Published Articles

First Published Breastfeeding Matters #199 January/February 2014

Birdy Num Nums

Me at 3 months (where's my hair?)
I know Mummy gets upset when she talks about it but breastfeeding was a sore point (or a couple of sore points) when I was first born.  Mummy never thought there was any other way to feed me other than the old Birdy Num Nums.  She had done so much research on home births and pregnancy that she said that she hadn't any space left in her split pea of a brain for any more information and she assumed that I would just feed.  'Cows can do it' she said.  Mummy had only seen one person nurse a baby about 20 years ago.  She said had been shocked to see a woman at a dinner party feed her baby at the table.  (Little did she know that it was the only time the mother had to eat in peace.)  Mummy says that surely the wisest person must be someone who can empathise without having experienced.
Then, although I was born at home, Mummy had to go into hospital for stitches.  Mummy and I were separated whilst Mummy was in surgery and daddy put me up his shirt.  Mummy says that this was the lowest point of her life.  The nurses kept trying to push my head onto her to make me feed but I was so unhappy, I just screamed and Mummy said she just wanted to cry.  Mummy discharged us straight away as she said she just wanted to take me home and cuddle me in bed but she still couldn't get me to feed properly.  I can't remember it very well as I was so tired.  Nana came to stay straight away.
The day after I was born, Mummy's doula Indira, who is also a La Leche League Leader at Wimbledon came to visit.  She spent an hour with us and at the end of it, I started to feed.  Mummy said that Indira appeared like an Angel of Mercy but the Angel of Mercy had to go home and make dinner and Mummy and I still didn't have the hang of it.  The worst thing was, even though I was 4425Kg when I was born (9lb 8 oz.) I had lost 12% of my body weight and became jaundiced and the midwife was starting to panic.  'Try nipple shields' said she. 'Try a bottle' said she.  'Try anything but feed that baby'.  (Mind you Mummy was very easily panicked at this stage.  This was her peak time of booing.  She had never felt so inadequate.)
Indira had shown Mummy how to express milk and feed me with a syringe so that I didn't start to prefer a bottle to Mummy's Birdies.  Mummy was expressing every 2 hours and then Nana was feeding me with a syringe.  Mummy didn't sleep for 3 days.  I did.  Mummy thought the sky was falling in.  Mummy hated expressing.  She said she felt like the cow at the beginning of this story.  Mummy said she thought she was killing me.  She said she thought she had failed at the most primeval necessity for being a mother in not being able to feed her child.  (Quite a long sentence for Mummy at this stage. I think she might have said this a bit later.)  To be honest, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about.  I was just so damn tired after that traumatic journey into the world.
I know that Daddy went shopping a lot and Daddy hates shopping.  Mummy couldn't stop eating.  She says she turned form Earth Goddess to Hungry Hippo in one complicated move.  Daddy came home one day to find Mummy crying. Nana crying, the midwife in tears (as Mummy had shouted at her) and me asleep.  Daddy didn't know what to do with himself as no one wanted to listen to Daddy. 
And then Supernana stepped in.  She told Mummy what Mummy needed to hear (although Mummy didn't know it at the time).  'You can feed Baby (I was known as Baby for the first 6 months)', she said.  'There s nothing wrong with your bosoms (Nana comes from a Methodist background).  Let's stop the syringe feeding and give it a try'.  And so we did.  Mummy told the Midwife that she didn't want her to come anymore and turned off all her phones, wouldn't let anyone visit, and stopped reading books on techniques and just listened to her heart.  The first few times, I kept falling off or it hurt Mummy but every 2 hours, Nana came and docked me.
Gosh it was hard work
Indira had described it as a dance between the two of us.  Sometimes it seemed like we had the hang of it and then at 3 in the morning, when I wouldn't dock and Mummy would start that annoying blubbing which would make me start howling and Nana would burst in with worry all over her face, it would seem like we would never be able to manage together and that the world was ending.  But it was true.  Each day did get a little bit easier.  I started to learn how to open my mouth properly in order to dock and mummy started to learn to relax and trust me and it became my favourite part of the day.
After the first week, Nana tried to go home but Mummy wouldn't let her. She was terrified that we would fall out of step and that she wouldn't be able to feed me again.  She had filled the freezer with gallons of expressed milk in case this should happen.  So Nana stayed another week and instead of helping to feed me, fed mummy and mummy fed me.  And when she finally left, she left us with the gift of knowing that Mummy could always sort it out if she listened to her heart.
And so you now know one of the reasons why when anyone asks Mummy when she is going to stop nursing me she says 'When we both are ready to stop'.  Either that or 'why don't you chuff off' depending on how much sleep she has had.
"If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Things are looking up


  1. My GOD! I have just LIVED what you have been through simply by reading the above. You poor people. I had no idea. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience and finishing it off with one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite books. Joey, you write so beautifully - you're a winner and so is your whole family!

  2. Thanks Tatie. No one told Mummy about the aftermath....


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