Saturday, September 3

First time mom: a breastfeeding/nursing story

I actually wonder why I’m writing this story down for the whole world to read. It is possible that I regret making this public, but now I feel the need to explain my worries and experiences of the past few months as a new mother. While writing this all down, baby is on my lap, smashing the keyboard, while bouncing up and down and saying 'Abooo' with lots of saliva, thanks to his two teeth sticking out. Baby has a dry diaper, had playtime, sleeptime and was fed an hour ago. Just like the hour before that and the hour before that. (Yes, he’s 4 months old and suddenly wants to be fed every hour instead of every two hours). From previous experiences, I'd say he's growing.

Mummy's milk, the best a baby can get

During my pregnancy I was convinced (and I still am) that breastfeeding is the best thing to do for my baby. You can’t beat nature in giving the best milk to babies I think (of course there are numerous reasons why anyone does not breast feed and prefers to bottle feed their baby, it's personal choice or sometimes, sadly not a choice at all). Mothermilk has all the nutrients and antibodies and it's always the right temperature. Lots of people warned me for the first few difficult weeks: sore nipples, baby needs to learn the perfect latch on. I was told you really have to be persistent in nursing if you want it to work, so I had to hang in there, they said. So I was prepared that nursing might not be the dream I always thought it would be. I attended an information session about breastfeeding and read lots of articles about it. The moment E. was born, I consistently latched him on, applied lots of mothermilk and Lansinoh cream to my nipples and looked and listened carefully for him to swallow my milk to make sure I was doing it right.
It appeared to be working very well: baby had a great latch on, my sore nipples were healed in only a few days after giving birth, my production was flawless and the nurses were all proud of me and baby E. I was so thankful for that. Baby did well on the growthcharts and everything was fine! Praises all over the place, my breastfeeding couldn’t go wrong (and never really went extremely wrong, in case you’re wondering or searching for a climax in this prose) . So that’s all great and all.
It’s just that, nursing is such a great way to bond with your baby. I love it when he stops nursing, looks up to me, smiles and starts nursing again. It gives me power and energy to see my baby enjoying our nursing times, it provides him not only nourishment but also comfort, love and safety. Of all the things in the world, nursing is, with all it’s pro’s and con’s, the biggest adventure and most wonderful thing I have ever done.

Nursing problems

But, yes there’s a but, nobody warned me about all the nursing problems when baby is older. Actually, looking back at it, I was so convinced that when he was 4 weeks and being nursed every two hours (at least!), that would all be better in the future, when he’s older. Well, uhm, no it’s not. I’m still feeding 10-12 times a day! Which is, of course compared to the initial 12-14 times, an improvement. Also, nobody told me about, however great your baby can latch on, he can have a bit of a temper sometimes during the feeding and does not seem to know what he wants on a daily basis: on/off, hungry/not hungry? Oh, and the constant 20 pm to 22 pm 'titty-sucking' for comfort. It's sweet in the beginning, but after a while (read 4 months) I've had it. And don’t get me started about having teeth and nursing! And these problems aren't the biggest of nursing problems at all. Some mommies deal with not having enough milk or having too many milk or worse problems. I never experienced that in an extent matter. All I had to do is pump a bit more and latch him on a bit more when he was growing to encourage my production. From time to time he slept from 23 PM until 06 AM and I had to pump off the first milk or he would choke and start coughing. 

About bottle feeding mother milk

I started introducing a bottle with mothermilk when he was 6 weeks. I had terrible nights back then, so it was a relief when my boyfriend could give a bottle from time to time at night or when I was at the physiotherapist for exercises. When we agreed on going on a holiday to Austria for about 9 days or so, I decided not to bring the sterilizer and pumping machine with me, since there was no opportunity for me to store my milk in a fridge at the hotel. Coming back from that holiday last week, I slowly wanted to introduce the bottle again, so within a given time I could change to formula milk by the time I go back to work. (I want to stop nursing completely by then. I work in shifts so it’s hard to nurse him every morning and night for another 2 months, because depending on my shift I won’t be there in the morning or in the night)
Guess what? Breast - lovingadoring -addicted baby refuses to drink my milk from the bottle. Since he’s also refusing every type of pacifier existing on the market I guess it won’t be much of a solution to try another bottle type. Well, I keep on 'giving' him a bottle every day. I already know to pump less, I only pump 20 cc to pour it through the gutter afterwards. My midwife advised me another type of bottle teat anyway that I could try, so I guess I’ll give it a chance.

Don't worry, be happy

So, although the nursing went well and I finally understand that it can never go perfect, I feel obliged to tell you that I’ve had my other worries too. I’ve typed numerous keywords for babycare and nursing and all the problems that come along with it in various searching engines and internet fora to found that actually, you just got to do what your heart tells you to do. In the end, it all comes down to nature. How else would our ancestors nurture and feed babies? I mean, they didn’t have the internet. Ok, they had their peers to learn from experiences and so on, but really, all the things I’ve been worrying about was more because I’ve read about everybody else's worries.

I worried that I spoiled my baby for giving him milk everytime he asked for it. Then I worried about postponing feedings because I thought it was weird he still needed another feeding just an hour after the last one. Or I worried about how much he’d sleep, or if it was bad that if the nursing didn’t go all well, that I stopped him and tried again 15 minutes later. Did I recognize his hunger signals enough? Maybe he’s tired (checking again on Google), is it normal that he still needs so many feedings? Why doesn't he drink from the bottle? Searching tips for getting breastfed baby to drink for bottle. What’s a normal 3-month old routine look like? Does he have to have a routine or not? Is it good to be putting him to sleep in his bed at daytime, or should I try to avoid that so he knows that his bed is for the night? Should I start a nighttime routine? Is it okay that I worry that much? Is it okay that sometimes I don't know what he wants and that I turn away from him while he's crying, followed by feeling guilty. Do other mommies experience the same? 

There's a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally

And then there are other people. The few hours of sleep, the more hours of worrying, the physical impact of nursing and the overal insecurity made me c-r-a-n-k-y. I admit it, I haven’t been the most fun person around the last months. And that in a time where loads of visitors come into your home, to come and see your baby, to flood you with the mandatory compliments about your belly and baby and sadly enough, also with their unasked thoughts about childcare, wrapped up as well-intentioned advice, but mostly to carefully hint you that whatever you’re doing at that moment, you’re doing it wrong.
There were times that I wanted them out of my house, out of my mind and pull a blanket over my head and sob. Seriously, I thought I was not going to be ‘that kind of postnatal hormone disrupted mother’ because I’ve read about it and I was ‘prepared’. Uhm yeah right. I always make such a big deal out of it when someone comes over. We've had numerous fights about it, because I can't cope well with people who want to come over and I haven't planned that. I have thought many times that those people were selfish. They wanted to see the baby, The baby doesn't care, really. All I wanted was the best for my baby at that time. I didn't want to put him in a situation where he would not feel comfortable. Being a breastfed baby with no rhythm at all, I wasn't eager to drag him along everywhere and wanted to do as many things on his time. I felt obliged to take him to family, because they have the right to see the baby and of course they miss him otherwise. But honestly, I feel really bad saying this actually but it's how I feel, I wasn't always in the mood to take my baby to them, because they wanted to see him. I felt guilty when I wasn't assertive enough to take him out of other's hands and put him to sleep, when I thought he was tired or to feed him, when I thought he was hungry.  I didn't want sound like a selfish Mommy, but I felt it in my heart that I wanted things to go otherwise. I've struggled a lot with this feeling in the first months. 

Courage, dear heart

All those feelings made me think about who I am and what I wanted in life. Of who I want to be. Because, now as a mother, there's someone who looks up to me. Who thinks I'm his whole world. That scares me, it scares me because I have to set the right example. And I'm still such an unfinished product myself, working hard on myself every day, to be kind, to be tolerant, to be happy. And then suddenly it strikes you, that you will never not worry in your life again. And that the responsibility and love you’re feeling for this little human wonder can cut off your throath and make you gasp for air. It’s such a strong experience that it scares me so much.

* I would like to say that there are people who really understand me in my wish of being left alone sometimes, and actually those people are the ones I miss the most and have no trouble with them coming to visit me because I really feel at ease with them. I think she's knows I'm talking about her.
** I also want to thank my dearest parnter for taking so many beautiful breastfeeding photo's and encouraging me to breastfeed all those months.