[listen, i don’t give a rats ass how you feed your kid, but this is a blog post about how i choose to feed mine. don’t you dare get all mommy wars up in this space. gracias. </rant]
When Nellie was first born they cleaned her up and suggested I try to get her to latch on for her first feeding. I’d thought about this moment a bit while I was pregnant, it seemed like the quintessential first newborn moment I’d have with my daughter. In reality it was a hot mess because Nellie was having NONE of this breastfeeding thing, and I would go on to fight her to eat something, ANYTHING from about 10:30pm, until 3:00am. How magical!
The first 24 hours of breastfeeding were miserable. I honestly began dreading the next feeding. Nellie would scream with hunger, I’d try to put my boob in her mouth, she’s scream more, the nurse would be called and they’d have their hands all over me, tossing my boob this way and that. We tried putting formula on my nipples, sugar water, anything we could to get this baby to latch. Looking back now, what happens is when Nellie is hungry she needs to eat, NOW. And if you don’t get her what she wants, she loses it. The longer she goes without eating the more she loses it, and no matter if that bottle or boob is right there in her mouth. The actual thing that will make the hunger go away is right in front of her but she’s too worked up to put two and two together. Of course I knew none of this about my less than 24 hour old baby when we were first trying our hands at breastfeeding, so basically we all struggled.
At one point I’d told the nurse that I thought I had it, so next feeding I wasn’t going to call her right away, I’d only page her if I had any issues. Adam and I tried, and tried, and tried. He was making suggestions for holds, we tried the carry hold, the football hold, flopping her tiny body this way and that. Sugar water, anything and it was NOT WORKING. We were yelling at each other and failing miserably and finally gave in and called the nurse. I was worried that by the time we got discharged we still wouldn’t have it and we’d starve this baby to death in the first week. Thankfully by the last feeding of the morning we were set to checkout I stuck the hold and the latch and fed Nellie like a champ. It hurt like fucking hell, but I’d fed her without the nurse, so I was considering it a win.
Over the next two weeks I continued to struggle with breastfeeding. At one point I was in about four different text conversations with friends asking them, HOW IN THE WORLD DO I GET THIS TO STOP HURTING? I had milk blisters on my nipples, they were cracked and bleeding and before Nellie latched on I would actually shudder thinking about those first painful seconds that were coming. It was absolute misery. I was slathering lanolin nipple cream and coconut oil on my nipples like it was my part time job and they were still dying. I even had my neighbor bring over her extra lanolin gel pads because I needed all the help I could get. When I’d stand in the shower I’d hold my hands over my boobs to keep the horrible water from touching my poor skin and the towel felt like sandpaper. I considered never showering again. Clearly we were doing it wrong.
Thankfully a friend suggested I make an appointment with a lactation consultant and suddenly there was this wonderful person who’s entire job was to help Nellie and I figure out how to do this whole breastfeeding thing without making me cry. I left in so much less pain, with a plan, feeling great. Until Nellie’s two week doctor’s appointment that is. Nellie’s shitty latch and complete inability to stay awake to eat had caused her to lose even more weight since she’d left the hospital and I was told if I wanted to keep breastfeeding I needed to get her weight up by her third week, OR ELSE. Now I would feed Nellie from each boob twice and then feed her an additional ounce of pumped breastmilk. Thirty minutes after feeding her I’d pump for the next round. Every single hour I was either having a baby on the boob or a pump on the boob and I was DYING. But we did it. At that next appointment girlfriend had regained her birth weight and then some. Our latch was fixed, nursing didn’t hurt, Nellie was eating enough, and the nurse and pump routine was done. We were sent on our merry way to nurse and live together in newborn harmony.
Of course if you read my blog you know that the latest hurdle in my breastfeeding journey was that a few weeks ago I found that I had excess lipase in my breastmilk making it so I have to scorch my milk before storing it, and that my previous stash of pumped milk was useless. I was pretty upset at first, but now that I’ve been pumping and scorching my milk for a few weeks my stash is already bigger than it was before, and although the scorching is another step in the already tedious pumping routine, it is what it is and I solider on.
Back in those early days when my nipples were actually bleeding, or when I was round the clock feeding and pumping I just kept telling myself to make it through one more day. Then my goals were small. See if you can make it through today breastfeeding and we’ll see how tomorrow goes, tomorrow.
Eventually things got better, we established a routine, Nellie knew what she was doing, I knew what I was doing, so my goal became to make it to the end of my maternity leave. Twelve weeks of breastfeeding.
And we did it. Today is the night before I go back to work. Twelve weeks of feeding Nellie with my body alone. There have been times when I wanted so badly to stop, but there have been so many more times when I’ve looked down at that little head with her sweet hand over her face, or clutching my top, or resting her little hand on my chest and I’ve been so glad I stuck with it. We’re about to enter a totally new world tomorrow when I go back to work, a world of pumping and bottle feeding, mass scorching, and wondering if I’ll make enough for tomorrow’s bottles, etc etc and if I’ve learned anything from the last three months it’s that there will be more hurdles before us.
So I’m back to taking it one day at a time. One day of pumping and bottles and feeding her when I see her at home. Maybe we’ll make it a week, maybe four weeks, maybe another twelve more weeks and we’ll hit that next goal of mine of six months of breastfeeding.
Or we wont, and that will be ok too.
For now I’m just happy we made it to today. Let’s celebrate today.