So after my start-up woes with expressing breast milk (I discovered the problem was the pump – thanks to the mothers who offered me advice), I became happy because I could now leave the house for a couple of hours. (You can read my tribulations about previously trying to express breastmilk on this link https://mummytales.com/baby/is-expressing-breastmilk-supposed-to-be-this-hard/ ) Now, staying with a lovely and cute baby such as Kitty is rewarding, but you must agree with me that staying confined in the house staring at the same walls day in day out for two months can take its toll on you. Sometimes you just need to get away from the house and its environs (the farthest I’ve been to since Kitty’s birth is the nearest kiosk).
You see with a newborn, you just cannot wake up one morning and leave the house. It needs some serious calculation, planning and strategy. And the first step to that is getting a good breast pump. That is if you, like I, are interested in exclusive breastfeeding. Thankfully, my sister-in-law lent me her electric breast pump as she is not currently using it. I tell you mothers, you are so much better off with an electric pump and so if you can invest in one, go for it by all means. Or if you have a good sister-in-law (mwaaaaaa mwarikhwa) or you have a good friend, they can lend you theirs. By the way I have come to realize that hii mambo ya pregnancy na motherhood ni kusaidiana – exchanging maternity clothes, pregnancy support belts, flat shoes, breast pumps etc. It is all harambee.
So the first time I expressed breastmilk, I did it happily and with a cheerful grin on my face, knowing it was my ticket to freedom for a couple of hours. I started thinking of meet-ups with the girls to catch up on the latest, trips to the beauty parlor (my nails look like Nebuchadnezzar’s), dinner and movie dates, as well as the occasional shopping sprees that can sometimes take hours. But the grin quickly faded away when I tried to feed Kitty. He would hear nothing of the bottle business.
When I put the bottle in his mouth, he gave it’s nipple a slight twirl with his tongue, then looked up and me, gave me some serious daggers, closed his eyes then slept in protest. When I tried waking him he would lazily open his eyes, again look at me very badly, then proceed to snooze – in protest again. Very frustrating. And that immediately sent me into panic mode. Not for one minute had I seriously thought that he might not like the bottle. I don’t know how that had missed my mind yet in retrospect that should have been the first thing on my mind. Clearly I had been consumed by my interests.
Now I was panicking. I’m due back at work next month, and here Kitty was pulling bottle tantrums on me. Pray, what would happen then?
So anyway, I figured I would preserve the milk until when he decided to wake up, then offer him the bottle again. No doubt he would at that time be hungry so he would take the milk in whatever means it was given to him.
So when he woke up, I offered the bottle to him. This time round he didn’t sleep, but he instead began letting out some loud yells. This kid sometimes shocks me. Just out of the blues he let out this scream that a passer-by would have thought he were being slaughtered or something. I tried to downplay the screams knowing that after a few yells, he would get tired. I calculated that hunger + tiredness = feeding. But I was wrong. Five minutes later, the little boy didn’t sound or appear tired or hungry enough, and if anything, he looked as though he were going from strength to strength. And ofcourse you know me -it really disheartens me seeing Kitty in such a state, so I quickly whipped out my tittie and offered it to him. Naturally the screams immediately died, and as he was feeding, I could have sworn I saw a sly grin of victory on his face.
That whole episode left me very fretful. Did that mean that I would never leave the house until he was a year old? Would I ever go to the salon for some ‘me’ time? Would I ever go back to work? Would I ever go for dates? This was gonna be a battle that I had to win. I had to strategize very carefully. Imagine strategizing how to win a battle against a 7 week old baby. Life is interesting I tell you.
So the following day, I expressed again, this time very determined that he would consume the milk. So what the clever me did was to tell my househelp (Auntie) to feed him. When she offered him the bottle, he refused. No surprises there. We both tried coaxing him, singing to him sweet lullabies, but he kept looking at us badly, and he once again slept in protest. But Auntie told me not to worry, that he would drink it when he was hungry. So when he woke up again, hungry this time, she offered the bottle to him. But the yells and kicks clearly meant he was still not in the mood for the bottle. I felt so much pity on him, thinking he was starving. But Auntie insisted that he would eventually get tired and feed. But my little boy had turned red and his face was all wet with tears, and I couldn’t bear to see him that way for another second. So I quickly took him and fed him nyonyo, calming him down and assuring him that I wouldn’t put him through that bottle-feeding trauma again. I had a lump stuck in my throat as I told him so.
Geez, this was not going to be easy. The more I thought about it, the more I reckoned that I would certainly not keep my promise to Kitty. Blackmail is good but not all the time. Surely he had to learn how to feed from the bottle. So I had to give it another try. So the following day, I expressed as usual. But I stared at the bottle all day long, each time breastfeeding him and each time swearing that the next feed was going to be the bottle. I did the staring and swearing business until the milk expired.
The next time we tried, Auntie told me to hush and not utter a sound, because when I do he knows nyonyo is around and he won’t take the bottle. When I hushed, he still refused to drink and Auntie told me it was because he could smell me and my milk (huh?). So she asked that I leave the room. I left, and after fifteen minutes of trying to feed him, she succeeded in getting him to drink 5ml. Only 5ml! But atleast it was better than nothing.
So anyway as days went by, I spent them agonizing on whether to give him the bottle again or not. And as the weather began changing, I figured I needed to get out of the house and buy him some cardigans. With the Nairobi traffic, that meant being away for about three hours. What if I left when I had over-pumped him with milk enough to sedate him for three hours? I decided that was what I would do. I had to get him the warm clothing. Better he starves for a few hours than he shivers in cold.
So on the d-day, I expressed some 125ml of milk ‘just in case’. Even if he decided to drink it, there was no way on earth he was gonna do more than 20ml. That was judging by the drama he had put me through. I left the house after I had breastfed him to full capacity.
Problem was every two minutes, I kept looking at my phone expecting a call from Auntie anytime. Never before in my life have I been so restless. Half an hour passed. No phone call. The further and further I got away from home, the more I panicked and wondered if I had made the right decision. An hour passed. No phone call from Auntie. An hour and a half passed. No SOS from Auntie. I then relaxed a little bit and went about shopping in the market. It was two and a half hours afterh I had left the house when the dreaded phone call arrived.
As I looked at the phone ringing, I didn’t want to answer the call in equal measure that I wanted to answer it. I was fearing the worst. I just didn’t want to take the call. I started shivering and sweating like crazy and after what seemed like eternity, I finally pressed the ‘receive’ button.
Auntie was quick and straight to the point.
“You better hurry back home because Kitty has finished all the milk you left.”
I asked Auntie to repeat many times what she had just told me. I didn’t even realize that I was shouting. They say that every market has a mad man (woman). That day all the shoppers saw the mad woman in the market. I suddenly dropped all the stuff I had not yet paid for and started making my way out of the market shouting: “Excuse me Excuse me schuss schuss me schuss schuss me…”
I hurried out of the market like a woman possessed, praying and hoping against hope that the traffic wasn’t gonna be bad. I used all the shortcuts I knew and when I got home, I was sweating like crazy. I burst into the house expecting to find an emaciated starving boy, but what I found was a very full boy sleeping whilst letting out the random fart. That’s how content he was. Gosh, this boy can really shock me sometimes!
Since then, I have left the house twice, and each time left milk in a feeding bottle. Auntie tells me that though he drinks the milk, it is never easy. He at first always refuses it and throws a tantrum and sleeps, but when he wakes up hungry and there is no nyonyo in sight, he ends up drinking it. Last Sunday I was out for two hours and when I returned, I was told he had completed the whole bottle in one feed. Now I’m abit more relaxed and I hope he’ll continue this way. I have to resume work sometime you know.
By the way, someone told me that I might have introduced him to the bottle too early, that if he continues with it he might end up rejecting the breast altogether. That apparently most newborns quickly realize that they don’t have to work nearly as hard to get milk from a bottle as they do from the breast. I don’t know if that’s a myth or if it’s fact. Is this true?