Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding??! Part One

When I was in hospital after having the twins, I was surrounded by poster images of the perfect mother, hair brushed, a gentle application of make-up on her beautiful, smiling face, gazing contentedly into the distance while she breastfed her angelic infant.  The emphasis on breastfeeding is really strong here (as it should be!), and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would feed my little boys.  I remember when the breast-feeding consultant first came around to see me, I confidently declared "I will feed my boys" and she warned me not to set myself up for failure.  "Feeding twins is a different story," she told me at that time.  "Especially hungry boys."  I couldn't see the problem: after all, two children, two boobs - what could go wrong? 

At first, all went well.  The boys were strong and huge at birth (for twins).  At almost four kilograms each, and almost full term, they were ready to eat.  After all, they had been hanging around for nine months doing nothing, and everyone knows boredom is a killer for any man, no matter how old.  So eating seemed a good option for relieving tedium, and from the second of their birth onwards, they wanted to do nothing else.  

One thing I had not prepared myself for was the very exposed (by necessity) manner of feeding twins.  A mom of one baby can discreetly tuck her little one under a blankie for a snack and no one is the wiser.  However, with twins, especially if you are tandem feeding, there is nothing for it but to get those suckers (pun intended) out on public display.  Being a relatively private person (in my "wild" youth backpacking around Greece, I sat primly on the nude beaches wearing a full swimsuit and sarong) this was really an unusual experience for me.  Having to make polite chit-chat to the pastor of the church while sitting bare-breasted and feeding twins was a novel sensation, and not one I particularly relished.  It is amazing how quickly you adapt to this though - very soon those two objects of sexual desire become effective baby-feeding mechanisms and lose all their mystery and allure (the problem is getting that sexual allure back, but more on that at a later stage).

Due to the extra strain of having a second mouth tugging on a very sensitive part of my anatomy, I managed to get every breast ailment known to man (or should that be woman?) during the next eight weeks: mastitis, cracked nipples, engorgement, thrush, etc.  That time was a period of non-stop howling (on the part of the twins) and gnashing of teeth (on the part of the Sweetpea and myself), but eventually we discovered that I had been effectively starving the boys.  Being such big boys right from the start, they needed huge amounts of milk, and my body was just not producing enough for them. We were advised to "top them up" with formula.  There are no words to describe the sense of failure I felt at that.  I felt that my body had betrayed me, that its sole purpose was to feed my littlies and here I was, unable to do even that most primitive of things.  I was devastated.  And the biggest irony of it all did not escape me - if I had been wandering about topless for the majority of my youth, I probably would never have had any issues with feeding - the open air works wonders for sore and cracked nipples, and they probably very seldom get thrush.  I blame the Westernised culture!

Be on the lookout for The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding??!  Part Two - coming soon!

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