Before giving birth, I heard somewhere that babies should start to suckle in the four hours after birth, and ideally straight away. When I was handed my tiny, startled daughter, I was pretty zonked, but I seemed to recall her little mouth seeking out my nipple. Or me putting my nipple near to her little mouth. Or something like that. Anyway, within a few minutes of ‘skin on skin’ she seemed to have something breast-like in her mouth and was happily sucking away.
The midwives were all suitably impressed. ‘Ooo, look she’s latched on already! That’s great. I’m sure you’ll be a natural.’ Well, of course – surely breastfeeding was the most natural thing in the world? If you were happy to let your intuition govern your actions, and you responded to your baby instinctively, then it seemed pretty straightforward. I should point out at this stage that I’d just had a calm water birth, without major trauma or pain relief, and was therefore feeling pretty earth mother about everything. Breastfeeding was the next obvious step, and I was going to be great at it.
Over the remaining hours spent in hospital, my daughter C and I slept, interspersed with periods of the suckling we were both so fantastic at. If I was honest, it was starting to sting a bit, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The next morning, I overheard a conversation between a midwife and the woman in the bed opposite me on the ward. ‘Are you breast or bottle feeding?’ the nurse asked. ‘Bottle’ she replied without hesitation. ‘He’s had loads – two lots of 30 mils just last night’. God, you had to make up that formula from scratch each time, I thought. What a pain! How can you have dismissed breastfeeding so quickly?