Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A long shift at the Milk Bar

Breastfeeding: Oh Lordy where do I begin? A topic so discussed yet so taboo at the same time.

We went to a class where they said if it hurts you're not doing it right. As we were driving back my husband says: 'That sounds simple enough.' I started to protest 'but I'm sure my friends said it hurt like hell and their advice was to persevere with it', 'oh no' he said 'they must have been doing it wrong!' Hmm, I thought, but then why have all my friends given me this sympathetic 'oh give it at least three weeks' talk and must-have cream to buy?

Four weeks later he ate his words.

The pressure to breastfeed from the health professionals is immense. The guilt you feel is immense. My story is a personal one but no-one can quite ever prepare you for it. At one point at 4am I was thinking but how can women in the Third World do it so easily and not me? No wonder there are breastfeeding help-lines (not 24 hours though I might add) and drop-in clinics.

Day 9 I texted my friends who had breastfed to ask how long they nursed for. One friend rang me and said 'seven months, but I know why you're asking...’ Seven blinking months! Seven hours felt like a marathon. Six weeks I was told was the turn-around. Then apparently after twelve weeks everything starts to get better. Umm ok, I thought, secretly hoping they meant in dog years. But it was so true!

And so the feat began. And it was totally my choice but I wanted to do it for so many reasons. It’s just that no-one said you would feel like a tap. The milk bar opened at all hours of the day and sometimes the only staff member didn't get a break - it was drive-thru all the way. 

I know, I thought in my naivety, I'll invent a hands-free breast pump, bingo! It'll make life easier and I'll make millions. So I got my dad to make a prototype (really), and yes that was an awkward conversation between daughter and father. What I hadn't realised is the more you express, the more milk you make - supply and demand - and you end up engorged. While the Pammy Anderson look might sound appealing to some, if you used this wonder invention you would end up having enough milk to feed the town twice over and people would start calling you Daisy.

The hard fact is you have to resign yourself to become like a cow and sit on the sofa (aka the feeding station) and nurse. And those who are in the know: how annoying is it when you are there for the duration and you just can't-quite-reach for that glass of water?

Amongst the most wonderful and difficult things about breastfeeding, one of its perks include burning an extra 500 calories a day, so you're able to eat slabs of cake at any given moment. This may sound vain but when you are able to treat yourself without (for once) feeling guilty, it makes the world of difference. 'Oh, but I'm breastfeeding so it's alright' is a common phrase I've heard recently.

Breastfeeding has certainly been a huge wave of emotions to say the least and every experience and baby is individual. Whether you can, can't, do, don't, will, won’t; to me it doesn't matter. Breastfeeding is a complex topic and I have a new found respect for women. 

No comments:

Post a Comment