I never, ever thought that I would breastfeed my kids as I was not brought up in a home/ culture that deemed it the “done thing”. I remember asking my Mam when I was a kid if I had been breastfed and I was very relieved to hear that, no, I’d had formula. Damn though, I could be an astrophysicist now with a killer immune system. My next encounter with bf was when visiting my friend Michelle in Italy when her baby was a few months old. She was the first of my friends to get married and have a baby and I almost fainted when I saw her take an engorged, blue-veined boob from it’s ugly harness and put it in the baby’s mouth. I didn’t know where to look and it felt like I was intruding on a hugely private moment. I was also supremely pissed off that my drinking buddy was still not able to get wasted with me, totally selfish on her part. Now I had to wait months till I had the old Michelle back; I wasn’t to know that when a friend has a baby that you never get them back as they once were. I took out my duty free and got her husband drunk and we played Yahtzee loudly and got shushed frequently. I was ignorant and I didn’t understand and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.
A few months after meeting my now husband we were sitting outside and chatting at a quiet bar in Kusadasi when the subject of breastfeeding came up ( I must’ve exhausted the bowel-topic). I wrinkled my nose in disgust and said “you won’t catch me doing that”. He looked genuinely shocked and asked what I thought the purpose of breasts were. I sniggered and gave a lot of reasons that can’t be typed here as I may make you blush/feel nauseous. Realising that I was losing the argument I bristled and tried what I thought was a feminist viewpoint. I argued that my body was not my own for 9 months and was I to suffer further, unable to take Solpadeine on a whim or drink or have the odd fag? He gave up in the face of my ridiculous indignation and had also possibly scared himself talking too soon about having kids with an unstable, Irish female. However, the seed had been sown… not literally.. that took another 4 years!
From the moment I planned my pregnancy, I became an insane nurturer, guzzling folic acid and prenatal vitamins and feeling an urge to wrap myself in organic/non-toxic cotton wool for the next 9 months. I didn’t touch alcohol (bar a couple of glasses of red wine/guinness at social events for the iron content naturally), gave up smoking and read baby books voraciously.
When he was put in my arms and the midwife asked how I was planning on feeding him, I said breast of course! I put him to my nipple and… nothing. I tried every position, football hold and all.. nothing. An expert was sent to me from the upper echelons of Holles Street and even she gave up. My baby was hungry now and I was beginning to sweat. One of the nurses rubbed some formula on my nipple to make it more appealing. My hormones were raging and I was starting to get mad at this stubborn little baby. I could actually hear the baby in the next bed suckling and I tried to push my nipple into his mouth and it all felt wrong and slightly abusive.
I got home and the public health nurse would come daily to weigh him and shake her head saying he’s lost more weight and I was frantic. I asked if I should give him a top-up and I think I had my fingers crossed with hope behind my back. She dragged her heels and almost before she could reply I had Ossie at Tesco buying Aptamil. It turns out he wasn’t that great at sucking from bottles either and then I got myself in a panic reading about nipple confusion.
I continued trying even though my nipples were cracked and bleeding at this stage. I pumped to keep the flow going and often it resembled a strawberry milkshake. I was also fighting a bad kidney infection and I was bedridden and broken.
Two weeks later when I was feeling better and my million fanny stitches had dissolved I decided to give breast-feeding another go. I gently guided Conall to my nipple and… he sucked; I cried and cried happy tears. I had spent my life giving up when things got hard and for once I persevered and it paid off. The feeling is incomparable, him suckling sleepily, every so often maintaining eye-contact and sometimes massaging my boob with his tiny fingers as if to increase the flow. Sometimes I would fall asleep with him guzzling away and have strange dreams where I couldn’t understand why my nips felt so weird. I continued combine-feeding him and it made the weaning at 7 months so much easier. I was lucky to have the full support of my partner, although my mother would turn her eyes up or seize on any sickness Conall had to say “look, look he’s not immune”. It’s ok Mam, I know it always came from a place of guilt and I don’t blame you for not breastfeeding me but I do blame formula companies for normalising bottles.
I was slightly awkward when feeding Conall publicly and would opt for the bottle option. Although I did manage to send a picture of Conall in the hospital on my breast with my areola on display to my entire inbox and the replies were mostly “is that your nip?” and not “congrats on your new baby!” Also my poor Dad once pointed at my top with his eyes lowered to the ground and when I looked down I had two massive wet circles at my boobs. Another time I was out for a walk and hadn’t fed or pumped for awhile and as I pushed the buggy, I could feel my boobs straining against the confines of my summer top. My cousin, Jen was with me and gasped at their size which was a surprise considering her own knockers aren’t that shabby. The moment was immortalised when a car beeped at me and some guys made lewd gestures.. I think Jen may have yelled “she’s lactating, assholes!”
My second son latched beautifully, as did my 3rd and I didn’t even require lanolin. I fed both of them exclusively for 9/10 months and had become a pro at feeding in public. I’d use a muslin cloth so as not to “offend anyone” but if it dropped I couldn’t care less and was prepared for someone to comment… they never did. My first and foremost concern was my baby’s well-being . I only had problems when I tried to introduce a bottle or when they grew teeth. Koray bit me a few times and it almost forced me to fling him, the pain is unimaginable.When it comes to stopping, there is so much emotion and guilt, it’s awful trying to give your baby a bottle as they nuzzle for your breast but there comes a time when you need that solpadeine/ night out and are sick of waking up with a sodden breast pad in your armpit and a soaked bra/t-shirt. It is also fantastic to sleep bra-less and have your boobs back for other purposes.
Give it a go, you’ll be surprised. It is so handy to leave the house with just a pack of wipes and a couple of nappies; no steriliser, bottles, formula..you’ll save a fortune. You can also sit and eat cake as the baby literally sucks the fat out of you and NO PERIODS! You will have porn boobs (the classy kind). What’s not to like? It is a test but if you put in a minimum of effort, you’ll pass and maybe raise that astrophysicist with the super-human immune system!
Disclaimer: I’m aware that some people can’t feed for medical reasons and that’s cool, I’m asking the others to give it a go… it’s my slogan.. Leslie Knope style.