I had hoped for a smoother ride, and in many ways I’m having one. I’m definitely more confident this time around. I trust my body. I know it can do this. It just grew a whole human, which makes producing a bit of milk seem like no big deal.
My memory of the first week of feeding Iris isn’t clear. I know I was stressed. We were in hospital for the first two nights, but nobody seemed to want to help me. I realised, months and months later, that they probably assumed my two step daughters who came and went during visiting hours were mine. They just assumed I’d done this before. This doesn’t excuse the health visitors and midwives who came to my house in the weeks that followed though. I live in an area where nobody breastfeeds, apparently, and so the medical professionals have no need to show any interest in it.
Trevor says I was angry and snappy. I’m sure I was. I felt let down. I couldn’t get Iris to latch well and I was very sore. By about day 5 I’d sent him out for nipple shields and given Iris a dummy so she’d just stop screaming at me for a bit. I was disappointed in myself and everybody who was supposed to be helping me.
Formula feeding was never an option. During pregnancy I’d said that if I had to formula feed I would, and I’d accept it and not give myself a hard time about it. When the time came though, I felt strongly that I had to breastfeed. I had to. Every fibre of my being wanted to nurse the tiny baby and make her big and strong the way nature intended. Had I not done that I think my mild baby blues would have turned into a deep sadness.
In the end she quit breastfeeding seventeen days before her first birthday and I was gutted. I wanted to feed her until she was one or two or whenever it came to a natural end. Instead she quit because I was eight weeks pregnant, and judging by Iris’s expression my hormones had done something to the taste. We used those fiddly shields the whole time, despite me trying every day to get her to feed without them. She just wouldn’t.
It’s lucky that I didn’t care one bit about feeding in public. Don’t like it? Don’t look. Those shields made it so much trickier not to flash a boob, and I’m sure I gave lots of people an eyeful on many occasions. I got a few funny looks at times, and I once heard a woman tell her friend that I was disgusting. I just don’t care. You can’t argue with that kind of stupidity.
This time around I may be more confident but I am no less sore. I’m having trouble with the latch, yet again. I’m pretty sure there’s no underlying issue, like a tongue tie. She just has a tiny mouth and therefore a very shallow latch. It’s only made worse by me being so engorged all of the time. Latching on seems so much harder for her when the boobs are hard. There’s no squishiness to get a hold of. That’ll ease too, I know. In the meantime I just keep putting more Lansinoh on and trying not to yelp when she clamps down with her gums.
I had to express from one side for a whole day and avoid feeding because it was just so painful. This worked, and gave it some time to heal up.
I have faith in my supply this time. I know now that when most women think they’ve got a low supply they haven’t. I know it’s a common fear but one that is largely unnecessary. It’s very rare for somebody to not be able to breastfeed, but very common to believe you can’t. The supply is definitely there for me. I’m waking up drowning in breastmilk, sleeping on soaking wet sheets. I have way too much of the stuff.
I’ll keep going no matter what. It’s important. It means everything to me to be able to feed my baby with my body. Right now though, I’m in two minds about the whole thing. I’m dreading the next feed a little bit. I know it’s going to hurt, at least to begin with. Yet it feels wonderful too. The bond created by breastfeeding really is something else. When she looks up at me in the exact same way Iris did I just melt. I’m providing every nutrient this kid needs to grow and thrive, just like I did for the forty weeks before she was born. She needs me for everything. I am her whole world.
There’s no feeling quite like it.