Another breastfeeding post. There are now so many I have created a new category. Which is slightly ironic as I feel that all this writing about breastfeeding is unconsciously linked to the feeling that it might all be coming to an end in the next few months.
Anyway, as promised (about 2 weeks ago but then I broke my promise as we went to Spain where I suffered from a week of Temporary Out-Of-Order Phone Internet Access, or T.O.O.O.P.I.A), here is my story about how I became a Wet Nurse for a lunchtime.
First, I have to skip us back a couple of months to the 22nd of April (yes I am very slow and erratic with writing this blog), when I went to Marseille for a night and a day to do an audition. I assumed that going away for such a short period would not be a problem where breasts-filling-up-with-milk would be concerned, seeing as Léonie was only feeding 2 or 3 times over 24hrs. I was very wrong. My breasts were already at bursting point when I woke up the next morning in Marseille and I couldn’t do my dress up properly. I had to ignore the problem all morning throughout the audition but when I had finished and they released me onto the streets of Marseille, the reality hit me hard (as hard as my breasts were by then) – I had a problem and I needed to find a solution FAST. My first thought was to jump in my car and drive back home to my baby Léonie as fast as possible, home being 2 hours away. But I had promised to have lunch with my friends and seeing as they were due to leave France for Montréal a few weeks later, it was probably the last time I would see them for a year or two. I stood there in the street not knowing what decison to take. My breasts hurt. I needed to do something fast. I decided to go to their house and lock myself in the loo for fifteen minutes of breast milking with just my hands as equipment. I cursed myself for not having brought my Avent manual breastpump with me. I walked the 20 minutes to their house, rang the bell, it didn’t work, phoned them up, they threw the keys down off their 4th floor balcony (in Marseille landlords never repair anything, it’s a basic rule of thumb), I retrieved them, let myself in and hiked up the steep, winding staircase in the dark (landlord hadn’t bothered to repair the automatic lighting system). As I walked into their flat I was greeted by my lovely friends and their 2 month old baby. Baby. My breasts suddenly hurt even more. I tried to ignore the feeling and said my hellos and began to answer their questions about the audition, but I couldn’t concentrate and had to explain the situation to them. And then baby began crying. I could feel milk start to seep into my bra, a sensation I hadn’t experienced for over 6 months as my little Léonie was 15 months at the time and milk seepage was no longer an issue. Baby crying = milk rush. I was about to run into their bathroom when baby’s mummy had an idea. “It seems crazy that here you are with a real, physical, milky-breasty problem, and here is our baby hungry and crying for milk with me heating up formula milk for her … why don’t we put both needs together?” I couldn’t believe my ears. It sounded so odd so wierd so unconventional yet so perfect. My breasts were screaming out for a baby to suckle, the baby was screaming out for some milk. But I knew my friend had wanted to breastfeed her baby, yet couldn’t because she was on some serious , unavoidable medication which is totally incompatible with breastfeeding. I knew this was one of her regrets. So wouldn’t it upset her if I breastfed her daughter? I asked her. “No, I’m absolutely fine about it” she replied. “I’m actually quite curious to see if she will even manage to breastfeed, seeing as she is now used to the bottle.” I looked at her and she seemed very sincere about what she was saying, very sure of herself, so I picked up her beautiful little baby girl and put her to my left breast (which was the one hurting the most).
She sniffled about a bit, not sure whether this was the same sort of thing as a rubber teat, but seeing as milk was already abound she soon understood and latched on like a baby who had been breastfeeding since she was born. A pro. I thought she might not suck hard enough seeing as the milk flow from a bottle is so much faster, but she had no problem whatsoever. We all stared at her in awe. Her mummy was grinning, her daddy looked a little perturbed but was totally fascinated by what was going on. And I felt SO RELIEVED. After ten minutes or so she stopped feeding. I thought that might be it, but I offered her Breast Two and she was quite happy to have some more milk, latching on straight away and immediately giving me double relief as both breasts were now supple and soft again. I stroked her hair while she fed and even kissed her forehead, just like I do with Léonie. Maternal instinct kicked in big time. And then she fell asleep in my arms. To me this is quite normal, my babies have both tended to fall asleep at the end of a feed, but her parents could not believe it. “She usually cries and writhes around in pain for 20 minutes after each bottle feed” said her mummy. “She has never fed so peacefully. She has never fallen asleep like that.”
“What are you doing around 3 a.m. in the morning?” her daddy asked me. “Fancy coming by and doing the same thing?”
We talked about it and I said she sucks very hard so maybe the bottle teats are too easy, too “fast” for her which would mean she’s getting too much milk flow resulting in wind and colic. Or maybe it’s just that breast milk is so much easier to digest. Her mummy decided she would try different teats with smaller holes. She said she was really pleased her baby girl had had at least one hit of breast milk.
Their beautiful baby slept for the hour I spent with them. I took some photos of her. I feel a strange kind of bond with her. I have now breastfed three babies in my life. It sounds so strange and yet it felt so natural. I think it helped that this baby’s parents are very close friends of mine; if I didn’t know them so well and if there wasn’t that deep trust between us I doubt it would have happened. But I am very pleased it did.
I am now wondering which close friends in Paris have a baby whom I could breastfeed next week. I am going up on Tuesday afternoon, back late on Thursday. It’s work, something I can’t say no to as it’s very nicely paid, but I am now going to find myself in a similar dilemma breastwise. Léonie has been feeding even more often lately, thanks to colds and teething, so I seem to have even more milk. My Avent pump is already in my handbag but I tried it the other day and got pretty much nowt out. Maybe it will work better once my breasts are overflowing with milk. I hope so. Otherwise I shall be on the lookout for babies and their mothers willing to welcome a short-term wet nurse into their home.
(Coincidentally I started writing this post the day before Time magazine covered the “controversial” story about a young American mum still breastfeeding her nearly 4 year old, and lo, out of the woodwork came many blogging mums writing about their experience of extended breastfeeding. This has encouraged me to keep going until Léonie leaves for university.)