Milk

In which our reluctant hero tackles a touchy subject with great care, in case it is still sore.

Anybody with small people, or anybody with friends or family with small people and a Fakebook account, will be aware that it is World Breastfeeding Week again. Or is it National Breastfeeding Week again? Which one was in June?

Anyway…

Having blogged my blog almost TO DEATH for fifteen months, and sporting my shiny “NCT Blogger” badge last time round, I looked for an old post to share. Strangely, there was nothing. In early August 2016, I was chronicling my then three year old breaking the terrible news that Postman Pat was dead. Greendale is still in mourning, but at least the post gets delivered now. Every cloud and all that.

The logical conclusion was that I had chickened out. I got away with a lot, mainly as almost nobody from NCT read any of it, but a cheeky blog about boobie juice could tip the blog police over the edge if discovered. Besides, my little blog had enough knockers already so it seemed senseless to add to the mound.

Not this year though, so here I go.

We have gone through breastfeeding twice. By twice, I mean with two children, not just twice. That would be silly. To say that the results were variable is an understatement.

First time round, we did the standard swotting up and attended NCT and hypnobirthing classes, which are mandatory for expectant Tettenhall parents.

By due date, we were in no doubt that “breast is best.” Which it is. Probably. We were also confident that our daughter was simply going to be breathed out without so much as a junior disprin, let alone an “epidoodle.” Our new arrival would also miraculously head straight for her breakfast, just like in Hypnobirthing video brainwash number two.

Back in the real world, after several days of failed inductions, a bodged anaesthetic and failed c-section block, much sawing (my wife felt every cut) and stitching up later, our baby was out. Drugged, but out. I did dad duties while mum was sellotaped back together, ready to do what mum had been repeatedly told that she should do best.

Recovery was a nightmare with my wife having to drag a drain bag and stand around to even get close to our child. Nobody slept. Our baby didn’t feed for days. Irrespective of that, we were discharged to work things out for ourselves.

Once home, our living room was transformed into a hybrid milking shed come Boots the Chemist. Pumps, bottles, bags, sterilisers on one side, cream, gels, nipple shields, pillows and a baby in a straitjacket (Swaddle Pod) on the other.

The feeding process took about twenty hours a day. I say feeding, as I’m guessing some of that time must have involved the transfer of milk from mum to baby. We were not helped by a tongue-tie not being picked up at hospital. This caused further distress to our little dot once snipped, whereupon she had to learn her terrible latch all over again.

The severity of my wife’s pain was making me wince in sympathy, and I started to doubt if the whole “earth mother” thing was all it was cracked up to be. Predictably, she was a semi-broken shell after a couple of weeks. In the middle of a particularly fraught night, she told our daughter exactly what she thought of her and decided that enough was enough. I somehow persuaded mum to carry on until morning. Things always seem better in daylight.

So, with breakfast done and sanity partially restored, mum and baby took the bus across town to their first Breastfeeding Group. It was the turning point.

It turned out that in this parallel universe, other mums were struggling to feed too. Who would have thunked it? Armed with proper support, a new outlet to vent frustrations, and shared tales of feeding and disaster washed down with plenty of sugary tea, mum cultivated the mental toughness of Ellen Ripley tackling those pesky Aliens with an emphatic “SCREW YOU!”

Feeding got easier when solids were introduced. Once weaning started, it became apparent what a good job the Breastapo had done on me when I pooh-poohed a suggestion of chucking unused “emergency” formula on our daughters porridge, simply to use it up. Let’s use the cow’s milk instead, eh? Idiot.

Things carried on relatively smoothly until the final bedtime feed was eventually dropped. We did it. Go us!

By the time that the boy was preparing for his grand entrance, we were lots more relaxed about the keeping little people alive thing. Ideally, the wee fella would be another loyal customer of Mum Dairies, but if he was as much of an arse as his sister was then we would rethink.

Once born, this time by less bodged emergency cesarean, I asked the midwives to check for a tongue-tie and was promptly told there wasn’t one. Tick.

Fortunately, as boys are better and cleverer than girls, he took to feeding like a duck to plum sauce. Good lad. He was, however, born with a tooth and enjoyed a good chomp (eek!) His feeding further improved when the tooth was yanked out and his tongue-tie was snipped. Yes, you read that correctly.

The average feed, sponsored by Infacol, was down from about two hours with our daughter to about ten minutes with our son. Was this the dream that we were mis-sold first time round and, if so, can we make a claim? Perhaps not, but it was relatively stress free and normal, if there is such a norm. That’ll do.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The support that we had with our eldest was abysmal. It is little wonder that mums, already sleep deprived, hormonal and as neurotic as they’re ever likely to get in life, crumble.

I’m absolutely in favour of encouraging parents to breastfeed if they can – the benefits are clear – but better support has to be there if wanted or needed. Else, do what you can and don’t be judged for it. Breast, mixed, or formula are all fine. Get the baby fed and try not to go insane or make yourself ill doing it.

Although breastfeeding support has improved locally, there also has to be more done to manage expectations in the run up to becoming a mum or dad.

Soft focus videos of newborns climbing to latch themselves as “Titanic on Panpipes” plays in the background are all well and good, but if your newborn isn’t having any of it then you have a big problem. Some mums may be like Friesians – great – but not all. Give us some advice on how to overcome problems. Be realistic, honest and open with the rhetoric.

There was barely a night in the first six months of parenting that my wife and I were asleep at the same time. I wore about a dozen pairs of slippers out, pacing for hours trying to get our baby to sleep. With better education, we would have sought help sooner and may even have tried something different. Who knows?

William Shakespeare, or the bloke who wrote William Shakespeare’s stuff, once wrote that “No legacy is as rich as honesty.” True that.

And that finishes our story. See, I can write semi-sensibly if I put my mind to it, with barely a pun in sight. Which is probably just as well as I wouldn’t want to make a tit of myself, would I?

Fin.

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