My Breastfeeding Journey
We are called ‘mammals’ (from Latin mamma, ‘breast’) because of the presence of mammary glands in our breasts which produce milk to breastfeed our young. I used to think of breasts as a visually-pleasing part of my body which could potentially attract a mate, but not as much more than that.
That changed with the birth of baby Yasmin. All of a sudden, my breasts were producing a white liquid that would keep my baby alive. At first it felt like I was breastfeeding for twenty out of twenty-four hours. Yasmin would scratch my insides during the last month of pregnancy, so it didn’t surprise me that she continued this behaviour while she was on the boob. She would scream and we had no idea why. Also, my nipples were being shredded. It felt like Gerard Butler from the movie 300 had yelled ‘THIS IS SPARTA!’ at me and kicked me down a black, bottomless pit.
Other mums would sit in cafes, having coffee and cake, reading a book, their babies blissfully attached to their boobs. How on earth was I supposed to do that, while trying to get my baby to latch on at the correct angle, while she screamed, scratched and yanked at my hair? Not to mention the blinding pain in my nipples. Each time Shaun brought her to me, I wanted to run away.
‘Give her formula,’ I would say.
‘Your supply will go down.’
‘I don’t give a shit, OK? Were you a Medieval torturer in your past life?’ Now I’m glad I kept going. And I’m thankful to Shaun.
Yasmin was born via a C-section, so my milk came in late. That’s why she would scream. She was also a big baby, so she lost more percentage weight than other babies. The midwife insisted we supplement her diet with formula. Her big spews afterwards added to our distress. Yasmin was very close to being hospitalised, but managed to scrape through.
Luckily, our sister-in-law, a consultant obs/gynae, told us there were double breast pumps available to hire from the hospital. This breast pump turned out to be a game-changer and helped increase my supply. I wonder now if other women, who don’t have an obs/gynae in their families, get proper guidance from the midwives.
The six-week growth spurt was brutal. I was up at least forty-eight hours, mostly breastfeeding, on the verge of insanity. My delirious mind wandered, looking for ways to make things better. Can I do some coke? No, it will get passed on to Yasmin. Can I hand Yasmin over to some stranger on the street and go to sleep? No, I will go to jail and Shaun will leave me. Can I wear earplugs and go to sleep? No, I might oversleep and Yasmin might go hungry.
There was sweet stuff too, which, I assure you, greatly outweighs the difficult stuff. All my breastfeeding troubles ended after six weeks. I too could have finally breastfed at Costa while having coffee and cake with a book in hand, had it not been for the bloody lockdown. Hopefully soon. I love how Yasmin asks for milk like a baby bird — blind, quivering, helpless, with an open mouth. She says, ‘Mm? Mm? Mm?’ in her sweet, bird-song voice. I get to feel like her saviour by reuniting her with her beloved boobs. I love the feeling of her warm, pudgy body against my chest. I love her gasping and gulping noises of satiety. I love how she looks up at me and bursts into giggles with my nipple still in her mouth. It’s so easy to soothe her no matter how upset she gets. I can see it on her face — how she appreciates having a little nook where she feels cozy, secure and nurtured. I realise there will be a point in the not-so-distant future where she will develop a more complex personality and I will have to invent new ways to help her solve her problems. But for now, I have my breasts and I’m grateful for them.
By Lori Love