Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the milk marathon

I've had such a funny relationship with breastfeeding.

On the one hand, I'm lucky I even managed to do it from the start. With the trauma of losing a twin, and the stress of having Sebby lying under a lamp for much of his hospital stay (not allowing me to feed properly), it's a small wonder I managed to produce milk at all.

It's also strange how Sebastian suddenly overnight turned into a fat, pudgy little baby, pushing against the seams of his clothes - surfing the 97th percentile in weight - all because of my milk!

I've never had tons of the stuff. Some women complain of leaky breasts and have those nipple guards stuffed into their bras wherever they go. (Never used mine.) Don't think my breasts have ever leaked. Sure, they feel like they could explode if I don't do anything for a few hours, but they never do.

So how he got so fat is magic to me. I don't quite understand it, but i don't question it. I must just have enough.

But like this week, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes I have enough to fill a bottle for him for his dream feed at 10pm which the Brit gives him, other times, like now, I have to sit with a breast pump banging away at my nipple, trying to extricate every last drop, and nothing happens. Just me. Sitting on the couch. With a suction pump attached, evocatively, to my boob.

Jesus, you don't know romance until you've pumped milk in front of your husband.  I have a hospital grade pump too. It's not a pump, it's a machine. Sits on the dining room table, on permanent hire.

You get those mums who are like, "Can't get out of bed in the mornings. Real physical struggle. Boobs weigh me down. Too much milk."

(True story.)

Man, what I'd do for some leaky boobies. I am now supplementing his supply with formula.

Now, as everyone says, that's just fine. I've had a good run, right? He's been a breastfed baby for almost 5 months, I surely can't complain?

No. But the UK loves their breast fed babies. It's a big thing here, much like natural birth. But it's not the pressure of breastfeeding that I feel.

I feel like I've gone this far, so why I can't I stretch it that much longer? At least until I go back to work. Or maybe even to 6 months? You kind of get addicted to it. You're in a constant cycle where you have to put down whatever it is you're doing, at any cost, to feed your child. Whether it is in a restaurant, at home, anywhere.

I mean, there was a lady on the train the other day, boob out, going for it. Much braver than I. I have a little curtain thingie that hides my rack. Sebastian doesn't love being stuffed under there, but it does the trick when I'm out and about.

It does mean you're the only one who can feed your child (the Brit does one bottle), and it does mean you are likely to be up throughout the night in the beginning, which I was.
But you batten down the hatches and do it. And it becomes addictive. You bond with your child like no other, as you are his complete food source. And then, when the threat of low supply comes in you panic. But now what, you have to hand his hungry little mouth over to a bottle?

It's been a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, I am excited to start weaning him in a few weeks. On the other, it's nearing the end of a chapter - one that's been incredibly exhausting and difficult, but yet extremely satisfying. Right from when he finally latched on at hospital to now, where he falls aslepp on my boobs as his last meal before bedtime.

The other day I had to duck into Hyde Park, pull out a blanket as all the benches were taken, sit down and give him a quick feed. He was kicking off in his pram, so I pulled into the park to find a stretch of grass.
Two minutes later a mother, wearing a skirt just like mine, also in her thirties, stopped with her baby to do the exact same thing. We both made eye contact as if to acknowledge each other's plight.
Baby crying, hungry, and this is how we sort it out when running around Kensington High Street with a pram.

I hope I last until 6 months at least. It's a marathon. That's what this is. It's not easy, there have been times when I want to just throw in the towel (and nearly have) on several occasions. It's inconvenient when other mum's can pull out a bottle in the bus or in a class, and I can't.

But that's why it's my marathon. That I need to finish, even though it's been tough and I don't know if I have all the resources I need to go the distance.*

* Oh and! V. IMPORTANT. It's helping me shed the weight. I've lost 4 kilos in 4 weeks. Only 6 to go....


Anonymous said...

I had quite a dip in supply right around 5 months (annoying, when I went back to work) which coincided with a growth spurt from Little Man. Push through, snuggle and feed him as much as you can. My body & supply adjusted and we are still going strong at 9months. Even after introducing solids.

MeeA said...

I was advised by my midwife/breastfeeding consultant to try to breastfeed more often to build up supply, rather than supplementing with formula. But she also said that it was important to remember that the best thing I could do for myself and my baby was whatever WORKS for us. So supplement away or hang in there and see if your supply increases with the demand (it usually does) or whatever. Just as long as you're both doing well. :)
I was unable to breastfeed my first two babies beyond 2 months because circumstances were just so shit that my milk dried up. So I really loved being able to breastfeed the younger two later on. Both weaned themselves off the breast at around 8/9 months and that was that. I hope you get to enjoy breastfeeding your little man at least a bit longer. But if life has other plans, don't sweat it. Those judgy cows who give other moms a hard time about their choices or circumstances only do it because they feel like complete failures themselves. x

Vannessa said...

My doctor prescribed Espiride for me which, as well as bringing on more milk also acts as an anti-depressant. Brilliant little happy pills!!