I recently went to visit a new-born. Not just any new-born, but a beautiful new addition to our family clan, born at 36 weeks. Holding her in my arms brought back a rush of memories of holding my own newborns. The tiny fingertips grabbing at my much bigger hand. The quiet grunts as they lay in my arms dreaming. The soft downy hair that still reminds me of candy floss on a breezy day.
On the table next to me was a diary. I thought this was to record appointments, when the health nurse came, when injections were due etc. But no, this was no ordinary diary, it was the Milk Diary and it was managed lovingly by the Milk Police (aka the Dad). Every ounce (or that would be millimetres now) was recorded. How much was drank and when, how much was left over. I was fascinated.
My firstborn never took a bottle as a baby. My baby absolutely refused, and I was left breastfeeding long after I had originally intended. My little one wouldn't even take expressed milk in a bottle. I tried everything. In fact, I often think I could write a book on this topic alone.
I think that tenacious streak will stand them in good stead as they grow older, but oh, how it broke my heart at the time. The days and nights blurred together between feeds. Feeds that were on demand, and could take place anywhere, at home or on the move. I became a dab hand at feeding in public places, discretely of course, but adamantly. One hand holding a nursing baby, the other often holding toast. I ate a lot of toast back then, the ultimate convenience food.
I vividly remember being asked, at a department store in Dublin shopping centre, if I would be more comfortable feeding my baby the toilets. I politely declined, but asked the staff member at the time, if they ever wanted to eat their lunch in the bathrooms I might then consider joining them. Thankfully, things have moved on a lot since then. Breastfeeding in Ireland, in public, is becoming more acceptable and long overdue.
Back then, I had no idea how much my baby drank. I just knew if they were sated or not, often by the gentle snores of a milk induced slumber that followed a particularly good feed. I wasn’t caught up in the frantic recording of measurements.
Looking back on it now, it was much of a blur. Which is better? I don’t know. In fact, I don’t think you can even compare. Feeding from a bottle, whether it’s expressed milk or not, allows you to clearly see what’s happening. How much milk is consumed or not. But it also adds to the washing up, not to mention the sterilising.
On the positive side though, it allows you to measure exactly what’s going on. It gives you a focus and often for the Dads, a real tangible job that they can be responsible for if they can’t get too involved in the feeding. Seeing the Milk Police in action that day gave me a real sense of security. After all, that’s what the real police do, isn’t it? Ward off trouble, protect those in need and offer peace of mind. To all the Milk Police out there, I salute you. You are doing a great job.