Part 2 of 6
Feeding Time at the Zoo
As Izzy rapidly approaches six months my thoughts have turned to weaning. Where do you begin with introducing food to your baby? Spoon or baby-led? A bit of both? And what about allergies? I’m not allergic but I have trouble with spicy foods and as such my diet is relatively bland and unexciting. A little like having only milk every day I suppose. Not that the milk hasn’t come with its own excitements…
Early on in my pregnancy I decided I wanted to at least try breastfeeding, but also promised to be kind to myself if it didn’t go according to plan. I’m a firm believer that ‘fed is best’ and given that I wasn’t breastfed myself I couldn’t argue against formula. In the end breastfeeding was the one thing on my birth preferences sheet that (sort of) went according to plan, albeit for a shorter time than I’d initially thought.
"I wanted to at least try breastfeeding"
Five days after Izzy was born, we ventured out as a family for the first time. Not far, just to the retail park near where we live, but those first few steps pushing my tiny baby daughter in her pram were some of my proudest, and most scared. I clung to the handles for dear life hobbling across the car park with my post-c-section shuffle, terrified I might push her into a parked car or trip over my own feet. Regardless, the smile on my face declared #ProudNewMum – behold my peacefully sleeping baby.
Ten minutes later, as I sat in the cafe of the Marks and Spencer, Proud New Mum became Anxious-First-Time-Parent-In-Public. Not only was my tiny one no longer sleeping, but she was screaming her lungs off demanding a feed whilst I fumbled to simultaneously unbuckle my bra, find a muslin and attempt to calm the bawling bundle slung over one shoulder. My husband grimaced helplessly at me from the snaking queue at the till, teetering between coming to help and paying for the cup of tea and bun I was so desperately craving. By the time he placed the pot on the table and Izzy was quiet again, I was a sweaty, stressy, booby leaking mess. Motherhood is a wonderful thing, but it is not glamourous. No matter what Instagram tells you.
The thing is nothing prepares you for the unphotogenic sides of motherhood. No pregnancy guide warns you that one day you will sit down in a Costa Coffee to feed your baby and milk will spurt forth from your barely exposed nipple like an uncontrolled showerhead until not only are you and your baby soaked, but you’ve also transformed the man on the next table’s americano into a latte. No-one describes the incredible pain of a slightly off-centred latching that feels like a thousand razors are attacking your boobs. Or that you’ll subsequently spend the 4am feed practicing your hypnobirthing breathing to get through the agony, whilst googling ‘can newborns have teeth?’ and ‘plastic surgery nipple replacement’ just in case she actually chews through it. Or rips it off in a case of niplash when she turns her head suddenly to look at something without detaching first! And it’s not just breastfeeding that has these lovely little perks, because definitely nobody , NOBODY, can prepare you for the level of sleep deprivation that means you manage to screw up making the bottle not once, not twice, but THREE times in a row as your child cries confusedly in the dark at the delay.
"In the end I didn’t choose the bottle life, it chose me."
In the end I didn’t choose the bottle life, it chose me. Between struggling to maintain breastmilk supply for my super-hungry baby and subsequently over-stimulating my supply I unfortunately got mastitis so badly that I developed a sadomasochistic pleasure for shoving a knuckle in my boob to get some relief. I’ve never been more grateful for a baby change that comes complete with sink so that I could ease off some of the pressure in my aching chest after a nappy change. (Frankly, why all baby change rooms aren’t equipped with a toilet and sink is beyond me. How exactly ARE you supposed to pee in public when there’s no-one else to look after the baby and you can’t fit the entire pushchair into a normal cubicle with you? I digress.)
"I developed a sadomasochistic pleasure for shoving a knuckle in my boob to get some relief."
In the end the infection in my boobs became too much and Izzy shifted to being formula fed, rather more suddenly than I’d ever intended or imagined. It was a hard moment, despite my resolutions to be kind to myself, but it was the right decision overall for us. Izzy finally began gaining weight properly, sleeping better and generally seeming happier. Now she even seems excited when I show her the bottle and loves to watch me making milk in the machine for her. I’m hoping that when it comes to trying other foods, she’ll take to those just as greedily and with more bravery and daring towards flavours than I’ve ever had.
And those savings for nipple surgery? Spent on a couple of extra teats because at least now when Izzy gets distracted during a feed, the only thing getting niplash is her bottle!