With a difficult birth, one of the things I am most grateful for post-birth is having a relatively positive experience with breastfeeding. During pregnancy, I was open to the idea of doing any method of feeding that worked for my baby once she was born. I had read many stories of women who struggled with breastfeeding and therefore I never took for granted that this was a guarantee for me, focusing more on the fact that just feeding my baby was the crucial part, however that was. Luckily, Alice has always been a pretty decent feeder – I credit that to her thinking with her stomach first and has the nose of a bloodhound for sniffing milk out; saying that it does not mean it has been smooth sailing the entire time.
In the first couple of weeks, we both struggled with latching on and getting the right position that resulted in some serious sob sessions for us both. After having some brilliant first feeds post-delivery, I may have been a little presumptuous thinking we had cracked it already. Ha. By the time we made it home, and having no midwives to guide her, we were struggling to get a good position where she could latch without me suffocating her with the rest of my boob or without her falling off. Then the pain kicked in. You think that after everything Mother Nature had subjected us mothers to with the pregnancy and the actual process of pushing a baby out of a space that was clearly not well thought out in terms of proportion, breastfeeding would be a walk in the park. Clearly not. Alice would thrash her head about as if she was at a Metallica concert, screaming, and trying to rip my nipple off with her gums in an attempt to latch on. Once she eventually did manage to find her way back using mummy GPS and rhythmic shushing, she had the suction power of an industrial hoover that subjected my poor nip-nips to a level of pain they had not experienced before followed by chewing on them as if they were some sort of toffee. Combined with the joy of newborn cluster feeding and uterus contractions I was a sobbing mess for those first two weeks, slathered in Lanolin cream and bleeding from severely cracked nipples. I felt as if I was failing my daughter because she would become so frustrated at feeding time when it would take us ages to get in the right position and she would become hysterical, acting as if I was tormenting her by having her food source in sight but not giving it to her. Even though our mummy friends were saying that they had endured the exact same thing with their bubs, it still felt as if I was just unable to get anything right – thanks sleep-deprivation for making everything hundred times more dramatic!
Finally, as everyone had said, by week three it had suddenly become natural. I could basically throw Alice to the near vicinity of my chest and she'd be able to find her way and be merrily sucking the life force from me to fuel herself. I credit my nipples suddenly growing some extra tough layer of breast-feeding like armour for this – I'm pretty sure that Alice has broken them spiritually, and they are just numb to the world now. Yet the mishaps have not ended there, yes we have the feeding aspect down but now my breasts seem to have taken on a life of their own where they are completely out of my control. Here are some of the top breast mishaps we have experienced so far:
1) The milk coming in: I have been blessed that when I gave birth I became, as a midwife called it, Daisy the Cow. I am not complaining that I have been gifted with a solid milk supply, it makes expressing and freezing for when I have physio; spinal injections; emergency admittance to hospital or any other unforeseen circumstances, that Alice has always got milk ready for her. On the flip side, it has meant multiple occasions of waking up in the night, my pyjamas soaked in my own milk or with breasts that would put the Amy Poehler's mum from Mean Girls boob's to shame in terms of being like rocks. Not even rocks. More like huge, solid boulders that, when you're not prepared for it, result in you overbalancing from the weight. Where was that warning in any of the parenting books?!
2) The sheer force that milk can shoot of them: It is a whole new experience when you are sitting in the John Lewis breastfeeding corner, happily minding your own business checking Instagram as your bub feeds, when she comes off and milk shoots out of your breast and hits her square in the face. It was as if I had attached a SuperSoaker to the front of my chest. So now I had a crying baby who looked as if she had just been assaulted by her most trusted companion, and a boob that was pouring milk over my top and leggings. The result? I smelt like sour milk for the rest of the day and a traumatised child who cried any time I tried to put her back on that side. Winning at mum life.
3) Talking of leakages… Why was it not included in any of the leaflets given to us as we left hospital that your breasts would turn into a continually broken tap?! I was led to believe that these would be minimal leaks, controlled by nursing pads, not the opening of floodgates in the middle of Baby Sensory. That's right ladies and gentleman, in the middle of Baby Sensory, the little cherub came off too early and I was catching a spew of milk into my palm as I frantically tried to find a muslin to stem the flow. Seriously, boobs, can we not try and humiliate me every time we are in public?!
4) The judgment and anger that it will create in your bub: I have many a photo of my darling little sweetheart, who normally looks like a sixteenth century cherub, looking furious, milk dribbling from the corner of her mouth, as she stares at me with a level of resentment in her eyes that I did not even know babies were capable of because I put the boob away too quickly. Yes she had stopped feeding ten minutes ago and it had just been sitting there getting cold, but having the option to go back to it at any moment snatched from her was a level of cruelty she could not forgive her mother of. Well, not until I took it back out again. Then there's the disgust when I have not been able to get it out and to her as fast as she would like. Once I have, she'll suck on it ferociously, glaring up at me and growling as she does so.
I'm sure as time goes on, we will have more bonding moments during feeding but at the moment I'm too busy laughing at her general sass when I'm not getting it perfectly right for her every time. What are your experiences of breastfeeding or feeding your bub in general? What has been your best mishap so far?