That Time I Thought Breastfeeding Was Going To Be Great

My boobs haven’t belonged to me for seven months now.

Day 3. My milk comes in and I’m suspecting the doctors have given me breast implants while I slept. Oh boy does it hurt. I have a lot of milk.

Great! This is going to be great.

Except that I’m squirting milk at the sound of my baby crying and my let down feels like someone is stabbing me with a fire poker. I am engorged. Cabbage leaves in the fridge and I have some relief as my body tries to figure out my supply.

Day 4. Little man is only feeding on the right side. Off to the physio – he has torticollis. Hundreds of dollars later and some exercises and baby’s neck is no longer stiff and he’s happily feeding on both sides.

This is going to be great.

A few weeks in. Why on earth is this kid spitting up all my milk? Can breast milk go off inside you? Oh, ok, he just has reflux. I’m reassured he’ll grow out of it by the age of one. Been covered in his vomit daily ever since. Also, why oh why do my nipples feel like they’ve been rubbed with sandpaper. Bad latch. I bet he has a tongue tie. Breast feeding consultant at the hospital checks him out, and shows me better techniques for latching, which I instantly forget in my sleep deprived state.

Eight weeks in. Things are going really well. Feeding doesn’t hurt so much! Yay.

This is going to be great.

I wake in the middle of the night and feel a large lump. Ouch. Next day, fever sets in and my efforts to massage and feed the blockage away fail, off to the doctor for some antibiotics for my mastitis. Why is my son vomiting a lot and pooing green? He’s picked up a bug. Oh gosh this kid will not feed! Does my milk taste bad? Yes, apparently salty due to the antibiotics. A few days in and he is not putting on weight, refusing to eat and my supply is taking a huge hit. Worry sets in and we are off to the doctor. The doctor is very concerned and sends me on a wild goose chase to buy milk fortifier. A quick text to my midwife, some helpful advice from a friend and I’m instead advised to pump pump pump! An appointment to the MCHN reveals he has fallen off the percentile chart altogether and I now need to start supplementing with formula.

The next two weeks are a bit of a nightmare. Feed. Pump. Top up with formula. Every feed. That’s about 8 feeds in 24 hours. I’m tired, I feel like a cow/mombie and I’ve now given new meaning to the term “stay at home mum.” Literally, because who can find the time to go out when you’re attached to your breast pump all day. Fortunately, we came out the other end and my supply got back up and little man starting gaining weight again. Hooray.

This is going to be great.

Several months in and I’ve learnt the hard way what the term ‘niplash’ means. This little guy is so alert, so attentive, it’s wonderful. Until he’s being so during a feed and suddenly wants to turn his head 180 degrees to look at something, while still attached. Ouchies. Painful, and not to mention embarrassing when in public and you are suddenly flashing people unintentionally. I tried one of those modesty aprons but he hated it. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t like to eat my lunch in a dark, stuffy place either. He does however like to eat in quiet. He will not feed if I am a) talking to anyone at the same time or b) trying to watch something on Netflix unless the sound is way down. There’s that niplash again. That’s not all, he also thinks it’s a fun game to bite down with his gums (no teeth yet thank God) and look up at me with a cheeky, gummy grin. Apparently, “No!” in a firm voice is funny, and means please do it again, this is a fun game.

He is seven months old now and we are still on our breastfeeding journey. He has started solids, but by large is still surviving on breast milk. He is happy, healthy and thriving. I’m not going to lie, I am looking forward to having my boobs back, wear dresses again and sleep through an entire night but right now I remind myself that this stage is fleeting and I soak in the cuddles and the closeness of my little one. It hasn’t been an easy road so far, but I’ve been so encouraged talking to other women who’ve shared similar experiences. It’s so important we talk about the highs and lows of motherhood.

We owe it to the women in our lives entering this season of life to prepare them, to let them know that it is okay and quite normal to find breastfeeding hard and to try help them find some humour and enjoyment in this short-lived, challenging yet amazing time of our motherhood.

- Jules

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