Battle of the Boobs
There’s been a lot written about breast v bottle over the years, and GMTV has been stirring up the debate again lately. I don’t want this post to be a lecture about which is better, but the story of my personal struggle.
When I was 21, fresh from Uni, I had an operation I had been waiting a couple of years to have. I was desperate to have a breast reduction for lots of different reasons. I was warned that the operation might inhibit my ability to breastfeed and although they’d do their best to avoid cutting through the milk ducts, there would be no guarantees. At 21, this seemed unimportant to me; I had no plans to have children in the near future and vaguely pushed the idea to the back of my mind as something I would deal with later. Breastfeeding would not be a big deal to me.
Flash foward 10 years to 2005. I’m now 31 and pregnant. I have changed a lot over the last 10 years and have different priorities. During my pregnancy, it becomes clear to me that a natural lifestyle is important to me, and breastfeeding my child is high on my agenda. I begin to worry that the operation 10 years earlier will prevent me from doing this.
I make a birth plan which involves home birth and as little medical intervention as possible at every stage. My baby is in no hurry to be born, and is growing very big. Ten days after my due date, a scan reveals that there is very little amniotic fluid left and my son is not coping well with this. He keeps leaning on his cord and every time he does, his heartbeat disappears. I’m admitted to hospital immediately and am induced.
Labour is slow and my birth plan is dismantled bit by bit, until I’m whisked off into surgery and given a general anaesthetic (I’d refused an epidural earlier) and my son is delivered by emergency caesarean.
He is an hour and a half old by the time I come out of the anasethetic, and when I meet him, I’m still groggy and can hardly register what is happening. I register that he is beautiful.
Bean was always keen on breastfeeding, and I was determined that in this at least, I would have my way. We struggled quite a bit at the start. The midwives, I thought, would support me in my desire to feed him. Instead they told me I should abandon hope of ever feeding him. I’d had a c-section, and a general anaesthetic and had therefore missed the critical bonding period and we would not now manage it. In addition, I’d had the breast reduction and I shouldn’t expect to be able to feed after that either.
On his second night in the world, when I was tired and frustrated and struggling, three midwives came into my room in the early hours and tried to persuade me to give him a bottle feed. They prodded and poked and interfered and we got no further.
When they left us alone, I lay down in bed and cuddled my son. I lay him on the bed next to me, and he started to feed. That was the beginning. We still struggled over the next day or so, but before long we had it sussed.
There was no stopping him after that. He fed well. I fed him everywhere. I loved it. I loved that he would gaze up at me with a look of unconditional love whilst he fed. I loved that as he got older he stroked my face when he fed.
Bean fed until shortly after his 2nd birthday. By that time he had cut out most feeds and only had a short feed in the morning when he climbed into our bed, and in the evening before he went to bed. Then one morning, he climbed into our bed and cuddled up to me. Then he said “Mummy, can I have cow milk today please?”.