Since arriving back from China, Louisette immediately began drinking much more formula. After a little while, it was clear that we’d reached the point where any breastfeeding I did was largely symbolic.
I’ve spent the last week working through my feelings about that – mostly surprise at how desperately I hate breastfeeding at all: I hate that feeding Louisette is a feminist issue, and a constant political fight. I hate the social awkwardness of it all. I hate the feeling of violation I get every single time I breastfeed with anyone (excluding CJ, but including my mum) else in the room, whether I’m covered (which is clumsy, uncomfortable, mean to Louisette, and says, “I’m doing something that needs hiding”) or not. I also hate sitting alone in another room while everyone else is happily eating, talking and having fun. I hate that I have to be seminaked, and it’s cold. I hate not knowing how much she’s had to eat. I hate seeing Louisette frustrated by the whole process. I hate feeling like a mammal rather than a mind and heart and soul. I hate that none of my private parts are private any more. I hate that my breasts aren’t just for decoration. I hate that more than 90% of my clothes don’t fit me. I hate that my breasts are now a stupid shape and they’re only going to get less attractive from now on.
I quite like bigger breasts (to a point – I’m currently DD and slightly alarmed – and I urgently need a new swim top but can’t find one). When I’m not crying or psychotic for lack of sleep, I like the secret exclusivity of something only Louisette and I share. I like that, when all else fails, Louisette is sure to calm down anytime, anywhere if I just feed her.
I don’t give up easily (as you can tell by my 14-year novel-writing “career”), and I didn’t expect breastfeeding to be easy (in fact I was consistently more concerned about breastfeeding than birth), so I’m mostly relieved and glad that the option of breasfeeding has been taken away without my consent*. But I also resent that my choice was taken from me. Because that’s how I roll, and because I don’t like the way so many many women plan to breastfeed and then don’t/won’t/can’t.
One thing is clear: Louisette will never be exclusively breastfed. Which begs the question, “Why bother keeping on going?” It’s an excellent question. For now, at least until I feel less traumatised by the whole thing and can make a calm decision, I do a little bit of breastfeeding most feeds – but only if I’m home and there are no guests. I figure a little bit of breastmilk will still help guard against disease, childhood obesity, and so on.
The whole reason people bottle feed is that it’s (in many but not all ways) easier and more convenient. Which is why I was upset when Louisette began crying in pain during feeds. Breatfeeding hadn’t worked, and it seemed bottle feeding didn’t work either. She would cry in pain, I’d put down the bottle and comfort her (putting her on my shoulder as if to burp her did help), then she’d cry in hunger. I’d give her the bottle again, she’d suck hungrily for maybe ten seconds, maybe a few minutes – and then cry in pain again. And so things would continue for about an hour. Not surprisingly, she wasn’t getting full feeds. I tried a few things that didn’t really help, and then last Thursday a nurse suggested it might be reflux. I was immediately sure she was right, and bought infant gaviscon on the way home. I also bought fast flow teats for our bottles (Louisette is the right age for medium flow, but I guessed correctly that she could handle more) so that it’s easier to get down more milk before the pain starts. I’m still nervous about feeding her, because no solution is perfect all the time, but she usually only cries a little if at all, and now that she’s satisfied at her feeds she’s dropped to five a day.
With all the pain and shame and hurt and crying/screaming associated with feeding Louisette so far, I was delighted to discover (based on age and observation of physical skills) that she will be starting on solid foods in just a few weeks. A whole new world of mess and adventure and, eventually, normal independent eating.
This picture is already out of date (because we now feed her sitting up), but in a blink of an eye bottles will be entirely a thing of the past. So it’s both cute and historic.
Louisette is very enthusiastic about practising standing up. She’s not a newborn any more. I love her as she is, but every day she is more fascinating and delightful than the day before. She has suddenly started laughing – sometimes with a lot of random vocalisation a lot like a newborn-style cry, and sometimes with a single delighted squeak.
*To be fair, eating a healthy diet – rather than chowing down on masses of chocolate each day – definitely had a negative effect on my milk production. If I’d known I’d be so fat for so long, things might have been different. I still can’t wear my wedding ring, and I’m not happy, Jan. Next time I think I’ll accept in advance that I will need a full new fat-lady wardrobe for at least six months.