Every mom’s experience with feeding her newborn is unique, just like pregnancy. But I wanted to share a little about mine, in case it speaks to any other moms out there.
During my pregnancy, I never thought a lot about my birth plan. In fact, when I filled out a simple, multiple-choice questionnaire at my doctor’s office with my birth plan preferences, I found that I was very nonchalant about it. Did I want the lights dimmed? Did I want lots of people in the room, or just me and my husband? So when I had to schedule a c-section, I was cool with it. Not in “the plan”? Not a problem! So long as Judge was healthy, that’s all that mattered to me.
There was just one thing I knew for sure: I would start breastfeeding my baby as soon as possible. It’s free! (Plus super healthy for baby, and all that jazz.) Yep–breastfeeding was in “my plan.”
And so I tried. As soon as I was in the recovery room and holding my baby, we tried to breastfeed. A great friend of mine–who also happens to be a labor and delivery nurse–even tried to help little Judge find the source of his food. We didn’t have any success, but I didn’t think much of it; I had an adorable baby in my arms and loving family and friends surrounding me. I was in new-mom heaven.
The breastfeeding challenges continued throughout my stay in the hospital. Nurses and lactation consultants buzzed in and out of my room offering potential explanations: It may just take him some time. His jaw is set too far back. Hi tongue is too short. He didn’t go through the birth canal. I still wasn’t concerned–it had only been a couple of days. So I started pumping to boost my milk supply and bottle fed him.
When I got home and the difficulties continued, I started to worry. Judge was eating every two hours during the first two weeks. At each feeding, we attempted to breastfeed, which usually involved a lot of crying on Judge’s part before I relinquished and gave him the bottle. All in all, a feeding plus pumping could last an hour or more. It was exhausting. On top of that, we were seeing a lactation consultant once a week and trying craniosacral therapy.
Physically I was holding up ok. I figured that’s what my maternity leave was for–to adjust to motherhood and bond with my baby, even through some initial challenges. Sleep deprivation was just part of the deal.
Emotionally, however, I was spent. When we would “practice” breastfeeding, a session would mean a crying and sometimes screaming baby, but I had to stay patient and talk soothingly to little Judge so he wouldn’t catch on to my weariness and get more frustrated himself. Sometimes I would cry along with him, saddened by the fact that I was the one causing my baby to scream and I could fix it simply by giving him a bottle of pumped breast milk.
Finally, at the end of Judge’s fifth week, we had a breakthrough and he eagerly latched on after his normal crying spell and my normal tears. I was relieved, and my tears turned joyful, but I was also cautiously optimistic. Was this a fluke? For a few days after that first time he still cried and squirmed until he found his rhythm, but he eventually learned to relax his entire body and I basked in the bliss of being able to feed my baby as I had desired.
Now, a week and a half later, a little part of me celebrates during each feeding. I’m sure that’ll wear off, but maybe other moms who initially struggled with feedings can tell me: Does breastfeeding ever become just a chore? I hope not.
I know that five weeks isn’t long. I know I’ll look back on those first photos and just see my baby boy’s sweet face, and that’s ok. But at least I’ll have a record of how hard those first few weeks of motherhood were and how proud I am of how I–how we–stuck with it. And when I do remember, I’ll thank my mom for staying strong through those first few weeks with me when I was a baby. Is there anything that will make you appreciate your mom more than becoming a mother yourself?