Breastfeeding, the whole magical, god damn painful experience

When did breastfeeding change from being the magical, bonding, baby cradling experience we all imagine it to be into to an awkward, painful, baby juggling, flashing experience that requires the skills of a contortionist?

Currently I’m 8 months into my breast feeding experience and still going strong. If you had told me 8 months ago that I would breast feed for this long I would have laughed.

“If I can do it at all, it will be for 3-4 months” would have been my reply. But here I am, still in my maternity bras whipping out my boobs several times a day! And to be fair these days it’s actually easier, which is why I’ve ended up here, 8 months later. That, and the totally unfounded guilt associated with stopping when there’s no real reason to, other than the fact you may want to start wearing normal clothes again and stop getting your nips out in public.

I know many people find breastfeeding difficult for a vast number of reasons but I was one of the ‘lucky’ people that was able to breast feed without too much of an issue. In the hospital they said how great it was that a c-section baby latched on so well and that it looked like I would have no problem going forward with breast feeding. I didn’t have many preconceived notions about what I would or wouldn’t be doing feeding wise before the birth, ‘whatever worked’ was going to be my motto in most things baby related and still is.

So in the hospital, after 3 consecutive midwives jammed my poor baby’s face onto my boob in a manner that felt somewhat brutal I felt I’d got the gist and was ready to roll with it. Nipple up & in and keep baby attached to boob seemed to be the tactic though to my surprise when it comes to breast feeding ‘no problem’ doesn’t mean easy.

Sylvie had a favourite boob from the get go – odd I know but also quite normal. It soon became my favourite too after she latched on wrong for one feed to the lesser favoured one making it so sore I started to get the fear each time I switched boobs – It was so sore that I was convinced it was cracked or blocked or had some actual issue going on but no, this was just a general run of the mill God damn sore nipple issue. Of course this led to one boob being used more than the other until things felt a bit better and still to this day 6 months on the favoured, non chomped boob does better milk wise.

With my one super sore nipple and other generally sore nipple (although this is what nipples are made for it seems to come as a shock to them and they protest greatly) I went home wondering how long it would be until I didn’t have to take a deep breath and wince through the first few seconds of each feed.

I didn’t leak much, only at night and strangely ladies – at least this is what I found, the milk can stain your tops… I have passed on several awkwardly stained T-shirts to my father for garage rags.

The pads however for me made my sore nipples worse and after a while I just gave up using them. After a few weeks the leaking abetted so that was pretty lucky. Never the less, both of my nipples still felt like I’d run the marathon with no vaseline in a rough cotton shirt. Drying myself after the shower was a scary experience as I gingerly patted myself the towel, which may as well have been sandpaper when it came anywhere near my breasts, or my C-section scar for the matter but that was more in my head.

I found myself air drying my boobs through the day after each feed as they were too sore to pat and if they weren’t dry when I put my bra back on they would stick, ready for whole new worlds of pain.

But although you can space time out between showers and walk around your house topless most of the time you can’t do much about the regularity of the feeds on these poor sore things. And on the note, cluster feeding is a bitch who visited every single late afternoon and outstayed her welcome regularly, until midnight. Although daily I was sure there was NOTHING left to give Sylvie felt otherwise. I often gave her a bottle of formula to remove the little limpet from my chest for what to all intents and purposes would have been a full working day. Apparently, they say that your breasts are not like buckets that empty but more rivers that flow! All these beautiful natural analogies to describe such knackering, energy sapping experiences. How women all over the world manage to keep their cool when your baby is hungry and wanting boob but stretching their head in every which direction other than your boob and screaming their heads off I do not know. But I salute us all.

I’m pretty sure I have tendentious in my wrist from holding her head whilst she feeds and she’s still not capable of feeding unless I hold my boob for her with one hand which leads to my back holding some pretty new and interesting positions of it’s own. None of which I would recommend. I am also now fearful of what sort of breasts I will end up with after the whole thing with a baby that began to treat them like a Stretch Armstrong doll as soon as she realised she had hands.

Then we come to the contentious subject of feeding in public. I had said to Mr Potnoodle that this wasn’t something I would do. But after becoming used to having my boob hanging out in front of most friends and family members, including one time where I answered the door to the postman not realising that underneath the baby I was holding my boob was still out, I decided that what the hell… I didn’t have much modestly left as it was.

I did feel pretty self conscious the first time I breast fed outside of the house and to be fair, I still feel feel a little like I might be offending someone, somewhere but so far I’ve not had any negative experiences.

So why am I telling you guys all of this? Please don’t think it’s to complain as I really can’t complain at all. A baby is the best medicine for pretty much anything negative that comes with it and our little baby in particular was so hoped for that I feel almost as grateful for the not so lovely experiences as I do for the lovely ones – I’ll happily take them on, it means she’s here.

But, I suppose the message I’m trying to convey is twofold. If you’re a woman in this world that wishes she could breastfeed but can’t, remember the grass is not always greener I still had an easy time of it compared to so many that have things like mastitis and blocked ducts and more and two, if you are a woman that starts to breastfeed just be ready, as with everything baby related, it’s all a very real dream with lows to match the highs and that’s ok. We’re all coming up against the same hurdles. The good news is that after about 3 months, just when I had intended to stop, it became the easiest option and if all truth be told I’m proud of the both of us. She was just as inexperienced as I was and we got there, for a whole 8 months.


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