I know I alluded to my problems with breastfeeding in a previous micro about baby blues but it really deserved its own post. Trying to breastfeed really ruined a lot of the good that could have been enjoyed the first few weeks.
Typically, when you have a baby your milk come in 3-7 days later. Before that time baby is getting colostrum instead, which is a thick golden liquid that meets all their nutritional needs in the meantime. I don’t know what the hell was going on in my body but my milk didn’t come in until day 5 and for whatever reason the colostrum didn’t seem to be doing its job of nourishing the Bean Sprout. In the first two days after birth poor Baby Bean Sprout lost 12% of his body weight dropping from 7 lbs 2 oz to 6 lbs 6 oz. This is slightly higher than the 10% that they like to allow.
As a new mom that alone was distressing enough but that wasn’t the scariest part. He also became REALLY lethargic. Like couldn’t be roused, not even to eat. I didn’t know at this point that my milk hadn’t come in. We (myself, hubby and the health nurse) just knew that he wasn’t doing well and that was what led them to double check my production. Nope. No milk. So I was told to start giving him some formula as a stop gap between then and when my production would be big enough to sustain him alone.
I still really wanted to breastfeed, and they were really supportive of that, but it would take some work. Not the “Put baby on breast and away you go!” that I had been expecting. Instead I was given a regimen in order to keep the baby healthy and make my milk production come in and grow. This is what I had to do every 2-3 hours for the first 3 weeks of my baby’s life.
1. Put baby to the breast. No there is nothing there but let the poor bugger suck on nothing for 5 min a side.
2. Feed baby formula so that he doesn’t die.
3. Snuggle baby skin to skin for 15 min to tell my body “Hey, look! There’s a baby there! MAKE FOOD FOR IT!”
4. Go pump for 20 min to extract any and all of the milk your body has produced. OR, before there is any, to stimulate your breasts yet again to make food for that baby.
It was hell. You’re not really sleeping and you’re feeling very hormonal and now you have to deal with feeling like you’ve failed your baby every 2 hours during the day, and I did. Feel like a total failure that is. Breastfeeding, which everyone touts as super natural and easy and good for baby, was feeling completely foreign to me. It was like a new language that I didn’t understand and was now expected to speak fluently.
And really, having talked to other new moms and a lot of lactation consultants, the language analogy is not far from the truth. Not only did I not know how to speak this new language and perform this task I had never done before and my baby had ALSO never done it before. It was like the blind leading the blind. We ended up needing quite a bit of help to get my milk production in and strong (done by week 2) and to get his latch all sorted out to be the most efficient and least painful (done by week 3). But for those first 3 weeks, at least, I had to really suspend my idea of what should be easy and just accept that it wasn’t.
Accept that my body took a while to get going and recognize that there was a baby to feed, it was ok, he ate formula and grew fine.
Accept that my baby didn’t really know what the hell he was doing on the breast and allow him to basically practice and practice until one time he just got it. Eventually he did. It was like a light-bulb going off and then he could nurse.
Accept that it might take a little bit before it didn’t hurt like hell to breastfeed. Between slow milk and funky latches things were very sore up under my nursing bra. But with persistence and time things improved.
Not unlike my labour story, and really the entire infertile struggle, I really had to surrender to my expectations and just allow life to unfold as it would. That can be really fucking hard for a type A personality like me. But I am trying. I’m still learning to let go and go with what is handed to me.
I hear this is very important as a parent. You’d think I’d be better at it by now.