As we're soon approaching National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (25th June) I thought it only apt to write a blog about how my life has changed now that my boobs seem to be permanently out. It was always my intention to breastfeed, but I never really realised how hard it would be to get the hang of, and quite how difficult the whole process would be. I guess I imagined it to be something along the lines of; boob out, whack her on, jobs a good'un, but it didn't quite go like that.
I might as well take you back to the beginning - the birth of my wonderful monster. She latched on as soon as she came out, and almost instantly a feeling of utter pride washed over me. I found it amazing how this tiny thing, barely an hour old, seemed to know exactly what to do. Unfortunately, my euphoria was short lived, for by the time we got round to her third feed, it was like she'd forgotten. Plus, my nipples hurt like mad (sorry to any men reading this, but you have to know, it can be bloody painful at the start!). I asked a midwife for assistance, as I was deeply hormonal (not surprisingly), and concerned that Shyloh would starve... I was told to massage my breast and collect any drops that came out into a syringe. I immediately started sobbing, and it wasn't until the next duty midwife came along that she suggested laying down to feed her, which worked a treat. Obstacle number one over.
The early days are quite a blur, but I remember it being very tricky to get the hang of what I was actually supposed to be doing, and how best to teach Shyloh. Thom would have to make me a little bed of a million blankets on the living room floor so I could lay down every feed (glad we grew out of that!), and the cats would always want to lay with us. I felt like I was always breastfeeding in the early days, and to be honest I probably was, for there was a point where Shy would feed every 1.5 to 2 hours. We went to a breastfeeding clinic, and bless Thom, he had to sit there with a dozen women all with their baps out... probably would have been a pleasant experience for him under other circumstances! I also leaked like mad, I would be feeding off of one boob and the other would start gushing... ok, that's probably too much information, but you need to know these things!
I've had to feed in some pretty interesting places. Remembrance Day, slap bang on the 2 minute silence, Shyloh starts wailing so I resorted to feeding her on the floor of the cobble stoned market square in front of hundreds of veterans. During an interview... yes, you read right. Not only did I have to show my bits to four men I would potentially be working for, but baby then decides to puke everywhere. Suffice to say, I didn't get the job. I've had to walk through countless shopping centres, supermarkets, town centres, parks, restaurants etc with Shyloh attached to me. Great fun.
Thankfully, pretty much everyone has been really open and supportive when it comes to breastfeeding in public places, and my friends are used to me being half naked in front of them by now. My best friend was slightly uncomfortable to begin with, when I'd have to feed Shyloh he would sheepishly avert eye contact, slowly head towards the door whilst saying, 'I think I'm going to go see what Thom is up to' (bless him). I've had another friend, who is a glamour photographer and therefore used to boobs of all shapes and sizes, sit pretty much on top of me whilst I was feeding, stare at my boobs, going 'that's amazing, doesn't that hurt, why is she pulling like that, how many holes does it come out of, does it squirt everywhere or trickle out, what colour is it, that's sooooooo amazing!!'. I guess some people would have been traumatised by the barrage of questions, but I was really pleased that he was interested and wanted to know more about it all.
Not to say that everyone is in agreement. My mother, of all people has been a pain, and frequently asks me when I'm going to stop as it's an 'inconvenience' (grrr!). Once, in the very early days, she proclaimed 'that's not how you do it', and proceeded to shove my boob into Shy's mouth. I have had to bite my tongue on several occasions, and in the end sent her an email with information on breastfeeding so that she could stop coming out with ludicrous comments such as, 'you're milk isn't good any more', 'there is no point doing it after six months', and my personal favourite, 'if you carry on it's just selfish'. I have felt like slapping her in the face with a breast pad before, but I remind myself that it was all very different in her day.
There is a lot of support out there for women who want to learn more about it, or are struggling to get to grips with it. I don't think I could have coped without the breastfeeding cafe and the friends I made there. There are also groups, such as Le Leche League, who were a massive help when my milk production went down. For anyone who is thinking of breastfeeding, I would advise it wholeheartedly - I'm not going to bang on about the benefits as I'd be here all day, but I would say don't give up, it's hard work, but so so so worth it in the long run. I love the bond I have with Shyloh, and I will always remember this time fondly. It's been eight months now and I'm 'still' breastfeeding. An no, I have no intention to stop just yet. Why should I? There is so much contradiction when it comes to the how long to breastfeed for, but I believe that it's down to the individual. As far as I'm concerned, Shyloh will stop when she's ready. Ok, I may have to consider reevaluating this if she's coming home from middle school and asking for a feed! And anyway, if I stop now, I'd have to start buying milk to put it Thom's tea! Ha, just kidding Thom! Or am I? :)