Things have been a bit quiet on the blog front lately. I feel like I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing and yet I’ve been so busy. I’ve been home quite a lot but I never actually find a moment to sit down with the laptop. I can type away on my phone while I’m feeding Billy, so I feel that’s how most posts will be written for the forseable future.
The Milky Way
Lately my mind has mostly been preoccupied by thoughts about my first ever night away from Billy. It’s happening next Saturday. I’ve been away from him for a couple of hours on two different occassions and I found those tough, so a whole night away is definitely a bit daunting. Of course I know all of the reasons why it’s good to be away and spend time together as just a couple, but it doesn’t mean I won’t miss him. We’ve been quite literally joined at the hip for the past year if you think about it. It was around this time last year that I got the wonderful news that we were expecting a baby. Well I actually found out in November and turns out I was eight weeks pregnant. What a year!
So about this night away – we’re going to a family wedding in Meath and we’re staying over in the hotel and making a night of it. My lovely mam is taking Billy for the night so I know he will be in the best hands possible. Can I also add that I did my first bout of internet shopping and I managed to get a dress, shoes and jewelerry all for €50 including delivery. Happy days! I HATE clothes shopping so this is life changing.
The biggest fear I have is that Billy will be so aware of me being away from him because he will be bottle fed while I’m away from him. It will be breast milk in the bottles, but taking it from a bottle is quite different than being snuggled up to mammy and being breastfed. He’ll have everything he needs though, we’ll enjoy ourselves, and we’ll be so excited to see him the next morning. In order for it to work out I have to pump breastmilk every single day for about two weeks. It’s a pain in the bum but it has to be done (hey, that rhymes). I can usually pump about 2oz a day which isn’t a whole lot when I need about 30oz in total, hence the pumping every day for two weeks. I use the Medula Swing electric breast pump. To be honest I don’t enjoy pumping because it’s hard to find the time to sit there and do it at a time where Billy doesn’t need to be fed, but I’m also quite proud of my little stash because I know it’s all for Billy, and I’m doing what is best for him while we’ll be apart. I have these special freezer bags to freeze the breastmilk until I need it next Saturday. Then on the day I’ll be defrosting it and putting it in to sterilised bottles and trying to plan as best as I can when and how much he will need. That’s not actually the easiest thing to do though. Breastfed babies can take less or more at different feeds, and because I’m feeding “on demand” (ie he tells me when he’s hungry rather than me spacing it out with a certain amount of hours in between) sometimes it can go hours without him wanting to feed (if he has a really long sleep during the day for example) and other times he might have a very “snacky” period where he wants to feed little and often. I’ve done a bit of research and the general consensus seems to be that I should aim to have about 30oz of milk available within a 24 hour period. I’m going to be away from Billy for about 20 hours altogether so the plan is to have 30-35oz available, just in case. So far so good on the pumping front. I’ve stuck to my plan and all going well I will have exactly what we need come Saturday. Billy is usually very clear about when he’s hungry so I don’t think he’ll go hungry lol. Breastmilk is usually at about room temperature so I’ll be asking my mam to take a bottle out of the fridge about 20 minutes before she thinks he might need it. Otherwise it can be brought up to room temperature by sitting the bottle in a pot of hot/boiling water for a few minutes. Otherwise it will be freezing cold milk from the fridge which he wouldn’t be used to.
I’m pretty lucky that Billy even takes bottles. My PHN was telling me that some women have awful trouble getting their little ones to take a bottle if they have to give a bottle or have to stop breastfeeding for whatever reason. Billy will happily take a bottle or the breast. Not a fussy eater, just like his mammy. We use the Tommee Tippee bottles and I use the ones that have the slowest flow and yet it still always seems like it’s coming out too fast for him. It’s as though he can’t keep up with it sometimes. He’s used to controlling the amount he drinks. For that reason I’ll be having a look at the whole idea of “paced feeding” which basically involves giving the bottle in a slightly more paced way, similar to how the baby would take the milk from the breast. All in all I’m happy to be going to the wedding and I’m really looking forward to having a couple of drinks, a bit of a dance, and just a nice evening away with my boyfriend. No doubt I’ll spend the evening on some level thinking about Billy, but that’s ok. We’ll have a great time. There seems to be a bit of a taboo about missing your baby, or being nervous about leaving them. I don’t get it at all. I’m never one to pretend I feel a certain way. It is actually possible to enjoy the company of your partner, to understand the importance of “me time” or whatever else might be your reason for being away, and still miss your baby. They are not babies for long so I think it’s perfectly ok to have those feelings about being away from them. There is nothing more irritating than being told you should feel a certain way.
On a slightly different topic, I wanted to just mention the whole idea of ‘breast feeding in public’. Even that description makes it sound like some sort of derogatory act that should be hidden away; doesn’t it? Obviously I am totally in support of breastfeeding and I think it’s the most natural thing in the world, but I am still a novice in many ways and the other day I had a bit of an epiphany that I wanted to share with you all.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was about to take Billy out for a nice walk. You know, as opposed to an unpleasant one. So, I was walking around the house gathering up the bits and pieces I needed, putting on his cardigan and hat, making sure the windows were closed etc when I had a thought – “why am I so afraid of buying a bed rail?”
Ok so the actual act of buying a bed rail is not scary, nor is the bed rail itself, but I was having issues with the trip to Argos that was involved. Earlier that day I searched their website only to find that the St. Stephen’s Green store was the only nearby store that had any bed rails in stock. We have been co-sleeping (and we love it, understand the risks, and are very informed) and the bed rail is something I’ve been wanting to get for a while now. I didn’t want another day to pass without having it, and yet I felt I couldn’t make the trip in to town. Getting in to town wasn’t an issue, sure it’s only a 30 minute walk, and a lovely walk at that. The issue was… feeding my baby.
I’ve fed Billy in restaurants and out and about a couple of times with no issue, but I’ve always had someone with me. I’ve always been with my boyfriend or a family member and I never realised that I would be so nervous to feed him in public when I was completely on my own. It’s not that I think feeding him is wrong, far from it. If he wants and needs to be fed I will feed him anywhere. Of course I will. But my nerves stem from a fear of someone saying something negative to me about it and me feeling vulnerable and alone and not being able to defend myself. There are many old fashioned people who think that breastfeeding is something that a woman should do in private, tucked away somewhere “appropriate”. It’s not a nice thing to think about but realistically there is always a chance that someone will say something to me. A lot of these people are actually mothers themselves, which is very sad. The funny thing is that if someone did make a remark to me, I know I would have no problem standing up for myself, and I would do so passionately, but I just…don’t want to have to. It’s hard enough organising yourself in to a comfortable feeding position, fustering about for your muslin cloth and making sure you have your bag, phone, and anything else you might need close to hand. Add a little bit of ‘having to justify feeding your baby’ in to the mix and it’s all just a bit stressful.
But in the interest of doing what is right and not allowing nerves to hold me back, I did it. I had a moment or bravery and I put Billy in the pram, packed my baby bag and we set off for a little adventure. We walked in to town and it ended up being a lovely walk. I walked from Crumlin, down through Dublin 8, and ended up coming out at Camden Street and heading for Stephen’s Green. Billy slept the whole way, only waking to give me a little gorgeous smile every now and then. He loves being in his pram and going for a walk. It was a lovely walk and yet in the back of my head I kept thinking about how he would want to be fed very soon and I didn’t know where I was going to do it. “It”? Even that makes it sound like some absurd act. I decided to post my concerns on the Facebook page of a very supportive Facebook Group called “Extended Breastfeeding Support” and I received so many helpful replies. Some people responded with the “feed him anywhere” response, telling me that there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding and it’s perfectly natural and loving etc. Woah Woah Woah, I KNOW all that. My question was about whether anyone could recommend somewhere in Dublin that is particularly breastfeeding “friendly” to make it a little bit less dauntung. Most people were extremely helpful and at one point or another had felt exactly as I felt. Nervous. That’s all it is, nerves. Some of the replies were very informative. For example, I had NO idea that there was a “feeding room” in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. Did you? It’s basically a little room upstairs beside the toilets and baby changing room. It has chairs, a bottle warmer, and a high chair. So handy!
So that’s what I did. I arrived at Stephen’s Green, had a little browse around the shops, and when Billy woke up and wanted to be fed I very calmy made my way up to the feeding room and had a really relaxing lovely experience. It was at a time where I wasn’t hungry myself and wouldn’t have been going to a cafe or restaurant. While in the room I met some lovely ladies who were also breastfeeding. One lady had a two week old baby and one had a baby of five months. We chatted about everything from nipple shields to labour. It was great to speak to other women and I had a great laugh believe it or not. I then picked up the bed rail from Argos and headed back home.
And that’s it. That’s a wrap. Some might say that using the “feeding room” is sort of counter productive because I didn’t really face my fear at all and it sort of adds to the stigma about breastfeeding in public not being a perfectly normal thing to do. But hear me out, in this particular instance on this particular day it was really lovely to have the option to feed in a nice quiet room where I could have some privacy and I didn’t have to worry about time, buying something, being too exposed or him being too cold etc. I felt relaxed and I stayed in there for a good 40 minutes feeding him and chatting to the other mammys.
I arrived home that day with a little spring in my step and I was delighted that I had finally bought the bed rail (which barely fit in the pram’s basket, didn’t really think that one through). But what I was really delighted about was the fact that I had stepped out of my comfort zone. That is a really good feeling. It’s how we grow as human beings isn’t it?
I‘ve been exclusively breastfeeding for about 9 weeks now and I’m still learning new things every day. It’s a minefield sometimes and because there are more people in Ireland who do not breastfeed than whom do, it can feel a bit scary at times. It’s so important to look for advice and support when you need it, and it’s equally as important to give support and advice where and when we can.
As I write this it’s a Saturday night, and we are planning a nice family day out for tomorrow. We’re not sure where we’ll go but it will probably be somewhere outdoorsey and somewhere for a nice lunch or dinner. I’m already feeling a bit nervous about where I’ll feed Billy but I certainly won’t be letting it dictate our day. Wherever we go and whatever we do, I’ll be feeding my baby. I’ll be nervous I’m sure but I’ll “feel the fear and do it anyway” as my mother would say.
And just for the fun of it, here is Billy all ready for his nice walk. It was better than nice. My little beauty.