Forgive my absenteeism… but there’s a pretty good reason for it this time. We welcomed our little bundle of joy, Conri, into the world a little over 3 weeks ago, just in time for spring!
We’ve had quite a ride and this has all been much more challenging than I anticipated. Maybe there’s no truer statement for all new parents.
After a very speedy labour and delivery that was a little complicated (nothing really serious, just that he needed a little extra help getting into the world), we were right back home that same afternoon. But a few days later he was getting quite jaundiced and dehydrated, so we ended up back in the hospital for a night of phototherapy and rehydration via formula and bottle. This little hiccup put us on a difficult road regarding breastfeeding, and three weeks later we’re still working very hard to get him back to the breast and off the bottle. Talk about a hell of a lot of work. I’ve considered throwing in the towel and giving in fully to bottle feeding a few times, but I just can’t stand the thought of constantly having to buy formula, making it up all the time, endless sterilizing of bottles and nipples, and frantically warming it while my kid is freaking out hungry. Breasts are always at the ready wherever you are and no sterilization is required. Just pop out a booby and serve, right?
I always expected and planned to breastfeed. It’s not that I thought it would be super easy or straightforward — I expected it to be hard and have a steep learning curve. But after your baby gets used to the fast flow of a bottle it’s pretty hard to convince him that there’s a meal to be had at the boob. So we’re currently in a spate of days of working very hard with a lactation aid to feed him every meal at the breast. Thankfully he’s pretty willing to take the breast now, and I think his latch is decent (I’m still learning how to judge this part), but the problem is he tends to get frustrated unless we have a lactation aid (feeding tube) there to convince him there’s flow (and therefore a meal to be had).
We’ve got great support in this from a breastfeeding clinic and lactation consultant, and we’re there at least once a week to get help and to figure out the next steps. I’m encouraged every time we’re there by their HUGE wall of “graduation photos” (moms and babies who have gotten breastfeeding going).
I’m pretty stoked actually that for the last four days he’s been at the breast for nearly all feeds (aside from a few bottle top ups and the occasional full bottle while mommy catches some Zzzs). Yesterday we even had what seemed like a full feed (about 50 minutes) at the breast without the tube with full on drinking happening. But today he wasn’t having that. It was breast with tube and nothing less. As Chris puts it, it’s one step forward and two and a half steps back. But there is progress, for sure. My hope is that before Chris goes back to work in another three weeks, we’ll be fully breastfeeding…because all this paraphernalia (tubes, bottles of formula or expressed breast milk) is a pain in the butt to coordinate on one’s own. I can do it, but it’s helpful to have more hands at the ready.
I’ve chatted a bit about this on Facebook and numerous very supportive friends who mean well have told me not to worry if I have to bottle feed — it’s not the end of the world. They had to do it and their kids turned out fine. And I get it — I really do. But I don’t want to — or rather, it feels to me like it should be my last resort. I understand that these women want me to know it’s a totally okay decision to make — everyone has to do what’s right for them and shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
But I really want breastfeeding to work. It just seems like a simpler approach to feeding my kid, if we can get it going. I’ve been working hard at pumping for two solid weeks plus taking herbs and meds to get my milk production up. So I’m not ready to quit. I want to feel like I’ve made my very best effort to make this work. If we get to a point where it feels like it’s truly time to throw in the towel, I will. But not yet. I’ve heard stories of women getting it going as late as nine weeks old (yeesh!) or even later. Stories of induced lactation that worked. And we’re told that for a lot of babies, something clicks in the five to nine week window — they finally get it. Babies are hardwired to breastfeed, and we’re half way there in the sense that he’s taking the breast. He just either needs to figure out he has to work at getting his food, or my flow needs to improve further (or quite probably, a little of both).
I got incredibly emotional about it for a good week or so. I hear this is pretty normal but it was terribly intense. I completely recognize this was due in large part to postpartum hormone changes but it was also mixed with intense feelings of guilt and inadequacy, timed with the anniversary of the still very fresh passing of my Dad. That made things extra hard. I had to make a concerted effort to divorce my emotions from the breastfeeding issue because dissolving into a frustrated mess of tears and anger when trying to put him on my breast and being constantly rejected wasn’t helping the situation at all.
Somehow something clicked and I got over it. I mean, I’m not totally over it of course — these last four days of going mostly bottle-free and working with the lactation tube have been incredibly trying (imagine putting all that stuff together in the middle of the night after several feedings where your kid decides it’s going to be a two hour party and no one is going to get any sleep). And I’ve had a lot of help from my therapist (thank goodness for her!) and my midwife, as well as amazing friends who’ve had similar challenges. Anyway, I realized that if I didn’t get a hold of myself, I would not be able to enjoy any of Conri’s early weeks, and there is much to enjoy. There’s much to make us crazy too, but he is pretty darn cute when he’s not screaming bloody murder.
And so we work at it. We’re figuring each other out. He has his bad periods of the day and his good ones. I cannot express how thankful I am that my husband has six weeks off. We’re tag teaming it and making a go of it. I’m certain our breastfeeding efforts would have ended after our first week without him here. He has been invaluable. And he’s getting lots of good time to bond with our new little boss — good times and bad, warts and all.
And when I’m really frustrated, I can look at the amazingly gorgeous newborn photos my dear friend Angie Griffith has created of our little man, and imagine how perfectly serene he can be… maybe it’s not all the time but her photos remind us that there are moments when he is a quiet, happily sleeping little angel.