Breastfeeding is really hard.
I had ideas, you know? Those ideas that you had back in the time when you also left the house without a second thought, polished off a couple of bottles of wine on a Saturday night, and when your boobs weren't leaking, flopping, sagging logistical nightmares that had their own schedules.
Those ideas involved mainly breastfeeding, with a formula feed each night given by OH so that I could have an angelic, restful sleep. And of course the odd bottle here and there for babysitters/grandparents/convenience.
There is a myth that is perpetuated by the mainstream that breastfeeding is a stunningly beautiful moment of bonding between mother and child. A magical time where the miraculous female body senses what it's infant needs, and manufactures the perfect formula of antibodies and nourishment that effortlessly restores itself and is siphoned like pearly drops of elixir by the cherub-like heart shaped lips of the precious child.
Well bully to that, I say.
1. The first few days after birth are HELL until your milk comes in. I will never forget a chubby-handed midwife standing over me as I bawled my eyes out at 3am on the dreaded Second Night (that's a thing), squeezing every last drop of colostrum out of my boob, picking it up in a syringe and feeding it to our screaming child while she thrashed about in her traumatized father's arms.
2. Oversupply is a thing, and it blows all those preconceptions out of the water. Milk is just dripping out your boobs unless you're either lying down in a bra or living in zero gravity. Unless you're depositing said oversupply in the mouths of a large litter of infants, plugged milk ducts are a constant reality which means you find yourself in a warm shower three times a day massaging lumps out of your boob as if you're kneading a pane di casa. You might be in so much pain your OH has to do the massaging. Or if you're really lucky (we haven't yet had the pleasure, but I'll keep you posted) the last resort might be OH sucking efficiently on the nipple to unplug the duct. It's sure to be a beautiful moment.
And better yet, oversupply means your baby is now UNHAPPY because it COMES OUT TOO FAST. Say what? This kid has all it's birthdays coming at once and all it does is cry and splutter on the boob.
3. Mastitis is a constant looming threat resulting from slacking off on aforementioned boob massages.
4. Everyone will repeatedly tell you to "relax your shoulders", but a good latch will mean your body has to be at a precisely 17° angle, with the left shoulder 4.7cm higher than the right with a twist of the torso, a delicate curve of the spine, whipped cream, choc chips and sprinkles. God forbid you touch the back of the baby's head. Just, don't. Now, hold that right there for 40 minutes or so.
5. This is my favorite. When asking how you can manage your oversupply at night when you'd like to skip a feed to get some sleep, and have your OH do a bottle feed, the local government's lactation consultant will reply "Oh that's not possible - you'll get mastitis. Night feeds are enjoyable. Just sit back and relax and maybe read a book." Yeah, ok, lady. Sleep deprivation meant that, today, I tried to put a dirty mug on to charge before realizing my phone must be in the sink. But sure, I'll read a book.
NB: The Maternal and Child Health services run by the local government are actually a godsend and I've used them to death. We are so lucky to have proper healthcare. Use it! Don't be proud.