Friday, April 13, 2007


I have been meaning to write for some time now about breastfeeding. It’s a subject close to my heart (and my right middle lobe, ha ha ha). And when you Google ‘breastfeeding blog’ you get nothing useful (ie people who have been there, done that). My apologies for the long post, but there are a lot of things that you think of in the wee small hours.

During pregnancy, I had noted in my journal (ok, to be honest, the notes section of Kaz Cooke’s “Up the Duff”) that I felt ‘ambivalent’ about breastfeeding. Meaning, I know all the benefits for both me and the bub, but I just wasn’t 100% comfortable about whacking a newborn on my boobs and letting it all go.

The little pamphlet helpfully given to me by the midwives at the hospital assured me “Breastfeeding is 100% comfortable”. Meaning if it isn’t, you must be doing something wrong. Here’s a little secret, ladies (and wymmin). It isn’t. Even if you are doing it right. If this is a ploy by the boob Nazis to get you to persist with bf (ie one day it will be 100% comfortable), I’m sure it backfires. They would be better to say “Breastfeeding often involves some discomfort through to outright pain at the start, and then settles down to being mostly comfortable”.

I have yet to meet any mother who claims she got bf established right from delivery with absolutely no pain and no problems. It, like having it all, is a myth (IMHO). In my case, it HURT. And now, seven weeks on, it still sometimes HURTS but is mostly just Annoying.

Having said all this I’m not about to chuck it all in and start up with formula. Our experience with breast pumps and bottles of expressed milk only confirmed to me what a right royal pain in the arse it would be; all that boiling and sterilising (or at least decontamination) would kind of spoil the moment, and kill any sort of left over spontaneity (and there’s precious little of that, let me tell you) in your life.

The secret to breastfeeding I don’t know, but here are my 2 cents’ worth about things that make it easier.

  1. Ignore what your mother or mother in law tell you. Things have changed markedly in the last 30 odd years. Especially when they say “I have had 4 children and breastfed them all, you know” (I have never, even in my gothic teens, felt closer to matricide than when she offered that smug little gem).
  2. Find a lactation consultant. Most hospitals will have them. A good one is worth gold gold gold for Australia. Mine is brilliant- professional and supportive, like a good sports bra. Find one that makes house calls, because the one thing you won’t want to do with sore boobs and a squally baby is get in the car and travel. The days after we left hospital were terrible. P wanted to feed every two hours and because my bf was underskilled, it took, oh, two hours to do a feed. My nipples (mostly the left) were so sore, it was like P had a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth (I had a dream whilst pregnant that I was breastfeeding my cat. That’s about what it felt like: Stephanie Calman in “Confessions of a Bad Mother” - “How many breastfeeding women does it take to change a light bulb? Just smash the bulb over my head, it has to feel better than this.”). On day three I rang her up, in tears, and she advised me to call a halt to the boobs, and express for a week. She gave me the name of a hire company for a (brilliant, lifesaving) electric breast pump, and told my husband to come up to the hospital and she would slip him some bottles and teats. After a week, my nipples were much improved, and she came to our home to coach me on attachment again. We gradually re-introduced the boob. However, by about week four, my nipples were just as sore again. I rang her up and she came around again. The attachment was perfect, he had a good action and no tongue-tie. She then looked at me squarely and asked “Do you have sensitive skin? Do you get dermatitis easily?” Do I ever! “You probably have nipple dermatitis then. Get yourself some 0.5% cortisone cream from the chemist and whack it on after feeds three times a day for 3 days”. Miracle woman. Miracle cream. My boobs still do get like this occasionally, and I know all I need to do is to pop on the cream for a day or two to settle it down. No-one- not my doctors, my mum (ha!), or the (millions of) books on the subject had suggested this. Absolutely brilliant. [The only time her goddess crown slipped was whilst still in hospital, she told me to come around to her office- there was a couple already there, being taught the skills. When they left, she said to me, sotto voce, “They had a terrible time with the birth. They had to have a Cesarean and the anaesthetist couldn’t get the epidural in, and she had to have a GA”. In tones of ‘that anaesthetist must be soooo incompetent’. Well, honey, that same Anaesthetist is the supervisor of training at my hospital, a brilliant and very capable woman. If she couldn’t get the epidural (actually it was a spinal) in, then no-one could. It. Happens.]
  3. Mastitis. I’ve had it once, and I’m having it again right now. The symptomatology you will read about in the books only goes so far. Yes, you will have a hard, sore (sore!sore!!) lump in the boob with maybe some overlying redness. Yes, you will feel tired like you are getting a ‘flu. You may feel hot and cold. But what they won’t tell you (and what my mummy friends have told me, and it’s so true) is that you may also feel depressed. You will be coasting along fine, and then one day, you will find yourself in tears again. For no discernable reason. Check your boobs at that point.
  4. It will get easier. Like everything with a new infant, it takes time and patience.

Breastfeeding in public is another hurdle you have to overcome. Many of the women I know say that after a few weeks, they didn’t care anymore who saw their boobs. Not me. I’d still rather do it at home. All the women I have known personally who have breastfed have had nice, rounded boobs that disappear to flat or no bigger than a B when they aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding. My default position is a 16DD. Now? The largest that DJs had on their racks was a 20F, and even that isn’t big enough. So I have no idea. Just freaking huge. Contrary to popular belief, bigger boobs make it harder to breastfeed. Even now, I have to still feed P two handed to support my boob and keep it off his nostrils. So I get very wary about ‘hanging out’ in public. It’s not like I can do it discreetly, like those smaller-breasted women. When my boob is out, you need to clear an aisle in Woolies. One day I will be comfortable with it, just not now.

So, after all this, I’m still ambivalent. I want to do it, I want to do it for at least six months, but I am still hating doing it. But there just is no other way that would be easier. And babies need milk. They can’t just start on TVP and veggies. It doesn’t work that way. And my milk is the best for my baby. And for the first time in my life I am losing weight without running 10km a day (all those skinny B cups aren’t. Ha ha ha!!) And the closest I have ever felt to bonded is laying in bed, stroking his hair, and watching him gulp in mouthfuls of me. (You mean I haven’t bonded yet? No. I still can’t equate this beautiful little man to the lump in my tummy. But that’s a whole other post.).


Blogger Mermaidgrrrl said...

You really, really need to get yourself to a specialist bra store. There must be at least one in your city that caters to very large busted women. My maternity bras are an H cup and specially designed to hold the boob up while you feed which frees you up for positioning. It's worth getting professional help for this, not just relying on major stores because they don't import the proper specialty stuff. Good luck!

13/4/07 21:20  
Anonymous J-Le said...

thank you thank you for your posts. i really appreciate your honest wisdom. not enough people are as frank as you!

13/4/07 22:04  
Blogger bill said...

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Thank you.

30/3/08 14:40  

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