Saturday, 18 January 2014

Thanks for the Mammaries

I am breastfeeding.

If you follow me on any type of social media, you'll know this as I talk about it at tedious length. It's very boring but I can't help it. Breastfeeding is all encompassing; it takes over your life and you find yourself acutely aware that it's a job that's all on you. No one can help you. It's down to your body and your baby and no one else can make it any easier or take any of the burden.

Well, I say burden. Breastfeeding is also incredibly rewarding. It's an important bonding experience for you and your child and there's an overwhelming pride in watching your baby grow. Also, crucially, it's free and you don't have to piss about sterilising bottles and heating up/cooling down formula.

It does have its, erm... uncomfortable moments though...

For example, the other day I was diagnosed as having thrush of the nipple. Now, this diagnosis was upsetting for a number of reasons. For one thing, it means that my baby also has thrush in his mouth which is making him ultra fussy. By this I mean that he tries to unlatch from my nipple whilst keeping his jaws tightly clamped around it. Picture the scene: if Stretch Armstrong had nipples...

I've touched on the issue of lactation before. Late in my pregnancy I began to leak a little colostrum and thought it was a nuisance. I had no idea. The leaking that I do now wouldn't go amiss on a dairy farm.

It all began on Day Three. Day Three is capitalised for reasons that any mum should understand, for Day Three is the big day that your milk begins to come in, followed swiftly by an almighty case of the baby blues. I found myself sat on the edge of my hospital bed, a tiny and windy baby slung over my shoulder, tears and snot on my face and a two very dark waterfalls down the front of my nightie. Where I had decided to rest my beloved son on my boob, I had started the mother of all let-downs. Not being familiar with this concept, I hadn't noticed until I looked a particularly sad wet T-shirt contestant.

It's really just escalated from there. The day before yesterday, I was stood in my bathroom after jumping out of the shower and felt a steady drip on my feet. I had to run into my husband, hands cupped under my nipples and slowly filling up with milk, yelling at him to grab a bra and some breast pads.

I only have to actually look at my baby and I get the warning tingle that assures me that let-down is about to begin and that, if I haven't already padded my bra, then it's too late. They practically flood my vest top if he cries.

All of this naturally means I have rather enthusiastic milk ducts which, when coupled with a fussy, yeasty baby that won't latch on properly, basically equals the poor boy being slowly drowned in my 'liquid gold'. The other night he pulled away and I noticed what I thought was a string of saliva still connecting his perfect little mouth to my boob, it was only when I tried to break it that I realised it was actually a thin stream of projectile milk spraying him in the face. I then try desperately to latch him back on before both of us, his clothes, my clothes, the chair we're sitting on, get covered in milk.

This rarely works. You see, my nipples are quite large. My baby's mouth is not. Plus he's probably the laziest feeder you've ever seen, so I generally get a nanosecond of his mouth being open wide enough to fit the teat in. If I miss that opportunity then it's tough and he begins a very cute chomping motion with his jaws, and I have to play a game of skill and precision to aim my nipple at him at just the right time. More often than not, I just end up mashing it into his closed mouth. Then, when on, sometimes he remembers that he's hungry and cries for my breast while his mouth is full of it.

The midwives are full of advice about breastfeeding. Of course, none of matches from one expert to the next. They tell you to point your nipple at the baby's nose, something which just makes Blake sniff it with a confused look on his face. They tell you to remove the baby and put him back on if the latch is incorrect, something which makes Blake get bored, pout a bit and go back to sleep. They tell you (well, me) to treat his oral thrush with drops that make him projectile vomit for a full day.

And boy, can this kid vomit. Apparently breastfed babies get less gas and need less winding. Not so for my Blake, but then we all know that my digestion isn't the stuff of text books. In the early hours of the morning, I find myself desperately trying to coax a burp out of his blue little chops, only to dislodge an air bubble trapped under the most recent feed, bringing both up in an exquisite white stream that ends up all down my neck, back and cleavage. In fact, I can't remember the last time I didn't smell like sour milk. I'm like that kid in primary school that no one wanted to sit next to in assembly (his name was Darren in my school, for the record).

I still haven't mastered breastfeeding discreetly yet, either. I went to a support group for nursing mums last week and watched as all the seasoned pros fed their children without showing a hint of flesh. When Blake woke up for his feed, I tried my best but ended up sheepishly pulling my top down, my bra up and exposing my entire left breast to the group. Blake didn't mind, I wasn't so keen. That, coupled with the fact that the boy likes to feed about every two hours, means that I don't get out of the house much. I am a slave to Blake's appetite, covering a well trodden path between the bedroom, my tub chair and back again in my vomit and milk stained onesie, a tiny little sicky human slung over my shoulder like a sandbag, thinking wistfully about the wine in my wine rack and the unlikelihood of anyone being able to babysit for us any time soon.

I refuse to give in though. I will continue with my breastfeeding mission, after all, we've come this far.

Plus, formula is bloody expensive...