“It hurt like fire in my tits”

Do you watch the HBO show GIRLS? I did and I loved it and was very emosh when the series came to an end. Hannah, the main character pictured here with her son Grover, was having issues with breastfeeding.

“It hurts like fire in my tits!” She exclaims “All these women in my circle were judgemental….”

When I found myself with child, I just assumed that breastfeeding was a doddle as I had seen my older sister not even do it, but claim to enjoy it! She told me that its great as it forces you to be still and watch some crappy TV. Anything that encourages crappy TV watching is ok by me.

Enter the baby.

Now I am a large chested woman and people would think it was very funny and appropriate to tell me “Your baby will be so well fed!” which made me want to tell them to go fuck themselves. Turns out, large boobs doesn’t necessarily equate to large volumes of breast milk. But wanting to do what was “best for my child” I told all the mid-wives we were good to go.

What also went out the window was every ounce of dignity that I had left, but at this point, I was beyond caring. Baby screamed to be fed, mid-wife would bring him over and with the moves of a great rugby forward, would man-handle my boob to shove it halfway down the baby’s mouth. Then, by boobs would set on fire and burn the hospital down.

Things got even worse once I got home.

I would get so tense when it was feeding time. I would set myself up in a comfy chair with the all important glass of water and spend up to two hours trying to feed Horatio. He would scream, I would cry and try to do the rugby shove. I tried each position that the baby book told be was possible. I would very helpfully call Mr. Woog who was at work and wail.

I occasionally got my shit together enough to go to Mothers Group at the local Community Centre and would watch the other new Mums breastfeed with ease.  The Baby Nurse would again, try the shove shove shove and occasionally there would be success. BUT MY TITS CONTINUED TO BE ON FIRE. And then there was the wonderful occasions when by boobs would behave like a high pressure hose that if left un-attended, would spray all and sundry within a two metre radius.

One time I was feeding Horatio on the couch. He had latched on HUZZAH! and all was going well.

An hour later I woke up to find that my baby had lost his way and had sucked me a large, new third nipple which took days to subside.

Things did not get easier. In fact it got more stressful which in turn made me have supply issues. One day, six weeks into my new job, my breast-feeding advocate sister turned up with a tin of formula, whacked it on the kitchen table and fired me from breastfeeding.

There is a lot of stigma about formula feeding and I take my hats off to those who choose formula from the outset, as I know the looks you must get from midwives in hospital, but your reasons are your own. Whatever. They say Breast is Best, but these days, slowly that is being changed to Fed is Best.

Everyone thrived after that. Of course, it was a hassle compared to just whipping out your norks on demand. All that washing and soaking in sanitiser and steaming. Pain. In. The. Ass.

By the time Jack came along, I knew what I was in for. I was confident and prepared and it was a successful six months before we mutually decided to pull the pin.

What was your experience with breastfeeding?

  • Heidi D

    As a fostermum I had a different struggle. Every time I sat in a parents room bottle feeding my baby I would get the evil eye from almost every mum that walked in.
    Just as a weird fact …. one of my medications had the side effect of making me produce breast milk, just drops, one side only ! was very weird

  • Maggie

    I have two words that sum up my breastfeeding days (a very long time ago now thank god) – Fu#*ing mastitis!!!!’. Despite feeling like death most of the time I still managed to feed my two for 10 months each. They can inscribe ‘Saint’ on my tombstone.

  • In a different era, I could have been a wet nurse… Despite my decidedly small breasts, I produced gallons of milk – which in the initial days of figuring it all out meant repetitive bouts of mastitis, which is bloody nasty. But, once my supply settled – always ample, and requiring copious pads to soak up the excess because if ANY baby within earshot cried, I let down… – it was OK. Baby no.1 nursed until he was 17 months, and then decided enough was enough. Baby no.2 was a different prospect. Again with the quarts of milk, but he was a speed feeder and rarely emptied me out properly, so it was constant mastitis for months. And then at 10 months I had to wean him, because I’d been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and the docs wanted me to start drugs that were contraindicated – only the baby wasn’t having a bar of solids and refused bottles…it was a miserable time, and traumatic for both of us. We got there in the end, but it was very hard.

  • Christina

    Two words:
    JERSEY COW!

    Yep…could’ve fed THE WHOLE WARD OF BABIES!😳

  • Francine

    I fed for 13 months. I loved it (once I discovered nipple shields to fix my stupid flat nipples). I fed and pumped, and managed to pump enough to feed her at day care when I started back at work after 6 months. She rarely bit, it was amazing. My SIL struggled so badly. She couldn’t get her supply to come in. She tried so very, very hard. When she eventually gave in and started formula her Grandma informed her that it made sense seeing as she and my SIL’s Mum both had major issues with supply. She couldn’t believe her grandma hadn’t thought to tell her before she tried for 3 weeks of pain & trauma. She told her sister immediately 🙂

  • Em

    Thank you so much for this post! As I prepare to pop my second sprog, my breastfeeding anxiety has ramped up nicely. I share this request on my Facebook page on June 14th as well.
    Dear friends,
    As I prepare for the idea of a newborn living in our home, I’d like to make a request of my friends. If you see a woman mixing formula for her child, please smile at her. In a “breast is best” world, the inability to do so is so very isolating and can trigger post natal depression. I feel it did for me. Those close to me would agree. The groups that are there to support you can house some very judgemental people, and whipping out a boob feels less fraught than mixing a powder with water. Anywho. If you know someone who is struggling, please be kind. Everyone wants to do their best by their sprogs. Thanks for reading. Em
    Ps. Yes, I tried everything. And no, google search, I will not buy a goat.

    • sue

      totally agree! My boobs failed me from day 1 – the only good thing about having a baby in the NICU was the most amazing lactation consultant who pretty much knew from day 1 that it wouldn’t work, but went along with my plans to drink herbal tea, have acupuncture & take prescription drugs in an effort to actually produce a few drops of milk (all while co-feeding with formula). Then asked me if I was ready to give up, and to tell anyone who questioned it to “mind their own business”
      Formula means my kid is alive & thriving 7 years later.

  • Wendy

    Fed is best is definitely the truth. I managed to breastfeed my daughter for 16 months however from about 7 months she was waking 3 times a night to be fed – hello sleep deprived and exhausted mum and hello PND! In hindsight I wish I had met my fabulous doc earlier in the piece as we wouldn’t have suffered near as long but we are through the other side and the little sprog turns 5 next month!