Warning: I am going to talk about boobs and breastfeeding in this post! As Sarah nears the one-year mark, I’m feeling some pressure to write things down before I forget them–plus, I was talking to my good friend Melissa about this last night, so it’s on my mind.
When I was first pregnant with Sarah, it was my intention to breast feed, of course. You know, at least for six months. Maybe a year. If it worked out. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself or set really specific expectations, because after listening to my own friends’ experiences, it seemed that’s where the bulk of their stress and disappointment came from–the pressures they (and society) put on themselves. So I was going to be chill.
Now I start to cry when I think that someday, Sarah and I will have to stop. It’s been a year, I think to myself. You said you weren’t going to be one of those creepy moms breastfeeding a toddler. But then I think, What’s another year? See what happens. Be chill!
So you might think, with all this love and attachment, that breastfeeding came naturally to us. I secretly thought it would. Scott and I watched the video where the newborn baby crawled up his exhausted mother’s chest and started sucking away, and I thought, That will totally be me. Even though I was ambivalent about how long I would breastfeed, I was super smug in my expectation that I, the one who cooks for and feeds anyone, would be a natural at breastfeeding. Come at me, baby!
This is what we call hubris. What actually happened is, it took two months for Sarah and me to breastfeed easily without any outside help.
At first, things looked promising. I had given birth, and I was overflowing with colostrum, the super-caloric “pre-milk” mothers produce before the milk comes in. Unfortunately, as is so common with many babies, Sarah couldn’t latch on properly. With the nurse’s help, I guided her to my breast, fitting her mouth over it and making sucking noises as encouragement. Sarah would cry. I would panic.
That first day (TMI alert!), the nurse ended up hand-expressing colostrum from me (aka milking me) into a spoon to feed Sarah, who greedily slurped it up.
Because I had a c-section, we ended up spending three days in the hospital. Which I thank god for, because without the round-the-clock support from the nurses, I might have given up out of frustration–or fear that my baby would starve. Just for the record: babies are born with an ample supply of what is called brown fat, so them not eating regularly for the first couple of days is not a huge call for concern. But I–anxiety-ridden first-time mother of an infant–was concerned.
Over and over, the same scenario would repeat itself. A nurse would come in to try to help me feed Sarah. She would struggle to latch, but it wouldn’t work and she would cry. I would cry. Then I’d pump–the hospital likes to have new mothers start pumping after every feed to help make sure their milk supply comes in.
I had no trouble on the supply side–I was filling plastic vials right and left! But as the nurses (so many lovely, helpful nurses) explained to me, many newborn babies lack the muscle control to latch on properly. It turns out most babies are not born knowing how to breastfeed (stupid video) –we have to teach them!
Every nurse had a different piece of advice, or a different technique, which was frustrating but ultimately helpful, since one nurse (who practically made me attempt to feed Sarah at 2 am when I was feeling utterly–there’s a joke there–defeated) suggested that we try a nipple shield.
A nipple shield is basically a silicone hat for your nipple with holes in it. There were a few more kinks to work out, but basically, it was much easier for Sarah to latch onto the nipple shield than my squishy boob. Huzzah! By the time we left the hospital, I could reliably feed my daughter.
That’s when the pain began. Oh my god. That sucked. And while Sarah was getting slightly better, there was still all sorts of awkwardness. Get your arms out of the way, baby! She would flail across my chest, getting in her own way, smacking me in the face, crying because she was hungry. There were days when it seemed like she had forgotten how to breastfeed at all.
Because of our difficulties and the shield (which makes eating slower), breastfeeding took us at least an hour every time. I was feeding her at least eight times a day. It was a full time job. Because I needed to be able to see to attach the shield, there were no comfy, sleepy feedings in bed. I had to get up every time, sit in a chair, wake up enough to figure out what was what, turn on the light, and feed a baby who would still take five minutes to get started–and who would then fall asleep every two minutes after that. Wake up, baby!
But we got better. I started attempting to feed her without the shield, which was hit or miss. Finally, two months in, a breakthrough. It was late at night, and I had just taken her back upstairs after feeding her and put her down in her bassinet. Sarah started wailing–still hungry. I was tired. I was grumpy. I didn’t want to go back downstairs and start all over. Maybe . . . ?
I unbuttoned my pajamas. It was pitch black. I placed Sarah’s head in the general vicinity of boob central and . . . contact! It worked! Hallelujah! Just like the video! Just two months late.
Without the awkwardness of the nipple shield and Sarah’s newfound mastery, things got much easier. Today, feeding her takes 20 minutes, tops, if she’s sleepy. It doesn’t hurt me anymore either, thank god.
Now it’s not only this nice, cuddly bonding time between us, but it’s been a fascinating form of nonverbal communication. If for some reason I’m late for a feeding, I don’t need her to start crying to remind me–my boobs take care of that (hello). I know when she’s about to have a growth spurt, because my body starts making more milk!
So yay, happy ending! But now the question is . . . when will it be ending? Sarah is happily eating solid food right and left. She’s never been the type to root for my chest–she doesn’t grab me or make any rude moves for it, she just happily eats whenever it’s offered (she’s so polite). I guess I’ll try to be chill about it, when the time comes.
But I will totally bawl my eyes out!