Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How it went for me.

I think I am far enough out of those first few awful weeks to look back at becoming a parent more objectively. It is unreal how I knew I loved the baby when he was in me but then once he was on the outside he was real. A little person. I know, shocker.

Everyone tells you how amazing it is and how much you love the baby. But what most people fail to mention how truly hard those first few weeks are. Heck, maybe in the months territory. I’ll let you know after I make it through a few more months. But as of right now, today as compared to the first month is a breeze. The funny thing is that no matter how much everyone else could drive me crazy in those first few weeks, I never felt anything but this pure and simple love for L.

I think one of the things that brand new moms should know is about how breastfeeding is at the beginning. People tell you that it will be hard, but not really the whole story. So here is mine, which of course might not be yours, but it also might make you realize you aren’t alone.

I decided to try breastfeeding and even went to one of those boobie type meetings a month or so before L was born. Think the Spanish word for milk and that is the meeting I went to. The girls there were nice and it was more of a bunch of moms talking about their boobs and being a mother with some random nursing going on here and there than the crazy boob freaks I had expected. There were mainly newish moms there with babies under the age of 6 months, which was nice and I saw myself going back after L was born maybe making friends with some of them eventually. We all know how hard adult friends can be to find and maintain.

I started bfing in the hospital and it seemed to be going well. L lost weight, but all babies do because they aren’t living in a wading pool anymore. The only bad experience with a nurse that I had was one that fussed at me for not waking L up one nite within their three hour window. Most were super supportive and told me that it would be hard but at the same time the hard awful part wouldn’t last for more than a few weeks.

We came home from the hospital on Monday, exhausted but okay. My boobs were sore and those gel soothies were glorious. Showers were miserable and torturous because of the pain to your boobs. I didn’t even turn to face the shower for quite a while, maybe two weeks at least.

L was waking up to eat every 2 hours nite and day, which is as awful as it sounds and perhaps worse. When I say two hours, I mean at 8 he would wake and eat for 40 minutes and then fall asleepish in 15 or so minutes. Then I would try to go back to sleep for the about one hour that he gave us until he woke us up again around 10. There was little cuddling and cooing, more screaming (on his part) and boob shoving (on my part). It was harder than I expected just simply because of the sheer exhaustion of no sleep. Then my boobs started really hurting every single time he latched on. So at least 12 times a day for about the first few minutes on each side I was in tear inducing pain. After twenty or so minutes on one side after I had worked through the pain, I had to work up the courage to move him to the other side and endure the pain there.

I decided by Wednesday after a chunk of my nip and some blood came off in L’s mouth that it was time to call the LC. I was in such pain I didn’t even want to feed him on the one side. The LC gave us a hospital grade pump for the immediate future and we talked about some strategies to make the pain less severe. We decided to go visit her on Friday because I was still in pain and she wanted to make sure he wasn’t tongue tied and see how he was latching. You would think driving up to someone’s house and sitting in their living room with your boob out would be awkward, but that lady had seen so many boobs, mine was nothing. She made me comfortable and I am a fairly modest person in regards to people seeing my goods.

We talked about his latch and seeing if he was getting enough milk etc. She actually weighed him before and after a feed and he was getting about two ounces, which was perfect. She gave me some tips and physically showed me how to put my boob in his mouth, which was really helpful. I made sure Brooks watched so that he would remember what I forgot- see above for sleep deprivation related stupidity.

I went home and felt pretty good about things. Feeding was still hard but it would get better, right? And it did. Some.

When we had L’s second day home visit with the pediatrician, he had gained weight really well, five ounces. Who knew I would be so happy about him gaining five little ounces. We had to come back at one week to see how he was doing, aka basically a weight check. He had only gained 2 ounces but that was okay, not great but okay. They typically want a baby to gain half to one ounce a day. We talked to the pediatrician’s LC about what to do and she said to supplement with one bottle a day of two ounces and just pump during that feeding instead. That sounds easy!

Well, that would be easy but there was a catch. I had a two week old baby that wanted to cry nonstop during that 30 minute pump session. If you are the only one home with the baby that makes it tricky. But I stuck it out. I just thought it would be a good prepper for when I went back to work and had to pump all the time to keep up with the eating machine.

In the meantime, my boobs were not feeling any better. There was a short period where it was okay and then it went downhill. The pain was so intense that I went back to the LC. She suggested a nipple shield and when I tried it, it was miraculous. The pain was so reduced from his serious latch that I could tolerate it after the initial clamp down. YAY!

Then we went back to check his weight and he had gained 5 ounces with the help of the bottle. We were giving him what I had pumped after a regular feeding when he still seemed hungry but after I had nursed him for forty minutes. Things seemed to be going better but it was still tough. Then the two day nursefest happened. I know clusterfeeding is common, so I googled it and intended to stick it out. After those two days, it seemed like L couldn’t get enough.

I was pumping for a few minutes after nursing to increase my supply and then still was doing the one bottle a day where I would pump instead of nursing. But somehow my pumping began to decrease. The first week I was getting one to two ounces. Then it became closer to one ounce. Then I was barely getting half an ounce. It was mental torture because the thought that L wasn’t getting enough from me since after almost every feeding of nearly an hour he would still seem hungry. My baby. I am supposed to be providing for him. I am supposed to be the one that feeds him. What kind of mother am I if I can’t simply feed him.

It was hard enough to give him that first bottle after the LC and pediatrician suggested it in the second week. It was heart breaking to think he wasn’t getting more than half an ounce at a time from me. I kept telling myself that the pump isn’t as effective as a baby. But then I would question why it had done so well the first few weeks when I would get one or two ounces.

I would sit in the rocking chair holding him and cry. Cry because it hurt. Cry because he was always still hungry after he ate from me. Cry because I wasn’t doing what a mother is meant to do. Cry because I wasn’t sleeping enough.

After six weeks of nursing, I was getting only drops out of my leftie and maybe a quarter of an ounce out of the right. I had talked to the LC several times and she told me one thing that I have kept in my mind every time I have doubt. First and foremost, the baby needs to eat. Plain and simple. We tried some herbal supplements but nothing seemed to make a difference.

If only it were so easy to tell your brain that formula was fine for the baby, that I wasn’t giving up. I kept trying to nurse for another week with the amounts decreasing still when I would pump. What happened to supply and demand? Apparently my supply and demand didn’t get the memo that there was supposed to be more supply. At eight weeks, I finally conceded that my body wasn’t doing things well and bottles would be okay. I cried so many times during mixing up bottles that I can’t even tell you how many times I cried. I felt like a failure even if no one was calling me one. I felt like a failure even though it was obvious that L was so much happier. He was sleeping better, napping more and just generally happier.

I read about how to stop nursing because I imagined it would be painful. Old leftie honestly felt little to no pain in less than two days. A sure sign that it wasn’t producing the way it should have been. My right boob was a bit longer but in less than a week I wasn’t nursing at all and my boobs were flat as could be.

On some level I wanted someone to just tell me to stop or someone to tell me to just stick it out. But no one would. I had to make that decision on my own and every time I thought about stopping I felt like a failure. Then everytime I counted the minutes that L was nursing I felt like a horrible person to be wanting to rush my newborn baby and get him off of me and my useless boobs. I wasn’t enjoying anything but so many people said that it got better so I thought I was just being a wimp.

One of my closest friends and I talked about everything about a month into it and one thing that we both determined was that if you were dealing with only one thing at a time, everything would be so much easier. But you aren’t. You are exhausted from a lack of sleep. Your boobs are aching and a mess. Your hormones are completely out of wack and you can cry at the slightest thing. Plus you are recovering from either a major surgery or a natural birth, neither of which are anything too easy. On top of that I got an infection at the incision less than ten days after birth. Happy 30th Birthday – here’s some antibiotics for your hootch.

I still feel self induced guilt over not sticking it out and what I perhaps missed by not breastfeeding longer. That bonding time with L that I am missing. But I just have to keep telling myself the same thing that the LC said to me – first and foremost, the baby must eat.


  1. I obviously haven't gone through any of that - birthing a baby, bfeeding, etc. - but I remember reading somewhere that a mother's happiness/sanity is more important than any breast milk vs formula debate. It's important to remember that - as well as remembering that the baby must eat. I can't see how a mother who is miserable and suffering to feed her child naturally is any better than a mother who has the mental strength to logically feed her child formula so they can both be happy. I certainly plan to try to bfeed, but I've already made a compromise with myself that if it's not working, my happiness and the baby's full belly are what's most important. I'm sure that doesn't take away from the guilty feelings, but life isn't perfect and there are far more important things you will do for your child throughout his life - things that matter so much more than how you fed him as a baby.

  2. One of my biggest criticisms against the movement to encourage women to breastfeed Above All Else™ is that there is a large negative pressure against supplementing, pumping, formula, etc. The message becomes, "Nature gave you all you need to feed your baby; if you can't, you're a shit mother. You're *clearly* doing it wrong."

    The truth and reality tends to lean in favor of breastfeeding above other methods, but not in an absolute way, but it's being painted like that. Thus, you have such situations as you describe above where, through no fault or lack of effort on your part, you simply weren't able to do it, and instead of feeling like you'd done all you could and you could move on easily, you end up sobbing and feeling like trash instead.

    That is NOT where I think we want to be with this debate and reform of culture. It's hard enough to be a mother to a newborn, let alone feel like you've created a gigantic moral aberration.

    My son came out at 9lbs, 13oz. He was ravenously hungry from the immediate start and my wife had a lot of problems with latch -- her boobs weren't tight enough to result in a nipple that protruded enough for him to latch and he had issues trying to grab it anyway. Add ontop of this that her milk had NOT come in at all, at least, not more than an ounce or two, probably, at the most.

    The result was a very unhappy baby for the first few days because he was STARVING and was getting nothing, and every feeding session was this huge pile of steaming frustration. At Day 2 we gave him a hospital bottle and he sucked 2oz down in less than a minute. We got major evil eyes from one boob nut in particular but most were supportive. More boob work, more frustration, another 2oz gone in a flash.

    We finally conceded that this boob thing wasn't going to work out, but because we had no severe aversion to formula feeding if necessary, it wasn't a huge issue. Add ontop of this the fact that we now had a very HAPPY baby on our hands and....well. You know how it is. In those first couple months, a happy baby is EVERYTHING.

    Wifey continued to pump and feed him whatever she got out, but it was never more than 2 oz or so. Meanwhile he quickly upgraded to 4oz and still sucked it down at record speed.

    So, while we tried, we failed -- as such, but we succeeded, because our baby got fed. And he was happy, growing, and sleeping. He's now 4yo, bright, cheerful, smart as a whip, perfect height/weight, and a delight. I have no regrets of what we had to do.

    It sound to me like you put in an A+ effort to the cause and things didn't work out, and that's perfectly ok. You did right in trying to do the best for your kid, and that's all we as parents can do, really. Good job.

  3. Easier said than done, but try to let go of that guilt over feeding L formula -- you have nothing to feel guilty about. Ultimately you have a happy baby, a happy mama, and no one is hungry or in pain, and that's what matters most.

    Breastfeeding is going well for me, but I still supplement with formula from time to time because sometimes my boobs just really need a break. The result is that feeding him becomes less of a chore, it's something we can both enjoy, AND my husband can help out. Bottles are a real savior in that sense. Breastfeeding exclusively made me feel very lonely, since it was something only I could do. I relied on my husband for so much help during those first challenging weeks, and the fact that he physically couldn't help with feeding -- the thing that took up at least half the day -- was really hard on me. In the end, mostly breastfeeding with occasional formula is what works best for us (and yet, I still struggled with guilt over giving the baby formula). I'm glad you've found what works best for you guys, too. Well done.

  4. I've been waiting for updates from you FOR.EV.ER. I'm glad you're alive and well. I've been worried about you since your first post.

    Breastfeeding has always been a sore spot for me. I tried it. It didn't go well. Five years later I still struggle with it. I didn't even try with my second, and now that it's our routine, I don't intend to try with any future babies either, but the guilt is still there. Why, oh, why is there so much guilt? It's ridiculous!

    I'm sorry to hear that your delivery was a little rough. I hope you're feeling well and loving that baby!