Breastfeeding has not come easy to me. Anyone who has followed this blog has read about my struggles and frustrations. With my son, I spent so much time obsessing over my milk production and my son’s health, that I missed enjoying the first few months of his life.
I don’t want to rehash it all since I have several posts on the subject, but I was surprised that in everything I read ahead of time and in the classes I took before I had my son, that no one bothered to mention that not everyone can breastfeed. Heck, everyone and everything made it look so easy. No one even bothered to mention to me that it might be anything but a piece of cake.
This time I was prepared. No one was going to make me feel bad or try to push me toward something I wasn’t able to do. From the moment my daughter was born, I started explaining my situation to every nurse, doctor and lactation consultant who entered my room. When I went in to the situation, not only expecting to need a bottle supplement, but fully prepared to walk out of the hospital with nothing but the bottle, the whole experience was different.
From the moment they heard of my struggles, everyone at the hospital was supportive. They were impressed with how much I’d thought about my decision and respectful of it. I told them up front that I wanted to try to breastfeed, but would reach for the bottle if it didn’t seem to be working. Without question, the nurse brought in Enfamil in case I needed it.
For the first day, I didn’t think I’d need it, but it was in the back of my mind. Things seemed to be going better. My daughter took to nursing pretty well. Unlike my son, she dropped off after 10 or 15 minutes, then slept soundly. I started to get my hopes up just a bit. My husband got excited.
My nurse, Laura, wasn’t quite as encouraged. She noticed my daughter hadn’t had a dirty diaper yet. She’d had a few wet ones, but it had been over 24 hours and no meconium. Laura told the pediatrician before I even got a chance to, because she was concerned. She agreed with the doc 100%: if my daughter didn’t have a dirty diaper by 6pm, we were adding formula to the mix.
A few hours later, I realized that not only had she not had a dirty diaper, but it had been hours since her last wet one. Before I could even suggest it, Laura told me to get the formula out. She wanted some results before the docs went home for the day. So, I breastfed and then broke out the bottle. My daughter took it. Less than an hour later, we had both a wet and dirty diaper. I realized that even though everything looked like it was going right, obviously it wasn’t.
I found myself reflecting on my son’s birth. Everything seemed to be going right that time too. Everyone seemed convinced he was taking to the breast, only to find out that he went home a full pound lighter (and it took him three weeks to get back to his birth weight) and dangerously close to dehydration. I remembered being stressed out before we even brought him home because he wasn’t sleeping well and wanted to feed every two hours or so, despite all the books telling me that he should have spent most of the first few days sleeping.
This time though, I avoided that. I had a little girl who was feeding every three or four hours. I was getting sleep, she was getting sleep, it was awesome! Unlike the first time around, I sent her to the nursery every night so that we both could sleep better. This was another mistake I made my first time around, I had my son stay in the room with me for all but the last night. Even though he did sleep, he made so many noises, I hardly slept. When my baby girl went to the nursery, she slept and so did I.
When we left the hospital, she was only 8 ounces down. She did lose one more between the hospital and seeing the doc today, so we do have to go back on Friday, but I feel so much better about everything. Last night she only woke up twice, at 2:15 and 6:30. She is napping/sleeping about 18 hours a day. She rarely cries, unless she’s hungry and is just as snuggly as can be.
I even think I’m making more milk this time around. I know it’s still not enough because she does take the bottle after each breastfeeding, but only about an ounce. I think the fact that I’m not stressed out and feeding for an hour, then being off for an hour, then feeding again for an hour, has helped me. The fact that I knew how hard it was going to be, almost made it easier for me. I’m not at all stressed because I know that if she stops taking my breast or if she needs more formula, I’m ok with it. My son, who had a lot of bottles, is healthy and thriving, so I know if it happens again, she’ll be fine too.
I know it’s because I went through such a nightmare the first time and because I’ve learned so much since, but this time I’m actually enjoying the bit of breastfeeding I’m doing. I plan to keep it up for as long as I can. Last time I made it 8 weeks. If I make it longer this time, great. If not, it was good while it lasted, and that’s ok too.
In the end, all that matters is that my little girl is healthy and happy, and that I am too.