Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Breast is best

Hello all

No 3 is now over a week old and doing well. We did get off to a shaky start, though, as Dolores insisted on breast-feeding despite never having attempted it before. When the twins were born, she was advised to use formula to ease the feeding burden, and found it so convenient that she never once offered her breasts to either infant. The twins have since blamed some of their aberrant behaviour on not having recieved the goodness contained within breastmilk, and it was for this reason - amongst others, that Dolores decided to throw away the formula and push No.3 onto her left breast within minutes of his birth.

The neonate latched on enthusiastically and began sucking out the life-giving colostrum. The feeding only lasted a few minutes before he rolled off, burped, and fell asleep. A midwife, satisfied that he was able to latch on and suck properly, announced that both Dolores and No.3 would be fine. She also told us to expect a 10% loss in birthweight over the first few days that would be regained over the next week, or thereabouts.

Having stretched NHS finances by turning up at one of their hospitals to give birth, we were not encouraged to hang around for very long. There were no complications to keep us in the hospital for more than one night, so the next day Ravel came with the car (and car seat, of course), to pick us up.

Everything went well, or so we thought, until a few days later when a midwife came to weigh No.3. It turned out he had lost a bit more weight than expected. The midwife asked if No.3 had been feeding regularly, to which Dolores responded in the affirmative, but this did not stop the midwife suggesting that we might try a little formula as a top-up. Dolores agreed to this in front of the midwife, but renounced her intention minutes later - after the midwife had left.

'What...?' I asked, surprised at this clear breach of a verbal agreement.

'I'm not touching the bottle, Joseph. You've seen what bottle feeding can do. Look at the twins...'

'Yes, I know love. But just a few drops won't hurt. Millions of kids are raised on formula. I know you think the twins suffered, but there are a number of confounding factors that really should be taken into consideration.'

'Stuff confounders. I'm not using a bottle. We'll just have to feed him more. I'll be in the nursery.'

With that, Dolores strode off, infant under her arm squealing like a piglet on its way to slaughter. 'Stress, boss', said Ravel. 'She need some peace and quiet, like you get in Bulgarian woods.'

'Huh? What are you suggesting? I should take them into the forest for a few days?' I asked Ravel, my voice revealing a degree of frustration at Dolores's lack of flexibility on the formula vs breast issue.

'I come from big family', replied Ravel. 'Many women always around to offer advice. Who does Mrs McCrumble have to help? Where is her mother?'

He had a point. Mrs McHaggarty (the mother of my wife) had only made a brief appearance, despite living only 50 miles away. She had walked in, given No.3 a rapid physical examination, pronounced him fit and left a couple of hours later telling Dolores to ring her if she needed anything. Dolores, ever independent, took this as a snub from her own mother, and had not rung.

'Feeding from breast is not so easy, boss. It isn't just simple to put nipple in mouth and give good suck.'

Ravel was right, of course. I'd read about the decline in familial support for new mothers due to people living further apart from their parents than ever before, but hadn't brought it up mainly because I wanted everything to run smoothly and not introduce it a new 'issue' for Dolores to worry about. With hindsight I realised I had been wrong, and I now realised that I had an 'issue' of even greater magnitude.

'Leave it with me, Ravel. I'll sort something out,' I said, though in truth I had nothing to offer. My own parents live many miles away, and I still don't have a very good relationship with the village, who view my work and lifestyle with some disdain.

I was distracted from the 'issue' for a while whilst answering some emails. Dolores remained in the nursery and Ravel took himself into the garden for a spot of reading. I became tired at some point - likely as a result of only having 4 hours sleep the previous night, and decided to go for a nap. I dreamt that Dolores was walking in the woods, spraying milk from her breasts whilst No. 3 slept in a rucksack on her back. It must have been about 5pm when I awoke, feeling thirsty. on my way to the kitchen I heard Ravel's voice coming from the nursery. Wondering whether Dolores might have called for help whilst I was sleeping, I performed a u-turn in the corridor and made quick-steps. As I approached the nursery, I heard Ravel, quite clearly, say 'Dolores, let me have a go, yes?'

I automatically coughed before entering - as I always do if I feel I might be interrupting something. It was unnecessary, of course, as I was entering the nursery of my own child containing himself and two other people who could not be doing anything that would be deemed interruptable. The shock was therefore very real when I entered the room to see Ravel lift his head from the general area of the bosom of Dolores, turn towards me and present his visage with a very noticeable line of milky-white liquid over his top lip.

'WHAT IN THE NAME OF McCUMBERNAULD ARE YOU DOING?' I shouted, my voice warbling from the flood of adrenalin in my brain. 'WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?'

Ravel looked surprised at my burst of anger. Dolores looked annoyed and said, firmly, 'he's helping my milk come in, Joseph. What does it look like?'

'I surely don't have to tell you what it looks like from over here do I? What is this, some kind of Bulgarian peasants folk-remedy? Do all the men in your village take turns, eh? Line up in front of the the poor mother so you can all get your kicks sucking...'

'That's enough you pillock!', hissed Dolores, her face screwed up with annoyance. 'Don't bring your paranoia in here. I asked Ravel if he knew of any techniques to help with milk production. He was looking at how the baby was sucking.

'He asked to have a go!', I squealed, my anger not yet quelled, and my suspicions still raised that something untoward had occurred.

'I was trying to unlatch the baby but couldn't get my finger under his lip. Ravel offered to help.'

'I'll bet he did. Do you mean to tell me that you have let a member of staff interfere with your breasts? Why didn't you ask me, huh? You think I can't pull a baby off your breast? And why's he got that white stuff on his lips, huh?'

'I enjoy a drink of cappucino coffee, boss', said Ravel quietly, pointing towards a cup half-filled with said drink on the bedside cabinet.

Dolores looked skywards as she realised the source of misunderstanding 'Look...' she said firmly, pausing to ensure I was listening. 'Just calm down will you? This is not the time to be precious about my breasts. I need help, and Ravel has the right experience. He's my breastfeeding counsellor. Deal with it. You can either watch and learn, or keep out. I need to relax, and you do not help standing there with your arms folded looking like you have acheived some moral victory. If you want to help, go fetch a hot damp towel.'

I was suitably admonished. The mistake had been all mine, and I felt incredibly humbled. The arrival of No.3 has, I admit, led to a number of re-assortments of my mental state. I will continue to adjust, and no doubt overcome the obstacles associated with a new-born, in the McCrumble tradition of rational and comprehensive analysis. Dolores is happy for me to deal with things in this way, providing that I spare her the details of my thought processes and do what she (and Ravel) says. On balance, I think this might be the best approach.




Kim Ayres said...

Sounds to me like typical breast jealousy. It's not unusual for a man to struggle with the fact that his wife's breasts are now off the menu and handed over to the baby for exclusive attention.

As the old joke goes, breasts are just like train sets - designed for children but the fathers like to play with them.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Ravel is a man of nature. He's probably helped many a sheep and goat to suckle their young. I expect he's using the same techniques on your wife, so there's nothing to worry about.

Nikki said...


He's so beautiful.

and if I may...the caption contest...even if there already has been a winner.

#1 - OMG! That's what you look like?! Please tell me I don't look anything like you.

#2 - I'm going to pee on you later.

Please kiss the little guy for won't hurt will it? since you'll actually be the one doing the kissing.

hazel love said...

aaaah, the old cappucino coffee ploy...did you check if it was still hot?

This comment was brought to you courtesy of 'Paranoid? Don't get me started'. More details at

Summer said...

LOL How funny. Don't worry, it gets easier. My husband doesn't even blink anymore to strangers discussing my breasts. Congrats on the baby, and tell your wife good luck at breastfeeding. It is wonderful!

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

Kim - I'm not the jealous type, honest. It was just a momentary lapse of reason. Thanks for the joke. Ha ha.

GB - Ravel denies fiddling with animals.

Nikki - thanks! Unfortunately, Sam alreay won...

Hazel - yikes, no I didn't. But Dolores would have told me if he wasn't telling the truth, of that I'm sure.

Summer - Thanks - I'm not so sure Dolores agrees about the joy that breastfeeding brings. She vows to keep at it though.

Anonymous said...

Breast feeding well not for me thank you , it's all so organic and whats wrong with coke anyway?