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A Must Read For All New Mums: Breast Is A Test

Breastfeeding has all sorts of benefits, but before experiencing it as a mum, it can seem like some sort of dark art, particularly if you didn't grow up in a house where it was celebrated. And lets be honest, it can also be a tricky skill to master when you first try it yourself. Aisling Ozdemir tells us about her journey from critic to breastfeeding convert.

I gave myself a B- through guess work; not an A because I didn't continue feeding till the optimal three years. Not a B+ because I will admit to sneaking a few drinks now and again.... yep, I said it. Maybe there is a secret grading system in the breastfeeding world, and they just downgraded me to a D-! As a mother you will never ever make yourself, and all other mothers who have their own opinions, happy all of the time.

My family thought I was crazy to feed my sons myself and took every opportunity to call me a hippy, but my husband's family thought it was desperate that I didn't breastfeed for at least a year.

READ MORE: 10 Essential Breastfeeding Tips For New Mums

Pre-Baby Scepticism

I had never thought that I would breastfeed my kids, as I was not brought up in a home that deemed it the 'done thing'. I once asked my Mam when I was a kid if I had been breastfed and I was somehow relieved to hear that, no, I’d had formula. Damn though, maybe I could have been an astrophysicist with a killer immune system?

My next encounter with breastfeeding was when I visited my friend Michelle in Italy when her baby was a few months old. She was the first of my friends to get married and have a baby, and I almost fainted when I saw her take an engorged boob from it's harness and put it in the baby’s mouth. I didn’t know where to look and it felt like I was intruding on a hugely private moment. I was also supremely pissed off that my drinking buddy was still not able to get wasted with me, totally selfish on her part. Now I had to wait months till I had the old Michelle back: I was ignorant, didn’t understand and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

A Turning Point

A few months after meeting my now husband, we were dining alfresco (having a burger) in Kusadasi when the subject of breastfeeding came up (I must've exhausted my go-to-date conversation of bowel-movements). I wrinkled my nose in disgust and said 'you won’t catch me doing that'. He looked genuinely shocked and asked what I thought the purpose of breasts were.

I sniggered and gave a lot of reasons that can’t be typed here, as I may make you blush/feel nauseous. Realising that I was losing the argument I bristled and tried what I thought was a feminist viewpoint. I argued that my body was not my own for nine months and was I to suffer further, unable to take Solpadeine on a whim or drink or have the odd fag? He gave up in the face of my ridiculous indignation and had also possibly scared himself talking too soon about having kids with an unstable, Irish female.

However, the seed had been sown… not literally... that took another four years! From the moment I planned my pregnancy, I became an insane nurturer, guzzling folic acid and prenatal vitamins and feeling an urge to wrap myself in organic/non-toxic cotton wool for the next 9 months. I didn’t touch alcohol, gave up smoking and read baby books voraciously.

READ MORE: Breastfeeding Facts & Advice For New Mums

Starting The Journey

As soon as my beautiful firstborn son was put in my arms, the midwife asked how I was planning on feeding him, I said: 'Breast of course' (a little smugly). I put him to my nipple and… nothing. I tried every position, football hold and all. Nothing. An expert was sent to me from the upper echelons of Holles Street and that didn't work.

READ MORE: Finding The Best Breastfeeding Position For You

My baby was hungry now and I was beginning to sweat. One of the nurses rubbed some formula on my nipple to make it more appealing, like Frank’s Sauce on chips (try it..omg). 'My hormones were raging and I was starting to get mad at this stubborn little baby. I could actually hear the baby in the next bed suckling and I tried to push my nipple into Conall's mouth and it all felt wrong.

I got home, and the public health nurse would come daily to weigh him and shake her head saying he’s lost more weight and I was frantic. I asked if I should give him a top-up and I think I had my fingers crossed with hope behind my back. I really wish that at some point somebody had looked me in the eye (instead of my nipple) and said: 'This is HARD… it’s ok, persevere and you’ll get there' instead of scratching their heads like they’d never seen the likes of it before. I felt like shouting: 'Hey, these bad boys have not had any complaints before!'

I continued trying even though my nipples were cracked and bleeding at this stage. I pumped to keep the flow going and often it resembled a strawberry milkshake. I was also fighting a bad kidney infection and felt bedridden and broken.

Success!

Two weeks later when I was feeling better and my million stitches had dissolved, I decided to give breastfeeding another go, but on my terms. I gently guided Conall to my nipple and… he sucked! I cried and cried happy tears. I had spent my life giving up when things got hard, and for once I persevered and it paid off. The feeling is incomparable, him suckling sleepily, every so often maintaining eye-contact and sometimes massaging my boob with his tiny fingers as if to increase the flow.

Sometimes I would fall asleep with him guzzling away and have strange dreams where I couldn't understand why my nips felt so weird. I continued combine-feeding him and it made the weaning at seven months so much easier. I was lucky to have the full support of my partner, although my mother would turn her eyes up or seize on any sickness Conall had to say: 'Look, look he’s not immune'. I think one of the main issues women have in this country is the scarlet factor. I was slightly awkward when feeding Conall publicly and would opt for a bottle of expressed milk.

Goodbye Shyness

I did however manage to send a picture of Conall in the hospital on my breast with my areola on display to my entire inbox and the replies were mostly 'Is that your nip?' and not 'congrats on your new baby!' Also my poor Dad once pointed at my top with his eyes lowered to the ground and when I looked down I had two massive wet circles at my boobs.

Another time I was out for a walk and hadn't fed or pumped for awhile and as I pushed the buggy, I could feel my boobs straining against the confines of my summer top. My cousin, Jen was with me and gasped at their size which was a surprise considering her own knockers aren't that shabby. The moment was immortalised when a car beeped at me and some guys made lewd gestures.. I think Jen may have yelled 'She's lactating, assholes!'

My second son latched beautifully, as did my third and I didn’t even require lanolin. I fed both of them exclusively for nine to 10 months and had become a pro at feeding in public. I'd use a muslin cloth so as not to 'offend anyone' but if it dropped I couldn't care less and was prepared for someone to comment... they never did. My first and foremost concern was my baby's well-being.

Convert

There were times when I would load the dishwasher/washing machine with baby number three latched to my boob and a toddler wrapped around my leg. I look back and can’t believe I survived, but I did and I’m proud! I also look forward to the future and telling my teenage sons I breastfed them while they hang out with their peers; revenge for the sleepless nights.

Give it a go, you'll be surprised. It is so handy to leave the house with just a pack of wipes and a couple of nappies; no steriliser, bottles, formula... you'll save a fortune. You can also sit and eat cake as the baby literally sucks the fat out of you and NO PERIODS!  You will also have porn boobs (the classy kind). What's not to like? It is a test, but if you put in a minimum of effort, you'll pass and maybe raise that astrophysicist with the super-human immune system!

Disclaimer: I'm aware that some people can't feed for medical reasons and that's cool, I'm asking the others to give it a go... it's my slogan.. Leslie Knope style.

Do you have any breastfeeding tales? Leave a comment below.


About the Author

Mother of 3 young boys, blogging about poo, post-baby vags and other beautiful aspects of parenting and domestic slavery.

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