We are having a couple of exhausting days. Lots of screaming – or should I say shouting? barking? – as soon as I try to put little L down for only a second. The only thing that seems to sooth her is my nipple in her mouth, her little body clutched closely to my chest. We went from feeding every three to four hours to nonstop feeding. And as quickly as my sleep deprivation increases, my sanity goes out of the window with every new feed. Only a few weeks into little L’s life and I already feel like a failure. Why can’t I give her what she needs?
With the breastfeeding police lingering in every corner, I clumsily sneak out my mobile phone, look around twice to make sure not to be overheard and dial N’s number. ‘I have a confession to make’, I whisper. ‘I HATE breastfeeding.’ N laughs out loud. ‘Oh really?!’ She doesn’t sound surprised. ‘No, you don’t understand, I really think breastfeeding sucks. I HATE it. I wish I had a breast infection to have a reason to give up.’ N chuckles ‘When I was in your position, I was thinking exactly the same.’ I am astonished. Everybody makes it sound so easy, so natural, as if they were offering their nipples 24/7 without batting an eyelid. ‘You can give some fennel tea in between, and as soon as they hit four months, you can start to introduce solids. Hang in there, time will pass quicker than you can say nipple confusion.’ N’s words are as comforting to my sore soul as Lansinoh to these overused body parts. Apparently, I am not alone.
The more I think about it, the more gutted I am. With maternity units and children centres plastered in breast-is-best banners, and midwifes across the country mildly encouraging (‘Formula… you will die of breast cancer at an early age…!’) the new mum-to-be, I never felt like having a real choice. I was bullied into a decision, and I am mad at myself that I never even asked the question: Is breast really best? So I set out to find some hard facts to either underline or disprove the buzz phrase. Turns out there aren’t any. No scientific study with a relevant sample size to underline that breastfeeding lowers your child’s likelihood of having allergies later on in life (but one study that suggest the contrary), only a lot of ‘maybes’.
I am willing to believe in all the maybes and to give it another try. If we can go back to 3-4 hours, my breasts will be yours, little L, for another five months. If not, formula it is. Feeding on demand is o.k. with me. But that means FEEDING, not soaking my nipples because you are bored. I admire all women for their determination to feed every 1-2 hours. And for their fierce believe in things to improve. I admit to being a bit jealous on Mummies that seem so easily to be able to sacrifice weeks, months and sometimes years of their own needs for the wellbeing of their offspring. But that just isn’t me.
*** And the sun set. And it was night. And it was day again. ***
Overhanging our situation like the sword of Damocles, the formula tin was sitting on the dining table all night. I didn’t touch it, I swear! Little L decided to go back to four hours in between feeds at nights. With more time in between, I started to enjoy nursing again. Feeling much more rested (Big M did all the nappies to make me have most of the night), I introduced fennel tea in between feeds today. Not only does it quench her thirst, but it seems to have cured those tummy aches as well. I am not quite the Uber-Mummy I hoped to be, but I am a happy Mummy with a happy baby!