As the male in the relationship, I could not do this but to show moral support I did get up and make notes. No, seriously – left or right boob was the most important thing to get right (so that on the next feed we didn’t try to get Small to feed from the empty one). Other information of interest for notation was what time the feed took place and how long it lasted. This may seem strange but it enabled us to see patterns, such as shorter feeds that were taking place less regularly as Small became more efficient at drinking and his stomach capacity expanded. This was reassuring, letting us know that things were getting better, because they sure didn’t feel like they were with the sleep deprivation beginning to have a commulative effect.
It also became my role to retrieve Small from his basket or crib and put him back after the feed. This was not such a hardship, at least I could snooze whilst the feed itself was happening.
Another thing I had to master was ‘the latch’. That was the mystic process of getting Small’s tiny mouth to attach, limpet like, to a large engorged nipple. It seems that the main cause of parents giving up on breast feeding is not being able to achieve a good latch, which means Small cannot feed. It took a bit of experimentation but I discovered that my Small would latch if the nipple was approached from below. Starting with the nose below the nipple I would slide Small’s face up, tilting his chin in below the nipple against the skin. Finally I would lever the upper jaw over the top of the nipple and apply a gentle pressure until Small got the idea of suckling and ‘latched’ on. Once Small had achieved the latch a couple of times it became second nature but the first time involved a lot of misses and a lot of screaming. We knew when we had finally achieved a latch because it suddenly got a whole lot quieter and the tension melted out of the room. I’m sure the neighbours were as relieved as us.
Whilst I could not breast feed I could feed breast milk. This introduced us to the wonders of expressing. This is essentially milking for humans. A pump, either manual or electric, is used to extract the milk from mum into plastic bags. This serves two purposes: firstly it stimulates milk production so that there is always a good supply for Small and secondly it provides stock milk that can be fed to Small when mum is not available. That might mean a feed in the middle of the night when mum is sleeping or in the daytime if mum is at work.
Incidentally, in my younger, child free days one of the gadgets on my wish list was a drinks fridge. One of those glass fronted mini chillers filled with wine and beer. Long before that was ever to materialise we obtained a breastmilk freezer. Actually we didn’t acquire the breast milk freezer, it was just that our existing freezer started to overflow with breastmilk. You see, breastmilk can be stored in the freezer for several weeks and safely used. Providing we kept the bags labelled with the date, we had a rolling back-up supply of milk that lasted for months. The breastmilk freezer proved invaluable. Just as valuable as that drinks fridge would have been.
If mum is breast feeding and you are house husbanding there will come a time when mum is back at work and you are left with the feeding responsibility. It is highly likely that by this stage Small will be used to having a bottle from you and this will not be an issue. However, this was not the case for us. Small 1 was an avid breast man and refused to drink from a bottle, even breast milk. In the age old tradition of ostriches everywhere we stuck our heads in the sand and ignored the issue, taking the easy option of offering direct breast action.
So it was that on my first day as full time house husband I was faced with a hungry Small that refused to take a bottle. Now, I thought that once he was hungry enough he would take the bottle. No. He was (is) a stubborn little bugger. He screamed for England, and at three months his lungs had developed nicely.
There followed hours of crying, interspersed with mere mumble sobbing when the bottle was removed from his presence and all the standard calming techniques were employed (see Calming). Eventually he took the bottle, strapped to my chest in a papoose, watching television as I rocked gently sideways, back and forth from foot to foot. The bottle was drained in less than a minute.
Although perhaps I had the easier time. At least I was coping in the privacy of my own home. Whilst at work, every time it would have been time to feed Small, my wife had to go to an espe-cially dedicated room to express her milk into a plastic bag. Her not too politically correct work colleagues had put up a sign in the blacked out window – ‘Milking Shed’.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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