Yes, we know breast is best, but also, best you know a few things first. Sam Wilson tells...
I believe in breastfeeding. Not only because of its clear and repeatedly proven physical benefits, but also because I'm well aware of the fact that, not to believe in breastfeeding, will incur peer wrath beyond my cowardly imaginings.
I will, however, stick my neck out long enough to point out a few things about those early days of breastfeeding that I think aren't emphasised enough. Not that they should turn you off breastfeeding (for, repeat after me, breastfeeding is fabulous)... just that, well, it helps to know what you're in for.
I don't know how else to describe it, but it gave me the fright of my life when my first nipper clamped down on my nipple and my womb responded like a fist getting ready to sock him one.
I had heard that your just-post-pregnancy hormones respond to your child's suckling with a jolt of oxytocin, aimed at shrinking your womb down to a believable size again...
I just didn't expect it to feel so precisely like a contraction. (Which is silly, because that's exactly what it is.) I also didn’t expect it to be that, er, messy. What shrinks in size, must be losing something, right? Yup.
You may want to slap in an extra surfboard those first few times you are breastfeeding on your couch.
It's &#!@$^$% sore
But only for the first few days, and apparently not for everyone. I personally experienced a short, sharp pain as my breasts released milk for the first four or five days.
Complaining and swearing bitterly at my partner helped a lot, I found. As did more breastfeeding. I think this pain is downplayed as people don't want new mothers to be frightened off breastfeeding.
Not expecting it was the bit that almost turned me off. Tender nipples and swollen breasts are also obviously a right pain. Nipple cream, cabbage leaves, hot showers and (again) swearing at the partner all help… as does knowing it takes just a few weeks to earn your membership to the "whip-out-the-boob-on-a-whim brigade".
This is how it works: you settle yourself and your infant into your favourite feeding chair.
You get the baby attached. At the very moment the milk starts flowing and you transform into a feeding unit that shouldn’t be moved for at least 20 minutes, your body starts screaming, "Hey! I want water! Now!"
You will not be thirsty walking to the chair, but you will be extremely thirsty as soon as you can’t get up. Trust me. Get the water at the ready.
The need to read
While you are getting the water, pick up an easy-to-read paperback. Better yet, leave it permanently by the feeding chair.
Because, while it can be heart-warmingly fabulous to gaze down at your suckling offspring, there will be times when you are tired, aching or just plain bored. A flippity-flip book is a great distraction.
To bond or not to bond...
...which brings me to my final point. From the moment you fall pregnant, you will start hearing about the wonderful experience that is breastfeeding.
They will draw charts for you in ante-natal class. The pros and pros will be outlined for you, in baby books, magazines and in conversation.
It is, however, worth tucking away this little nugget of knowledge into your feeding bra. Not everyone feels that way about breastfeeding. While you might find it the single most satisfying relationship stage of your life, you may not.
Either way, and almost all reactions in between, are pretty normal. So while you sit there... book and water at the ready, with one arm wrapped around your baby's body and the other thoughtfully tousling those infant locks, remind yourself that whatever you feel is probably OK. Right. Neck back in.
How do you feel about breastfeeding? Is Sam right on the money or way off base?