'Sick with guilt': Kiwi nutritionist's painful breastfeeding experience

Kiwi nutrition and parenting expert Dr Julie Bhosale thought she'd be a natural when it came to breastfeeding.

"As a nutritionist and lecturer prior to having children, I taught the importance of breastfeeding. I knew how important it was, but I had no idea just how hard it could be," the mum of two (soon to be mum of three) says.


Bhosale's difficulty breastfeeding both her babies taught her that, despite the adage 'breast is best', a mum's mental health and her ability to bond with her baby is probably even more important.

"Nutritionally breastmilk is best for the baby. But, for some mums that doesn't mean breastfeeding is the best choice for them, particularly when their mental health is at play," Bhosale said in an interview following the birth of her sons.

Advice from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation insists babies should be exclusively breastfed until six months old.

However, Bhosale says there is a multitude of reasons why women may struggle to breastfeed - from not being able to produce breastmilk to physiological challenges such as tongue-tie, or a difficult latch, and even logistical issues like when a mum returns to work.

She says her difficulty breastfeeding left her feeling "sick with guilt".

"It was the detachment, the lack of bond between myself and my son. 

"The fog of post-natal depression was knocking at my door. I was beyond exhausted and feeling like a complete failure, as a mum, as a woman, and a shadow of my former self."

Bhosale suffered from mastitis after the birth of her first son.

"My mastitis was so bad I was a day away from surgery and I was still put under pressure by experts to keep going. I felt if I just tried harder, even though we were at the point where my baby was just drinking blood - I was under pressure to keep going," she said in an interview.

She admits some of the pressure was self-inflicted. 

"As an expert in the area, I teach people to breastfeed and here I was struggling."

She shared her story to help empower women to feel like they have a choice when it comes to doing what's best for their families.

In an emotional blog post, which Bhosale wrote in 2015 and recently shared again on her Instagram page as she awaits the birth of her third child, she says: "I am the first to say breastfeeding is the best nutritional choice for your baby. There is compelling research to support this. However, a mother’s choice to breastfeed is often not as simple as this. 

"There may be a multitude of factors at play just like in my case. 

"I have chosen to put my son’s needs for love, and bonding first. I have also chosen the needs of my first son, who needs a mother there for him too – if I am to be spending HOURS trying to painfully feed my new-born how are his needs met? Am I to deprive both my children of the mum they need, when there is another option? I will let you be the judge of that.

"But, whatever judgement is put on me, trust me I have tortured myself about it even more."

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