I wrote this post months ago, back in June to be exact. It’s been sitting here waiting. (I’ve edited it to reflect her age now.) I excused it with needing photos or a final edit. Or a better opening or ending. In the end I realised I was just making excuses because the words, the story they tell, still hits me a place where it hurts. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. But it’s still a story I need to tell so here it is.
Art history is riddled with them, serene images of mothers breastfeeding their babies. It looks like the most natural, effortless thing ever. After all boobs and babies are meant to go together right? Right…
I breastfed my son for almost 2,5 years. It didn’t come naturally to us, we struggled to get there but we got there, sort of. In hindsight I’m not sure we ever really did it ‘right’, he was always a poor latcher but I made milk and he was fed and happy so it can’t have been all wrong. So when my daughter was born I thought surely this time things would be easier.
Yesterday my daughter turned 11 months old. And that marked 11 months of battling to breastfeed her.
She was in a hurry to be born, my little Isis. Once she was we took our time to just soak each other up. We spent a long time skin to skin feeling each other out and moving closer to that first feed. It didn’t come easy. Once she latched she kept falling off growing tired and frustrated. Every feed was like this. I asked to see a lactation consultant at the hospital before going home but it was the weekend so no one ever came and I was only staying for 12 hours. I told my midwives about our troubles but nothing happened. My breasts were sore and painful but it was difficult to distinguish between the normal aches and pains of my milk coming in, baby learning to feed and possible other problems. For the first week I had to peel skin off my nipples (so-called blebs) to keep them from becoming blocked. It was just as bad as it sounds. One of my midwives asked how the feeds were progressing and I remember saying that they were marginally better. Marginally, when you’re in a world of pain isn’t good. I told them about leaking milk while feeding, clicking, lack of suction, the pain and how it didn’t feel as if she emptied the breast. But it somehow always got lost in the mix. Most things do with a newborn and they definitely do when you throw another kid and sleep deprivation in to the mix.
For the first few weeks I had to get up with my daughter at night to feed her. We co-sleep so it would have been more beneficial (for me, I suppose) to stay in bed but because she was such a terrible latcher I had to see properly to try my best to minimise the discomfort and help her. I’d try flipping her lips out but she’d pull back and curl them back under. At every appointment we had I told nurses and midwives this. No bells rang. One midwife saw her feed once but with breasts bursting with milk and a tiny baby you kind of have to look properly to catch a bad latch, a passing glimpse as you’re doing something else won’t cut it.
So my daughter became a so-called nipple feeder and I put up with it. For a long time. Around 3 months it started getting really bad. The pain was getting excruciating. If you had seen some of the positions I had to be in for her to feed you would have thought I was crazy. My back was killing me but my boobs were worse. For a while I cried every night, sometimes during the day too. Our feeds had become battles. My baby would get frantic because when you aren’t latching properly it takes a long time for any letdown to happen. I had to walk, bounce and sing to keep her calm enough to feed. I became a master in walking while breastfeeding. And me? I was nearing my wit’s end. Every night I’d consider giving up and every night I’d talk myself into hanging on for just one more day.
To make up for not being able to latch properly, and therefore empty the breast, Isis would feed more often. Sometimes hourly, most times every 1,5 -2 hours, night and day.
I can’t remember exactly how old she was when we had another appointment with a maternal health nurse but it must have been around the 4 month mark. I was hanging all my hopes on this appointment, hoping that someone would be able to help me. I had growing suspicions that something was wrong, very wrong, and I suspected my baby might have an upper lip tie at the very least. But I was no expert and I needed help from someone who knew about such things before I went crazy. My mental state was deteriorating fast. I was struggling. Badly.
Before you accuse me of being a masochist or just a plain idiot consider the benefit of breast milk and breastfeeding to a baby and to the mother. And if you still want to call me a masochistic idiot just suck it up and keep it to yourself, ok? I chose to fight this battle because I believe the benefits far outweigh my troubles, and that’s saying something about my stance on breastfeeding.
Anyway, moving on.
Our appointment came and the nurse went through the normal proceedings of checking weight, height etc. We were all good. She asked if there were any troubles and I told her about our feedings to which she replied, aimed at my baby, “you’re just a little pest, aren’t you?” I was baffled. I told her about my suspicions and she continued to refer to my baby as a pest and told me she hoped I could find some help. And that was it. No help whatsoever.
I cried walking home. I had been hanging on by a thread until then and now there was nothing. Just this big pit of pain and hopelessness.
It’s not a long walk back to our house but during those few minutes I decided that if the so-called “professionals” weren’t going to help me I would give it one last go myself. And so I read and googled and started making calls. A dear friend of mine offered to help and together we set out to find people who would know where to go and what to do. She discovered a Facebook group she thought could answer a lot of my questions and I asked to join. I diagnosed my daughters upper lip tie myself but couldn’t be sure that it really was what I thought it was. Within a few hours I had booked a doctor’s appointment for a referral to see a specialist and things were moving forward. Finally.
The doctor had no idea what I was talking about. He blindly wrote a referral to see the dentist I told him I needed her to see. Most doctors, in fact a lot of health personnel, have no clue about ties whatsoever. They’ll even go as far as call it a myth or try to convince you it’s not a real problem. You need a specialist. Believe me.
I don’t know if we were just lucky or if the age of my baby helped us get in fast but within a week we were on our way to see the dentist I had been so highly recommended. I was terrified and convinced it was all in my head. She ticked all the boxes on the check list they sent us but I still couldn’t’ quite believe something was wrong if I was the only one seeing it. If I was in fact right they would laser the ties on the spot for the price of $600, no refunds available or reclaims through Medicare at all. I know what you’re thinking, $600 is a lot of money. But formula alone would probably cost us more in the long run and tongue and lip ties can, if left untreated, cause problems with teeth, speech and eating.
Once in with the dentist he examined our daughter and diagnosed her with a class 4 upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. He told us she also has an incredibly high palate which makes it even more troublesome. His words were ” It’s as bad as it gets.” Her upper lip tie was so tight you couldn’t lift her lip to her nose. Finally I had all my questions and suspicions accounted for. I wasn’t crazy. By this stage Isis was 4 months old. 4 months of poor feeding is a long time. 4 months of fighting to breastfeed is a long time.
The procedure is rather quick but traumatising, for the parents at least. They don’t sedate or use any form of pain killers while lasering. I had to wrap our daughter up, arms down, and my husband had to hold her down while they did it. I waited outside afraid that if I was present it would be too hard for me to feed right after because of the stress of seeing it happen. Her screams made my skin crawl. I have never before or after heard a baby scream like that. It was the worst few minutes I can remember. She stopped quickly once they were done and we were taken to an empty dentist’s office to feed her. My poor husband broke down and we both cried. I can’t really describe it. I never want to relive any of it.
Sores in the mouth heal quite quick so we were instructed to do so-called stretches on the wounds 6 times a day to keep them from reattaching. I won’t spend time describing them to you but it was awful. I saw a lactation consultant 2 days after but poor Isis was too tired to feed properly and still so swollen that it didn’t do much good. I was told it could take up to 10 weeks for feeds to improve because she had to relearn how to use the muscles in her mouth. It’s a lot to do for a little baby and it makes them very tired. And things got far worse when she reached exhaustion. But we persevered. 2 weeks later I went back to see a lactation consultant but at the age Isis was now she was too distracted by everything to feed. She latched enough for the consultant to have a look and tell me I should feel lucky my nipples were partially desensitized. I didn’t feel lucky but I guess it was just her way of telling me it was bad but could be worse had I in fact not had some loss of sensitivity in the nipples from long-term nipple feeding already. Breastfeeding at this stage was only marginally better and we agreed I would start pumping to keep my supply up. She was still putting on weight but the concern was that if she wasn’t draining the breast my milk would dwindle.
Pumping for me is hard. I don’t get a let down and have to effectively ‘dry pump’. It’s tiresome and it takes a lot out of me. But I did it and for a while even started to get a bit of milk. But pumping is a whole other story.
So. Here we are numerous months after the procedure, way past the 10 week mark. Feeds are still not great. They can still be painful. Sometimes awful. Let downs can still take ages and I still rock, sing and whatnot to get there. My baby will always be a nipple feeder, she hates having anything touch her palate and has worked out her own way of feeding. It’s not great but we manage. I take it week by week. Every feed is a small victory. She’s happy and thriving. She sometimes still feeds up to 7 times overnight which is hard as I never get to sleep for longer than 3 hours, if I’m lucky. (And that’s a rare occasion!) My nipple (she has refused one side and will only feed from one breast) is another story. Once it retires from breastfeeding it may never let anyone touch it again, ever, and probably rightfully so.
Since finding out about Isis’ ties I have become very suspicious that Anakin is tied too. His lip isn’t as bad as hers but his tongue is visibly tied which would explain my breastfeeding troubles with him. But he’s lucky. It doesn’t seem to be effecting his speech or his teeth.
Maybe I am a masochist for still breastfeeding my baby and for enduring the pain for so long, I don’t know. But breastfeeding is important to me and to her. My milk is liquid gold and I just can’t deprive her of that when it’s still within my means to keep going. Would I feel better if I stopped? On the one hand, probably, but on the other… no. I only wish someone had heard me sooner. I wish it was custom to check for ties at birth and to take any complaint about breastfeeding seriously.
I am full of regrets but also full of pride for fighting for my baby’s, and for my own, right to breastfeed. My new goal is to make it to 12 months. I hope we can go for a lot longer but realistically I eventually have to take my own mental health into consideration and decide whether it will be better for me to wean. The thought of weaning her before she is ready kills me. But that decision is still a while a way.
In the mean time my nipple will keep battling on while the milk still flows.
I think some part of me thought number two would be easier. I’d done it all before, right?
She was born into expectations of how certain things would be. Her birth would be calm and serene. She would sleep better and longer, she would be easier to settle, she would like to be worn, she would… But she is her own person. She’s not a shadow of who came before.
He would go through the motions for a few weeks and then settle and we would all be one big, happy family. His anger and his hurt would vanish and he would always know that my love for him remained the same.
I would manage to keep the house tidier and cleaner and tend to every need for both of my children. I would make sure I had plenty of time for my son, I would play with him every day. I would always keep my daughter close and we would remain as one. I would excel at juggling, I would let go and ask for help when I needed it. I would stay level and take care of myself. I would bounce back to my pre-pregancy shape (despite never doing so the first time), my stomach would be flat within a week like I’d seen other people’s do and I would feel magnificent about my post-baby body right away. Breastfeeding would be a breeze, after all I’d spent 2,5 years doing it already. I wouldn’t stress about anything, I would go with the flow at all times and I would get work done. I would always keep my cool and I would be even more patient than before. I would understand and empathise at all times.
But I am constantly failing to meet the ridiculous standards I’ve set myself.
It’s not the same, it’s not easier.
And some days I am not the mama I want to be for my children.
But what I am slowly learning this time around is;
Mama, forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for expecting too much, forgive yourself for putting too much pressure on your body. Your body is beautiful because it is uniquely yours. It was their first home. It grew, carried and birthed two of the most beautiful little people. It is softer, rounder and fuller. Forgive yourself for sometimes forgetting the look they both get when they see you naked, their eyes lighting up at the sight of you because to them you are perfection.
Forgive yourself for momentarily buying into ridiculous nonsense about baby sleep. Your children are healthy and need nothing but your love. You are following your instincts and you are doing everything right. Forgive yourself for not always having as much time as you want for both of them. One is still so little and her needs so big. You will get better at dividing your time. Forgive yourself for not being an expert, a mothering perfectionist. No one expects or wants you to be perfect. Forgive yourself for still struggling with breastfeeding your little one. It takes time and she is not her older brother, you both need to find your own way. Commend yourself for not giving up despite your raw nipples and your aching back.
Forgive yourself for the times you raise your voice, for the wrong battles you pick and the tears that follow. You are tired and it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you apologise and keep trying. Forgive yourself for your doubts and your darkness. For neglecting the needs of your husband, for feeling ‘touched out’ at the end of the day and needing to keep your body to yourself. Forgive your mood swings and your occasional sadness. You give your children everything, it’s ok to feel empty as the day nears its end. You have yet to find your village and sometimes you will feel lost in the dark. But you are exactly where you need to be.
Mama, just remember to forgive yourself a little every day. It takes practise. What you’re doing is nothing short of amazing.
887 days. 2 years, 5 months and 5 days.
It’s the end of an era.
For 887 days I breastfed you. And for most of that time it was a beautiful thing we shared, my body nourishing and protecting yours. One of the best choices I ever made was to keep going for as long as I thought was best, to give you what you needed until I could give it no more. We’ve had some resistance you and I, opinionated people who for some reason think it’s gone on too long. Who think it’s their business to comment on and who have no knowledge of the benefits of it all, for us both. Some have thought it was selfish, others have thought it was too selfless, but we stuck with what we wanted and believed in.
I always wondered when it would come to an end. I guess I somehow thought it would happen on its own, that you would somehow lose interest and that would be it. But you didn’t.
And lately it became uncomfortable and even painful. Those moments we shared became less and less enjoyable for me. And as much as I’ve hated to do it I’ve had to say enough with a gentle nudge so we could move closer to ending that last one we shared every day. It pains me to hear you cry and see the grief and sorrow on your face. Even offering a million hugs won’t take away that loss, I know that, but believe me when I say I can do it no more. If I could I would.
You always were a boobies boy. We had a good run, baby.
It’s time to say goodbye and thanks for all the milk.
I got out of the shower today and Anakin shouts excitedly “Pippin! Pippin!”
It’s not the character from Lord of the Rings and it’s not Pippi Longstocking. They’re Anakin’s favourite things. Boobies.
Whether he sees them or not he knows very well where they are. And whenever I pick him up his little hands will find their way under my shirt.
When he feeds he’ll come off, look at me with a big smile and say “pippin” with all the joy in the world wrapped up in that little word.
He can’t say “puppen” properly yet so to him they’re “pippin”, and to me it’s the cutest thing I ever heard.
So it’s Friday again. My partner and his cousins are out partying while I stay home with the baby to work. I’ve had a date with a mummified cat, shot a still life in the kitchen, poured myself a glass of wine and am watching a bad movie with one eye open. I can hear my bed calling loudly.
I hope you all have an excellent weekend! Please do tell of any exciting adventures you have.
And congratulations to Anka over at Keeping it real on expecting another baby! I am so excited for you and hope you’ll share all the joys of the journey with us!
(The following is an imaginary interview with my 14 month old son, based on real events.)
Me: So, Anakin, tell me a little bit about what’s been going on lately.
Anakin: Well, mamma, as you know I’ve been going through some things. I believe you taller people call these phases wonder weeks. I’m not sure why because there’s not much wonderful about them. Things are just plain confusing and I guess you could say I have a new information hangover of sorts. My brain hurts. That’s probably why I keep waking up a night.
Me: Your brain hurts? That doesn’t sound very good.
Anakin: Well, that’s just stating the obvious, mamma. It didn’t help much either that you took me to that horror house where that witch stuck me with a sword three times on Wednesday and tried to kill me while you just sat there singing like a bloody idiot. As if singing was going to save my life! I was lucky to even make it out alive.
Me: You mean your vaccinations? Those are necessary to keep you from getting really sick. It’s for the best, I promise. I would never let anyone try to kill you. And it wasn’t a sword, it was a needle. Swords are bigger.
Anakin: Wasn’t big enough? Looked like a sword to me. You say all this now, but I saw no such action at the time. But I’ve figured out a cure for everything.
Me: Really? For everything?
Anakin: Yes, everything. It’s simple really. If I’m cranky, boobie. If I’m sleepy, boobie. If I’m happy, boobie. If I hurt myself, boobie. If I don’t get what I want, boobie. If you think I’m busy playing, boobie. Just after boobie, more boobie! The best thing in life is boobie. Whenever, wherever. Boobie, boobie, BOOBIE! Don’t think for one second I don’t know where you hide those things.
Me: I’ve noticed, but don’t you think three times a day is enough? I don’t mind feeding you, but sometimes you hurt me. Couldn’t you at least lie still while you eat and perhaps finish before you do other things?
Anakin: That’s where you get it all wrong, you see. It’s not all about eating. I own you, and lately I think you need reminding of this. So I try to spice it up a bit, after all it’s a lot of boobie. I try to dance while I eat, I sing and talk and just hang out. Sometimes I like to bite a bit and to play with them too. And you seriously need to stop packing those things away until I say it’s ok. I read that wonder week thing on your phone too and it said that during this phase you should be expecting me to want boobie all the time. You just put up until I say so. And that thing you tried today, undressing and showing me your boobies, but not giving them to me even when I cried really loud? Not cool.
Me: I was taking a shower. Didn’t you get some after? And you just had milk followed by lunch anyway, you were in no real need.
Anakin: That’s not the point! Do you think it’s fun to make me cry? I shouldn’t have to cry to get my way. Now, lift up your shirt before I rip it off, it’s boobie time!
I’m sure most of you have heard some of the stories going around in the news lately about mothers being told to “cover up or leave” when breastfeeding their baby in a public place. There was the Concord Mall incident in Delaware, USA, and most recently the case of miss Liana Webster at the Bribie Island Aquatic Centre in Queensland. I’m sure if I started digging there would sadly be many, many other instances.
And then of course there is the case of Cannel Seven’s David Koch, named Australian Father of the Year by the Australian Father’s Day Council in 2007, who publicly stated that women should be “discreet and modest” when breastfeeding in public, comparing it to topless sunbathing. According to David Koch breastfeeding in public is ok as long as it’s kept “classy”.
As far as I know breastfeeding in public is protected by law in most states in the US, and those who don’t yet have laws pertaining to breastfeeding have proposed legislation. It is by some courts considered a constitutional right though it has not yet, to my knowledge, reached the Supreme court. Breastfeeding in Australia is also protected by law.
As Amy Ahearn, organiser of the protest nurse-in during Sunrise’s broadcast on Monday, told Koch “[…] saying that women should cover up or be discreet, that word has a shame connotation.” And it does. We shouldn’t feel like we need to hide or force our children to go hungry until we can get home to feed them. Public breastfeeding is nothing new, but it still obviously needs to be normalised. Breastfeeding is a personal choice. Not all women are able to do so, and not all women choose to do it. Neither group should be made to feel any shame, guilt or discomfort for the way they feed their baby. It’s my opinion that if you take offence or feel uncomfortable seeing someone breastfeed you’re looking too hard. Breastfeeding isn’t about breasts. It’s about babies feeding in the most natural way there is.
I’m outraged that there are people out there who would assume that a mother isn’t showing concern for others when feeding her child. In the case of miss Webster she had two other young children to watch making it hard to feed anywhere else but pool side. It’s not like we’re taking our tops off, throwing out our racks and screaming “look at my milky breasts!” I’m proud to breastfeed and I intend to keep breastfeeding my 13 month old for as long as we both want to. If my son decides he wants a feed next time we’re at the pool, he’ll get one. I won’t run and hide in the toilet, I won’t throw a blanket over his head. My son has never been a discreet feeder, but I’ve always done my best to consider the comfort of myself and others when feeding him while always putting his need to eat first, as I believe any mother would. And I dare anyone on any given day to tell me to “cover up or leave” just because they might see some nipple. Personally I think seeing someone breastfeed is a beautiful thing.
Why is a breast so offensive when it has a baby attached to it? Who’s afraid of the big, bad boob?
Some of my favourite moments happen as I get Anakin ready for bed. He has his last feed which is a combination of breastfeeding and talking to me about Mister Jackolope who hangs above us on the wall. Anakin has a few words now, his favourite ones being “look” and “there” (they’re in norwegian of course). He’ll stop eating to say “look” and point to Mister Jackolope and wait for me to say his name.
But my most favourite bit is when he’s done eating. He gets his dummy and curls up in my arms with his head on my chest while I sing him a norwegian lullaby and stroke his hair. Then we say night night to the things in his room before he once again curls up in my arms while I gently rock him and hum another norwegian lullaby before putting him to bed. I kiss his face all over and tell him I love him.
Some nights I wish we could stay like that forever. I wish I could fall asleep with him, or sit there until he drifts off. Some nights I wish we had a big family bed where we all could sleep. Maybe one day we’ll have one.
Night night, my love. Sweet dreams. I’ll see you when you wake.
The last bit of my surprise Dida-day gifts was completed over the weekend. I finally got my new ink done! I love tattoos and I think they’re an excellent map of my life.
There’s a lot of debate about whether breastfeeding women should get tattoos or not, but I have yet to find any evidence to back up the nay-sayers. If you only ask mothers you’re bound to get a whole heap of answers in both camps that are mostly based on personal opinions or hearsay rather than facts. As for the tattoo artists it’s a matter of preference, as far as I know. Some prefer not to do it which is perfectly fine. Personally I don’t think it makes any difference if you breastfeed or not as long as you’re healthy. If you’re not going to take care of it anyway then of course you’re going to get yourself into trouble, but I don’t see how the boob tube plays a part in that. I should add that it goes without saying that you get it done in a good, clean shop. You’re probably more likely to pick up hepatitis at the dentist than you are at a good tattoo shop. If you get ink done in a dodgy place, well, then I’m (not so) sorry to say you’re just plain stupid.
The only argument I can think of is that if you get new work done and you breastfeed you should consider the placement before going ahead. Can you guess that I didn’t really think that one through when I put it on my lower left arm? Oh well, what’s a couple more days of discomfort in the world of mothers and babies anyway, right? If I can give birth without pain relief I can manage Anakin rubbing his head against my sore arm for a bit. (I find that the whole birth experience helps give perspective to a lot of things now.)
I always find it amusing how people like to tell you that it’s going to be painful. “Oh you’re getting there, that’s going to hurt. Good luck with that.” Sorry, buddy, but I don’t find tattoos to be very painful. Mind you, placement and tolerance does play a big part in that. Another argument that really gets my knickers in a twist is “You should think about what you’ll look like when you’re old, you might regret it. What will your kids think?” When I grow old(er) I will no doubt look at my tattoos and think “Boy, I had lots of good times!” I’ll tell my kids and my grandkids how I got this one in St.Petersburg, Russia, that one Texas, this one in Drammen, Norway, this one, that one and these ones in Melbourne and tell them all the stories that go with the tatts. There is no reason to underestimate a person’s ability to be rational and think things through just because they have tattoos.
This new piece will always remind me of a grand gesture by some very excellent friends, my work, my cultural background and my love of fairy tales. It’s an illustration (with colour added) by Theodor Kittelsen, one of my favourite illustrators, to the Norwegian fairytale “Reve-enka” (The Fox’s widow). I grew up with this tale and I’m currently using it, and other tales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe, and illustrated by Kittelsen, in my postgraduate research and photographic work. Seems only suiting that it forever holds a place on my outside as well as my inside. I plan on becoming one of those old ladies that have ink all over (no, not literally) and a lot of my future tattoos will be fairytale illustrations.
Thanks again, lovely friends! I absolutely love it! And a big thanks to Dan from the Sweet Life Tattoo shop for doing such excellent work.
It’s been one of those weeks. The greater the high, the longer the fall, right? (I don’t know how that saying goes, but it sounds good enough to me.) From Saturday to where we were yesterday was a long way down. In some ways I think Saturday’s happy events is what kept me from falling flat on my face this week. No… It wasn’t a good week for sleep in our household. But, it’s Friday and things are looking up! I love Fridays! (And it helps that I had some sleep. I said some, not a whole lot, but some will do fine for now.)
We’ve come up with a 10 day plan for dealing with night wakings and hopefully by the end of it we’ll see some improvements. If things stay the way they were last night it’ll be an easy ride. If they go back to what they were on Monday and Tuesday night we’re in for 10 days of hell. And let me just say this; when I don’t sleep, I become quite the asshole. Oh yes, it’s true. I’m still capable of being a loving mother (though it takes a lot more effort on my behalf), but as for loving partner? Heh. Nah. Just plain asshole. Sorry, babe. I haven’t really slept much in over 9 months, but I’ve managed to not be a total asshole all the time. I hope. Just hang in there, I’ll return from the land of the tortured and dying eventually.
So, a 10 day plan. It’s a gentle plan. We’ve looked at Pantley’s No-cry sleep solution and we’ve come up with something we’re willing to see through. It’s flexible, it doesn’t involve any tears and I’m fairly sure it’s something all three of us can live with. First off, we’ll do our best to stretch the times between feeds by resettling. He’ll resettle alright most of the time, he just won’t stay asleep for very long without boob. Not that he sleeps for very long with boob either. But that’ll change. If it becomes clear that resettling isn’t working I’ll feed him, but for shorter times and I’ll try to remove the nipple before he falls asleep to work towards breaking the sucking to sleep association. We’re aiming towards going back to two overnight feeds first, then moving on to one. We’re also working with very specific bedtime and nap times, and routines for both day and night. Our bedtime routine is the same as it’s been for ages, just with a few tweaks. It usually works really well. If it doesn’t a hand on the tummy seems to do wonders these days. We’re also introducing a sleep time lovey, mr Frog (Frosken). After 10 days we’ll re-evaluate and see if we need to change something and if things have improved. Hopefully they have. It’ll take time and consistency. And a whole lot of patience and chocolate.
Shit, I forgot to say that we have already started. We’re going until next Sunday.
As for our little Sith lord? He’s still ridiculously cute, pointing away and trying out new things. Still a mighty bookworm. He still amazes me every day. And he still makes me burst into a million bubbles.
If someone had asked me if I thought that Anakin would still be feeding several times overnight when he was 8 months old, the answer would have been no. I had this idea that up until 6 months it would all be up in the air, but after that some things would change and get a lot easier, particularly nights. And extreme sleep deprivation would stop driving me bat sh** crazy.
Ehm… fat chance, you naive first time mama.
Yes, we had a particularly bad night again. We’re apparently in wonder weeks territory, or so they say “the people in the know”. Hooray!! And why not just label it wonder months, as it always lasts a month with one particularly bad week somewhere in the middle. Oh and if you add teething, well, you’re apparently screwed for a long time.
Everyone seems to have opinions about night feedings. “You should stop feeding him at night.” “It’s just a habit.” “He doesn’t need it anymore.” “Maybe you’re not making enough milk for him.” “He needs to learn that days are for eating, not nights.” Ok, so I agree that he needs to eat during the day. Obviously. But I can tell the difference between the wake ups that are driven by habit and the ones that are driven by hunger or some other discomfort. And I wish everyone would stop acting like it’s not normal for an 8 months old to still feed at night, because as far as I know, it is. I don’t mind helpful suggestions, but I do mind being made to feel like I’m an idiot for feeding my son when he seems hungry. Or being made to constantly doubt myself and my body’s ability to provide for him. (YES, he has enough wet nappies!) If I thought there was any way he wasn’t getting what he needs I would be the first one to say “Hey, let’s try something else! This isn’t working!”
Every time I figure enough is enough, let’s get down to business and do something about it, he has a few good nights. Anakin can sleep well and only wake up for one feed, it’s not like he’s incapable. And I am willing to live with one feed for a while. But as soon as I start thinking “Yes, this is it!”, he throws me back into the fire. Which leads me to believe that maybe something else is going on as well. He’s learning a lot of new things, and I’m sure there are some teeth on the way. Or maybe I’m just being naive again.
To be honest, some of it is laziness on my part, some of it is out of consideration for my partner, because if we had to get down to it, he would have to step in the game. I smell like food, it’s a lot harder for me to resettle him than it is for the one who has no milky boobs. I do try to if I think there’s a chance. But I don’t pick him up and walk around for 30 minutes hoping that he’ll fall back asleep if he’s wide awake and cranky. No, I cave and I feed him because I know that even if that takes me 20 minutes he will go back to sleep once he’s done. And then I can go back to bed and hopefully get some Z’s too.
But lately the game has changed. He wakes up a lot more often. Every 1,5-2 hours or so. And I’m finding it really hard to go to sleep because I know that he’ll wake up any minute so anything and everything gets me on edge and keeps me from falling back asleep. Cats, snoring, lights, it’s too warm, it’s too cold, my back hurts, my head hurts… I am so tired I can’t think straight.
Last night was so bad that I considered giving up breastfeeding altogether. That would seem like the easy way out, right? But I can’t bring myself to do that knowing that breast milk is better for him. And it’s not like he’ll take formula anyway. We tried that when the maternal child health nurse thought he wasn’t gaining enough. Which turned out to be much ado about nothing by the way, and a couple of weeks of torture and doubt for me until we’d seen doctor and another nurse who assured us everything was fine. They can’t all be chubba bubbas.
I thought about trying a bottle of water, but the only time Anakin will take a bottle is if it has breast milk in it. So express, you say? Yeah, well, it’s not that easy. Expressing enough for one feed would take me a week. My boobies just don’t like the pump much. So, here we are. At a stand still. And I’m betting that he’ll be better tonight because I’ve threatened to make it a shift night between me and my partner. You’ll only get mummy every 4 hours! But I know if we did this, I still wouldn’t sleep. So we’d have two exhausted parents instead of just one. And if there’s one thing that’s keeping me sane these days, it’s the couple of hours I get in bed in the morning when my partner takes Anakin after his breakfast feed. Without that, I’m no mummy of the year to be around and I’m even less of a loving partner, that’s for sure. And I may just be lacking a bit on the loving partner front already these days. I’m too tired!
So where does that leave me? Still going bat sh** crazy, I suppose. Still waiting for that miracle change… Still complaining and still doing the same shit every night. Well, at least I seem to have hope, right? And as much as he can be a sith lord by night, he’s an angel by day. Most of the time.
“Eeeeeeeeeee…” “Eeeeeeeeee…” That nasal sounding semi-cry, the last hurdle before the storm. The night owl. Captain Ridiculous. “Eeeeeeee!!!”
It would seem that my son thinks that I am a better mother for him when I function on two hour bulks of sleep or less. Either that or he’s just plain sadistic. I am leaning towards the latter.
Last night Captain Ridiculous came back. I had a feeling he was lurking during his bedtime feed when he was simply too tired to eat much. Then when I put him to bed he kicked into hyper gear for a bit, making me run up and down the stairs to his room a few times to calm him down. “shhh shhhh.. mummy’s here…”
A couple of hours passed before.. “Eeeeeeeeee…” Oh come on! What now? Dummy in and sneak back out. The stupid creaking door I always forget to oil howls. Then an hour and a bit later.. “Eeeeeee…” Seriously?? You’ve got to be joking! Back upstairs, dummy in and pat-pat-pat… He falls back asleep. I sneak out and that damn door howls again.
Then adult bedtime rolls around. It’s a minefield. You have to be super quiet to not wake the Captain. He’s in his light sleep and anything too loud will set him off. I brush my teeth and wait for my partner to finish in the bathroom. He blows his nose trumpet. (I’m sure there are horn instruments not as loud as his nose trumpet.) “Eeeeeeee… Eeeeeee…EEeeeeee!!!” SERIOUSLY??? %$!!@**&#!!!! Alright… Back in. I try the dummy trick again and some patting, but no, the Captain is up and he’s angry. “EEEEEEEEEE!!!!” I cave and figure if I feed him now he’ll sleep for a few hours and I’ll get some shuteye as well. So up, up and away we go. 10.27pm and the night feed races have started. On your marks!
About 25 minutes later he seems to be more asleep than eating so I figure I’ll try and put him back to bed. Now, the Captain is addicted to swaddling. He can not sleep unless we wrap him. As soon as those arms wriggle free he wakes up and becomes one of those ridiculous flailing arms figures you see outside car dealerships. I put him down to wrap him and as soon as I do he strikes his double arm Superman pose. Arms up, wriggle wriggle. Deep breath… just calmly guide him into the wrap… I get him to bed and get out. Door howls again. Finally I climb into my own bed. I’m tired, I’m really annoyed and I just want the world to leave me the f**k alone for a few hours.
“Eeeeeeeee…..Eeeeee…EEEEEEEEEE!!!” Oh lord… already?? 12.15 am. Half blind I get up, put some clothes on, check my anger at the door and go in. I’m greeted by the all familiar flailing arms and an angry Captain. Experience quickly tells me that the Captain has set his tv to the boob channel and wants to eat again. Alright… So off we go again. Another 25 minutes later the Captain is sound asleep. Shit, this one’s about to get tricky. I should have got him before he drifted off. I climb out of the sofa and down to the floor as gently as I can. I put the Captain down on his swaddle when suddenly.. “WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” The Captain shrieks bloody murder as loud as he can. Shit! Dummy?!? Where’s the damn dummy?!? I fumble around in his cot for it while cursing myself for buying the see-through kind. Found it! Phew. He quickly calms down and lets me wrap him and put him to bed. He wriggles a bit, but stays calm. I sneak back out and that f**king door howls again.
“Eeeeee… EEEEeeeeee… click click…. Eeeee… click click… Eeeeee…” 3.45 am. Here we go again! I come in to find the Captain out if his wrap, arms flailing, shaking his dummy. “Click click.” It’s the sound of the dummy handle smacking against the plastic. The Captain is very upset. I pick him up and put him on the floor to get the wrap off. This sets him off completely. “WAAAAAAAAA!!! WAAAAAA!!!” Back on the boob tube. This time he’s hitting, kicking and generally being pretty active while feeding. Shit, this could mean trouble. It takes about 25 minutes before he’s done. When I go to wrap him he goes back to screaming bloody murder. He’s mister wiggle worm, Superman and Captain Ridiculous all at once. I’m trying to wrap him while fighting rising frustration. When I put him to bed the Captain is all about the wriggles, he’s chewing his dummy and seems far too awake. I exit and the door howls. When I climb back into bed I have a sinking feeling the silence won’t last long. It’s 4.30am. About 10 minutes later… “WAAaaaaa!!! WAAAaaaa!!” !%$#@!!!!! My partner wakes up “Is it morning?” “NO!!” I get up, check my anger at the door and go in. I give him his dummy, put my hand in the cot while hiding and pat-pat-pat… The Captain wriggles and battles his wrap, shakes his head from side to side before slowly calming down. He drifts off to sleep. I gently remove my hand which is stuck between the bars of his cot and crawl to the door. I sneak out and the door howls.
I wake up confused by that all familiar sound “Eeeee.. Eeeee…” It quickly becomes “WAAAAAaaaaa!! WAAAAaaaa!!” Breakfast, mummy!! It’s 6.15am. My head is full of cotton, my eyes hurt. When I get in there the Captain changes his tone immediately and grins. He blows a few raspberries and probably thinks he’s the cutest thing ever. Which he is. He wants to play and when offered a bit of breakfast he spends a few minutes whacking his fists on my chest, pinching and biting my nipple before deciding he is not happy with what he’s been offered. ‘WAAAAAAA!!!!” WHAT NOW??? I’M HERE, I’M DOING EVERYTHING YOU ASK OF ME!! I try comforting him, but he is not happy. Finally I offer him the other breast which he happily accepts after a few last sobs. Wrong boob, mummy, wrong boob. How dare I offer my left bob for breakfast when he obviously prefers the right? After a short breakfast he strikes his Superman pose and signals he’s ready to go hang out with daddy.
And such was the return of captain Ridiculous.
It was International Breastfeeding week last week and there has been a lot written and debated on the subject so I’ve had plenty of time to reflect about my own relationship to this issue.
I’ve breastfed Anakin since he was born. Until he was 5 months old he was an exclusively breasted baby. There was never a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do this, and still do, for as long as possible. (I’ll add within reason. I’m fairly certain our boobie relationship will come to its natural end in due time.) It hasn’t been a simple thing at times and we had a tough start, as I’m sure many do. To be honest I’d always pictured it to be fairly easy before I actually had to do it. It’s such a natural thing it never occurred to me that it was something we both had to learn how to do.
I initially wanted Anakin to have hist first feed within the hour of his birth. But the hospital was extremely busy that day and we were left in the birth suite by ourselves for close to two hours after he was born before someone popped back in. By then I had tried to latch Anakin on myself, but with little success. The poor bubba did his best to try on his own, his little head bobbing up and down on my chest, but we both needed a helping hand. Feeding was a constant battle for the first few days. I was cracked and sore, he was impatient, and as much as I asked for help that first night in the hospital, no one had the time to show me how to do it. They just put him on before running off to help someone else. (And the politicians believe that nurses and midwives should have more patients per staff??)
After coming home it still took us a while to get the hang of it. Anakin fed often. Very often. He’d fall asleep and being none the wiser I would let him. Then he would wake ten minutes later for another 5 minute feed and so it went… until a visiting maternal child health nurse explained to me that I needed to wake him so he could finish. That advice and some lansinoh ointment became my rescue.
Our feeds have always been a special time. Our first couple of months as a family were chaotic and exhausting for various reasons, and I cherished, and still do, those times were we’d go off to sit by ourselves, him nursing while I just watched him. As he’s grown older it’s hasn’t always been an easy thing. He gets easily distracted, he bites although he has no teeth, he sometimes scratches, pulls, hits and kicks. Occasionally I think he’s trying to be my dentist. But I still cherish those moments. Most of them anyway. I love the intimacy we share through breastfeeding.
My favourite feed is the bedtime feed. I feel him wind down, he’s gentle and calm. His muscles relax and he turns to butter in my arms. One hand over his eyes and the other usually on my other breast or up by my face. It gives me time to think about our day, to give him more soft cuddles and to just bask in his incredible beauty.
I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to breastfeed, but for me it has been worth all the struggles. It is such a beautiful thing to share with your baby, and I hope I get to share it with mine for a lot longer.