Adventures in breastfeeding
I’m glad I had mentally prepared for breastfeeding to be tough, because in the beginning, it really is. Like Omigod-this-is-awful kind of tough. Way more than I thought.
Here’s a quick re-cap of the first week, for those of you who are considering breastfeeding. I wish I had read a firsthand account before having Baby Boy, because it was not what I was expecting (at all!) …
Day 1 (Sunday):
The hospital where I delivered Baby Boy is extremely pro-breastfeeding, so luckily I had lots of help from the nurses. I got to put Baby Boy skin-to-skin about half an hour after he was born, as soon as I was in the recovery room. They helped me put him to the breast, and I think he sort of sucked a bit — he was alert, but I was still very dazed at that point. Ahhh, drugs. More on that later!
On the first night, we were having trouble getting him latched on. One nurse did it perfectly, but when she went off shift, the next nurse wasn’t as skilled. So she showed me how to hand-express the creamy yellowish drops of colostrum, and feed it to Baby Boy drop by drop on my fingertip. I couldn’t believe he’d actually get any kind of satisfaction from so little, but he did! About about 30 drops or so, he calmed down enough to get some sleep. It felt kind of cool to know my body could do that.
When the “good” breastfeeding-helper nurse came back in the morning, she helped me get him latched on again — and from then on I’ve been able to get him latched on myself. He’s been a champion feeder ever since, which is good news for him, but has been very hard for my boobs! I swear, he has teeth right beneath the surface of his gums. Owwwwwie!
Day 2 (Monday):
On the second night, we got to experience the hell that is “cluster feeding.” That’s when they are starving and basically eat nonstop trying to feel full. Darling Husband and I didn’t get any sleep that night, except for about an hour, as I was constantly switching Baby Boy from left to right and back to the left again. OW!
The nurses all commented that he had a great latch but a furious suck, so because he was eating so frequently, my poor nipples cracked and bled and developed ugly scabs. I put lots of lanolin cream on them whenever I could, but my poor little guy was constantly hungry. It was so bad that at some points I’d look at Darling Husband (who would be holding the baby) and say, “He’s not hungry again, is he? Oh, no no no, please! Ow!” and actually cup my boobs instinctively to protect them.
Baby Boy continued to feed very frequently on the third day, and I spent most of it asking the nurses — somewhat desperately — when they thought my milk would come in. Baby Boy was only one day old, and they said it usually comes in when they are three or four days old.
Day 3 (Tuesday):
By the time the third night rolled around, I was a complete mess. We’d been up all night — except for that one hour — and he’d been awake and feeding most of the day, too. It’s almost a blur now, but I remember sitting in a chair in the room, trying to spoon in rice and cooked carrots, as tears poured down my face and I stared at the wall. Rice was falling everywhere, and I just looked blankly at the nurse when she came in to check on us. I was so far past the point of exhaustion that I couldn’t stop crying.
The nurse took one look at me and told Darling Husband that the most important thing was to get me to sleep. We told her how much the baby was eating, and she said I was to feed him, then immediately hand him to Darling Husband. He was to settle him in the bassinet to sleep, and if he couldn’t get him to sleep right away, he was to walk the halls with him — leaving me to sleep alone in the room.
It was a perfect plan, and luckily Baby Boy wasn’t quite as hungry as he’d been during the horrible second night. I fed him, handed him off, and was able to grab an hour and a half of sleep. I remember waking up and feeling as rested as if I’d had a full night! It was wonderful. We repeated the process a couple of times, and I felt much more human when I woke up on Wednesday (the fourth day).
Days 4, 5 and 6 (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday):
We were released from the hospital on Wednesday, and by that point I was relieved to come home. I was worried about being away from the nurses at the touch of a button, but felt we would get more rest away from the noise and the chaos.
My milk actually started coming in exactly 72 hours after Baby Boy came into the world. It began just as we left the hospital, and I had to deal with some very sore boobs that afternoon — as they filled up and felt like boulders! Luckily, Baby Boy is such a good eater that he drains them well, and I haven’t had that “boulder” sensation since.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights went pretty much the same way. I’d try to get Baby Boy nice and full, we’d swaddled him, and put him in his bassinet next to our bed. He’d sleep for between an hour and an hour and forty minutes, and then we’d get him up, feed him again, change him, swaddle him, give him a “top-up” (a.k.a five more minutes of feeding to calm him after the diaper change), and put him back to bed. Sometimes he’d settle, sometimes he wouldn’t. But I was definitely getting the hang of feeding him, since I was doing it so often.
Day 7 (Saturday):
By this point, my scabs were gone, and my boobs were feeling MUCH better. Baby Boy’s latch was still as strong as ever, but it wasn’t hurting like it had. I was only feeling the occasional twinge, when he really attacked me with his HARD gums. We had the routine down to a science — well, as much as you can call “constantly either sleeping or feeding” a routine — and he actually slept for his first three-hour stretch. Success!
Today, Baby Boy is nine days old — yes, I’ve been singing the Peas Porridge Hot
rhyme all day, in honour of his nine-day birthday. And I have to say that breastfeeding is SO MUCH BETTER than I could have imagined four or five days ago.
Baby Boy is a pro at latching on, and hardly ever needs to be guided anymore. I can do it one-handed. He’s chubbing up nicely. My boobs feel great. And the whole gazing-into-each-other’s-eyes/bonding stuff you hear about? So totally and completely wonderful.
If I had to sum up breastfeeding to a mommy-to-be, I’d say HOLY HELL, AT FIRST IT’S PAINFUL/DIFFICULT/NO SLEEP/AUGHHH but then WAIT, HANG IN THERE AND IT GETS SO MUCH BETTER! JUST SOLDIER IT OUT FOR THE FIRST FEW DAYS!
Oh, and the weight loss is pretty freaking great, too. More on that — and the birth story! — coming soon! Promise!