So, you get through the first trimester of morning sickness and generally feeling rotten, to then head into the second when heartburn and an insatiable appetite kicks in, before reaching the third trimester when swelling and moving make you feel like you’ve been invaded by the body snatchers. Then the big day arrives. You’ve successfully grown a wonderful new human and now is the moment you get to meet him or her.
So push (or pull), however it happens, baby is safely born. Mum flops her head back in sheer relief, the hard part is over and she can now start enjoying her new baby. (Huge generalisation of course, but you get the drift.)
Ah but she thinks the childbirth was the hard part…. until breastfeeding begins.
It’s soon realised that it’s nothing like the *bleeping* adverts (those apologetic ones for formula milk) in which the mum doesn’t wince or wriggle or cry when she latches her baby on. She doesn’t look sweaty with fever as she tries to unblock a milk duct in her hot, heavy boob. She doesn’t walk around without a bra on because she can’t find a comfy one big enough… and then she doesn’t scowl at her husband and tell him to not dare think of touching them unless he wants his nuts on a spike. Perhaps the formula ad agency should show the real-life version, then they’d sell a tonne of the powdered stuff.
Breastfeeding is undeniably best, but it’s far from plain sailing, even for an old pro like me. It’s also such an emotive subject I almost feel guilty for daring to breathe a bad word against it, but that’s a mother’s right, and I know I’m not alone. Talk to any mum and there will be an interesting story to tell.
I breastfed my other three children until they were weaned, from between 4-6 months old (depending on what was the advice trend, which has changed with every child, I think it’s a year now…). Anyway, I remember it being generally enjoyable and more convenient than bottles (albeit conveniently forgetting the tricky parts!) so I was looking forward to feeding my newborn this time round.
However, by the end of the first week I was at out-of-hours surgery with my ginormous ‘comedy’ boobs (painful engorgement).
By two weeks, I had new pain as my son had tongue tie and had been chomping on me 24/7. So back to the doctors to get it sorted.
At four weeks post-partum, my middle son and I caught scarlet fever and needed antibiotics. My baby didn’t catch it despite my fevery, rash-covered body making me feel terrible… all I could do was lie in bed and feed him. Although knowing that he was protected by my antibodies was what kept me going.
At six weeks I was on antibiotics again, for early mastitis, and feeling pretty low by now. I want to feed my baby myself, to give him the best start in life and create a lasting bond, so why on earth do we have boob-related infections like mastitis to make this even more difficult and potentially dangerous? Eve must have seriously pissed God off when she ate that apple!
Why, when a baby needs feeding would it be so hard to get it right, even with previous training?! How did our ancestors manage? How do those in countries without a BfN helpline and supply of antibiotics cope? And surely the ‘perfect’ Kate Middleton must have suffered like the rest of us?
Despite all the help we have here, I’m not surprised that many women give it up or don’t enjoy it (and there are also those who simply aren’t able), especially with the ‘easier’ option of formula on offer (I’ve got a few cartons in the cupboard just in case… shh, don’t tell the health visitor!).
I think I’m over the worst of it, 10 weeks on; but it’s taken that long to get to know what my baby wants and what my boobs are prepared to do this time round! I’m sure that’s part of the reason why they recommend breastfeeding for at least six months, so that you have at least a few without cabbage leaves in your bra (if you can wear one that is)!
I make sure I keep stocked up on ibupofen and manuka honey and Multi-Mam Compresses to keep the infections at bay. I just hope it continues this way as, despite the pain and gripes, feeding my baby is our precious time together and, whenever I choose to stop, I know I’ll miss it.