Adventures in Breastfeeding, Part I: Surviving Day Two

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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:

  1. there were a decent amount of colostrum so I didn’t feel guilty every time he tried to eat

  2. 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

  3. 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?

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4 thoughts on “Adventures in Breastfeeding, Part I: Surviving Day Two

  1. My milk has always come in within 36 hours of giving birth, despite the fact that the first two didn’t even try to nurse for the first 24 hours (and Peter really didn’t until day 4 or so). That makes things a lot easier — at least there’s something to consume. I’ve also gotten lucky and only had minimal engorgement issues.

    Peter took two weeks to latch on consistently. It was awful. I felt so useless. He’d been pretty well drugged for most of his first week and waking up enough to nurse was hard. In the end, we used nipple shields for a day and he got the hang of it. But I was really, really close to giving up and just pumping. We’d been using the SNS, finger feeding, anything but introducing a bottle for fear that it would make it worse.

    Leo and Timothy both got the hang of nursing pretty fast. Timothy took 3 or 4 days to latch on without it hurting initially, but since then it’s been fine. He nurses a LOT and we’re thinking about getting his frenulum snipped in hopes that it helps him nurse more efficiently, but that’s the only tricky thing.

    I’ve heard that having a c-section or a more traumatic birth makes it take longer for milk to come in — that definitely seems to apply to you. Someone at the hospital this time told me that babies are born with a unique layer of fat to sustain them until milk comes in. I knew they were fine for a few days, but I hadn’t heard that version of why. Of course, when they use it, they lose weight, which freaks people out. Also, moms who got pumped full of IV fluids can have babies with inflated water weight, which makes initial weight loss look worse than it really is.

    Timothy has been a slow gainer, so we’ve had to go in for a few weight checks, but he didn’t drop below that critical (whatever!) 10% mark, so nobody freaked out. He started at 6 14, dropped to 6 7 by day 3, stayed there for a week, and was still 3 ounces under his birth weight at 2 weeks. By 3 weeks, he was at 7 9. I should weigh him now and see if he’s going up an ounce a day or what. He’ll be 6 or 7 weeks old before he hits his brothers’ birth weights in the mid-9’s.

  2. Despite the birth experience from hell, our first few days breastfeeding were great. In fact, I remember thinking it couldn’t possibly be that easy. It slowly got more and more complicated. She was nursing more and more, it got more and more painful, and she wasn’t gaining enough. My health visitor advised at two weeks that I shouldn’t be concerned just yet, but to make sure to nurse more so she can gain. I almost broke down in tears right then at the thought of nursing even more than 24/7.

    Everyone kept advising that it would get better at 2 weeks, at 4 weeks, at 8 weeks…. It never did. It just kept getting worse, and all anyone would tell me is that I was doing everything right, and it would “magically get better.” Dagmar was almost five months old before I could admit to myself I loathed breastfeeding, resented my daughter for it, and it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I planned to wean completely, but realized in the middle of weaning, that I actually started enjoying it when I didn’t have to do it ALL. THE. TIME.

    I may never know if it was a low supply issue or a baby with a high need to suck, but I know she wanted to nurse more than my sanity could take. We did mixed feeding until she was old enough for cow’s milk. I’m still nursing her today (she’ll be 2 in a couple weeks) and now I love it!

    I kinda feel like I’ve been all over the spectrum with her. I totally understand why people give up, or even why they don’t even try. It’s HARD. If I hadn’t weaned slowly, and started to enjoy it, I WOULD have stopped completely, and I’m not sure I’d be planning to give it a go again with Maggie when she makes her grand appearance in a couple months. So I definitely have sympathy for those that bottle-feed, whether by necessity or choice. But I’m also so grateful that I got the chance to make it work, and I think women who have the ability to breastfeed deserve all the information and support possible to really help them.

    Looking over from afar, it seems like in the States you have hospitals and doctors that place no priority on breastfeeding, and you have lactivists that spend their time convincing you that “breast is best” and “it’s natural”… but there’s not much of that in between, where you get help, and also recognition that it sucks sometimes. Where they provide information and resources without pushing formula, but also don’t judge you if you need or want to use it. Where they neither gloss over the fact that there are actually women that CAN’T breastfeed, nor try to convince you that it’s not worth the effort to try if you WANT to. I feel like things are better here in Denmark, yet I also wonder if people weren’t willing to admit that I might not actually be producing enough. And if I was producing enough, maybe I just needed someone to tell me it’s ok to use a pacifier sometimes. Who knows?

  3. Hey! Great post, Katie! I read the article on the baby’s second day. It was well written, and I’m glad you included it. Mostly, I loved how the article ended: “because for the baby, the breast is ‘home.'” This last part reminded me of our good chuckle over the “Breast Friend” name of the boob boppy thing. 🙂

  4. I’m in the hospital right now entering day two and am already experiencing the frustration. I just gave in and gave my love lump an once of formular and feel ultra guilty. My nipples are so sore, the lactation nurse is not patient and behaves as if you’re bothering her, the nurses try but are far too busy or lack the know how to truly assist. I’m gave in because he was crying, I was crying and he have lost seven onces within twenty four hours. I survived a thirty hour delivery, day one with an alert and active baby, circumcision, and my extremely sore nipples have left me truly insane. The worst part is hospital policy sends my husband home at ten and of course that is when baby is at his peak!

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