Milk Drunk, Baby
While I was pregnant, I attended a breastfeeding workshop. Before the session, we were encouraged to watch a video of a brand-new baby, just seconds old, slowly inch its teeny pink body up its mum, blindly find her breast all by itself and start feeding. There was probably soothing classical music playing.
'Aren’t a baby’s innate instincts amazing?’ cooed the workshop leader.
Nothing like being shown the highest possible standard before you start something completely new. For me, this hands-off, baby-led approach doesn’t happen. In fact, I don’t seem to have enough hands to both hold and position my baby. He seems to have at least three and they are all in the way. My partner has to pass him to me with his little arms pinned to his sides, a tiny human rocket. Destination: nipple.
In the workshop we were shown photographs of breastfeeding women reclining on sofas and beds, looking so relaxed they could be advertising them. Now, a cushion tower has to be retrospectively built around me and the baby. In my rush to stop the hungry cries, I don’t have time to get comfortable before I'm pinned to the spot. I stare longing at my phone, the remote, my snack, sat tantalisingly just out of reach.
'Is it a good latch?’ asks my partner, as he wedges cushions under my elbow. ‘Can you pass me the Netflix remote?’ I reply.
In the pictures, the women are smiling down at their babies. They look happy. The reality is that it really hurts. My nipples bleed. It takes so much determination to put him to my breast, knowing it will hurt.
‘Perseverance’ says the kindly midwife, who visits on his third day in the world, ‘that’s what you need to get through these first few weeks.’
I count through the discomfort at the start of each feed, an old running technique, to distract me. Sometimes the baby and I cry together. Driving home from a lunch with all his grandparents, he screams with hunger the whole way. A red light never felt so long. Rushing into the flat I fling my dress with the subtle nursing flaps across the room, ditch the bra, haul him to me.
'Sorry wee man, home now,’ I sob.
He’s crying because he’s empty, me because I’m so full and uncomfortable.
It’s frustrating, trying to master this new skill. But we're in it together, and when his eyelids droop and he falls off the boob with a big grin and a full belly I quietly sing to the tune of ‘Love Shack’:
Milk Drunk, he’s a Milk Drunk.’
And it’s worth it.
By Rowena McIntosh