New Born Week: The Boob and The Purple FaceAllana Harkin
I did not fear breast feeding. I accepted it as a natural part of the child rearing process. What I did fear was the notion of having to appear topless. Before having my first child I had stories circling in my brain of an exhausted Sam Bee, days into having a baby, answering her front door in a daze only to greet her father, topless. I did not want to repeat the sins of my friends. And I know that once or twice a year she still wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, “NOOOO!”
My sister on the other hand would have no problem removing all of her clothes in a public parking lot to feed her babies. “Oh! these overalls are so pesky. I’m just going to take them off.” I admired her mammary gland comfortability but that just wasn’t me. I wanted to keep breast feeding somewhat discreet. Couldn’t I just casually slip my baby under my shirt to feed her lunch? Why did I have to draw such major attention to it?
I had a lot of plans before my daughter was born. And I was sure everything would work out according to the false images I had conjured up in my brain of us lying around on blankets in the park, me breast feeding my child in a way that said to other people, “Wow that lounging woman looks so relaxed and happy. You wouldn’t even know she was nourishing the life of another human.” Could I be any more casual and discreet? Someone pass me a glass of champagne!
Okay. So that didn’t happen. My impressive mammary glands weren’t up to the task. It was painful and apparently I was producing as much milk as a large ant. Stress is a major factor in milk production so that wasn’t stressful at all. I also had to use every limb to breast feed, including my head. I was pushing my child into place like a cow would to her calf. And yet: I was not defeated. I had options and boy did I explore those options.
I started taking Milk Thistle and Fenugreek which made me smell like a spice drawer therefore ruining Indian food for us for a year. My lactation consultant suggested I increase the amount of breast feeding I was doing to activate my milk supply so I survived on episodes of Friday Night Lights and Entourage to keep me alive as I sequestered myself to the couch for 8 hour feeding sessions. I drank enough water to cause me water intoxication and lastly I covered my nipple in purple dye and then breast fed my infant.
Oh yes, I did. Purple. Everyone kept telling me breast feeding was not supposed to be painful so clearly there was something wrong. At the suggestion of my very helpful “here are my boobs deal with it” sister – I applied Gentian Violet for thrush on my nipples (God help me) and breast fed my daughter. What was supposed to be an exercise in pain relief to cure a possible case of thrush turned into “The Week Allana turned her baby purple.” My friends still talk about it. The best part was that I tried to make it out like this was a really natural approach to dealing with breast pain. I took my baby everywhere and often found myself dressing her in outfits that complemented her purple face. It didn’t help by the way. It was still painful but the pain eventually subsided which was due to me increasing my pain threshold or to the fact that I finally became used to the whole breast feeding thing. I never liked it, by the way, and it never became 100% comfortable. But I continued breast feeding until my daughter turned 10 months and I stopped: Also referred to as the day she came at me like a meerkat and attacked my boob like it was a juicy scorpion. I shook her hand, thanked her for her often painful yet still bonding business and gleefully packed up the corner of the couch where I had been living for the better part of a year.
Lastly, I congratulated by boobs for a job well done, and then tucked them away in a securely snug tank top for a much needed rest.