Right from the start, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my children. It was just a given, something that I knew I would do because… Well, it’s just something you do, isn’t it? My mother had always been very vocal about breastfeeding, so breastfeeding seemed like the natural thing to do. Besides, have you seen the cost of formula milk? Ouch.
The birth resulted in a third-degree tear and a visit to surgery, which is much worse than it sounds — before I was wheeled off, I got to meet my new little purple person, and marvel at how stunningly silky and soft the top of her head was. And give her the first breast feed of her life and mine.
There was no pain. Not at first. That kicked in about three days later, after I had returned home and was struggling to cope with sleep deprivation and the sudden cataclysmic upheaval in my life.
Suddenly the feeds were starting to hurt. And I mean HURT. It was, and remains, the most excrutiatingly painful thing I’ve ever felt in my life, and since then I’ve experienced childbirth with no painrelief other than gas and air.
I remember my mother daring to suggest: ‘Why don’t you try feeding lying down?’ and my response- ‘BECAUSE IT FUCKING HURTS!’ screamed back at the top of my lungs.
By the third week, I’d had enough. At night — when the resolve of a new parent is at its weakest — I snapped and demanded that we give her a bottle of formula. I told myself it was just this once, just a one-off, but let’s face it, who was I kidding? I might have given her the odd breastfeed, but for the most part, our breastfeeding journey was over.
Little Man’s birth was different. We were able to stay in the midwife-led unit this time (in a different hospital), although I hadn’t planned on doing so, assuming that I would have a similar experience. I had a private room afterwards, no crying babies to wake me up other than my own.
And Little Man? Took to the breast with alacrity. There was some pain, but it was fleeting and easily bearable. The agonising pain which I’d experienced with Wee Girl, and was petrified would repeat itself, never materialised.
I’m still breastfeeding him fifteen months later. It’s absolutely true that, if it works for you, breastfeeding is the easiest way to feed a baby. No faffing about with bottles, or powdered milk, or stressing about the right way to make up a bottle and if you’re going to inadvertantly poison your child before you even get the chance to wean them.
Boobs out, nipple in gob. Nom nom nom. Done. And it’s a fabulour excuse for sitting down and watching a lot of TV. Oh, can’t possibly get up and get myself a slice of cake. I’m breastfeeding. Could you put the kettle on, please? I’m breastfeeding. Yes, I know that book is right there on the floor by my feet, but I can’t reach down and get it. I’m breastfeeding. (And massively lazy, let’s face it.)
And again, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Those moments where he stops munching to grin cheekily up at me. Or the way he pats my boob while he’s feeding, as though to congratulate it for being so damned delicious? Those moments are golden.
And only now that I have two very different experiences of breastfeeding am I starting to wonder why this is? I have begun to suspect that verbal dyspraxia may be at the heart of Wee Girl’s inability to talk, and I wonder if this is also the reason behind the difficulty we had with her latch.
So now I ask myself: was the agony I experienced with Wee Girl the first sign of her autism?
I will never know.
What I do know is that I made the right decision at the time. Switching to formula gave me the chance to rest and recover and I’m not kidding: it really did fecking hurt.