Breastfeeding rocks / Breastfeeding sucks

We all know the reasons that breastfeeding rocks.  Those who are breastfeeding can use that information to feel better about their cracked nipples, disturbed nights and milk stained garments, and those aren’t  have it pushed in their face every time they go online to research formula milk or come into contact with anyone from the medical profession.

Your boobs look amazing when you’re due to feed.  I mean really amazing, huge, high, round and firm.   However, I strongly suspect you have to make the most of this while it lasts, and that my going braless in a halter top days are behind me.  When I looked in the mirror at myself immediately after I had fed my baby, the breast which I had just fed from definitely wouldn’t have passed the pencil test.  Even if it was one of those big novelty pencils that you can buy at Blackpool.

Breastfeeding helps you to lose weight and get back into shape, as it shrinks your uterus back quickly and burns calories, around 500 a day.  Unless of course you treat it as carte blanche to scoff willy nilly, including cake, chocolate, ice cream (for the calcium) and many many biscuits, which you ‘need’ for energy as you’re generally up more during the night than mums of formula fed babies.

You have to pay for formula milk, while breastfeeding is free.   You also need lots of equipment to feed formula – sterilisers, bottles, teats and brushes, whereas you need none for breastfeeding.  Apart from sterilisers, bottles, teats and brushes for when you want to feed expressed milk (or formula if you can’t keep up with the demands), a breast pump to express the milk in the first place,  Lansinoh cream for your nipples, nipple shields for when it all gets too painful, nipple shells to protect your chapped nipples, breast pads to soak up the leaky milk, nursing bras, scarves to drape over yourself when feeding publicly and specially shaped bottles to stop your baby developing ‘nipple confusion’ which you will then ditch for traditional ones when you realise your baby can’t extract any milk from them. I have made a very expensive commitment to breastfeeding.

There is nothing positive that I can find about the implications of breastfeeding for your wardrobe.  All your clothes need to be stretchy to allow speedy access,  bigger than normal to accommodate your pre-feed breasts,  most dresses are out of the question unless you are fond of exposing yourself in public, and of course there are the nursing bras.  Much as I am happy to breastfeed, I am looking forward to the day when I can wear a dress with an underwired bra that doesn’t look like a surgical device.

While breastfeeding, your body behaves in some quite unusual ways.  Depending on how you feel about it, it can be embarrassing, annoying, comical, or quite cool.  The ability to spray milk feels a bit like a superpower.  Unfortunately, there is no way to direct the flow so it’s more like a sprinkler than a hosepipe.  When you’ve just given your baby a big feed from one breast, you can look noticeably lopsided.  The worst effects tend to be in the early days, before you get the supply and demand thing sorted out.  I remember being in a supermarket and wincing with the pain in my enormous, solid, lumpy left breast, saying to my husband ‘I’ll have to squeeze some milk out in the Bongo’ (our camper van).  Once in the Bongo, I released my red hot breast and attempted to squeeze some milk out into a muslin which I had in my changing bag, not yet aware of the problems with directing the flow.  Jets of milk were flying all over the place, nearly causing my poor husband to come off the road.

Breastfeeding is pretty instant, which is handy as at home it’s just a matter of whacking your boob out whenever the baby is hungry.  The current guidelines on feeding formula are that you have to prepare a fresh feed every time, which means waiting for the kettle to boil, making up and cooling a feed, presumably while your poor baby roars.  Breastfeeding in public can be a different matter, depending on how brave you are.  There are all kinds of drapey scarf things which you can wear to camouflage yourself, which some women use and others don ‘t worry about.  For me, I felt quite comfortable breastfeeding in the Bongo, at mum and baby groups, in booths at cafes and restaurants with sympathetic friends and in the park, but less so in front of my own family, my husband’s family or when out alone.

While pregnant, I was looking forward to being free of the dietary restrictions once the baby was born.  However, you can only drink teeny tiny amounts of alcohol at strategic times, have to limit caffeine unless you want a buzzing baby, and should also limit fish which might contain mercury and artificial sweeteners if the stricter baby books are to be believed.  Still, I’ve been enjoying the freedom to munch on stinky blue cheese, pate, prawns and not having to check the labels of food and grill waiting staff to check they don’t contain any forbidden foods.

This is becoming a bit of an epic, so I’ll sign off for now and finish my ramblings in another post – it’s taken me ages to write this as my baby has almost completely stopped napping during the day, and watching mummy tap on the keyboard is not one of his favourite pastimes.


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