PARENTS

The Newborn Diaries: Declining Assets

29/09/2010 10:41 | Updated 22 May 2015

Since my subject matter du jour is yet again breasts, it almost feels like I'm writing for a very different kind of publication. Until I launch into the details, and it becomes apparent that this couldn't be further from anything even mildly erotic.

Here's the latest. Diana started gaining weight, which I was really pleased about as she had been slow to put on the pounds since she lost some of her birth weight. I suspected I was partly to blame since two midwives saw me breastfeeding and practically burst out laughing - not quite sure what I was doing wrong but I was apparently inept and this was reflecting in the numbers on the scales.

So naturally, when she did gain weight, I got cocky. I was so proud of my increased milk production (and presumably, my improved feeding posture) that I decided to try expressing so that I could see if it would be possible to get a few hours of sleep one night because these manic feeding frenzy occasions where Diana tries to increase my milk production for four hours straight are becoming increasingly difficult to bear. (And I also secretly wanted to go to the World of Manolo opening at Liberty and see all the pretty shoes without a suckling infant hanging off my chest - I dared to dream).

Despite my first foray into expressing producing only 15 ml of milk, which is about the same as ball of spit, I was undeterred. Quite the opposite. I was thrilled with my achievement and proudly refrigerated my thimble of milk, despite my partner's mocking taunts. Happily, Diana took to the bottle without issue (apparently some breastfed babies have nipple confusion). Clearly - like mother and father, like daughter - this kid just likes to eat and will indiscriminately go to McDonald's or a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The next morning I tried expressing again, this time with great success. Fairly quickly and painlessly, I managed to get a full bottle (I'd love to take all the credit, but I think the electric Philips Avent pump I got had a lot to do with the ease of the whole operation). Unfortunately, I didn't realise that all this expressing would stimulate my milk production until I noticed pools of wetness had soaked through my top and cardigan and I was starting to feel like the whole engorgement thing was happening again.

At 4 am that morning I woke up feeling horrendous: I had a terrible fever, chills and was achy everywhere. In addition, my left breast (the one I'd expressed from) had swelled to the size of Jordan's implant and was excruciatingly painful. So I did what anyone would do: I woke up my partner and proceeded to sob on him (after quickly leafing through Penelope Leach - aka my saviour - and confirming that I did indeed have mastitis, an inflammation caused by a blocked milk duct).

You can take antibiotics to flush out the infection, which I did, but you're also supposed to empty the breast to clear up the blocked duct, so you spend a day feeding through the pain. It's horrible and it's the kind of experience that makes you want to just give up on the breastfeeding. I haven't -- yet. I decided to give myself a couple more weeks of pure breastfeeding to see how it goes, but if Diana keeps having growth spurt-related, marathon-feeding sessions three-to-four times a week (which can drive even the sanest person mad, let alone a new mother) or mastitis strikes again, I may have to reconsider my options. And I am determined not to beat myself up about it if I start topping up with formula or need to abandon breastfeeding altogether - surely my time would be better spent cooing at my daughter?

Since the mastitis incident, it appears that my supply has finally caught up to my little mozzarella ball's demand (I call Diana 'Mozzie' since she's such a little ball of milk!). However, there appears to be some short-term damage. I'm now lopsided, with my pendulous left breast sagging precariously near my tummy and reminding me of my 80+ Russian babushka, while my right one remains relatively normal-sized and pert (well, as pert as one can be a few weeks post-labour without being a celebrity). All of my clothes have been soaked with Eau de Sour Milk, and now both nipples have started squirting. I've never really felt so unglamorous before, but it's kind of refreshing.

Maybe yet another perk of motherhood is that it helps you get over those unnecessary body phobias that you've been cultivating since your teenage years?

Since I spend so much time feeding I'm now trying to have fun with it -creating pretend menus when I feed ('Now, Mozzie, you're eating a Caesar salad followed by a vanilla milkshake'), and admiring how much of an expert at feeding Diana's become in a matter of weeks. At times, she looks like a little woodland creature or a 19th century artist's version of a sleeping odalisque, elegantly perched on my lap. Then there is Diana in her fury, prepping for a fight, sucking manically with one hand balled up into a fist, ready to punch me the second the milk runs dry. She's already so funny (even if a little ruthless) - how can I not be in love?

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