While primarily this is a farming blog, I do like to take the occasional side step into all things granola and natural. So, as I've said before about cooking, our society has lost a lot of hand me down skills simply due to updates in technology and priorities. This entry means to explore one of those lost skills: nursing.
First of all, I was nursed. My mom breastfed two babies without much support at all. So she's to be commended. Statistically, most of us my age were not. Nor we're our mothers. Around the sixties and seventies formula became a much more popular option for mothers. Nursing became less and less customary. Now it's shocking to some to see a baby nursed in public. So it's no surprise many of us don't know how. And ps, it's not easy. It's natural but definitely not instinctual.
There are now millions of online resources to help a new nursing mother and you can get every bit of advice known to woman about your nursing problems from just a handful of resources (The Leaky Boob, Kellymom, and La Leche League to name the most popular). But what can get lost is the overwhelming emotion and difficulty that a new mommy can feel, especially if she is not so hardcore as the mommies who run these sites.
What do I mean by hardcore? I mean most of us agree breast milk is best and would like to nurse. But most of us also are willing to give a bottle of formula when we are exhausted and do not believe that ending breast feeding at 1, 3, or 6 months is wrong. Many of us would never think to criticize a mom for weening. That is not really the vibe you'll get from some of these sites, which advocate and support breast feeding beyond one year.
Please understand, I do not have an opinion about nursing over a year. I don't know that's what I would want to do but certainly I don't fault those who do. I merely mean that your biggest advocates are sometimes difficult to relate to as a mainstream lady. So what follows is a diary of my first few days nursing farm baby, emotions and all, in the hopes that someone who was looking to be told their feelings are normal might find it. Keep in mind this is written with MY feelings, not necessarily considering anything else.
: 2:15pm farm baby makes it into the world, I did not nurse her for over an hour as I was being stitched up from her (overly?) dramatic entrance into the world. Once I was able to nurse she took to the breast right away and stayed on each side for over 20 minutes. It also took two hours for them to bring me any pain meds. By the end of hour two I was shaking and gripping my pillow to try not to scream. Farm baby was largely held by her daddy at that point. Lesson one: make sure the meds get there before your nurse changes at shift change. We nursed again about four hours after birth because we were moving rooms and farm baby was asleep. That was about 7:30 pm. Farm baby slept until 9 when I woke her to eat but tell asleep at the breast. Same story at 11. I couldn't fairly say she really ate anything at all during that night. At midnight Evil Night Nurse told me that since I "wouldn't get her to eat" she would have to stick her to check her blood sugar. It was more of a threat than anything.
: no milk yet. Still feeding colostrum, but happily to a little baby who will fall asleep at the breast most of the time but occasionally get a good 10-20 min per breast in. The LC (lactation nurse) comes in at my request to evaluate our latch and such. All of which are good (um no duh, I read all of kellymom, I know how to latch a baby!!) but baby isn't sucking well. My dr and my pediatrician have cleared us to leave today but the LC thinks we should stay until she sucks harder/better/more/faster. We all agree this is because she's not that hungry (tiny tummy right Kellymom?) and that when my milk comes in, she'll be more vigorous and not fall asleep so easily. So wait, why are you trying to make me stay again? So you can watch her get older? Do you suspect she won't if we go home? My formula fed son and I were free to go after 24 hours, but cause I chose to breastfeed this baby I have to say here? That's crap. Peace out. I leave the hospital very upset and feeling like the lactation ladies are predicting my failure. They don't want me to leave cause if I do they think I'll give up. They make an appt for me to bring farm baby back to the hospital for a neonatal check the next day.
That night, we are up nursing every 2 hours. Without fail. I didn't sleep at all unless I dozed sitting upright in my chair. I held baby skin to skin all night.
: still no milk. We nurse every two hours until her appt at 2:30, where they announce she has lost 1lb 2oz. That's more than the "allowed" 10% and they recommend supplementing formula until we go to her dr tomorrow.
I cry. A lot. It's what happened with my first baby. She's starving to death and the dr thinks I'm a terrible mother for allowing it to go on. The nurse feels terrible "it's only until your milk comes in hunny". I am reasonably sure "milk coming in" is a myth. I've had three babies now, I've never been engorged, and never seen a drop of milk come from my chest. Not once.
At home I keep on nursing every two hours, but since farm baby is hungry now,she is giving up quickly and screaming at the breast. Literally shrieking in the saddest most high pitched sound you'll ever hear. I feed her two oz of formula then get out my breast pump to remind my body that there is still a baby it needs to feed. Obviously I pump nothing. I sleep maybe two hours since this new nurse, feed, pump thing takes about an hour and a half and occurs every two hours.
: still no milk. A wonderful woman I know brings over some mother milk tea at the request of her daughter, my friend and another wonderful woman I know. The tea is made with fenugreek and blessed thistle among other things that are supposed to be good for supply. Fenugreek drops were unavailable at the moment but I'm told they help a lot too. I think I'll get some later if the milk doesn't come in.
The breast feeding support websites say don't supplement. It keeps your body from producing milk. They also say no herbs, women are always thinking their supply is low when its not. Just keep nursing they say. I am reading this while looking down into the screaming teary eyes of my brand new baby who is red in the face and shaking angrily at the breast in front of her. "Just give me the damn bottle I know you have it!!!" She seems to be saying. And I cry a ton as I give her to her daddy to feed while I go pump. My friend texts to remind me that her milk took a long time to come in too. I pump a few drops of colostrum from the right, the left seems to have shut down completely.
We take her to her dr. who says she looks ok but it's a lot of weight loss. She says keep up the formula and "we'll see what happens with you" meaning me. Meaning will I give up on this or not. Or am I a barren milkless woman, doomed to starve my children or give formula. I cry a little more. We also forgot to bring a bottle to the dr office so I had to try to nurse while I was there. Thankfully she didn't scream like usual, just fell back to sleep. Thank god for that too because I had spaced my pain meds and I was on the verge of tears already. Husband even went home to get my meds for me, and pick up the big girl cause we had to take her to her kindergarten assessment (ya that's a thing) right after this. Remember when I thought nursing would be easier to leave the house since I wouldn't have to pack bottles. "Effing moron" I thought to myself. I'm never gonna be able to leave the house again. Nursing in a dr office was embarrassing, imagine a mall!
We nurse and pump every two hours over night. Farm baby sleeps the whole night other than the feelings, she's a super easy baby. I have to stay up to pump. But husband and baby look very peaceful.
: Still. No. Friggin. Milk. DAY FIVE! I have two other kids, I'm not a first time mom and I didn't have a csection. What the hell gives universe!?!
At five am feeding, farm baby barley touches the breast. She arches her back, screams, pushes with her hands, shakes her head violently. She wants nothing to do with this dry boob. She wants the formula. In a bottle. Now.
I am so tired I can't even sob anymore. It's just quiet hot fat tears rolling down my face as I whisper to her "please don't give up on me..." But she's a baby, she has no idea how badly this hurts me. She just wants the food and she knows I'm not giving it to her. Daddy gives her a bottle while I pump. A few drops of colostrum which I give her through a syringe. Only the right though. The left is my "useless boob" it's producing nothing. I take a hot shower and try to hand express. Two guesses how well that works.
We decided to get out of the house and take the big kids for a picnic and to the toy store. So we do that. Farm baby sleeps the whole time and won't nurse when we get home. So she gets more formula from nani while I pump. I ask the husband to go find fenugreek while he's out. It's supposed to help.
While pumping I feel something tickley in the pump. I looked in to see a few drops of liquid. Not goo like it has been, but white liquid!! OMGOODNESS.... It's milk. Literally less than .1 ml but its there.
When husband gets home I suck down twenty drops of fenugreek in my water. This might work out yet....
While I'm pumping later in the evening, I see someone has asked about how long milk takes to come in, she's on day four and her baby isn't taking to the breast anymore. I wonder if she's having the same screaming meltdowns I'm seeing... The advice from the breastfeeding ladies is as I suspected "don't supplement!" "Tummy the size of a marble!" "Babies don't register hunger" "nurse more!" "Spend more time skin to skin!"
I assume these women saying that have never waited over three days for milk. Or they had WAY calmer babies than mine. Or they have nerves of steel. How can they say babies don't register hunger?!? Mine is screaming like she is in pain! Nurse more? Do you ladies know some secret way to force a hungry baby to suck a dry boob?!? Cause if I hold her head down I can probably make her stay on but she's sure as hell not gonna suck. Just scream. And is that the "special bond" we are looking for here?!?! "Don't supplement"!? My baby is getting smaller in front of me. My dr is telling me she needs food. It's like that snl skit I posted before "hmm trust doctors or stay at home mom Sheila from down the street who is having wine at 10am".
That's the sort of pressure a new mommy who's crying uncontrollably and begging her baby to keep believing in her does NOT need. This is why I am writing this down, because you can be told they are getting what they need from women online, but the screaming, crying, self contorting baby in front of you tells a different story.
Farm baby has another bottle at 10pm while I pump my largest batch of milk ever. 7drops. But two came from useless boob! So hey-yo!!
: this morning at five am I pump a collective .3ml from both boobs! Farm baby eats those with her 2oz of formula. I have waffles for breast fast...I mean breakfast. 90% of my thoughts involve boobs.... These waffles are a break from five days of steel cut oats topped with ground flax and brewers yeast.
30 more drops of fenugreek, down the hatch.
Second pumping of the day I don't wake the baby. Why bother? She's getting frustrated so fast. So I just pump. 1.6 ml!! Yay!!! I wake her to syringe it to her, which takes two attempts since my syringe holds only 1 ml. :) maybe I'll wake her next time since I've read that baby is more effective than a pump...
Third feeding I let her have the breast first. I woke her u p, changed her diaper, got peed on and let her nurse. For ten minutes she stayed on so that was fun. Then I pumped 1.7ml and gave it to her with her syringe. Wouldn't it be nice if I could put it in a bottle right now I'm just content at the improvement, but I get sad thinking how hard it will be when my mom goes home and farm husband goes back to work. And he's home for three weeks!
By six pm I had nursed farm baby and pumped this:
This post has gotten very long,so I'll conclude.
It is not easy to nurse. It's a remarkably emotional and difficult process. Everyone advocating for your success runs the risk of making you feel like a failure. And conversely, anyone telling you it's ok to give formula seems to be predicting your failure.
But more than anything, it's important to understand that everyone's body is different. I could not find any advice for people six days postpartum who's milk had never come in. There were lots on low supply, nothing on no supply. And the ladies (very well meaning ladies) from the support sites seemed to think it was silly to be upset that early.
It's not silly. It's not trivial. Having to supplement is hurtful to a new mommy, and being told its not really necessary when your heart says it is can be confusing and counter productive. Six days is a long time, but its not unheard of. If I can make it you can too. And if giving 6-8 oz of formula a day ends the heartbreaking screaming, don't feel horrible. It's not forever. Even though it seems like it.
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