“So, have you had any marathon feeds yet?” my friend asked me, as she cradled my newborn daughter. I had no idea what she meant, but I nodded anyway – which was becoming my go-to reaction to any parenting questions. As a first-time mum, I was confused, excited and optimistic. Everything and nothing made sense, including my friend’s reference to ‘marathon’ and ‘cluster’ feeds.
A few days later, I learnt the true meaning of a ‘marathon’ feed when I breastfed my daughter for five hours straight, without even taking a toilet break.
I never thought I’d like breastfeeding. The very idea of it just seemed weird. I mean, a little thing, suckling at my nipples? Yuck. So, I was surprised to find that not only did I have a knack for breastfeeding, but I actually enjoyed it.
I couldn’t take all of the credit, though. To be good at breastfeeding, one needs to have a willing feeder, and my daughter wanted to breastfeed all the time. It seemed as though our breastfeeding sessions were getting longer and longer, and I wondered if it was normal. But I kept going, because my daughter had been born a few weeks early, and her weight was under average.
“Feed, feed, feed her,” the midwives urged me. So, I did.
On the night of the five-hour breastfeed, I was already feeling nervous. My husband had to go to a work-related dinner, and I was worried about being left alone with a one-month-old baby.
I had a plan: I would breastfeed Emmy, put her to sleep, eat my dinner and then hopefully get a nap before she woke for her next feed.
When my husband left for his dinner party, I was sitting on our bed, breastfeeding Emmy. He kissed me goodbye.
An hour into the breastfeed, I figured that Emmy was full, so I tried to pull her off my nipple. But she would suck even more voraciously, while lunging towards me. The message was clear: she was still feeding.
I, too, was feeling hungry. While cradling Emmy with one arm, I used the other arm to open my bedside drawer and rummage through it and locate my emergency packet of Oreo biscuits.
Another hour had passed, and it was past my own dinner time. I’d finished the emergency Oreos, and had now moved onto a Tupperware container full of chocolates and nuts. Emmy was still breastfeeding. Even as she napped in my arms, she could still feed in her sleep. I knew that if I stopped this feeding session, she would start screaming. And her screaming was so loud.
I chugged water, to replace all the fluid I was losing. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. My legs were restless from sitting for so long, and my arms were hurting from carrying Emmy. I lay my head back on my pillows. I was fatigued, and yet Emmy showed no sign of stopping.
Listen: Once you have a baby, it becomes all about them. So how do you look after your relationships with the people around you? Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes discuss, on Year One, Mamamia’s podcast for new parents. Post continues after audio.
I could definitely see the humour in the situation. I was being held captive by a tiny, helpless being, who was also extremely cute. It was all very sweet and endearing. I wasn’t bored, because I had my Kindle and a few magazines with me.
By the fifth hour, it stopped being funny. I felt like I was going crazy. All I wanted to hear was my husband’s key turning in our door, so that I could put Emmy in his arms and go to the toilet…or run out the front door to be somewhere, anywhere other than the bedroom where I’d been stuck for five hours.