Breastfeeding – harder than you think

Everyone tells you that you have no idea how tired you’ll be, that you can’t imagine how hard it will be.  I’d like to be one of the first to say that’s not true.  I’ve been tired before, strung out, whatever, and actually it was exactly how I imagined it would be.  The biggest problem the first 2 weeks was dealing with the residual gas pains I had from the surgery, plus the NSAIDs they gave me in the hospital really tore up my stomach, so I had a lot of GI problems when I first got home.

The other major challenge was getting breastfeeding going.  The Fry was, as I said, a very sleepy baby and would not latch on in the hospital.  It was a chicken-egg thing; there was no milk, so he wouldn’t latch.  Or was there no milk BECAUSE he wouldn’t latch and suck it out?  Who knows. Doesn’t matter.  I came home with the rental pump from the hospital, reluctant to invest the $$$ in the expensive, hospital-grade pump I had registered for in case for some reason BFing did not work.  I found fairly quickly that pumping was working well for me and within a day or so, the colostrom turned to actual milk.  But the Fry was still not taking much of it. We fed him by teaspoon here and there and I worked hard to get him to latch on, but he just SLEPT all the time.  Newborns DO sleep a lot, but they should also eat every 2, no more than 3 hours or 4 at the max, or else they’re not going to gain weight properly.  He just slept all day and all night.  It was nearly impossible to wake him up to try to get him to latch. We tried diaper changes, cold wash clothes, loud music, everything, but it wasn’t going well.

At his one-week check up, he had not gained even an ounce since we left the hospital and thus was still not back up to birth weight. The peds office encouraged me to keep trying with the BFing but said I would have to bring him back in another week, and if he hadn’t gained it back by then, I would need to consider supplementing with formula.  AGAIN with the formula pushing.  I know baby’s weight gain is important, but between the pressure I got in the hospital and the guilt I felt for him being so small and not gaining, I was at my wit’s end.

My sister, who had stayed with me the whole first week and helped me with the blurry nightmare that is those first several, sleepless, painful nights home, had gone back to her home several states away, and though she was a great resource for information, I missed her and needed her the second she left.  When we dropped her at the airport I cried all the way home because I couldn’t contemplate taking care of the baby without her help.  DH was obviously trying hard to help out, but he was working FT at this point and had little to no experience with a small baby and I just felt like I had to do everything myself.  I was so tired and really just bewildered and after the peds visit, I emailed her for help.  She said to call a La Leche League leader immediately for suggestions.  My local chapter leader was out of the country, and she said  it didn’t matter, call someone, anyone, and actually found a list of a bunch of local chapters and people’s names and contact numbers and sent it to me saying just keep calling numbers until you get someone, you need some help NOW.  And that’s just what I did. By the 4th number, I reached a LLL leader of a chapter a few cities away.  I introduced myself and asked if it was a good time to talk, describing the problems I was having through tears of hysteria.

This woman sprang in to action even though she had 2 small children of her own at home, who I could hear were being very active in the background.  She went and got her resource book and stayed on the phone with me for a good half hour until we both felt we had some ideas for me to try right away.

Basically, I spent the next 36 hours with virtually no sleep and implementing the strategies she suggested. And guess what?  IT WORKED!  (In case you’re interested, techniques included stripping baby down to diaper and me down to the smallest tank top I owned and doing nothing but skin-to-skin contact whenever possible and putting the Fry to the breast literally every 30 minutes, even if he didn’t eat).  All of a sudden at one point it was just like he GOT IT and latched on.  He only ate for a few minutes, I’m sure it was tiring for him, but I kept up with it, and by the end of the 3rd day, he totally got it and we were on the other side of that problem.  The BF difficulties were one of the things I didn’t anticipate.  I knew you had to work at it, but I had no idea it could be that hard to make something happen that’s supposed to be “natural” and that you would assume the baby has an instinct for.  And they do, but when you have one that’s really sleepy and small like mine was (he was down to 6.13 when we brought him home), it takes extra, extra work.  By his 2 week appointment, he had not only gained back to his birth weight but had a couple extra ounces on top of it.  Hooray!

I am so glad I stuck it out and will be forever greatful to my sister and the LLL woman who were able to help me in a time of crisis.  Now the Fry is 11 weeks old and BFing is just fantastic.

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