I have been breastfeeding the baby, as all the government health propaganda has been telling me to. I have also been giving one bottle a day, which I have done from the first week of the little lad's life. This is to make sure that when I do decide to stop breastfeeding, I don't run into any monkey business of bottle refusal. I like breastfeeding, and there are no problems, but I do like knowing that I could stop anytime when I decide to - the thought of being 'trapped', forced into some sort of twisted contract to be sucked on unceremoniously five times a day against my will makes me cringe. If it sounds perverted, it really sort of is. And that's for at least a whole year, *shudder*. So I've been keeping his bottle skills up every day, 10:30 pm.
I had been convinced also (advised most certainly in a well known baby care publication) that I must pump my own breastmilk at this time, to keep up my milk supply. The fruits of this labour often being enjoyed, although without their knowledge, by the older boys in their morning milk - which became a bit of a milk frankenstein containing some percentage combination of breastmilk, leftover formula feed, and regular cow's milk - delicious! Bleaaarrrggghh! But they didn't seem to mind, or even notice for that matter. I did ask my oldest boy once if he wanted to have some of 'mummy's milk' in his cup...but he gave me a stink eye like I just offered him some worms on a stick. Better left in the dark on these matters, they are. Contrast this with my sister's daughter, who is two, as when she spots the bottle of breastmilk in the fridge she knows she is in for a treat. "That's Auntie Headder's Special Milk!" and gobbles it up happily, well in the know. My sister is convinced that the milky tincture might help to cure her kids of their colds and whatnot, due to it's antibody containing superpowers. I'd also like to believe this is true, even a little bit, which is why my other folks ended up with their strange brew in the mornings.
Scratch that. About two weeks ago I decided to ditch the ballyhoo that was pumping. I am sure my husband doesn't miss the 'pssshhhht pssshhhht pssshhhht, pssshhhht pssshhhht pssshhhht' that required the volume to be cranked waaaay up on the TV, at 10 pm each night. Each and every night. Every single night. Months of nights, every night. You really can see why one might not want to continue with the pumping. Being forced to be sucked on unceremoniously five times a day is just tolerable, and even acceptable, sometimes enjoyable, when it is by a creature who you love and wish to thrive. To then add on being suctioned repeatedly pssshhhht pssshhhht pssshhhht by some kind of silicone nipple stretching torture apparatus is another concept. As my visiting childless male friend commented when he was boldly faced with my exposed pumping ritual, "Oh my GOD I can't believe HOW FAR your nipple goes out...I mean, oh my GOD!!!!!". It is grotesque, yet a thing of (un)natural wonder.
There was also the issue of dining out. Other ladies about the town might have a few essentials in their handbag: lipstick; money; maybe handcream, and their large shoulder bags were worn with a sense of fashion. On the occasion that I were to head out for the evening, my gigantic bag was gigantic for a far more functional purpose - armed with my lipstick, money, handcream and breast pump (!) I was ready for a hot night out. As 9:45 pm approached I would smile and comment to my friends that I was going to go do 'it' now, and slipped off to the wheelchair accessible bathroom. Thank goodness for those large single access toilets; I needed a bit of elbow room. Additionally I can't imagine what someone would have thought in a stall next to me: pssshhhht pssshhhht pssshhhht slosh slosh creak eee ooonnn eee onnnn creak pssshhhht pssshhhht pssshhhht shuffle shuffle. I do wonder, though, what any waiter who saw me go in thought as I was there for a good 10 minutes, making all those strange noises I am quite sure a young 20-something male would certainly not be familiar with. So there's me in my pretty silk dress in the bathroom, fluorescent light, assembling my apparatus; sitting on the toilet, and because I didn't have a muslin, stuffing toilet paper underneath my 'pumping boob', and holding wads of toilet paper with my other elbow onto my 'other boob', pumping away. This is because pumping is a drippy, spray-ey business - I always needed a boob bib under the pump, and a funny old thing it is, when you pump one breast the other one activates and starts spraying all over on it's own! The front dash of my car is a testament to this, which has a sort of milk-art splatter dried onto the stereo and air controls. Not a bad look, really. Well, I haven't wiped it off yet anyway.
As the 10:30 pm bottle will likely be dropped soon, I thought it wise to start to give a bottle at another time. I was a bit nervous about this, and rightfully so. A wide awake hungry baby is a completely different creature to face with a silicone teat compared to a mostly-sleeping-not-really-bothered-either-way baby. And hungry daytime baby totally spazzed. Hungry daytime baby was like a satanic multi-snake headed monster, all of the snake heads hissing and screaming at me "Give me the BOOB what is this imposter!!! Grrrrrrrrrr BOOB!!! *slobber*scream*" But I wanted him to be able to have the bottle. But he was totally spazzing. But I had to have him have the bottle. I had to persevere - I couldn't let all those months of late night bottle feeding be ruined by this evil boob-loving monster. I had just had a conversation with friends about mums being stuck with fussy bottle-takers who required standing and rocking to have the milk from a bottle, and I didn't want to get into any of that...but there I was, reduced to standing and rocking and singing and slyly bringing the bottle up to his mouth from underneath (like he wouldn't notice, HA). So every time he started sucking with any frequency I slowly...slowly... easy does it... squatted down to the chair. I had to keep every muscle tensed in the exact same way, because the moment anything shifted in the slightest he would start to fuss and fret again, and up I would get back to standing and singing and rocking. And even against my compulsive nature, as I saw a big drip of milk go down his chin, now under his chin, approaching his shirt down his neck [*cringe* I just HAD to catch the drip with the bib I just HAD to] I left the drip to travel all the way down in torturous slow motion, drip, to be absorbed into his shirt. Absolutely still. I did it. And he did it. One bottle down, phew. The evil boob-loving monster seems to have accepted his fate now also, after a few days of my squatting muscle tensed bottle sessions. I can even dab his neck a bit when the milk dribbles, and thank god for that.
So now the older boys aren't getting any of mummy's Special Milk anymore, and the little one is taking his Unspecial Milk alright too; none seem worse for wear. Already I have breastfed this time longer than with the other kids, so really I feel like anything longer is a bit of a bonus. And I don't feel half as annoyed with it as I had before, it really is still quite OK. As long as I know I can get out of this twisted contract when I want to.