Monday, September 13, 2010

A Bit About Boobies...

The awe-inspiring beauty of nature never fails to amaze me. Really.

The fact that a woman can create and carry a human being for 10 months and then give birth to it is nothing short of miraculous to me!

But this story is about another facet of nature at its most beautiful... one at the epicentre of my universe just at this moment... yes folks, I'm talking about breastfeeding!

Before I start, you should be assured that I am not one of those holier-than thou types who preach breastfeeding like a religion and frown upon any women who doesn't partake. Far from it. Breastfeeding is an entirely personal decision and I would never, ever judge someone else for choosing otherwise, especially when I don't have any understanding about the factors that have influenced their decision.

And here's the thing.

Before I had Fern, I was a little bit - well - grossed out by the idea of breastfeeding. Really. I mean, I forced myself to be open to the idea (I ambitiously went out and bought maternity bras!), but if I'm honest I'm a bit of a prude, and the idea of having to get my boobs out and have something feed from them - privately or otherwise - filled me with horror.

Then I had Fern. And at some point it occurred to me that I should feed her (after my caesarian, no one thought to explain feeding to me, and I was in too much of a drug/ shock induced stupor to ask). I had no idea what I was doing, and almost asphyxiated my poor daughter on her first feed. She had turned blue before I even noticed that her nose was crushed against me -- she never did let go of the boob, though!

The day my milk 'came in' was an experience I was ill prepared for - every hormone I'd ever had barrelled into me all at once, and that indescribable, terrible fullness took me by complete surprise. I was in agony for days before one of the nurses kindly suggested I consider wearing a maternity bra... it had not occurred to me up until that point! I had never in my life HAD to wear a supportive bra and I had dreadful nipple cripple for weeks as a result.

But I am blessed to have had babies that latch with ease, and boobs that produce copious amounts of milk. Almost too much milk, actually. In the months following Fern's birth, when she finally started sleeping for more than an hour at a time through the night, my husband would find me hunched painfully over the breast pump at 4am in a vain attempt at deflating the milk-bar monstrosities protruding from my chest. Just you try sleeping on your tummy with a couple of leaky rock melons down your bra!

Nobody can dispute the challenges of breastfeeding -- leaky boobs, latching issues, milk production, clogged ducts (lets not even talk about Mastitis!), saggy daggy maternity bras, stretched and milk vomity clothing and getting your boobs out in public... but it gets easier. And one day, you become aware that you are sitting in a crowded cafe with your top pulled up; baby nestled in one arm sucking heartily away, with a fork in your other hand spearing lettuce leaves (your diet after putting on 300kg's during your pregnancy) and when the baby pulls suddenly away and your nipple is on public display... you don't even care.

I think this is the most beautiful thing of all about breastfeeding. That it is so primitively natural. And there is something primal about the nurturing, indescribable feeling a mother gets as she feeds, nourishes, sustains the life of her baby purely by the supply of her own milk. And the look in your baby's eye as he gazes up at you from the breast, one of utter satisfaction - hell, gratefulness - that makes every perceivable negative worthwhile.

So, as I sit here tapping away with one hand, the other supporting little Elliott's head while he suckles contentedly from my lap, I feel an inane sense of motherly completeness. Like this is what I was born to do. Don't worry, the feeling won't last. I'll be back to my normal deranged self in no time. I've recorded this precious moment while it lasts!

I'd love to know your thoughts/ experiences with breastfeeding... have a great week x


  1. What a lovely post. Breastfeeding is something to be celebrated. It's not always easy, and I think when you first become a mother you just assume you will be able to do it. But it takes work and , frustration and tears in the beginning. I remember thinking...why cannot I not do this, and why does it hurt so much?? But once we got the hang of it, so began our beautiful breastfeeding relationship. I fed both my girls for 14 months, until I was pregnant and too sick to go on. I would like to feed up until 18 months this time....but will see.

    Again, great post.

  2. Great post Nicole. I agree, breastfeeding is a real personal choice and definitely not always easy for many. I breastfeed Grace until she was 13 months but not without a few issues along the way - when in hospital after she was born, my milk failed to come in even 5 days later (apparently due to the large amount of blood I'd lost in childbirth) - eventually with the help of some medication it came in and then I had an almost oversupply and felt like poor Grace was being inundated with a flood of milk. Also experienced a painful blocked duct but after those issues were sorted out, I too came to enjoy breastfeeding, especially looking down and seeing my little baby looking at me with love :) I missed breastfeeding when I stopped but my poor boobs haven't quite been the same since :) Glad feeding is going so well with Elliott x

  3. I was never one "for" breastfeeding. I mean I didn't look down upon those who did it, but it was never for me. It actually freaked me out and grossed me out a little, to be honest.

    The whole time I was pregnant, I didn't plan on breastfeeding. I signed up for formula coupons & bought bottles.

    And then I had my Everly. And she was the "best latch on the floor" as the lactation consultant told me. It was so beautiful watching my body nourish her. My sister took a very touching photo of my breastfeeding her - a few, actually, that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

    About 24 hours after she was born, I started having trouble with her latch and called for a lactation consultant. She was sick that day with a fever and about to leave (and the hospital didn't have another one). She handed me a nipple shield & a hand pump and said, "They're pretty self-explanatory," and walked out.

    A few hours later, I fed Everly her first bottle, after crying in my hospital room because she was so hungry.

    The days following, my high anxiety prevented me from sleeping at all (even with the help of sleeping pills) so I found myself giving her bottle after bottle out of ease. I didn't even try to latch her any more, I had given up just like the lactation consultant gave up on me.

    ... My milk came in beautifully. It came and went. I cried as it ran down my body in the shower.

    Everly is now a little over 2 months and has been bottle-fed her whole life, basically. I don't feel like she's going to die or get horribly sick or be unintelligent or anything horrible... but I feel like she missed out on a really, REALLY important bond. Sometimes I lay her on my chest with my shirt off, praying she'll latch onto me (because then there would be hope of relactation) but it seems she forgot. I never gave her the chance to learn.

    There is a feeling of disappointment that will never leave me, and I never thought I'd be one of those people. I am not jealous of the lack of sleep breastfeeding mothers experience (Everly is sleeping 8 hours a night already) but my next baby, I am going to make sure and put in more effort, because breastfeeding is a beautiful & natural experience that should be honored if possible.

  4. Nicole, that is one of the loveliest BF posts I've read. What a wonderful way to capture it :)

    Kalen, it's such a shame that you didn't get the support you needed, the first few weeks can be so difficult and sometimes you really need good people around to help you through it. It's funny how becoming a mother can change your mind about certain things. Good on you for giving it a go.

    I've breastfeed both my boys, I couldn't tell you why I chose to do so - I guess I was breastfeed and it just seemed the thing to do. In truth I was quietly confident it would all be pretty easy and no problem at all.

    What a shock. I have had it all. Massive engorged boobs, damaged nipples, blocked ducts, mastitis. I've been bitten (with teeth), gouged by little fingernails, pinched, poked, laughed at (by both babies) you name it. The only thing that got me through the first 8 weeks with Noah was shear determination, that and my constant companions "teeth clenching" and "foot stamping".

    In spite of all that, it has still been one of the most cherished experiences I have ever had. Sometimes, there is a stillness about it, almost like time stops, when it's just the two of you. It can be really special.

    I'm so pleased I was able to breastfeed. It is definitely not for everyone, and all Mums should feel they're able to choose either way without being made to feel judged. As you said, Nicole, it is a personal choice.

  5. I love this post Nicole. I must admit that we had loads of issues to begin with, the Bebito and I and my milk. We left the hospital with me expressing and him being drip fed by pipette, not even by bottle cos he wouldn't latch on to that even. We then progressed to using shields which were great to help him latch on but gave me awful mastitis (never been sicker, I swear!) and several blocked ducts...but after loads of persistence and hard work (and tears, oh the tears!) we got to a place where it was as you say, more natural. I must admit though, that when it was taking hours on end I didn't love feeding him though I did love the cuddles and knowing that I was nourishing him. In the end though, it was tough for me to give up because it became so natural. We got to 21 months before I dropped the bed time feed on him. I did it retrospectively because I knew that if at the time, I was giving him his last ever feed I'd be all emotional about it. It was always funny to me that I was emotional about something that I'd rather disliked in the beginning. In retrospect, I don't think I really understood just how much effort goes in to establishing feeding or how much time is actually spent feeding a little bubba and no one ever really educated me on it either. I am certainly more prepared for when we are pregnant again though. I am loving your posts of late! xxxxxxx


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