From the beginning, I felt strongly about breastfeeding my children.
With the Wee Man, I admit my main driving force was cost. Breastfeeding is free (aside from the extra cake supplies…) and bottle feeding is not. This to me was a clear win in favour of breastfeeding. Additionally there were health benefits, although I wasn’t entirely aware of what those actually were, and then of course there was the laziness factor. Why spend time sterilising and making up feeds when I could just whip out a boob?
Struggling to get Wee Man to latch, I did begin to question my motives. Working through the excruciating pain of cracked nipples, mastitis, and hospital trips for fine needle aspiration I can only think that my stubborn streak kicked in – I don’t recall much about those early weeks other than a fuzz of pain and frustration.
I’m so glad I did persevere, as we went on to share a breastfeeding experience of 18 months, at the end of which the Wee Man self weaned. Seeing his little ‘happy milk face’ – that blissed out, contented look – at the end of a feed made those initial weeks of struggle worth it. So of course, when I found I was pregnant again, I knew that breastfeeding was the way I wanted to go with my second child too.
Fast forward to the arrival of Bubby D. This time, my motives were different. Having begun training as a breastfeeding counsellor, my knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding is vastly improved and although I do not judge anyone who chooses to – or has no option but to – bottle feed, I could not in the face of that knowledge choose any other option myself. Plus, of course, I wanted to experience that same happy bonding as I did with the Wee Man, once the first few weeks were over. A little part of me also felt that I must succeed, as I couldn’t bring myself to continue with my training if I didn’t – who would listen to a breastfeeding counsellor who wouldn’t breastfeed herself?
However, knowing the theory behind successful breastfeeding, and my prior experience of successful feeding did not in the end mean a smooth ride. Just as I had struggled with the Wee Man, so Bubby D and I encountered problems, although of a different nature. Readmitted to hospital for four days early on, and pumping to maintain supply and generate milk for Bubby D to be fed through a nose tube, I again started questioning my ability to breastfeed.
12 weeks later, we have worked through the intial problems of refusing to feed and a bout of thrush, and feeding is established. Sadly however, there are very few instances of ‘happy milk face’.
Unfortunately for Bubby D, she is more likely to experience ‘covered in milk face’ as she pulls away in alarm, just as let down commences. This of course is all down to the antics of her flailing and squealing big brother.
Hungrily, she will latch on, and slowly, her eyes begin to close and her little hand reaches up to cradle my chest. The beginnings of a relaxing feed are all in place until suddenly, bouncing and howling, a miniature cyclone appears at my side. ‘Buuuubbbyyyy Deeeeee!!’ he screams gaily, neatly aiming for her head.
I did consider whilst pregnant how breastfeeding a new baby might impact the Wee Man. I knew he was likely to feel jealous, and discussed coping strategies with friends who had already had their second child. I planned to sit the Wee Man next to me and read a book, or sit next to him on the floor and interact with whatever play he was doing. And to begin with, this seemed to be working ok.
Now, however, he has realised that feeding time is a prime opportunity for expressing his jealousy towards his sister. Punching and slapping, squealing and jumping have all become a regular part of the routine, and although I know I should not show a reaction, its impossible not to react when he is punching his sister in the head or covering me in bruises. Bubby D’s feeds, far from being the 30 minute satisfying meal experienced by the Wee Man, are at best a 5 minute frantic gulping session as she tries to get as much as possible before chaos ensues.
It’s a real pickle. Seemingly without a solution. Bubby D needs to feed, and distraction techniques, making individual time for the Wee Man, reasoning with him, or praising him for good behaviour whilst trying not to overreact to the bad all seem doomed to fail.
It seems, for the moment at least, that feeding time will continue to be a chore and not a pleasure at all.