‘Oh, if I can breastfeed, I will’… ‘If it doesn’t work out, sure I’ll go straight onto bottles’ … ‘I won’t be killing myself with breastfeeding, I’ll definitely be getting Dadda to give her a bottle in the evening so I can rest’ ….
All of these words came out of my mouth while I was pregnant. All of them. So how then did I end up sitting on the sofa one midnight with a hot water-filled newborn nappy clutched to my far-too-long-suffering boob??
During my first appointment at the maternity hospital, I was told that they were ‘Baby Friendly’, as they’re pro-breastfeeding (meaning, I guess, that if a mam chooses to bottle feed, they’re baby unfriendly…) In my head I had decided to breastfeed anyways. I armed myself with some information – I know now that it probably wasn’t quite enough – but as far as I was concerned it is a natural thing & I am a bright, healthy, (sort-of) young woman. The babba girl would surely just hop out of her cosy cocoon & launch herself straight at the feeding source & we’ll be as one, in food, for as long as she wants! Yes, I even thought that I’d continue to feed until she decided otherwise … maybe even one & a half or two years, that’d be fine! My inner hippy was almost smug.
When beautiful June arrived into this world, I found myself checking her gums – surely she’d been born with razor blades embedded in there?? The toe-curling agony of attempted latching on, the discomfort of learning how to hand express, the hellish 16 hour cluster-feeding episode at around day 10 all were overcome & within a few weeks we had found our rhythm. I was really beginning to almost enjoy the process of giving sustenance to my little beaut.
Almost as soon as I was on the uphill, an untreated blocked milk duct worsened to an abscess & all the massaging, pumping & yes, even resorting to the nappy compress (Google lent me that one, apparently nappies will hold the heat longer than a regular washcloth!) didn’t work. Even more upsetting was the vision I had that my partner would never lose this less-than-romantic image of me, & our baby-making days were surely dead & buried!
At that stage I felt I should just give up breastfeeding. Although I had given the girl the very best early milk & was finding the whole struggle really physically stressful, I just couldn’t give up . She was thriving on it … Meanwhile, I was withering away while still trying to keep the house looking reasonably clean, keep on top of the laundry etc. I wasn’t heeding that most important advice of ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ & wasn’t being kind enough to myself. Breastfeeding really is a full-time job for the first few weeks, a midwife advised me to take to the bed with the baby; bring enough food to keep me going all day & just rest, rest, rest. I didn’t listen but her advice has echoed with me since; I genuinely believe the whole process would’ve been smoother if I had.
A spell back in hospital & heavy duty antibiotics cleared the abscess up eventually but the lesson learnt is mind your boobies! If something seems wrong, get to a doc, get the drugs & get back on track! A boiling-water filled nappy will probably not sort things out. Ahem…
Would I breastfeed again? In a heartbeat, but now armed with experience & the vow to be kinder to myself throughout the whole thing – the laundry will wait!