This Sundays blog is about how I fed my Girlys their milk. From wrestling with an angry woodpecker through to weeping tears in to their ear holes, it’s been an experience! If you enjoy the read then please share it. That and a cheeky thumbs up are the biggest form of flattery. But before I launch into my ramblings, you need to know that I don’t care how you feed your baby. I mean I really don’t care. I care that your baby is fed. If they are not, then go and feed them instead of wasting your time reading shit blogs. This post is about me, not you. No judgement is applied or implied to whatever you did, do or intend to do.
I have enormous boobs and have done since Sixth Form when I was made aware of them. A spotty scrote shouted something charming about my “big tits”, which genuinely took me by surprise. I didn’t realise they were any bigger than anyone else’s, but from that day forth, I have been subjected to every possible boob joke and comment you can imagine:
- “Nice tits love” – I’m unclear what to do with this one, I accept it as a complimentary observation and when quick witted enough make reference to said gentlemen’s saggy ball sack
- “You’ll get two black eyes doing that” often levelled at me when using the trampoline in the garden. The logistics of this has always thrown me because surely it would be a black chin, unless my boobs were akin to a snooker ball in a sock (think Magda from There’s Something About Mary). They’re not FYI.
- “Your boobs are enormous, can I have a feel?” Often comes from women. No, you cannot.
- “You don’t get many of them to the pound” I’ve never really got this, they’re not for sale and they’re heavier than a pound? In fact when a friend and I once tried to weigh them on her mums kitchen scales we estimated about 6lb per boob.
- And my personal fave, “I bet you give a great tit wank”. I don’t think I do, I’ve never tried. I think it would be terribly uncomfortable and I’m not sure I could move quickly enough to achieve the required result.
Given the years of unwelcome comments, the gawping, the rude birthday cards and the incessant questions, I felt that my breasts should do something useful (besides get me out of parking tickets) and fulfil their true destiny. Their breastiny! They should be used to feed babies. I come from a family of plentiful boobied breast feeders who produced more cream than milk and grow big fat babies so it seemed like a given that I would do the same. To give you some context, in my current (over sized) state, a 36GG will not fit me comfortably. So I have Katie Price’s tits on Colleen Nolan’s body. I aspire to be more like Holly Willobooby but I’m a little lazy and I love biscuits.
I breast fed Girly no1 for 7 months. It took a while for my milk to come in after my csection and I couldn’t get my angry little woodpecker to latch for longer than a millisecond so we had to start on formula. In all fairness to her, it was like asking a mouse to suck a space hopper. She butted furiously and I cried a lot. We had this battle every 2 or 3 hours for 3 weeks. I spent more time topless on my sofa than I care to remember. Husband laughingly refers to this period now as one of the worst, not just seeing us both in such distress, but having to look at giant full breasts but not be allowed anywhere near them. When he wasn’t crying with us, he was drooling like a kid at a sweet shop window. Every midwife in the hospital had tried to help us but I had no milk. When I came home and the community midwife came to visit, I still had no milk. I saw the health visitor after a week and once my milk came in she gave me the same advice and showed me the same techniques, but still we just couldn’t nail it. I considered giving up all the time but I was so determined to do it. This just intensified when Girly no1 got her first cold at 4 days old. She went on to get a cold every 3 or 4 weeks for all of her first 18 months. All I could do to help was give her my antibodies. I had loads of helpful advice from people – maybe it’s your big nipples? Oh ok, I’ll just get them replaced. Maybe it’s because you had a csection? Cool, I’ll go back in my time machine and undo my placenta prevaria then have her normally. Well it must be the way you’re holding her? Dangling her upside down out the window a la Blanket Jackson doesn’t work? Ok, show me how you would do it. No one showed me a technique I hadn’t tried! I watched YouTube videos, I went to our local hospital, I spoke to other mums. Everyone was as helpful as they could be but the crux of it was that I had a hugely sore and swollen stomach and I was battling my screaming, starving baby who was head butting my excruciatingly painful planet sized boulders and their bleeding nipples. I carried on trying for every feed in those first few weeks. Eventually, and gradually, things fell into place. Left boob then right boob. My pain eased off, she grew, her latch got better, we found the positions that worked for us and then finally, Phil & Grant fulfilled their breastastic destiny. By 4/5 weeks we had it nailed, and I could even feed her on the right side out in public without flashing my boob, banging her head on the table or suffocating her. Top mum points!
Once we got it, I went full circle and stopped giving her any formula at all. Until 4 months we were 100% breast feeding, or at the very least expressed milk in a bottle. I spent hours pumping – muuuur muuuur muuuur – instagrammimg pictures of my increasing milk volumes and freezing as many cubes of milk as I could. I drove Husband to distraction obsessing over milk production, how to feed her and when. I’m sure he wanted to ban pumps, boobs and the word “breastfeed” from the house altogether but I was fanatical, obsessed, and he just wanted us both to be happy. Eventually, a cloud lifted and I saw the world more clearly. It finally landed with me that if my baby was growing and heathy then how she was eating didn’t really matter. I re-introduced a formula feed each day in anticipation of my return to work two months later. I was freed from the boob metronome that had ruled our days. What actually convinced me to stop was the discovery that all my hard pumped milk cubes in the freezer were defrosted and some had gone off! My sister and her partner babysat the first time we stayed away and created “Breast Milk Roulette”. You defrost cubes at random taking it in turns to taste them until you have enough good ones for for a bottle. High stakes! I was horrified, not at the game (I was secretly impressed at the Auntie commitment) but at the fact it could go off. How devastating! I stopped pumping immediately.
I hadn’t spent too much time before wondering about how I was going to breastfeed. Obviously we were shown some techniques and things to remember but being, like childbirth, another one of these “most natural things in the world” I thought it would just happen. It didn’t. Not without blood, sweat and tears anyway. The best thing anyone ever told me is that breastfeeding is a skill and has to be learnt. Once I understood this it became something of a challenge, like learning to throw a javelin or using a pogo stick. I could, and still can, totally see why so many people don’t try or give up, especially in those early days when, with the best will and technique in the world your nipples hurt, your boobs are tender and that oh-so-easy arm hold isn’t quite as easy as you thought. I’m not going to go into the pressure on mums thing, because actually I think there is pressure and guilt no matter what your decision is. My decision was my decision. I would wear the shit wire-free bras that gave you boobs shaped like a hockey stick (I didn’t even know these existed until I had a baby); I would take the extra ration of calories and apply them to my daily cake allowance; and I would feed my baby with one arm casually draped over my lap while she quietly suckled and I sipped on a “hot” drink and flicked through a magazine. HAHA HAHA HAHA.
My second baby was much easier. There were no major issues and feeding went, and is going, well. She went to full term and was born naturally (and painfully, gory details here). My milk came in almost immediately, her latch was perfect and she didn’t peck at me like a chicken. However she is a very hungry baby who would happily feed every 90 minutes if she could. Even now at almost 4 months, she struggles to go 3 hours without milk. In those first few weeks, she was feeding 14-16 times a day for between 10 and 30 minutes at a time. I found it incredibly draining. I have found with them both that as they are drinking my body is hit with waves of exhaustion making me feel nauseous and I can barely keep my eyes open. I can’t say I love the sensation. I love the closeness and the skin contact, and I feel good about the fact I’m passing on antibodies and giving her something made just for her, but I hate having my nipples sucked and I definitely don’t like drawing any more attention to my lady lumps than I have to. This time around Husband was prepared and saved me from myself. He suggested at least one feed a day from a bottle from the very beginning. We tried all the bottles, and all the formulas and I expressed from early on to get her to take a bottle. I would express after we put her down at night whilst watching the box set du jour (The Young Pope at that point in time, every time I see Jude Law’s face I hear the noise – muuuur muuuur muuuur). After a couple of weeks of experimenting, she was comfortably drinking from a bottle meaning Husband could cover some night feeds. A week later I stopped pumping and we transitioned over to formula for his feeds. We haven’t looked back since.
I have said before that in having children I was scared that I might freak out about the fact that another human’s existence was solely dependent on me. Just breast feeding exacerbated this. What if I needed a day off? What if I needed to go and be me for a day? I have always needed that option of escape. I haven’t had to use it but I feel better just knowing it’s there. I found it quite stressful knowing that my little vampire could only feed from me. Combination feeding was and is my saving grace. It turns out my sanity comes in a plastic bottle with a nylon nipple branded Mam. My next conundrum will be when to stop. I found it hard to make the decision with Girly no1, I was torn between my needs and hers, feeling selfish that I wanted to stop. Work and the complete lack of provision for pumping or feeding was a big factor. I also held onto a lot of weight until I stopped feeding last time, it affected my confidence and it’s the same this time. My weight loss has plateaued and I’m wearing jeans two sizes bigger than normal, I hate it! Teeth were another factor. Girly no1 had a way of rubbing her teeth on the bottom of my nipple making me really sore. She bit me once and something in me died. It was a tooth too far. I justified my decision to stop to myself with the fact that she was successfully up and running on solids so getting a good and varied diet. I didn’t want my last feed to be like a funeral so one day, at a friends’ BBQ, I decided there and then, no more feeds. It was the best thing or I would have spent hours blubbing over her and making her baby curls all wet. I knew by this point that my bond with her wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and if ever I felt nostalgic I stripped her down to her nappy and cuddled her to my bare skin. It sounds odd now I’m typing it, like I just rub my baby on my face like a flannel (I don’t!), but it really is one of the best feelings in the world having their baby soft chub rolls all squished up against your own. Heaven!
I don’t know how long I’ll carry on with Girly no2. There are fewer external factors as I have more time off work, but this one is so much hungrier. Antibodies matter to me a lot, no2 had bronchiolitis at 4 weeks and it was very scary. What I do know is that I will continue to make decisions based on her needs but also my own. And I will continue to not listen to anyone else. They’re my boobs, my nipples and my baby. I suggest you do the same!