“Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.”
Being told how ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ it was in antinatal class had me convinced that breastfeeding would be a breeze when I had Fox. I was definitely going to breastfeed.
It wasn’t a breeze. It certainly didn’t feel natural. It was the toughest thing I’d ever done. My body and my mind were in shock. How can something so natural be so bloody hard. I was so convinced I would successfully breastfeed. After 10 days of mental and physical pain and for my own reasons, in a time of desperation, I turned to the bottle. I felt completely disheartened and like a total failure. He took to it immediately and completely refused another sniff of breastmilk. The Breastfeeding support workers disgarded me like an old rag. I wasn’t given any further advice or wished well. I was told “well that’s that then” on the phone and immediately the line was dead and my support was gone. I felt alone. Why weren’t they more honest about the obstacles I’d face? Why didn’t they tell me the truth about breastfeeding? Why did I think it would be so easy? A girl like me needs facts. I need to know how shit it will be. I need to be mentally prepared to go at it full speed. Non of this airy fairy bull shit. Tell me the cold hard facts!
So when I had Shadowcat I had a different mindset. I’d breastfeed if I could. No pressure. I’d take one day at a time and I’d have a backup plan. I mean I wasn’t the devil for feeding my first kid formula. It really isn’t as bad as the Breastfeeding-massive make out. Fox is doing just fine. Anyway this isn’t a debate about Breast vs. Formula. My stance is simple. Do what works for you and be happy. You’re a wonderful Mum. I salute you.
So, I decided to join some online breastfeeding support groups after I had Shadowcat in a bid to share honest horror stories and to seek out advice. I didn’t find them very supportive. At all. It felt like a cult. You were either one if them or you were not. If you didn’t wholeheartedly agree with every little thing the deity that is Dr Jack Newman preached then you were not a true member of this exclusive cult. It was very black and white. And I’m more of a multicoloured rainbow type of person. I found myself arguing with other members constantly because of their narrow-minded views or inconsiderate advice and opinions. And don’t even think about asking for advice on having some ‘me time’. You’d be eaten alive for even suggesting it. I mean, “If you wear your baby you can take them everywhere”. Yeah thanks for that ‘advice’. Way to go.
They were ‘fighting a cause’ apparently, but my guess was they were doing more harm than good and making a lot of women feel shit in the process.
I left the groups.
I soon realised I wasn’t the only one. I’ve got other Mum friends who think the same thankfully. They also found this type of online ‘support’ neither supportive nor honest. The rose-tinted advice is too much to stomach for an honest, straight-to-the-point girl like me.
With that in mind I’ve devised some of my own honest breastfeeding advice for new Mums and if it all goes well maybe I can start my own cult?
1. It will hurt
Whether the latch is right or not. It will hurt. Don’t fucking believe them when they tell you it only hurts if you’re not doing it right. Granted it hurts less when you’re doing it right. But it still hurts. There is a new, starving creature sucking the life out of your nipples. Your ensitive nipples are being sucked within an inch of their life by a confused, famished infant trying desperately to find milk. But no, it’s not going to hurt. OK. Whatevs.
It’s not a constant type of pain. But it’s toe curling and teeth clenching. The thought of your little angel latching on will probably make you feel sick. It will probably make you cry. And you’ll probably wish they stayed asleep just a bit longer so you didn’t have to feed them. Let me tell you, this is normal.
And your nipples will most probably scab. Your adorable little vampire won’t care. They’ll just keep sucking until you feel like the inside of your boob is being sucked through your nipple. When they do heal they’ll be purple. They’ll be purple because they’re bruised. Think about having a love bite on your tits. It’s exactly like having a love bite on your tits. Remember getting your first love bite from your first boyfriend when you were 12? Remember him sucking away for what felt like hours? Remember the pain? Well there you go. But on your nipples. 23 hours a day.
You’ll feel ripped to shreads. You’ll feel abused. Get a lovely hot bath and submerge your boobs. A word of warning though….. don’t be fooled into thinking that lovely fluffy, soft towel you’ve warmed on the radiator is going to feel nice against your nipples. It will feel as though it’s woven in razor blades and you will bork as it grazes them. And maybe even throw up.
It will stop hurting eventually but it will feel like forever. Hang in there sister. Do whatever you can to survive.
2. It is relentless
That baby will practically LIVE on your tit. This is normal. I know it’s hard to “Just let them feed” especially when you have another kid running around but you should get used to hearing this advice from the Breastfeeding-massive. They have no regard for whether you have another child, or ten. You must “Just let them feed” and that’s the extent of your advice.
And although you do need to let them feed as much as possible in order to establish a nice full supply, it’s important to be kind to yourself too. Take a break when you need a break. Give them to Dad. Let them do some bonding. I read that in Pigmy tribes the Dad’s ‘breastfeed’ too in order to sooth baby (obvs they don’t lactate) so maybe the men in our lives should step up to the plate and get their nipples out to give ours a god damn a rest. No?
3. You will live on toast and caffeine
You’ll never underestimate the true value of tea and toast again. You basically need to learn to eat (and live) with a baby attached to your boob. This means it can’t be too hot, it can’t be too liquidy, it can’t need cutting, it can’t require cutlery in general, it can’t require 2 hands and it needs to be eaten quickly. Toast. Jam on toast. Peanut butter on toast, cheese on toast. Toast. Basically toast. You’ll get so sick of toast that the thought of it will probably start to turn your stomach. But when you’ve been sitting on your arse feeding for three hours non stop and you’re starving, you’ll need something quick. You’ll resort to more toast. And it will be heavenly.
Stock up before baby arrives on breakfast bars, granola bars, seeds and nuts. All good, high energy foods for quickness when breastfeeding and will give you a break from your 3 meals a day of toast. Stop saying toast.
Oh and chocolate. Don’t forget chocolate. You’ll eat loads and it will make you feel good.
4. Sometimes you will visualise ripping the baby off your burning breast and throwing said baby out of the window
Again. Normal. Please do not tear yourself apart and think you’re a horrible person not meant for Motherhood. You totally are. And you’ll be an amazing Mum. You already are. I believe this is called ‘Aversion’ if you want a word for it. And loads of Women feel it. And they tear themselves up inside. Just close your eyes and think of rainbows, or sunbathing in the Maldives, or Tom Hardy. Think of anything that isn’t your little leech sucking the shit out of your boobs, grabbing them and prodding them and sucking. And sucking.
Hey if you’re lucky you might not ever have this feeling, but believe me when I say a lot of women do. Even if they don’t admit to it.
5. You will lose your baby weight quickly
But you’ll put regular weight on even quicker. Those extra breastfeeding calories you’re burning makes you hungry. All the time. And you’ll think you’re metabolism is invincible because you’re breastfeeding. It is not. Believe me. Plus you’ll struggle to make heathly meals whilst you’re breastfeeding constantly. Note to self: Chocolate fudge cake is not a reputable evening meal for you and the husband. And how the hell are you supposed to excerise when the baby screams bloody murder every time you take 2 steps away from it. And I’m not sure that spin class is breastfeeding friendly! Then when you do get some time to yourself you’ll sleep. You’ll be so exhausted that you’ll crash out on the bed before you even get your gym gear out of the dusty bag.
My advice would be to get the 7 minute workout app. It’s only 7 minutes. About once a week me and the husband find 7 minutes to do the work out. Usually accompanied by Fox doing it with us and Shadowcat staring at us from her walker with a perplexed look on her face. 7 minutes a week is better than nothing I suppose.
6. Say goodbye to your old clothes
Your old clothes might fit you quicker, but you won’t wear them again. How will you breastfeed in that LBD? How will you discreetly get your boob out in that high-neck tube dress? How will you avoid scratching the baby’s face on that beautiful sequined top? You’ll need a whole new, bland, comfortable wardrobe for your breastfeeding journey. And you’ll begrudge buying anything because it’s all so fucking boring.
You thought maternity-wear was bad, just wait until you go breastfeeding friendly shopping. You’re in for a treat.
7. Breastfed babies don’t sleep
Research shows that Formula fed babies don’t sleep any better than breastfed babies. Real life conversations with Mums at playgroup has taught me differently. Plus, Fox was formula fed and although he wasn’t the best sleeper he definitely slept for longer periods than Shadowcat. And in his own bed.
Basically your breastfed baby never over-feeds. So they feed more regularly. Put it this way… You go for a meal with your other half and you eat your weight in food. Bread and olives, Prawns, fillet steak, the lot. Then you decide to get a desert even though you’re full. You’ve had a few glasses of wine and you finish off the meal with a latte. Then you get some chocolates or glacier mints with the bill and you eat them too. You feel like a fat bastard. But you’re proper happy. It’s hard to walk and you don’t mutter two words to each other all the way home in the taxi, because you’re too full to function. You’re absolutely knackered. You get home, stumble into bed feeling physically sick from all the calories you’ve just consumed and you sleep. You sleep for 13 hours undisrupted. (This obviously all happens before you had kids… who sleeps for 13 hours anymore?) Well basically, your breastfed baby never, ever, ever, feels like that. Your formula fed baby does. Your formula fed baby likes to over-indulge now and again and sleeps blissfully with a full belly. Plus, somehow the little breastfed bleeders know that if they feed more through the night your body produces more milk through the day too. Who fucking told them that? (I bet it was that god damn Dr Jack Newman). Thus meaning they feed constantly through the night. Constantly.
8. When they do sleep you won’t
It’s not because you’re worried. It’s not because you’re concerned. It’s because your boobs will be in a state of shock. They have had a baby attached to them constantly for weeks, maybe months and all of a sudden it’s stopped. Your boobs are freaking the hell out. They are full and milk is backing up fast. They are hard and lumpy and painful. You’ve just rolled over on to your left boob and woke up instantly in absolute agony. They feel like they’re going to explode and there’s milk pissing everywhere. You walk around the room aimlessly for ten minutes then stand hovering over the baby’s cot waiting for them to stir. Up until now you’ve begged them to sleep in their own bed for more than 30 mins at a time. Now they have been asleep for 4 hours and you’re urging the little fucker to wake up and drain your boobs. You give up and head downstairs to get the pump. You’ve given the pump away because they won’t take a bottle. Fuck. You don’t want to waste that precious milk that took so long to establish. So you sit in bed at 3am milking yourself into some tuppaware. Each squirt of milk is heavenly as the pressure eases and your stretched skin resumes it’s natural state.
The next day to try the baby with the milk you’ve expressed. You get the look “What the fuck it that, Mum? Where’s my soft, squidgy boob? I am NOT drinking that from THAT!”
9. Breastfed babies are not socialites
They don’t like other people. They’re fucking starving constantly and they want your boob. They still think they’re a part of you. Because they are. Your nipple lives in their mouth. They don’t like your other half. They don’t like your Mum. They don’t like your sister. They don’t like your friends. At this point they don’t really even like you. They’re a bit like cats. You feed them so they show you mild affection. But then eventually they will fall madly in love with you. They’ll cuddle your boob like it’s their best friend. But they’ll still hate everyone else. Including your other half. They won’t get a look in with either the baby or the boobs. Poor bastards.
10. You will cry. A lot.
Reasons you’ll cry:
You won’t know what you’re doing. Or if you’re doing it right. You’ll worry that baby isn’t getting enough from you. You’ll feel like a shit Mum for disliking your baby for not letting you have a minute to yourself. You’ll be so tired your eyes will burn. You’ll want to quit. You won’t want to quit. You’ll watch an NSPCC advert. You’ll sneeze and wee a little bit. You’ll run out of bread. You’ll eat a full packet of cookies. You haven’t shaved your legs for 3 weeks. You’re watching the X Factor. The possible reasons are endless.
It’s OK. You’re allowed to cry. You’ll feel better in the morning.
Needless to say I’m no longer a part of any of the support groups. I threw a paddy and left. And my advice isn’t given with endless research and knowledge. It’s just me being honest about my experiences. And some like-minded Mums told me some of their stories too. I honestly wish someone had been more honest with me when I started my breastfeeding journey with Fox. I honestly wish I knew how hard it would be. My different mindset with Shadowcat helped me to tackle each obstacle and before I knew it the pain had stopped, she was happier and my milk was there. It felt like forever but it went so quick too.
Yes it’s natural. But it’s not is it, you’ve never done it before. In your 30 years on this planet you’ve never had a little creature sucking on your nipple for dear life before. So no, it’s not natural to you. And it is tough.
Just remember to do what’s best for you and take all of the advice with a pinch of salt, mine included. Be honest with yourself and with others. You ever know what experiences other Mums have had but you can guarantee to find one who has felt the same as you.
Sometimes it’s good to talk.
And hey if you wanna be in my cult, everyone is welcome 🙂