This post contains references to Breasts. And Nipples. And feeding a child with them. While there won’t be any nipple pictures for you to be offended by, you should know that if you’re particularly precious about this topic, you can kindly exit the browser window in 3, 2, 1…
Ok, you were warned.
I don’t really know how to open this blog, so I’ll start by showing you my daily (multiple times a day) reality for the past 2 months:
This is a breast pump. I have a love/hate relationship with this thing. On one hand, it is soo relieving to use. It means my baby is getting breast milk. But on the other, I just wish I could breastfeed.
Sam being born so early meant a lot of challenges for us both, but the one that continues to this day is the battle of the boob. I hear and see friends who are able to breastfeed so naturally and easily and I envy them. I had wanted this one thing so much, and given how little control I had over the birth process and no skin to skin for 27+ hours post birth, I have sort of set myself into a stubborn determination that this one thing will be mine. I will not fail at this.
But these are hours of my life I can never get back, hours I wish were spent with Sam close against my chest, in the quiet. Hours we could spend just the two of us, bonding as mother and child.
Breastfeeding is such a special thing for a Mum. And yet Sam’s prematurity and my nipple shape (FYI, I had no idea there was such a thing as different nipple types!?) has meant we’ve had a long, stressful, sometimes upsetting uphill battle to get him on the boob. We currently mix feed, which again, is a love/hate kind of deal. With my preeclampsia, formula meant my baby was being nourished as much as possible while my body recovered from the trauma of the c-section and illness while my milk came in. On the other, the less you nurse, the less milk you have. Catch 22.
Using bottles and formula is another love/hate. Bottles need washing, sterilizing, drying. Formula takes time. The water has to be 75 degrees C before you can mix in the formula. This means boiling the kettle, and then waiting about 40 minutes. This means timers. Clock watching. And never, ever being allowed to not have some ready. But formula needs to be made as you go, so you can’t make too much. But you must always have some on hand.
On the upside, it means I am not up every single feed with bleeding and cracked nipples, dying of lack of sufficient sleep. It means Daddy can help with the middle of the night feeding times, and we can share in the bond of feeding and nourishing Sammy. It means a low milk supply does not impede the growth of our little cub.
But it sucks. Pun intended. Because I could bottle feed Sam breast milk anyway, even if I was breastfeeding as well. But even with a nipple shield and a fixed tongue, it’s not happening for us so far.When Sam had his tongue tie corrected, I thought that would be that. We would be off to the best start in our breastfeeding journey together.
Sam is now used to the ease of the bottle, which trickles down his throat without much effort, even when he’s half asleep. So having to put in effort to suckle at the boob doesn’t particularly interest him most of the time. In fact, there’s usually a great deal of crying, back arching and screaming involved. (And I’m not just talking about Sam!)
While I do have the wonderful support of the maternal health services and lactation consultants (we have one coming to help up soon) it’s hard not to feel discouraged that something that is meant to be so ‘natural’ is so damn difficult. For so many women. So for each block of time I’m attached to my pump, for each feed we attempt that results in the same thing, I have to remind myself that this is something I want, and is ultimately the best thing for Sam. But it is hard. I have even wanted to quit so many times. It’s really upsetting to have your son push away from you time and time again. But I persist.
I am hoping our boob battle has a victory at its end, but I just wanted to get it off my chest for now. Pun intended.
To all the Mums out there in the booby front lines, I salute you. If you need me, I’m probably not far from this machine.