Back in the days when a ‘let-down’ was a disappointing meal and a ‘dodgy latch’ was something one encountered in a public toilet, I was really rather proud of my boobs. At least half the clothes in my wardrobe could be described as ‘low cut’ and I was completely at ease going topless on the beach. In fact, such was my boob-fidence that I even accepted a dare to model for a life painting class. I had no issue getting my kit off for art, in fact I’d go as far as to say I enjoyed it. Oh yes, I thought my boobs were great, but I didn’t realise… they were magic.
And they really are magic! They have nurtured my children; given food, comfort and more anti-bodies than you can shake a rattle at. They provide baby C with delicious nutritious milk whenever she needs it; they calm her down when she’s unsettled, they soothe her back to sleep if she wakes in the night. I could go on… it wouldn’t be the first time.
I breastfed G until her first birthday; it was a wonderful journey and apart from some worry over green poo and some ‘fun’ with biting it was a bump free road. So when baby C was born I didn’t think twice about breastfeeding. My only concern was what on earth I would do with G while I was immobilised with my newborn, but thanks to a few new toys, some colouring books and a bit of telly we all survived.
G was fascinated. She pulled at baby C to have a closer look and poked and prodded at my boobs. “Mummy's boobies!!” she exclaimed. “Baby's milk!!” She often pretends to have a feed herself and I regularly see her “breastfeeding” her dolly, her teddy and on one occasion… a feather duster.
Everything went well, until out of the blue, baby C went through a phase of ‘breast refusal’. It was a really stressful time. I would bring C to my breast and she would latch for a moment and then pull away howling, her back arched, her face red with anger (or pain, or frustration…). Sometimes she would feed for a few minutes but at other times refused altogether.
The crying was horrendous; a high-pitched screech that reverberated through my body and sent my blood pressure soaring. G was unsettled by the crying, but not sympathetic and would run up and down the corridor shouting and demanding; which was understandable, but not helpful. The only way I could get C to accept a feed was to rock her to sleep in my arms and then feed her while she dozed. Getting a distressed baby to sleep with a manic toddler charging about was somewhat challenging, as you can probably imagine.
Then one night C woke for a feed and after a few seconds at the breast pulled away screaming louder than ever before. It was 2am. G was fast asleep in the next room so I jumped up with my crying baby and went to hide in the bathroom at the other end of the house. I tried to comfort C, but nothing worked. It was obvious that she was hungry, but for whatever reason she would not latch. My magic boobs were useless, my powers evaded me. C cried. I cried.
I needed support and that support came from far away, all the way from the Blue Mountains in fact. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) runs a 24 hour helpline staffed by volunteers – I dialled the number and waited… The woman that took my call was a mum like me, she’d breastfed her own children and felt so passionate about supporting other mums that she trained to become a breastfeeding councillor. She took my call in the middle of the night and listened to my problem (and probably a fair amount of crying as my husband rocked the baby in the background). She gave advice, she gave encouragement and most of all she gave me hope... This is just a phase... It will pass.
This short phone call gave me the strength to persevere. And the ABA councillor was right, it was just a phase and it did pass. It was a tough time, but we muddled through. Now the only reason baby C pulls away from the breast is to flash me a milky smile - her chubby face testament to the power of the boobie.