In summary, it took 5 days and much crying (from me and my baby) before we established our nursing relationship, but it was well worth it! After 21 months it is still our favorite activity to do together
In April of 2007 I had a beautiful homebirth. My son was 9 lbs. 7 oz, and was looking forward to a relaxing day with my new babe in my own bed. But I had a severe post-partum hemmhorage, so the ambulance took me to the ER, without my baby. The afternoon after the birth, I had several procedures and extremely harsh drugs. With 2 IVs in each arm and unable to sit up due to all the blood loss, I could not even hold my son to nurse him. My mom, husband and nurses tried to help me nurse, but of course it was a stressful environment, and my son wasn’t really latching on. He seemed to enjoy suckling gently, but only for a couple minutes at a time.
Since my baby was NOT a patient at the hospital, I could not use the hospital lactation consultants Starting the morning after the birth, at the advice of a WONDERFUL lactation consultant I reached by phone, I began pumping at 15 minutes every 3 hours, on a breast pump provided by the hospital. Nothing came out but a couple drops of colostrum, so I was quite discouraged, but tried to feed him this through a SNS (supplemental nursing system).
My son, mom and husband stayed with me at the hospital, and after 2 1/2 days my mom and husband took him to see a pediatrician for a checkup, who said that he was doing fine, but had lost over a pound needed to eat something right away. He was doing really well, but I broke down and was very scared that he was starving to death. Although no one else could see it, I felt that over the course of that day he had become less responsive and more sleepy. I was upset that no one had offered to give him a bottle of formula, because in my exhausted state it had not even crossed my mind! I had been so focused on breastfeeding that I didn’t realize that my baby could have formula, too My mom convinced me that I should not be the one to bottle feed him, because he would get confused and have trouble with breastfeeding. So, she struggled all night with him screaming and crying, but finally got him to take the bottle. The lactation consultant told me the opposite – that I should be the one to give him a bottle, but now I think that either way is just fine.
So, he had a few bottles of formula over the course of the next day, and I definitely think it helped him perk up again. In retrospect, babies do lose a lot of weight after birth, and don’t need anything to eat for the first couple of days before the breast milk comes in – even though many doctors do think so. And although I think formula is really not good for babies, it is made to be “the next best thing” to breast milk, and I feel just fine that he had some – and actually wished I had not agonized so much over it, with all the other stress going on.
Okay, so eventually I had a couple of blood transfusions, and we finally went home on day 4. I was FINALLY alone with my baby in my own house (my mom and hubby needed to get out for a while!!!). At the advice of the lactation consultant, I stripped naked with my baby, and held him as we bounced on a pilates ball, and I sang to him. Then the strangest thing happened – I felt a tingling in my breasts, and I started sweating PROFUSELY – especially under my arms – I mean it was running down my sides! I have never heard this from anyone else, but perhaps because of all the stress built up in my body, and the drugs and all, I had this huge release of sweat. Then, just 30 minutes later, sitting up on my bed, my milk came in! I was ecstatic.
But it was still challenging! All that evening, he would SCREAM and cry at my breast – not wanting to suck, but obviously hungry. The lactation consultant told me not to let him scream at the breast, so I just gave up each time he did it. My mom disagreed, and told me to just force him to suck. I was crying, and he was crying, but after about an hour of trying, he finally started sucking, and FINALLY enjoyed the milk he got as a reward Throughout the night he would still cry when I tried to get him to eat, but it was easier and easier each time. By the morning, he was sucking like a champ, and we were finally enjoying the peaceful and fulfilling breastfeeding experience I had hoped for.
Over the next 1 1/2 year, we still had challenges from time to time. In the first month, he would often want to eat for just 2 minutes every 15 minutes – never filling up, always hungry, constantly coming back to nurse. Eventually I just had to wait an hour, then 1 1/2 hours, until he was hungry enough to fill up!
We nursed at night, which was fine at first, but at about 2 months old, he started waking up every hour to nurse. We were co-sleeping, and I was happy to oblige, but at 1 year old, it was still happening, and he was getting more and more demanding about it! So, I JUST, finally, at 18 months, stopped nursing him at night, and put him in a crib next to our bed. It is the ONLY way I could ever get him to sleep more than 1 hour at a time!
When his teeth came in, he bit a couple of times to test the waters – but realized that mommy quickly takes away the milk, so he never did that again!
What I learned from all this, for any moms-to-be, is just to relax. Spend some skin-to-skin time with your baby, just relaxing – not worrying about nursing or bottles or anything. If you are confused, find a good consultant for advice – mine was all over the phone. Since I couldn’t really hold my son to nurse at first, it really helped me to pump and pump – even though nothing came in for days, it helped my milk come in later. I didn’t need to worry SO much about my son nursing in the hospital – he was happily suckling, and I was pumping to stimulate by breasts. And if you have to give your baby formula, don’t worry! He needs to eat, and breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing! It will be just fine. The more you relax, the more your baby will, and the sooner things will fall into place.
Finally, I want to say that many people in my family didn’t believe that I could work full time and pump. But I did pump, every 2-3 hours at work, from the time he was 3 months til 12 months, when he stopped needing a bottle during the day. But, if you don’t want to pump, there is no reason that your baby can’t have formula when you’re gone and nurse when you’re home!!!
Now he is 21 months old, and we just nurse in the morning and evening and when he’s sad or tired, mostly for comfort and not for food.