Wow. We're already on the 100th baby post! Today is all about breastfeeding in the first couple weeks. (Breastfeeding in general would be another monster post, much like how the Baby Must-Haves, Etc., turned out.) Anyway: Breastfeeding. The process continues to amaze me. First, I'll admit that my initial decision to breastfeed wasn't 100% driven by the health benefits Ada enjoys. That was a big chunk of it. But some of it was selfish. And some of it -- practical.
Actually, it was roughly broken down into thirds:
1/3 - Ada's health
1/3 - My health and, yeah, weight loss
1/3 - Financial reasons
How do I feel two and a half months after starting our adventure? Ada's health and weight gain is absolutely the most important to me of all these reasons. It must be a mom-thing -- caring more about her than myself. My weight loss has yet to be mind-blowing. And financially, I haven't yet had time to crunch the numbers.
But let's back up for a minute.
Breastfeeding hasn't always been a picnic for us. (Well, maybe for Ada -- she is eating, after all.) I feel very fortunate that Ada has taken to it and we seem to have hit a good rhythm. She had a strong latch from birth, but those first couple weeks were painful, stressful, and frustrating.
To first-time pregnant ladies out there: Whether or not you plan to breastfeed, the whole "coming-in" of the milk is, in a word, OUCH. It was something I wasn't prepared for. Of course, books mention ways to deal with engorgement and discomfort. But I didn't think I'd be reeling in pain, crying on the couch every night for 2 weeks straight.
I cried from the physical pain. But it was emotional, too. I think part of my emotional struggle stemmed from all the hormones in the postpartum period. They made me incredibly weepy. But a huge part of it was trouble dealing with my new body. I've always rocked a 34 A cup. Tiny. I actually like things this way, and it's what I'm used to. During pregnancy, I got fuller, but not by anything measurable. Then I had Ada. One day I woke up and -- BAM -- I had BOOBS. Not only that, but huge, rock-hard boobs that were dripping milk everywhere. I felt like a walking freak-show. I felt gross. I hated it and considered not breastfeeding because I somehow thought they would stay that way.
When Ada would nurse, it was excruciating. She was latching correctly according to my lactation consultant. Still, it hurt. A lot. When she wasn't nursing, it would also hurt a lot. I always felt way too full -- especially at night -- which I've since learned is just the body's way of regulating how much milk it produces and when. I thought it would last forever this way, and I almost quit because of it.
My midwife assured me that it would get better. Friends and family did, too. It was difficult, but I decided I would give it till the 6 week mark.
A lot of people describe a clockwork-like feeding schedule -- every 2 hours in those first weeks. For us, it was a bit different. We had to wake her up to eat, which I've read is common with babies born a bit early. She was so sleepy. We'd let her go up to 3 hours without eating (with the doctor's OK), but I spent a lot of time worrying that without Ada driving her schedule, my supply would be all screwed up. (I spent a lot of time worrying about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g Ada did or didn't do early on, but with breastfeeding, I tended to be a wreck, Googling things every five minutes.) That's the big thing you read about with the beginnings of breastfeeding. The baby dictates how much milk he/she needs. Thankfully, Ada started driving the ship around her 3 week birthday.
From that point on to the 6 week mark, we fed every 2 or 3 hours during the day. Sometimes a longer stretch for a long afternoon nap (4 hours). And at night it was every 3 or 4 hours. Of course, there were a few growth spurts in there where I'd find myself on the couch during marathon cluster-feeding episodes (where babies feed every hour for hours on end). Those aren't fun at all. But I've already complained enough about them in other posts.
There were certainly times when I freaked out because I felt tethered to Ada. I felt pressure from all the feeding falling on my shoulders (or boobs?). Like I would never have a life again. Feeding WAS my life. But this has gotten much better as the weeks have gone on and I've gotten out of the house more.
I always wondered if she was getting enough to eat. I'm a see-it-to-believe-it kind of person. I had to let her dirty/wet diapers do the talking. Her weight gain was consistent, though, and she seemed healthy and hydrated. The not knowing part is difficult. I actually started pumping a bottle a day with my hand-pump around the three-week mark because I was curious about how much I was producing at a time. I'd get 1 ounce the first week or so. Then I would be able to get a consistent 2 ounces.
It made me feel better. But I've since read that pumping before the 6 week mark can sometimes mess with supply. So, I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing what I did. I didn't have any issues, fortunately.
I learned how to distinguish between different sucking patterns. 1.) The active eating kind, where her jaw would move rhythmically and she'd gulp the milk. 2.) The comfort kind, where she would have her eyes closed and suck softly, and trail off. She never used me as a pacifier to the point where it drove me crazy, but we did eventually decide to give her a pacifier (a Soothie) because she really likes to suck. I can't remember exactly, but I think the first time we gave her a pacifier was around 4 or 5 weeks.
We gave her a bottle (a Tommee Tippee) around 5 to 6 weeks and did not experience any type of nipple confusion. Though it's not the case every time, most of my friends and family have reported little confusion by this week mark. Giving a bottle is much more work for me because I used stored milk, but still have to pump during that feeding to keep my supply up. I'm planning to write a post more about bottles specifically in the future. So, if you have questions, let us know!
To put it simply: The first weeks of breastfeeding can be painful, confusing, nerve-wracking, and -- at times -- overwhelming. I relied a lot on the things I've read, the cues I got from Ada, and from a few in-person and on-the-phone chats with my lactation consultant. There were many times I wanted to quit because it got to be too much or too frustrating, but now that I'm a seasoned pro (haha -- no, but I've been going almost 3 months now), I can tell you that what everyone says is true. It DOES get easier. By 6 weeks, I was happy I decided to stick with it.
And just look at her! She went from weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces at her 2-week appointment to 10 pounds, 2 ounces at her 2-month checkup.
I think that's about it. The most common question we've received in our email has been about the early weeks. But if you have other questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.
Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!