It is one of life’s injustices of a proportion similar to waiting and waiting for a school application email while umpteen penis enlargement ads and knock-off “Vigara” promotions hit your inbox. I don’t give a freak if you went to medical school for 6 years. If you have no birthing hormones that tear you up when your hungry newborn looks you in the eye and screeches, shut up, please.
I can’t get the milk out properly without doing contortions that might be better off at a circus audition, with one of those electric breast pumps the hospital uses. I will kind of accept mums who are super at this telling me anyone can do it. I will not accept men who have no breasts or milk making sweeping statements like, “Anyone can breastfeed.”
Men – either grow mammaries, or don’t say anything insensitive if your wife is almost ready to give up. Our nanny tells me she has had clients whose husbands do the suckling for them so the milk will come, because they know breast milk is best and are that determined to feed their baby the best. (For that matter, fairly often I’ve overheard local Hongkie families so determined to get their child to speak English that they really struggle expressing themselves communicating to their toddlers in a language they obviously are not that comfortable with. I respect the effort.)
Where there’s an easier way however, I’m still gonna do it. That is, if you consider renting one of the electric pumps and closeting yourself for 4 hours easier.
Pumping your milk sucks (sorry). There is none of the gratification of being the “only one” who can feed your baby, not to mention the bonding time etc etc. And the fact if anyone is pushy about wanting to carry your baby, you just need to wait for feeding time. Instead, you’re alone with a pump. In my case, my hands are also often so busy milking myself I can’t type or text – only read or watch something on my laptop. But I have to do the time if I want Ms Rockstar to have my milk. She feeds on 80, 90% breast milk – more than I had for Rockstar – but back then I somehow didn’t produce as much, only like, half of that.
Don’t think I didn’t try to feed her direct. Firstly, I have to move about so much to get the milk out, I can’t even sit very comfortably with a pump. I can tell there’s a lot of milk still left in there because my breasts still ache from being engorged after she falls asleep (this is in the early days). Secondly, she caught on very quickly that if she gives me a good chomp, preferably one that draws blood, she gets the good stuff in a bottle. (This is why I said she has a temper, though she doesn’t lose it often. I notice she does not bite down on the bottle teat at all. And you should see her seriously pissed off face when she does it.)
Certainly umpteen mums have breast-chomping horror stories that involve blisters, losing skin, and blocked ducts that require a needle. But it wasn’t just about pain – it was that I was starting to dread breastfeeding time. What should’ve been a wonderful bonding experience was starting to be me looking at my tiny bundle of joy with the chompers with anxiety. I wonder if that bit of skin is going to come off? Should I pull it off just to make sure it doesn’t end up in my newborn’s tummy? Wow my flesh is swollen! OMG blood – all over my newborn’s mouth and on standard issue Egyptian cotton hospital onesie.
What happens if the baby ingests my blood or even tiny bits of flesh?
“They’d probably throw it back up,” the pediatrician says. Ok, at least I am not as extremely freaked out now. I think.
The nurses at the Sanatorium were amazing. They were always ready to come in and help, give good advice, most importantly be encouraging. No back-handed criticism, like I’ve heard some other people experience elsewhere. I can understand pediatricians being aggressive and tough – breast milk is the best you can feed your baby with, there is this whole crazy aggressive push toward breast milk now, it’s their job to push you to do what’s the absolute best for the baby. I used to really “get it” from them when I worked.
To Kings’ credit when he was taken aside and aggressively told he had to get me to keep going (i.e. trying to feed direct, instead of pumping), he wouldn’t repeat the conversation to me. My hub is getting better at this! (I’d simply overheard quite a bit of it through the curtain. No, it doesn’t bother me. Would much rather have a pediatrician bent on doing the best for the baby, than one who particularly pays attention to whether I like her. My gynea and other nurses’ll tell me if I’m overdoing it.)
I did miss the logic though – I get a lot more milk out with the pump. They want the baby to have more breast milk or not? The only reason I can think of, why they push me to then keep trying to feed direct, is because they think with the relatively less gratifying pumping, I’m going to give up sooner. Certainly I hate having to budget pumping time in between Rockstar and Ms Rockstar time. I occasionally feel very proud of myself when I manage to get Rockstar to read to Ms Rockstar. Or else Rockstar will come in and read or talk to me while I’m stuck to the pump.
But there’s another reason I’m pumping. I started wondering how long it would be before the baby could feel I was beginning to tense up and look at her like she was one of those toothy aliens that chew their way out someone’s tummy in the sci-fi.
Well, I’d like to look forward to feedings and fall all over myself in my eagerness to feed her, thank you very much. She probably felt that too, when I gave her my breast milk in a bottle. So maybe it’s more my fault than I give myself credit for. Ms Rockstar decided to give me some encouragement.
Here, Mummy, Let Me Help You Out <Chomp!> See? Let’s not do this again.
If I actually didn’t produce the milk, I would give myself a break. I really didn’t produce as much the first time, despite better soups – maybe because I also felt the C-section more, the first time. (My gynea would later tell me your uterus contracts faster the second time around because your body “remembers” but it also hurts more. I didn’t notice because I took the painkillers – I didn’t, first time round, the moment I got home.)
After resolutely pumping out my engorged sore breasts with the electric pump on “low,” I realized I did have some milk. So it wasn’t like I could even say “I tried. <Shrugs>” with clear conscience. Pumping every couple hours with the setting mercifully on “low,” and applying lanolin liberally (still sore from pumping so long) I eventually got up my supply. The swelling and blistering stopped. The nurses helped immensely, because every time I turned my bottle in, they never said anything negative like “Wah so little.” If at all, they’d often go, “Actually you’re doing quite well already.”
So now I’m tied to a pump. Have no idea what to do with myself next. May eventually call lactation consultant if
I’m a glutton for punishment I ever want to feed direct.
Ps: This is funny. We went out for dinner for the first time since Ms Rockstar arrived, and I’m in an old Prada dress I bought during my first pregnancy. Except because it has no zips or etc, it was way hard to put on. And then I’d forgotten I had just pumped out all my milk at the time. After several hours’ dinner, I could NOT get the dress off. No, that ruching is not elastic. Desperate, I even gave my nanny (who’d just gotten home from her own dinner with her grown sons) a scissors and asked her to cut the seam open. She balked. So we took about 15 mins to work the dress over my head…
Pps: I’m still wearing a thick surgical binder because my c section incision hurts more if I accidentally pull on it when I’m not wearing said binder. That makes my waist a little thicker, in photos…
Oh, and –
Pre pregnancy weight: 53kg
Pregnancy weight: 73.1kg
Last weighing 14 days ago: 64kg
Just weighed: 62kg (was 61, but I pigged out at a buffet and also finished a box of chocs someone gave us)