Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Woman's Breast Friend

I just took a shower. The neighbors had complained that a terrible smell was coming from the apartment. My fabulous sister in law is here and so after a sleep in till 9...yep, that constitutes a mammoth sleep-in these days - remember those days of just sleeping forever, getting up only to eat cereal, drink gatorade and text fellow clubbing refugees to see they made it home safe?
Anyway, so i decided to end my proof of evolution and shave my armpits. I hear Olivia cry as i am tapping out my clogged razor and as i look down i see yet more proof of mother nature as my boobs begin leaking. Not that strange for a new mum, well, no, but this new mum stopped breastfeeding 4 months ago. What? Shock! Horror! Well, after an attack of the post partum crazies - not quite Brooke Shields wanting to throw my child against a wall crazy - more waking in the night rocking an imaginary child and thinking i had lost her in the bed. There's more to that story but let's return to my misadventures of being a wetnurse.
I had always planned to breastfeed, attended the classes, didn't understand why anyone wouldn't given the money you save on formula. My sister hadnt breastfed, nor my mother but I had a friend that had and she said and i quote that she was "addicted" to it. I was looking forward to it - at 32 weeks my boobs were already leaking the colostrum. I say boobs, but honestly, 34C became 36F - when i say you could park a bike you know what i mean...
So, day one in the hospital...when Olivia was handed to me after being cleaned up she was crying and the nurse told me to 'nurse'. I had attended the class and knew on paper what to do but after a 32 hour labor and not having slept properly for the last 8 weeks i was tired, drained and emotional. I was unable to soothe my new crying baby no matter how i shoved my mammoth mammory in her mouth. I started crying and eventually a nurse helped. She latched on and became a barracuda. My Olive was born 8lbs 11oz and was 10 days late - her sucking reflex was in overdrive. It felt great...for about a day...and then the pain came. However, my lactation consultant had told us that if you are doing it right it shouldnt hurt, so inbetween sobs and biting down on a stick...well, my mother's hand, i was mentally chastising myself for being unable to do it right. My nipples were sore, cracked and actually bruised. After 2 days i reached out to my lactation consultant and received pretty much the same information. If you are doing it right, it shouldn't hurt. She had seen Olivia latch on and she was feeding correctly. So...why was it hurting? My dear friend was a terrific support and came to watch me feed and offer positioning advice. I bought a nipple guard - didnt work for me. I was tired, in pain, my milk had come in and as a first time mother had little or no idea what i was doing. I couldn't relax. When she was sleeping, i was checking that she was breathing. When she was crying, i was crying. Aside from the 24 hour high immediately following Olivia's birth where i was delirious telling my husband that i couldnt wait to have another, i was yet to enjoy this experience. I was full of fear and the feeling that i was doing everything wrong. I had read books, watched dvds, but nothing can prepare you for the oeverwhelming sensation and huge responsibility that this precious life is yours to keep alive. I received some wonderful advice from another newish mum who told me that this was "normal" and that nobody knows this baby better than her mum and to own the responsibility. I cannot tell you how important a supportive community is at this time. Who will tell you that it is hard, but gets better, that breastfeeding IS tough but improves, that you are not supposed to have all the answers at first. So thank you, Jade, Jay, Ed, Emily, Heather, Elizabeth, Amanda, Aelish, Debi, mom and my mum who essentially saved my life. Mostly, thank you Tom for your support whatver my decision. I love you.
So, back to the scraggy nipples and teary feedings...i wasn't enjoying it. My daughter was looking up at a mum who was crying. I began pumping and sobbed the very first time someone other than me fed my girl. I was a bad mother. A dreadful person. I was embarrassed that after a couple of weeks i was "just" pumping. I had more milk than a local dairy and should have just set up a milk stand out front. "Wash down that girl scout cookie!!" I was putting all this pressure on myself. People talk about how hard it is to BF in public because of public opinion - i felt the complete opposite - i wanted to wear a TShirt that said - it's breast milk in that bottle! I wasted many hours crying over this. I was mortified. What was wrong with me? I was also completely shocked at this assault on my body. I would shower to feel better, to get clean, and remove the dried milk scum...ahhh, and then get out and be dripping milk all over the floor and faster than i could mop up with toilet roll i had dripped more. I remember just sitting in the bathroom weeping at the state of me and then Olivia started crying and my boobs were dripping faster than my tears. I wound up laughing - i told you...crazy. I would trawl through websites looking for support and just found these dreadful women - the breastfeeding nazis. They have nothing better to do than write on websites telling women to TRY HARDER and that you are DEPRIVING your child and your child will likely have allergies or learning difficulties. What a load of crap. I'm a bottle baby and I'm fine...My husband is a bottle baby and he is very fine. What about all the adopted children - are we meant to believe that they make up the sneezing, retard community?
By the time i went to my doctor about my anxiety ridden state - i was tired, weepy and looking for some enjoyment in this ride. I was prescribed lexapro and wellbutrin XL -two medications that are not compatible with milking. I was full of mixed emotion - tremendous sadness that now the choice had been taken away from me but the relief was palpable. I now felt that i had a legitimate excuse to stop breastfeeding. I look back now 4 months later and it saddens me that i went through this and felt that I had to cover it up. I wish i had loved breastfeeding, i wish that it hadnt been absolute agony. I wish that i had found a lactation consultant as my friend had that told me it was going to be hard at the start and i wasnt doing something wrong. Most of all i wish that i had had the strength when asked if i was nursing to say "no" and not feel the need to tell everyone that i was a little post partum nuts and needed the meds. I wish i didnt hide away until Olivia was 3 months old only feeding her in private so people didnt think that i was a bad mum because i was buying formula. These breastfeeding nazis need to know that we have enough guilt for the entire catholic community, we do not need it from you. If we are fortunate enough to get baby number 2, then yes, i will try again. Absolutely. However, i will never put myself under that pressure again. Bottle feeding allowed me to look into my daughter's eyes without pain and talk to her and sing to her whilst feeding. She's a mummy's girl just like her mummy was. My mum didnt breastfeed me and you couldn't get a closer mummy and daughter. She is my best friend. It's funny, i still feel like i am justifying my decision. Maybe I am. Here are the facts. I hated breastfeeding. I wish i hadn't. I will try again. I met a lady recently who asked me if i was nursing and when i began to explain she quickly cut me off and told me that she had stopped straight away, it wasn't for her and that was that. This lady is my hero. Thank you LP.
So, there you have conclusion, i have a healthy baby girl who is formula fed!

okay, BF nazis...go have a field day on me...inbetween lifting your tshirt for your 8 year old child to nurse...;)


  1. Go on sister! I love it love it love it...
    Maybe you should send Mary a link :)

  2. i love you. lactation consultants are, by and large, evil. i have NEVER EVEN ONCE had a friend tell me their lactation consultant was lovely. mine sure wasn't. and as you know, i had one dreadful nursing experience and one delightful one. and both of my kids are PERFECT.

    i. love. you.

  3. Good for you for puting this story into words and coming to terms with how you pictured it would be vs. the reality. If ONLY we could control everything, right? X Tanya

  4. ((((HUGS)))) Next time around, no matter WHAT you choose, will be better. Promise.

  5. Hi Paula, it's Jo Shales (Jo Wilson now!) here. I've just read your breastfeeding blog and as a recent first time mother I have tears streaming down my face as you have managed to articulate what I have been trying to say for the past 11 months. When Barney was born last August he breastfed fine straight away and I felt so pleased we were managing it. However, after a week something went very wrong and suddenly breastfeeding went from being an enjoyable bonding experieince to one of absolute agony. My nipples bled at every feed, Barney threw up (my) blood after every feed meaning I was literally constantly washing blood-stained baby clothes, I was feeding every 2 hours and spending the time in between in floods of tears dreading the next feed becuase of the absolute agony I was experiencing, I cannot describe it. I fought constantly with my husband who kept telling me to quit, but I felt so much pressure from the NCT, friends & my mum who convinced me to persevere. At times I felt so low that I wanted to run out into the street and get hit by a car as I thought that if I was in a hospital bed recovering from a car accident I would have an excuse not to breastfeed and nobody would think the worse of me for it. It sounds crazy now but at the time it seemed to make sense. I did persevere and after 6 weeks of what can only be described as hell it did get better. I breastfed Barney until he was nearly 6 months old, and am glad I did but a large part of me thinks I should have quit during that awful first few weeks as I have no real positive memories of the first few weeks with my baby which should have been an enjoyable if exhausting time.
    It is so refreshing to hear from someone who admits it was hard and they couldn't do it, I have met so so many mums who just can't understand how breastfeeding can be anything but amazing.
    Thank you for making me realise I am not alone! Next time if I have the same problems again I will switch to formula sooner, and stand up for myself among those hoards of 'breast is best' mothers.
    Lots of love to you and gorgeous little Olivia xxxx

  6. I miss you immensely right now. And I'm so proud of you.

  7. Jo, Your comment has tears running down MY face! Firstly, Mrs. Wilson, huge congrats on the birth of Barney - he is gorgeous - yes, i've stalked you on FB! ;) Your experience brought back that sheer desperation to me - wanting it to end but not wanting to make that decision. It's incredible the pressure that we put on ourselves without the added pressure that is out there. I remember being at my wits end and looking through bottle feeding support groups to see how to do it, what formula etc. There was a comment from a lady seeking advice - she had a heart condition and because of her meds could no longer breastfeed. A lady had posted a response in CAPS that told her to find alternative medication - that breastfeeding is not only our right but our duty - her child's life is more important now she is a mother. WOW!
    I hope that our stories can provide support for other women that have struggled or are struggling. I think that a negative experience here can compound those baby blues and lead to PPD because women are embarrassed to speak out about it for fear of being labeled a bad mum.
    Finally, well done on doing 6 months. It gives me hope that next time might be a more positive experience! I love you, Jo. Keep in touch x


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