Monday 22 December 2014

Diary of a working mum: Yvonne Hogan

Breastfeeding: I am glad that I did it but it was a bit of a prison at times

Yvonne Hogan

Published 22/11/2013 | 12:00

Yvonne Hogan
Yvonne Hogan

There is a lot of talk about breastfeeding at the moment, with the British offering to pay women to do it and the ESRI figures out this week telling us that, in this country, it is overwhelmingly undertaken by older, middle-class mothers.

"Of course it is" a friend of mine remarked. "Breastfeeding is definitely a middle-class older mother thing. We are used to being high-powered career women and when we are on maternity leave we get bored and decide to make breastfeeding our crusade.”

She could be right. It certainly occupied me for the first few months of my maternity leave.

Anyway, I never pass up an opportunity to talk about breastfeeding. Even now, seven months after I last fed my daughter, I am endlessly fascinated by the whole subject. I still can't get over the fact that for a time, I had a whole new bodily function. I could be milked.

Even though I found the actual process painful, in one boob anyway, for most of the almost five months that I breastfed my daughter, I never got over my delight at this biological miracle.

This delight only increased when I bought a breast pump. I spent a fortune on it. It was one of the electric ones and it came with a lovely little bag and a container for the milk with a lid and lots of other bits and pieces. I just loved it. I loved it like I loved the Lolo ball I got when I was nine. Baby aside, it was my best thing.

And I loved using it, watching the milk fly out and the bottle fill up. The motorised sucking noise that the pump made reminded me of a milking parlour.

I got a bit carried away, if the truth be known. I became fixated on building up a supply in the freezer. To the extent that I would try and take my daughter off the boob before she was finished and pump away to fill another bag. Which on the surface made no sense at all, as it was ultimately going to end up in her belly anyway.

But in a way each little bag of milk I produced was a bit of freedom. A few hours I could steal away for myself to get my hair done, or go for a coffee, or sleep.

It made me feel better to know they were there if I needed them or if anything happened to me. It lessened the overwhelming responsibility. Because there is one thing that you can say for sure about breastfeeding, it is a full-time job with a lot of responsibility.

It is convenient, it is good for the baby, I am glad I did it and I would do it again and all that, but it can be a bit of a prison at times.

I remember vividly the day I 'broke' and bought formula for the first time. Ava was nine weeks old. We were driving back from my god daughter's christening, at which I had spent the entire time feeding my baby. Literally. The entire time. I didn't even manage to have a cup of tea.

She was insatiable and I was sore. Sore and tired and depleted. I couldn't face another feed so on the drive home I gave in and bought the formula. When we got home, I gave her a bottle. She devoured it no problem and it gave me a couple of hours off. It was such a relief. A lifesaver.

After that, she had a bottle of formula every evening and I started to enjoy her more. I really did. I relaxed, knowing that I wasn't the only thing standing between her and starvation.

I did, however, feel that I had failed somehow, and in a way I had. It was the beginning of the end. Once I had opened the formula door, I knew it was unlikely I would reach the six month target I had set myself with breastfeeding. A month later, I started giving her a bottle at lunch time and about six weeks after that I decided to wean her off the breast completely.

I felt like we had both outgrown it. She didn't seem to mind how she was fed and I was finding it difficult to feed her comfortably outside the house. She had grown so big I couldn't do it discreetly, plus she had taken to looking around her while my boob was in her mouth and I was starting to turn into Stretch Armstrong.

It was sad when I finished feeding, a chapter of our journey closed, but it was also immensely liberating.

Yvonne Hogan edits Health and Living Magazine, free with the Irish Independent every Monday. Follow Yvonne on Twitter @YvonneHogan

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