I decided not to title this entry “Boobs boobs boobs” but it would have been legitimate. CJ and I attended our first (of four) birthing classes last Wednesday evening, and it was all about breastfeeding. This meant, in short, two and a half hours of boobs.
Australia is actually not very good when it comes to breastfeeding. A lot of hospitals will still give little or no support to a newly-attempting-to-breastfeed mum, and some will even give the baby a bottle in the crucial early days (which can badly screw up their instincts – some babies, having tried a bottle, will never go for the breast).
Breast milk is very much a miracle food – it reduces childhood diseases (cold, fever, ear infections), reduces the chance of childhood obesity and diabetes, and means the mum is less likely to have breast or ovarian cancer later in life. In a single feed from a single breast, the baby gets a range of milk designed to help it get maximum health benefits (unlike any formula, which is – clearly – just one mixture). It’s also free, hygenic (no sterilising), and far more convenient than constantly measuring formula and sterilising bottles. And it helps the mum’s body recover from birth and pregnancy (breastfeeding mums tend to lead discussions like this with its amazing weight-loss benefits).
I am determined to breastfeed Louisette. But, to be honest, it’s not something I’m looking forward to. Just because something is natural doesn’t at all mean it’s not. . . well, gross. Newborn babies, shockingly, don’t actually know what they’re doing (and new mums don’t either), and there are a lot of painful and personal medical things that can happen. Even in a perfect breastfeeding situation, you will have breasts that are sore (more sore than they’ve ever been) getting punched and squeezed many times a day, plus very painful engorgement for at least a day when the milk first comes in. Breastfeeding is the main issue I won’t be receiving visitors for the first week (unless I feel like it at the time, in which case *I* will call *them* – hopefully people won’t call or SMS me, because I’ll be sleeping a lot during the day).
So the birthing centre, after telling us how wonderful breastfeeding is, showed us dozens of closeups of very unhappy breasts in a variety of unpleasant circumstances. I’m a big fan of honesty, so I’m grateful. They also screened lots and lots of footage of babies showing that they are thirsty – bobbing their heads up and down like animals as they sniffed the potential of a feed, turning their head to search for the nipple, and opening their mouths. That was particularly useful. For one thing, it means I don’t need to try to attach Louisette to myself thirty seconds after birth – I can wait until she actually “asks” and then just guide her in the right direction.
The birthing centre program includes several home visits after birth which are mainly about breastfeeding properly – to avoid those painful health conditions, which are usually caused by breasfeeding incorrectly (the key seems to be “make sure baby takes a big mouthful, not a small one”). Right now I’m very pessemistic (being sick for over eight months does tend to dampen one’s enthusiasm for “nature”) but I expect it will all actually work out at the time. Since it’s such an important thing, and since I’m not shy about being honest rather than misty-eyed, I will definitely be blogging about the whole experience. But you won’t be seeing any photos or videos from me 🙂 I’m not that brave.
On the way home I asked CJ how he felt about all the boobs he’d just seen, and all the horrific stuff that may soon be happening to mine. He wasn’t freaked out. “And,” he said, “babies are cute – especially when they’re breastfeeding.”
That’s probably the most encouraging thing I’ve ever heard about breastfeeding.
It is now November, which means that I could technically have a non-premature baby NEXT MONTH (just!)
Tonight’s birthing class is about labour. I’m not as concerned about labour as I am about breastfeeding, because ultimately I know that no matter what I do, Louisette is not going to stay inside me indefinitely – whereas it IS possible for my personal strength to run out on the breastfeeding front, and no doctor can choose to medically intervene with that. I’m mildly concerned about the class itself, in case it triggers anxiety – but I’ve prepared myself carefully and I think it will be all right.
Oh, and since it’s entirely on topic, a rhetorical question. Which of these pictures is more offensive to Australian society, and does that seem right to you?
Why does the thought of, someday, accidentally flashing someone horrify me so much more than wearing a completely skanky and bogan low-cut top?