Breastfeeding

I found breastfeeding weird. It’s natural that my breasts are an aesthetic part of my body, and a sexual part of my body. A baby sucking them and milk coming out seemed weird to me, not natural. I hoped that something magic would happen and change my mind as I wanted to try it. It’s good for RB, free and helps my body recover. Though my husband and I are not big on the breast is best propaganda. We’re keen to make the choice that makes life happiest for us and Runner Bean, whether that’s boob, bottle with expressed milk or bottle with formula. (In Push Back, Amy Tuteur talks of research that says breast equates to one less puke and diarrhoea in the first year only.)

After surgery, either as RB was being rubbed down or my husband was holding him, the midwife mentioned breastfeeding. I said I find it weird. I still did. She said we were designed to do it. That didn’t change my mind at all. Then RB was placed on my chest. It was as if someone had cast a spell over me. Suddenly I needed to breastfeed this child. I had a biological craving, an urgent urge. My breasts were another tool for motherhood, not a sexual or aesthetic part of me. I tried to breastfeed in the recovery room and it worked. Colostrum came out. It had been in my boobs waiting for this moment for weeks.

Over the next day or so the colostrum feeding seemed to go well. My nipples hurt a little but RB was feeding. Then RB stopped feeding so well. I hand expressed colostrum as a midwife sucked it up in a syringe. Another moment where any need for bodily privacy was replaced by a need to nurture my child.

They say if your nipples hurt it’s a sign of bad technique. The midwives helped me improve. Some of the older no-mess midwives would grab my boob and move the nipple into his mouth. Weirdly it wasn’t weird. 

I woke up one morning and looked at my naked body in the mirror after showering. My milk had come in. I looked like an FHM model with the worst boob job ever. They were huge, ready to explode out of my skin, and as hard as a tub of ice cream straight from the freezer. They felt like body armour. I turned to my husband whose jaw visibly dropped, cartoon style, as I stifled the laughter that hurt my wound.

My boobs were so hard I had to express a little for RB to latch. That first pressure relieving pump was heaven for both of us.

So far, breastfeeding has been unexpectedly pleasing. I like feeling RB’s warmth against my body, and watching his little face and stroking his perfect, delicate ears as he feeds. I like feeling my womb contract. (I feel it important to stress I’m not part of the breast brigade – theoretically I would get this all from bottles too, and all bar the womb contraction from formula.) Though breastfeeding takes patience. I spend most of my day in a chair either feeding him or trying to. Sometimes he latches immediately, sometimes he searches for my nipple that’s in front of his mouth before choosing his hand. Or he latches, spits it out, latches, spits it out. Sometimes he practises milk boarding himself by not swallowing. Or he sucks his hand, whimpers for milk before deciding he’s had enough five minutes in. And does this hourly for the next four hours. This is all fine while I’ve got permanent paternity leave company, but sitting on my own for three to four hours every day might feel slightly different.

After trying a few, we like this app to track it all. It’s on Android and Apple, let’s you sync across devices, is easy to use and crucially, it charts the data for easy comparisons.

Ideally, we’d like to breast and bottle feed. My husband would like in on the feeding action too and I have an MA I’d like to resume in October. Plus, I’d like some possibility of freedom. Midwives told us to wait 4-6 weeks before trying a bottle to prevent nipple confusion. They’re so breast obsessed we think it’s a trick, so we’ll probably try a bottle sooner. Maybe one feed a day to get RB used to both. Plus, we know everything baby is likely to change. What works now might not in a month. We intend to be flexible and practise our babycare ideology that everyone’s happiness matters more than ideology.

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