I didn’t go into breastfeeding with a whole lot of knowledge — much like pregnancy and childbirth I just kind of let it happen to me and researched on the fly. I probably should have read some books or something, but I just assumed it’d come naturally and if it didn’t we’d seek help until it worked. I knew there was the potential for things to just not work at all but I felt determined to give it my best shot. Now my Google history on my iPhone is filled with various searches about breastfeeding, so — even if you don’t read ahead, the info is out there, but if I could go back I’d probably prepare a little bit better in advance!
One of my fears about potentially having a c-section was that it could impede nursing. I knew our hospital did skin-to-skin even in the OR and/or recovery room, but I read a lot of horror stories about babies being kept away from their moms for a long time, thus throwing a big kink into any breastfeeding plans. We were fortunate to have a really supportive hospital staff who helped us latch M on right in the OR, much to the anesthesiologist’s amazement.
When we got up to our patient room the nurse helped me latch her on again, and I believe M nursed once more through the night (it’s sort of hazy and fuzzy, lost in a cloud of medicine and lack of sleep). Later that morning, once we were up for the day, we started to fumble a bit. The ward was incredibly busy so we were on our own for a lot of the time and I wasn’t very confident. One doctor told us to nurse every two hours, 15 minutes on each side, so that’s what I tried to do, keeping an eye on the clock over the door.
She seemed like she was falling asleep, though. She’d suck, but then take these long, lazy breaks. And I was getting sore, and cracked, and bleeding, already. What were we doing wrong? I tried to get us set up to see the lactation consultant sometime the next day, but with women all around us giving birth, we were sort of low priority. Matt assured me he’d find the LC the next day, and we got a few tips from the nurses as they came in to give me antibiotics and check vitals — how to get a better latch, and the understanding that newborn babies are kinda lazy and those breaks between sucks were her getting her energy up to keep going.
The next day, our new nurse offered to check out how things were going the next time I latched her on. She looked us over, pulled out M’s bottom lip a bit, proclaimed it an excellent latch, suggested we leave her on and let her decide when to pop off rather than going by a 15-minute timer, and said we likely didn’t need to see the LC, but if we wanted to we could. When I nursed M next, I let her eat to satisfaction (finally). She drank ’till she was full, removed herself, and promptly passed out. And then she did it again. Awesome.
Over the next few days I worked to heal the wounds from our initial latch issues (lanolin everywhere, all the time). But we were still waking her up every two to three hours to eat, even at night, which felt like torture, especially because it hurt so much to move around thanks to my incision and staples.
We’d wake her up, she’d nurse, we’d try to put her to sleep, she’d wake herself up and want to nurse, rinse and repeat for hours on end. I finally realized how insane it was to wake up a sleeping baby at night, with help from experienced friends, and we decided we’d just feed her on demand and scratch the whole schedule thing, especially since my milk seemed to be coming in without problems and her weight gain was on track.
And suddenly we started getting more sleep! During the day, if she’s not up within three hours, I’ll gently wake her up and feed her. At night, her first stretch is about 4.5 hours of sleep, up to nurse, and then a second stretch of 3.5 hours or so.
While we’ve had a relatively easy experience, there are a few confusing things, still. She has one fussy period after she wakes up again in late morning, where she seems hungry but latches on and off like crazy, and sometimes that repeats at night before bed. She often spits up but is nearly impossible to burp. Sometimes she’ll cough or choke a bit while nursing, which makes me wonder if I have a fast letdown or she’s a bit uncoordinated. We’re muddling through it, and she’s wetting and dirtying diapers adequately, but I may still pay a visit to an LC at some point, just to get some pointers.
I’m grateful for how well it’s been working so far, and hopeful that we can keep going without issues. Being able to nurse feels like a good consolation prize for our tumultuous labour and delivery. We’re still navigating all of the challenges and potential pitfalls, but it’s worth the effort, I think.