Stomach Flu While Breastfeeding: The 8th Layer Of Hell

WARNING: the following article is gross. I mean, it’s in the title. Finish your lunch before reading.

If you have ever breastfed, you will know that the stimulation your nipples receive while breastfeeding cause contractions that, just after birth, serve to shrink your uterus back down to its normal un-pregnant size. This can be a bit painful, like period cramps, but you don’t care too much because OMG MY BABY IS PERFECT and also FUCK SHIT MY NIPPLES ARE KILLING ME. A few days to a week later you no longer feel these contractions, and are so concentrated on trying not to crash too hard from your post-birth bliss that you’ve forgotten all about them.

Apparently, though, you still get contractions when you breastfeed, you just don’t feel them. Until, that is, you get the stomach flu, complete with explosive diarrhea and stomach cramps to rival birth contractions themselves (ok, I exaggerate, but barely). So what do you do? Turn to formula? And deprive her of all those antibodies that’ll (hopefully) protect her from catching the same thing? Because the last thing you need is her getting ill at the same time as you. No, you continue breastfeeding. It’ll be fine, you’ve been through childbirth for godsakes, it’s only a few cramps.

Except that stomach cramps plus diarrhea equal having to rush to the loo in the middle of breastfeeding.

The first time, you unlatch your hungry child, leave her in the middle of the bed, and run off. Her frustrated, uncomprehending cries are drowned out by the sound of you emptying your guts while trying not to vomit into her baby bath (in your rush you left the basin next to the bed).

Then you go back and try to finish, only for it to happen again. After a while you realise that this is going to happen every time you breastfeed your child, which means you have only one choice: sit on the loo while breastfeeding.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s disgusting. It’s unhygienic. It’s probably terrible for the baby. But the only alternative would be to pump your milk all day long, which means sitting upright for half an hour every four hours, and again, you’d have to do it on the loo, so tell me, which is more hygienic: transferring breastmilk into room temperature bottles whilst on the loo, giving milk time to lose some of its nutritious properties including those all-important antibodies and possibly exposing it to the miasma of stink you’re living in, or direct boob-to-mouth milk transfer – while pooping?

Did you ever expect to have to think about that question? I didn’t. The joys of motherhood.

The next thing you realise is that it’s (almost) logistically impossible. You need at least one arm to hold your baby up, so how are you going to drop your pants, grab the toilet paper, pick up your pants again afterwards? Not to mention the possibility of having to vomit.

Well, first of all, if you must wear pants, they’re going to be pyjama bottoms because anything tighter than that is torture right now. This facilitates things somewhat: no fly to unbutton, no belt to unbuckle, you just push them down. Sit down, covering as much of the loo as possible. Pick up basin in free hand and hold it over the kid’s legs, as far from her face as possible. Hopefully you won’t need it. The kid is looking around at this fascinating new environment, pulling on your boob as she arches her back, which is not making anything easier, especially if this is her 2am feed and you were hoping she’d be back off to sleep afterwards (haha nope). Then she smells the inevitable smell, wrinkles her nose (understandably) and latches off. You put down the basin, manage to get her to latch on again after a short struggle, but only for a few seconds. This continues for a while until, in the end, you accept the fact that she’s not going to eat much in these circumstances, which means she’ll be hungry in 2hrs, oh joy. I really hope by this point you didn’t need the basin. I was lucky.

You somehow manage the loo roll, but there’s no way you can pull your knickers and pj bottoms up with only one hand, and you’d rather not touch your baby more than you have to before washing your hands, so you put her down on the bathroom rug (and set the basin out of her reach), and hope she doesn’t roll over and start licking it. Flush, dispose of whatever’s in the basin, wash hands as fast as you can while being extremely thorough, apply antibacterial gel for good measure, wonder if there’s even any point after the farce of shitty hygiene you’ve just been through together.

Next day: you’re exhausted, but almost cured, and your baby has had a bit of bad wind, but that’s it. Thank god for the wonders of breastmilk.

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