Exclusively breastfeeding my baby up until now (4 months, 3 weeks) has been simultaneously impossible and easy. Because this part of our parenting journey has been important and has taken up more space in our family than I would ever have thought possible, I would like to tell you about it. (You can stop reading now if this just isn’t your thing, though. Promise I won’t mind. Also, no pictures on this post. You’re welcome.)
I planned to breastfeed my baby because, well, doesn’t everyone read all those scary articles about how wonderful breastfeeding is and how we’re all doomed if we don’t breastfeed? Actually, I am also pretty cheap. I loved the idea of not having to pay for formula! And a free all-you-can-eat weight loss program! Woo-hoo! My mom breastfed us (I would never take a bottle!), and she kept pumping for my two sisters when she returned to work. T’s mom breastfed them. Everyone breastfeeds! No big deal, guys.
Our childbirth educator spent 30 minutes or so discussing breastfeeding and proper latch, and she encouraged us to attend a longer course taught by The BABES. The Babes, Leah and Misti, are awesome. I generally thought breastfeeding would just happen, no big deal, but we went to their 2-hr breastfeeding introduction class anyway. We were grateful that they demonstrated technique with small balloons rather than showing video after video of random women’s boobs/nipples/gross as they apparently do at the hospital breastfeeding class. (Nursing is not gross. But it IS kindof weird and gross to stare at other women’s boobs, especially on videos from the 80’s.)
My laissez-faire attitude about breastfeeding began to erode when I heard that amidst a veritable baby boom in Kingsport, only one or two of my friends from my hometown had been able to breastfeed for longer than a few weeks. I wasn’t even sure what that meant, to not be able to breastfeed. Did they try? Isn’t that just how God made us to work? Don’t they love their babies? That’s the thing–I knew they did love their babies very, very much, so something else must have been going on.
(I actually still don’t know the whole story about each of my friend’s journeys. It’s very personal, and there’s so much stigma from both sides of the formula/breastfeeding world that I want to have a lengthy one-on-one talk with each of them to hear more about their entire parenting journey. Except, you know, we all just had babies, so we have no time. I mean no disrespect by bringing this topic up, rather I am pointing out that I was starting to get an inkling that I was in for a ride.)
Then KLC was born. And I had a not-totally-natural childbirth, but it was still crunchy and midwifey enough that I got to hold her immediately after she let out her first wail. What a beauty. Look, T, our baby! Oh yeah, she’s gotta eat! That’s why we do this whole skin-to-skin thing, right? My reasons for doing everything began to shift ever-so-slightly to be “what’s good for the baby” rather than “what’s in it for me?” Although I would have loved to have instantaneously shed my baby weight, the more pressing concern was connecting with our girl and teaching her to be comforted and fed by her mother.
Many babies sleep for most of the first day (did you know?? they don’t actually need to eat for a day or two because they still have some reserves from the womb). My baby did not. She cried. And sucked. And slept but not in the bassinet. And cried and sucked. Latching was a little weird at first, but we were fairly comfortable with it by the time we left the hospital. She clearly was getting some of the colostrum I had, too, because her weight had only gone down by 1 oz between birth and discharge.
I called the lactation consultants several times to make sure we were doing everything right. We were doing so well that we didn’t get offered formula “just in case” (apparently a standard practice at many hospitals), and I never had to pump at all. (So I didn’t know how to.) They did send me home with a small rinky-dink manual pump that I didn’t know how to use.
The only truly frustrating part about our time in the hospital was when I called the night nurse in. KLC would NOT sleep even though she’d been latched continuously and I was SO tired. I thought I would send her to the nursery so they could swaddle her up tight and soothe her for an hour or two. The night nurse came in, and I told her what I wanted. I’m not sure where the disconnect was, but instead of saying, “sure, we’ll take the baby for a little while!” she said, “we can give her a few ounces of donor breastmilk!” Hit the brakes! What? This baby has not even lost weight from birth, and she’s latching well. Why on earth would she need breastmilk from someone else? It’s great that TCH has donor breastmilk and gives that rather than formula in the NICU, etc., but there was no problem to be solved here. Except sleep. And the baby just needed to be held or rocked. “Um, never mind. I guess I don’t need your help.” And the night nurse left. And I kept holding the baby and trying not to drop her when I nodded off in the bed while T slept.
OK, I think I’ve reached the limit of posting for today. Stay tuned for Part 2, which will include some but maybe not all of: The First Snafu, The Second Snafu, The Refusal, and The Long Haul.