Anyone having a baby in the last few years will know the breastfeeding propaganda starts early into pregnancy.
“Would you like to sign up to a breastfeeding class?” I’m asked at my 12-week scan. WTF? We don’t even know if this prawn has lips yet lady!
“It’s never too early to start thinking about how you will feed your baby,” chirrups the NHS breastfeeding web page, as it encourages me to share the link with my own unborn foetus, for future reference.
I am given entire magazines extolling the virtues, cunningly designed to look a bit like Chat or Reveal, if Chat or Reveal were full of weird looking people and massive tits. Oh hang on, they are.
Truth be told, I’d always been a bit anti- the whole thing. I’ve generally thought of my fun bags as sex objects. Albeit slightly wonky ones that you’d return to the shops if they came with a gift receipt, but designed for naughtiness nonetheless.
But the Nipple Nazis wouldn’t be discouraged.
‘Think of the benefits’ they cried. Like burning calories! A healthier baby! An inability to let your husband within a three mile radius of you lest he drown in sticky white boob piss!
Otherwise medically trained, scientifically minded people would turn all misty-eyed when speaking of the mythical properties of breast milk.
Baby got a sticky eye? Squirt some breast milk into it. Cracked and bleeding nipples? Rub some breast milk into them. Wrong leaves on the tracks this morning? Don’t panic everyone! Just let me unleash my magical tit upon them and we’ll be on our way in no time.
Now I consider myself to be a bit of an armchair anarchist, so was I going to allow myself to be browbeaten into giving up the pups and letting the boy loose on them?
Of course I bloody well was.
But back then I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
I foolishly imagined that when the boy’s cherubic form was lowered onto my grateful bosom, he would gaze up into my eyes, open his cupid’s bow mouth, and suckle at my breast with the poise and elegance of Darcy Bussell nibbling an amuse bouche.
Instead I observe him flailing around like a grounded blob fish, panicked eyes rolling back in his head, mouth frantically opening and closing, wondering where the hell he’s just landed as some stranger tries to stick a fleshy mound of who-knows-what down his throat.
Natural it ain’t.
‘Don’t worry’, the midwife tells me. ‘It can take a little while for them to get the hang of it.’
This is an understatement. Like saying it can take a little while for a dog to get the hang of playing guitar.
We read the magazines. We watch the DVDs. We try stealth and drop a boob into his yawning mouth when he’s not looking.
We develop a complicated system of pulleys and levers to just keep his windmilling arms out of the way whilst trying to latch him on.
We emerge from every attempt sweaty, frustrated and none the wiser.
In my sleep-starved state, I start to imagine he’s doing it to spite me.
Luckily (sic) for us, I am readmitted to hospital for the post-dural headaches and infected uterus kindly given to me during my induction. It is here they take one look at the boy’s TOWIE-tan-level jaundice and decide one-to-one feeding tuition may be in order.
Our first lesson is not a success.
Whilst I should be concentrating on the precise way to jab my nipple at his face, all I can think is what the hell makes someone want this gig?
Imagine that early exchange with the careers officer:
“So what are your interests?”
“I’d like to touch other people’s nipples whilst they gently sob in front of me”.
“I’ve got lactation consultant, or surrogate sex worker for cripplingly insecure men.”
Days of boob camp later (it ended up being a long hospital stay) and my nipples are so broken that the boy is taking on more blood than milk. I imagine raising a tiny half-human half-vampire, only this particular Twilight saga ends in me breaking down rather than Breaking Dawn.
Eventually, we have a breakthrough. I am told that it is a breakthrough because now when he is on the boob, I experience the kind of toe-curling agony that is normally reserved for political prisoners in a torture-happy regime.
“That’ll be the ‘let down’ reflex,“ I’m cheerfully informed.
Let down? I’m fucking DESOLATE. No-one told me this shit actually kills even when you’re doing it right.
The only way I can cope in the early weeks is by biting down on a muslin cloth whilst rocking backwards and forwards and muttering f-u-u-u-c-k over and over again.
The boy simply looks on, bemused.
“At least you’ve got big knockers,” the husband helpfully offers.
This is true, but they are hard and lumpy, like the Elephant Man’s head. I sympathise with Mr Merrick. I too cannot sleep lying down.
Besides, there is nothing LESS sexy than the underwear options available now I’m a nursing mother. It’s not enough that for the first few weeks post-partum I have to wear knickers big enough to contain pads with a wing-span of an Airbus 380, I now have to buy bras to match?
No. Breast is not best. In fact I’m thinking of having some T Shirts printed up proclaiming ‘TIT IS SHIT.’
So does that mean I’ve called last orders at the boob? Not yet.
I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a certain joy in being a mammary martyr. My husband thinks I’m a hero, even if his beloved chebs have gone AWOL for a while.
I also enjoy being able to look hippies in the eye. This is Chorlton after all.
But really it’s for the same reason Quality Save is my shopping destination of choice: cost and convenience. Why spend time and money on bottles and formula, when you’re already packing breakfast, lunch and dinner in your frontal globes?
And let’s face it. You never know when there’s going to be the wrong leaves on the track. ‘Step aside everyone. Lactating Lady coming through….’