I never thought I’d be one to cry over spilled milk—and not just once, but twice—to completely lose my shit, standing over the kitchen sink and mumbling no…no…why me?
Sounds a bit melodramatic, but that’s exactly what happens when a new sleep-deprived mother, wearing just a diaper, accidentally throws out one full ounce of breast milk. That’s a lot of sauce only one and a half weeks after giving birth, and it took every ounce of me to make it.
Through small bouts of clarity, I came to realize that the art of breastfeeding is as much a mental sport as it is physical, and it had been taking its toll on me.
It didn’t seem fair. I had dedicated myself to the process. I read countless books, went to six hours worth of breastfeeding classes—Breast Feeding 101, Breast Feeding for the Stay-at-Home Mother, Breast Feeding for the Working Mother, Breastfeeding for Dummies, Breast Feeding for Old Mothers with Small Breasts. I had purchased the best, hospital-grade breast pump on the market so there were no excuses. I was so ready, and for some reason or another, I was having issues.
But, I’d been warned—breastfeeding’s no joke. It’s a mystery and one of the biggest challenges of postpartum motherhood. Let’s be honest, every stage of motherhood is shrouded in secrecy. It’s a private club without a rulebook. Questions are asked, but little substantial information or advice immediately follows. It starts with pregnancy: How are you feeling…really feeling? After delivery: How much did the baby weigh? Did you get an epidural? How’s your recovery? Are you breastfeeding? How’s it going? Did the baby lose any weight? Then, a few weeks later: How many hours is the baby sleeping? What schools are you wait-listed for?
I often feel like the last one left in the circle at the end of a Dodgeball game.
Where’s the honesty and helpful suggestions during this difficult and beautiful time? Women would benefit from knowing labor is the most excruciating pain imaginable. They’ll be wearing a ginormous pad for an entire month after giving birth, and during that time stage freight occurs between the exit holes when using the bathroom. It’s also important to know that inspecting those said holes with a mirror might send women into a mini depression, and that some things never go back to their original state—ever!
But in all honesty, looking back at this past year, breastfeeding was by far harder than pregnancy and birth combined, and that’s why I thought the Art of Breastfeeding deserved its own chapter.
June 12, 2015: First 24 Hours
Feedings: 11:00 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 6:15 pm, 9:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 11:40 pm
Wet Diapers: 3
Dan and I opted to keep Darlington with us the entire time. I was totally in love with being a mom and still on cloud nine from the entire birth experience (I don’t think that will ever go away). She knew she was ours and I couldn’t get over that. When they placed her little body on my chest, she inched her way along, searching and bobbing until she found what she was looking for. She wasn’t hungry. She just wanted to know it was there for her. Then her warm little body fell asleep, and I inhaled every inch of her. Like clockwork, the nurses came in and out of our room, encouraging me to feed her every two to three hours.
There are two main breastfeeding philosophies—feeding on demand and establishing a schedule. With Darlington’s seeming lack of interest and our family’s unpredictable schedule, I thought feeding on demand would work best for us.
June 13, 2015: 24-48 Hours
Feedings: 12:30 am, 4:15 am, 8:00 am, 11:30 am, 3:45 pm, 5:45 pm, 9:00 pm, 11:45 pm
Wet Diapers: 3
Darlington seemed to wake up out of her haze and was totally hungry today. One nurse told me she should feed about 10-15 minutes on each breast. Another one told me I should have her finish on one breast and then offer her the other. And yet another said to wake her up and make her continue feeding even if she seemed finished. But the truth is that every baby is different and eats differently. The feeding times above seemed to be fairly spaced out, but the reality was that Darlington ate for an hour to an hour and a half at a time. Then, I waited two to three hours for her next feeding.
June 14, 2015: 48-72 Hours
Feedings: 1:40 am, 2:40 am, 3:40 am, 7:20 am, 12:30 pm, 5:15 pm, 9:00 pm, 10:00 pm
Wet diapers: 5
I didn’t realize that feeding her every two to three hours meant feeding her two to three hours after the beginning of the last feeding. So, if I started feeding at 2:00 pm, she should begin feeding again at 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm.
At this point, we were discharged and free to go home.
June 15, 2015: 72-96 Hours
Feedings: 2:00 am, 3:00 am, 5:00 am, 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, 4:15 pm, 8:00 pm, 10:55 pm, 2:15 am
Wet diapers: 4
Darlington was eating more frequently and my nipples were starting to crack. Thank God for Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter and Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads. She seems irritable and hasn’t gone number two yet.
June 16, 2015
Feedings: 2:15 am, 6:30 am, 9:30 am, 1:00 pm, 4:15 pm, 8:00 pm, 11:25 pm
Wet diapers: 4
Really starting to worry. She still hasn’t gone poop yet and is eating for an hour to two hours at a time. I cannot physically go on like this. My latch is perfect, but my nipples are killing me.
June 17, 2015
Feedings: 2:40 am, 6:00 am, 9:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:30 pm
Wet diapers: 5
Had her first visit from the pediatrician. She lost almost one pound from her birth weight and is looking so tiny and frail. It’s time for a lactation consultant. I’m out of ideas and don’t know what to do anymore. It’s been three to five days since she was born and I’m not sure if my milk is coming in. My breasts are supposed to feel harder, but they’ve always been hard and muscly.
June 18, 2015
Feedings: 12:30 am, 4:15 am, 9:00 am, 12:30 pm, 4:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 11:00 pm
Wet diapers: 6
Weight: 5 pounds 14 ounces
Lactation consultant visits with her super-duper scale. We weigh Darlington before and after she feeds from each breast. She is getting a quarter of an ounce from each breast. This is not enough! And to top it off, she has a tongue-tie preventing her from getting the optimal amount of milk. Basically, my child is starving, but I refuse to get her tongue cut to fix it. We come up with another plan:
- Begin each morning eating steel cut oatmeal.
- Drink Mother’s Milk Tea four times each day.
- Take one tablet four times per day of Motherlove’s More Milk Special Blend (with goat’s rue herb).
- Make sure to drink at least three liters of water every day.
- Feed Darlington every two to three hours, whether I have a thirty-minute break or less in between. The reason for this is because having her on the breast more will help my milk come in.
- After each feeding, use the breast pump to get any access milk out and to stimulate more milk coming in.
Though adding these extra steps meant less sleep, I wanted to give one hundred and fifty percent to this process, because if I failed, I’d have peace that I gave it my all. I’d follow the plan for four days and continue to weigh her. If she didn’t gain any weight, then it would be time to start supplementing with formula. This early into breastfeeding, there’s always the risk of nipple confusion.
A lot of moms will use simulators, but I couldn’t afford to add one more thing to my feeding routine. There comes a point when it’s just too much. When’s enough, enough? Maybe when my screensaver is a poop chart? Creepy…
June 22, 2015
Feedings: 2:30 am, 5:30 am, 8:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm, 8:30 pm, 11:30 pm
Wet diapers: 6
Weight: 5 pounds 14 ounces
Time to introduce formula. I chose Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity Infant Formula with Iron.
July 12, 2015
Against all the information I’ve read and heard and against all odds, my milk fully came in about a month later. I’m so glad I stuck with it because a lot of moms give up in the first two weeks. Honestly, I can’t blame them. The trials and tribulations of breastfeeding can break a mom’s spirit. I will admit though, had I not had my issues, I wouldn’t have started supplementing. It has been a major blessing for my sanity, and has relieved some of the pressure I felt.
I’m a big believer in self-care, and using the breast pump and supplementing with formula allows me to work and have some downtime for myself while taking care of my little nugget.
Finally, I have two pieces of advice for women interested in breastfeeding. 1) Consider following the plan my lactation consultant helped me come up with from the get-go. I’m convinced that had I done these steps from the very beginning, my milk would’ve come in so much faster and it would’ve prevented a lot of headache and heartache. 2) Do what’s right for you and your baby. I’ve realized that mothers face a lot of judgment, but the reality is we’re all just feeling our way around in the dark.
Did anyone have similar issues? What advice would you give for finding the sheer willpower breastfeeding requires from a new mom?