I feel compelled to share my breast feeding experience with the world. Ok, with the three of you who are reading.
Before the Princess was born, like all good aspiring parents we did an ante-natal course. Part of this involved a session with a breast-feeding counsellor. The whole thing was organised by the BCT which is related to the UK childbirth trust. They are very right on in the BCT. They do not believe in infant formula or pain relief. But that was fine then because I was ignorant (forced to admit that I was NEVER going to do the natural birth thing) and didn’t believe that there would be any difficulty.
The breastfeeding counsellor was a Canadian who also teaches yoga. She refuses to use Nestle products because of their general vileness in promoting formula consumption in the third world. I don’t want to sound prejudiced here, but I think this tells you a lot about the type of person she was. I mean, it’s not that I’m in favour of Nestle’s policies or against yoga. I also have nothing against Canadians. No truly, Mr. Waffle was born in Canada and due to their generous citizenship policy has a Canadian passport of which he is very proud. I digress. Anyhow, we all sat around wondering whether we would have to bare our breasts (this was before our first babies were born and we still had a sense of natural modesty). No, but we did have to talk about our breastfeeding history. Was I breastfed? In fact, yes. Mr. Waffle was not breastfed but his siblings were. Ms. BF Counsellor was fascinated “really and is there any difference between how you and your siblings have turned out?” Mr. Waffle, thoughtfully “well, they’re both shorter than me”. Ms. BFC, hissing, “well, I’m sure that that has nothing to do with breastfeeding”. She kind of left us alone after that except to make a number of comments on the famous Irish love of alcohol, which was a little odd and didn’t exactly endear her further to us.
Anyhow, I intended to breastfeed and really didn’t expect to have any problems. And, if I had, hey, I could always give the baby a bottle. The Princess was born and, as you will have noticed, she is the most perfect baby ever created etc. And she was tiny (I know, they’re all tiny) and she was so indignant and kind of miserable to be out in the world where people made her wear scratch mittens. And I was desperate to breastfeed her and comfort her. But we just could not get the hang of it (note how I share the blame here). And she kept losing weight. They wouldn’t let me leave the hospital until she started putting on weight. After 6 days, I was getting desperate. All of the nurses were really supportive and helpful. Except one. She was horrible.? Even her colleagues thought she was horrible. So imagine my horror when I came back to my room after a quick trip out to find this awful nurse feeding my Princess from a bottle. I was gutted. Princess, was loving it though. Let’s remember she was starving. Rotten nurse was very smug. Princess started to put on weight and we were allowed to go home.
I was in a dilemma then. Would I continue feeding my baby from the evil bottle or would I try breast? Fabulous as breast milk was etc., I didn’t want the child to starve. I rang my mother who dispensed lots of advice. She came to Brussels to dispense advice in person. But I just couldn’t get the hang of it. And it was sore? Man, it was sore. This is where the internet becomes a nightmare, it is full of smug sites advising “breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt, if it hurts, you are doing it incorrectly and your child is not being properly fed”. So I was in agony and she was starving. We continued on a mostly bottle regime with occasional breast agony. Cabbage leaves are recommended for sore breasts. I tried this out one evening. We went round to the Glam Potter’s for dinner. She has a baby six weeks older than the Princess, so is also in baby mode. Halfway through dinner, her husband said, “where is that awful smell of boiled cabbage coming from?” It was me, the cabbage had cooked on my poor, sore, inflamed breasts. You’d think I’d be mortified, but no, I said “Oh that must be me”, hauled out the cabbage leaves and left them on a side plate. In extenuation, I would point out that GP was having difficulty breast feeding also and, like me, liable to haul our her breasts and baby at the slightest provocation and ask strangers where she was going wrong. If you might take my advice on this, hold off doing that because there are people out there to whom I now regret showing my breasts (this must be what it’s like to be a minor starlet).
So desperate was I that I rang the breast feeding counsellor. She said, “oh it’s too late now – this was about a month in – you’ll never get her to take breast. Why did you give her a bottle in the first place?” I explained about her losing weight, the hospital, the paediatrician’s concerns. She said “you must change your paediatrician to one who supports breast feeding”. This wasn’t really the advice I was looking for. It just made me feel bad. Mr. Waffle suggested I invite her over for a cup of Nestle instant coffee and a kitkat as revenge.
Finally, I found something on the internet. Corky, a very appropriate name in the circumstances, has a free on-line latch on video. And it’s brilliant, it saved my bacon and I finally got the hang of breastfeeding. And despite the fact that my baby had lots and lots of bottles over a two month period, from month 3 on she became an exclusively breastfed baby and I stopped having sore breasts. So, for what it’s worth, these people who say that your baby will never go back to breast after getting a bottle are wrong. So, don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t work out at first. And even if it doesn’t work out at all, I don’t think it really matters that much (although I defy anyone to think that when they are holding their precious new born infant). After all Mr. Waffle was bottle fed and he turned out very tall…
So given my triumph in breastfeeding my baby, I am somewhat reluctant to give up. The WHO guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months and complementary breastfeeding up to age two or beyond. I am not going to go on until age 2 which I think is a little weird (though, as time goes on, I find it increasingly less weird, which is a bit worrying), but I think I might continue until 1. In my heart of hearts, I suspect that the breast feeding is part of the reason our baby refuses to sleep (bottle fed babies sleep way better than breast fed babies – hey, telling it like it is). Breastmilk being the most fantastically, wonderful food for babies, it’s very easily digestible (unlike evil formula) and so the baby’s stomach feels emptier faster. But hey, lack of sleep isn’t so bad. Of course, there is also the social aspect. My little brother is very down on breastfeeding. It makes him zoom out of the room. He came to visit recently and asked whether I could at least not do it in public (no, that wasn’t actually the reason for his visit). I think it was for that reason that I chose to breastfeed my baby in the trendy Bodega when I was at home in Cork. He nearly collapsed when I told him. As I explained to him, obviously, I had a sign round my neck identifying myself as his sister. He said in anguished tones “My friend’s baby is only two weeks old and he’s getting a bottle, why do you have to do this?” Ah, if only he’d been around earlier, he could have enjoyed the bottle phase. I pointed out to him that he was breastfed himself. His face on hearing this indicated two things: 1. he did not know that and 2. had he been in a position to choose at the time, he would not have hesitated to go for bottle.
And, if any of you expectant mothers are reading this, the birth was fine. It was the easiest part. Honest. Congratulations to Belgium the home of the epidural – not to be confused with the Netherlands where almost everyone has a natural home birth. And can I recommend a funny book?Vicky Iovinehas written a guide to pregnancy and a guide to motherhood. They’re not bad and something of a relief given all the other stuff about. Jojo, I fear that they may be stealing your thunder a bit..
And finally, my own mother feels that, perhaps, my last entry reflected negatively on her. Was I indicating that becoming my mother was a bad thing. No, clearly not, just a surprising thing – ah, the wicked flee where no man pursueth…now that I am a mother myself, I am much, more appreciative of my own mother who is proving her ongoing dedication by being a guaranteed audience of 1 for my blog.
Ah, is that a baby’s cry I hear in the background? Must go.
on 15 January 2004 at 11:20
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on 10 May 2005 at 18:01
Belgianwaffle – I had to comment about your breastfeeding saga! I was determined to breastfeed as well when my oldest was born 14 years ago.
It ended up being an emergency C-Section. When I was in the recovery room, the nurse did a quick blood test on him before she was going to hand him over for me to nurse. Just before she could, she saw the results of the blood test and whisked my sick little boy away to ICU. He had dangerously low blood sugar and had to be put on an IV.
I didn’t get to hold him for 9 hours! I was devastated! My husband kept giving me updates on him tho. When I finally got a chance to hold and nurse him, he wouldn’t. Apparently the nurses didn’t get my memo that he was to be exclusively breastfed and gave him a bottle of formula. I was livid… quietly of course…
I had such trouble nursing, SOOO SORE!! I had a couple relatives recommend just bottle feeding him, but I didn’t care what they said. The nurses all helped me try to get him to latch on. I had 3 nurses helping him get his mouth on at one point. Why did I need a robe?!?! I had lost all modesty at that point and whipped my gown open for the air conditioner guy once.
The best advice I got was from the male ICU nurse! He explained my own anatomy of my breast to me and told me to relax. It wasn’t immediate help, but it was very comforting! The clearest advice I’d gotten.
After 3 days I went home with our bundle of boy. It took him about 3 months to learn how to latch on correctly. I used bag balm (made him barf!), all types of creams to make the soreness go away. I even used nipple guards for nursing. How the heck do you use those things!?! What a waste of money!
I nursed him until he was about 9 months old. Saved a TON on formula!
My 2nd and 3rd kids I nursed until they were each one. Working fulltime, I might add! I used a breastpump and kept the milk in the freezer in sandwich baggies. My babysitters would thaw it in a bowl of warm water and stick it in a bottle. Worked great! Only had a male co-worker walk into my office once when I was doing this. He didn’t look me in the eye again for a few years!
To this day, when my husband is trying to get out of our kids what secret present we’re keeping from him is, they say a breastpump. My youngest has no idea what it is, but knows it makes Dad laugh!
What a nice blog site, BTW!
on 12 May 2005 at 19:30