa to get a tongue tie revised because health professionals in my community said he wasn’t tongue tied. I took him to an ENT, a neurologist, a paediatrician and had him on reflux meds. Nothing helped and he became a dream feeder. He didn’t feed awake until about 11 months. He took purée like a champ, but my psyche was now wounded. I was diagnosed with PTSD because of my experience feeding Nathaniel. I missed my daughter. I lived in fear that we were missing something huge and he would die. He lost percentiles, but continued to gain and I was told to keep doing what I was doing. I was secluded from socializing and to my house and had to put Eliza in child care. I suffered. I resented Nathaniel then felt awful for that. I became an awful wife, daughter, sister and friend. I was filled with such extreme anxiety.
When Nathaniel was five and Eliza, seven, I had Isaac. I wanted to breastfeed, but I was open to not this time because of the past. Isaac latched great. Not sore, but he started crying at the breast. I’m sure it was surmountable. He was learning. But I was done. I switched to formula. It was all going great.
Gradually he started to act ‘strange’. Tensing, drinking less. I started to panic. Not once did I think I could be pressuring him. I knew in my heart he was medically fine. I had googled what he was ‘supposed’ to drink and went by that. Every bottle had a goal - my past coming back to haunt me.
I began googling his behaviour. Rowena kept popping up. I ignored. I finally asked to be added to a group for bottle feeding aversion. There was a lot of focus on reflux. I truly didn’t feel he had or has reflux. I posted and another mom contacted me to tell me I should read Rowena’s book. I read about me. It was exactly me. Then she told me Lindsay was willing to help me! This might have saved my life - maybe not literally, but psychologically as a mom and a wife. I was losing myself again because of the anxiety and she pulled me out.
She walked me through a plan, she was supportive and kind and understanding. She understood my anxiety and my past. She was patient and knowledgeable. I do not know where Isaac and myself would be without the program and her support.
I pressured my child to feed and I caused an aversion. Do I have behaviourally sensitive babies? Maybe? My older two are not now, but they are obviously sensitive to breast and bottle feeding. Without Lindsay, we would probably be dream feeding again and my mind could not handle that again. I thank her from the bottom of my heart. My anxiety will never be completely gone, but I do believe he will be fine now as long as I follow the program.
Words by Rhea, Newfoundland, Canada