I had heard from a lot of people that breastfeeding is not easy, but it’s hard to really understand how difficult it is until you’re doing it and having problems. The toughest part is that you can’t take a break. Once you’ve decided you can’t handle it and feel like you need to give up, you can’t go back (although I have heard vague references to re-lactation). I would have loved to take a break to let my sore left nipple heal, for example, but there was always a helpless little baby with a sad face begging me for food every few hours. If I didn’t share with him, my milk supply would dwindle. In fact, the answer to most problems that can arise (plugged duct, plugged nipple, mastitis) is “keep nursing!”. If you stop, things just get worse.
Our first difficulty began on day two. Siddhartha latched on great from the beginning and was sleepy and fairly calm the first day. I had no idea that day two was going to be an all-out non-stop colostrum buffet. Apparently, babies spend their second day in life eating as much as possible to stimulate momma’s milk production. This wouldn’t be so bad if:
there were a decent amount of colostrum so I didn’t feel guilty every time he tried to eat
the nurse hadn’t scared the piss out of me by overracting to his weight loss (10% is normal to lose. 10% of Sidd’s weight was ~6 pounds 7 ounces. He was down to 6 pounds 6 ounces. Big woop!) and
if I hadn’t been on my third night with almost no sleep while trying to recover from surgery.
After reaching a point of desperation, we gave in and supplemented with formula. It’s difficult to remember the course of events because of the fog that saturated my mental state at the time, but I know that within the first couple days of Sidd’s life we had already given up on most of our plan regarding breastfeeding. Besides supplementing with formula, we had also introduced a pacifier, and sent him to the nursery. I am glad that those options were available to us so that we were able to draw ourselves back from teetering on the edge of sanity, but I also think we could have avoided some of it if we had had better information and support at the hospital.
A quick conversation with a nurse or a simple flyer from the lactation consultants about baby’s second night would have been enough to get us through it. If you know anyone having a baby, the article about baby’s second night is essential. Please share it with them. I wish someone had done that for us.
Nevertheless, I was able to keep my milk supply up by pumping every two hours and we were able to do away with the formula after a day or two. We went home on day four thinking the breastfeeding was going great.
Sadly, within an hour of getting home, Sidd refused one breast and then the other. He did accept one again briefly and I wrote a victorious blog post before later realizing that our problems were only just beginning. Due to poor advice at the hospital, Sidd had gotten used to the bottle and it would take intense effort to get him back to the nipple. More about that later.
How were your first few days breastfeeding? Did you have to supplement? Did you receive any very helpful advice you’d like to pass on?