There were a few things I was really “preparing” for while I was pregnant: the baby room, my mindset for the labor and delivery and the lack of sleep for the first few weeks.
As soon as I was on my second trimester, Drew and I signed up for the Bradley Method birthing classes and the numerous free classes Medela House hosts for moms to be.
And as the months flew by and my due date was coming closer, I was getting more and more impatient for the baby to arrive. I felt so confident we were so ready. The baby room was all set, the things that needed buying were bought, we were sleeping as much as we could to be physically ready. Plus, since I was able to help take care of my sister’s new born twins the previous year, I felt I had a little idea of what to expect in handling new babies. So game on naaaa!
Despite all that “preparedness”, come first day in our home alone with our new bundle of joy, I felt so overwhelmed. OVER. WHELMED.
Here it is: looking back, I wish I prepared better for information about breastfeeding and how babies fare when they’re on it. Not the latch, not the baby holding positions since really you master that from practice and not fromhead knowledge and besides, all the nurses will teach you those. Instead, I wish I had the stuff that will calm a hyperhormonal new mom’s fears and insecurity if she’s doing things right.
Because this is what happened to us.
While at the hospital, the nurses and lactation consultants would come by and check on the latch and they would say it was good. They would teach me positions that I can do since I had given birth via caesarean section. I was told to latch every two or three hours, never letting more than four hours go by without doing so. Standard textbook things. I didn’t feel any pain in my baby’s latch and I thought to myself, my goodness, what were all those mothers complaining about sore nipples! This is so easy!
So we were discharged after three days and on the fourth day, my milk comes in. And I die.
I was screaming to my husband, “Babe, I can feel my boobs growing before my eyes!” It was insane. And hard. And painful. And my baby couldn’t latch at all. I panicked. How in the world will I feed my baby? So I go online and watched this video: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html We decide to hand express and spoon feed our four-day old baby.
We hand express and hand express my painfully engorged boobs. It would feel relieved for awhile but then the hardness would come back again so we hand express again. This, by the way, feels like a giant pimple being squeezed. I.KID.YOU.NOT.ITS.SO.PAINFUL. I tried to use the pump and one boob would cooperate and squirt something out. It was the most depressing thing in the world to sit there for 30 minutes pumping and all you get is a measly 10ml of breastmilk. Between the tiredness of the labor experience, the “manas” from all the excess fluids from the painkillers, recovering from my operation and the engorgement, my first few days at home was nothing I could have prepared for. How come no one told me about this??
And then we had to deal with visitors. Family is great for their support, but really, privacy for the new mom is so much more important, I realized. I needed time alone to get used to the baby and our rhythm and breastfeeding. I didn’t want to have to dress up and “entertain”.
On our baby’s seventh day, we went back to the hospital for the routine pedia check up post delivery. We thought we were doing all okay until we find out during that check up that our baby lost one pound since birth weight. One whole pound. To adults that’s nothing, but to a baby, that’s like 1/6 of his weight! The usual weight loss is just 7-10% of birth weight but the pedia seemed unconcerned about it and signed us out as “well baby”. But me. OF COURSE I go on a downward spiral of depression and insecurity! I knew breastfeeding was best for our baby but why did he lose a pound? I had my moments of self-doubt if continuing on with breastfeeding was the right thing to do but my husband’s support was incredible so we kept at it – hand express, pumping, spoon feeding between practicing our latch, keeping the baby at the breast for as long as he wanted (which meant two hours sometimes with short breaks in between). But more than the physical exhaustion, it was really the mental and emotional roller coaster that was draining. I was in a dark dark cloud that would send me on fits of crying. It didn’t help that on the fifth day, my baby was still pooping out meconium. His mustardy yellow poop only came in on the tenth day.
Everyone said my latch was good and it wasn’t painful. In fact, I didn’t feel anything! Haaay. If you’re reading this and you’re a new mom and you also don’t feel anything — that isn’t a good sign. You’re not suppose to feel nothing! You’re suppose to feel a suction. Apparently, my baby needed a bit of time to get that going. We tried using a bottle and it actually seemed to help him learn how to suck better. We used the Medela Calma teat – most breastfeeding materials will tell you not to introduce artificial teats until six weeks but I didn’t care, I just needed to feed my baby whether he gets confused with the nipples or not! By his second week, he was doing a much better job at sucking that I started getting sore nipples. Aaah, it wasn’t a myth after all. While I didn’t crack or bleed, it really was sore. I found a new use for my Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray! hahaha I didn’t like how sticky the Lansinoh was that everyone recommended so I would just use my breastmilk and a spray of Avene to moisturize my boobs and keep it from getting sore and cracked. But really, I took the pain as a good sign that my son was learning to feed and so I kind of welcomed it… in a non-masochistic way, okay.
And most effectively, I turned to God. This verse I read on Rica Bonifacio’s blog was a great comfort to me: Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.” (Psalm 22:9) It made me realize that the burden to produce milk wasn’t on me. It’s God-given. I had milk, that’s why I was engorged in the first place! I just had to trust in Him. We started to pray right before latching. It felt funny at first but then it made sense. It was our baby’s mealtime! So like the adults, we prayed first before he ate. haha
And miracles of miracles, I moved out of my dark cloud right at the end of the second week! All of a sudden, my outlook was brighter, I was more positive and I didn’t easily cry anymore. It helped that my “manas” (bloating) was gone too and I felt physically stronger. Four days after our visit to the pedia, I insisted we go back to the hospital to get our baby weighed and he had gained about 100 grams in just that short time! The average weight gain is about 112-200 grams a week! By the time we saw our pedia again on his first month check up, he was right on track.
We’re only about to hit our two month milestone next week. I had a breaking point in my breastfeeding journey when I just had to ask our pedia if she could recommend a formula brand because I was just so so tired and emotionally drained from all the worry if my son was getting enough to eat. We bought one small can in the middle of night. There were nights like those. But we ended up using only about 3 oz in total as supplemental feed. If there’s a will, there’s a way, right?
So if you’re a new mom and breastfeeding, here’s a few information that I know you will want to know, too:
1. Breastfed baby weight gain (growth patterns)
No amount of diaper counting will replace the weighing of the baby to ensure he’s getting enough milk:
- Weight gain of 4-7 ounces (112-200 grams) a week during the first month
- An average of 1-2 pounds (1/2 to 1 kilogram) per month for the first six months
- An average of one pound (1/2 kilogram) per month from six months to one year
- Babies usually grow in length by about an inch a month (2.5c.m.) during the first six months, and around one-half inch a month from six months to one year.
I bookmarked this page and would refer to it constantly on the milestones to expect. The chart on how much milk is needed was so informative, too!
3. BUY THIS BOOK AND READ IT!
Blogs and websites are great but there are times you just gotta buy a book. This is one of those times.
4. Buy that giant nursing pillow you see at St Luke’s BGC Lactation Unit
It’s bigger than the Boppy Pillow but it’s the best thing I’ve bought for our baby. It just props him higher to my boob for really good support and when he’s sleeping after the feed, he can rest there for a little bit while mom catches her breath too! It’s available at the 3rd floor of the hospital. But while you’re at St Luke’s and you plan to give birth there, do know that their lactation nurses can give you tutorials or answer any questions you have. I ended up asking for a registered lactation consultant to visit me at home and even if I didn’t necessarily learn anything new, just having her come by to visit me helped me a lot emotionally and mentally. So when you go to those breastfeeding classes, jot down the number of the person teaching if they do home visits. Trust me, it might just be your lifeline when you’re about to give up!
5. Find a home service lactation massage therapist.
When you’re engorged, a massage will really help relieve the pain. My sister in law referred me to her therapist and it was so good, I had her over twice in a week! Best if you have some expressed milk that someone can give to your baby while you’re having the massage so you can relax but if you don’t, most therapists will understand and stop while you feed your baby.