What I didn't know about breastfeeding before

"Are you going to breastfeed?" I often got the question during my pregnancy and I answered without much reflection that I'd love to try it. It seemed rather obvious to me that it is the best option. I also knew that some mothers need to stop because of issues so I promised myself not to stress or feel guilty about it if I'd have to give up.  But I never doubted to start.

During our info sessions at the hospital I learned a newborn baby might need feeding up to 12 times a day. 12 times...that is a lot! Gasp....I had no clue. I started to count the hours in a day and mentally inventorised all essential tasks I have to do in a day and  I realized I needed to accept all help I could get. So I booked some household help.
And I learned I'd need to make sure the baby latches on correctly and frequently enough or I'd risk hurt nipples or breast infections: yikes! That sounded quite frightening.  Nevertheless I still didn't doubt that I'd try breastfeeding.
I also learned about the changing composition of mother milk according to the baby's age as well as during a single day (for that reason it makes no sense to weigh the baby before and after feeding to check if (s)he drunk enough).  I had no clue how cool that is!

So when our Kabouter arrived and was put on my chest, we treasured the skin contact  in the delivery room with the 3 of us during the first hour(s) after birth that the hospital policy stimulates us to have undisturbed. While getting to know each other and exploring and cuddling (and crying a bit from happiness), Kabouter started to smack with his lips as predicted and with good ease he started to drink. We had to laugh by the loud smacking noise this tiny baby could already make.

A few hours later, when we all had moved from the delivery room to my maternity room, I let him latch on again.  Later on the midwive came to check upon us, while she was so surprised that we had not called her yet for help to let him drink.  The next times she checked in with us more regularly and with hindsight we better had done that right from the start as quite soon Kabouter had managed to hurt my nipples full of cracks.  Hmm that early smacking wasn't good probably.   Ooouccch!! Jan could hear the moment of latching by my painful groans  (and that would continue for the next 2 weeks) and on day 3 the hospital midwives advised me to start extracting milk with a breast pump to allow my nipples to cure a bit.

So when we went home, I struggled first weeks to find a rhythm and get enough sleep. Even if you are told before that they'll drink 12 times a day, you cannot imagine the fatigue until you experience it. I'm sorry to admit I was kind of crossing my fingers constantly the first weeks to have the baby asleep so I could rest too or eat or do a quick phone call.   I constantly lacked time. And it was so painful in the beginning, I didn't particularly looked forward to the next moment of feeding. I was getting told it'd get better but it didn't quite get better soon enough. It's not comforting to know that in a few weeks time things will be different if you are tired & in pain at this moment. A few weeks sound like eternity in that case.

The midwive/lactation expert that visited me at home warned me about the growth spurts that would come at week 3 and week 6   "install yourself in bed with a magasine or music or ..., assure your husband is near to bring you cookies & drinks ..;because you'll be in there for a while".    Growth spurts, hmm, I had heard of it for the first time at work previous summer where a colleague/new daddy mentioned them but I thought they were exaggerated. You know those Dutch, right ;), exaggerating everything and making themselves interesting.   Hmmm it turned out those growth spurts aren't exaggerated...Wow I had no clue. I had never heard of them before.   Kabouter spent at week 3 twice 5-7 hours of drinking each half hour, hardly giving me time to run to the toilet, let alone get a snack or so. Thankfully I knew what was happening so I did camp in bed with tv on my ipad.  At week 6 I fed him 18 times in 24 hours. I was exhausted!  No wonder those are the times that many people seem to be giving up breastfeeding.    ...hmm I'd better be ready at week 12 for the next growth spurt that might come as a nice early Christmas present.

In the mean time I continued to have cracked nipples for the first 4-5 weeks, so I had to express milk again to allow them to cure.

I became member of a breastfeeding support organisation and I'm getting their forum in my FB feed constantly (Sometimes too much info/discussions in fact).  But I learned this way that babies up to 6 months still require 8 feedings a day and that nightfeedings are essential if you want to keep up your production longer than 3 months. I had no clue either....I thought the 12 feedings per day at the start would decrease steadily in the weeks after, giving me a nice much more relax rhythm by the time Kabouter would be 2 months. Wow, that illusion got nicely killed. Indeed: he still feeds about 8 times a day and still eats a few times at night. And if that information is correct, I guess it's not going to change in the coming months although everyone keeps asking me if he already can sleep through the night.

Many of these things are unknown to my parents (in law) and older colleagues as well. I also had no clue that so few people of the previous generation have only been breastfeeding for more than a couple of weeks! So they listen to my stories in amasement and don't seem to understand.  Even a doctor last week told me "oh if it is difficult, don't push yourself, you can give a bottle" ...how motivational!

So all in all breastfeeding demands a lot more motivation and determination than I had imagined upfront.  And I knew so little about it when I started.

BUT I am in the mean time stronger convinced of the advantages that I'm giving to my child (health wise, emotionally, nutritionally, ...). And it's true what they say " it is getting better": those weeks that seem an eternity at the start, do pass.  At one point without realizing it, I noticed that my nipples aren't as sensitive anymore as at the start (ok, hmm shouldn't have typed that...ouch today again) .  And I also am convinced that although I need to feed him at night....breastfeeding + co-sleeping allows me to feed him without the need of getting out of bed and that's actually quite cosy.  As long as I'm not working, I guess I can cope with feeding at night and interrupted sleeps. And since 10 days now, he is skipping (almost) one feeding at night giving me at least once a break of 4-6 hours at the start of our night. Going away during the day is even much easier: I always have everything I need to feed him with me just like that without the hassle of carrying bottles, powders, searching microwaves, ...   Now that the fatigue of the pregnancy and labour has been digested by my body, I seem to cope with this rhythm and I don't constantly feel like a mindless zombie anymore. Obviously some days are better than others, but I can honestly say it's going well with more conviction than a month ago. I am enjoying this little man on my chest more now.  I guess I've managed to get to the more difficult start and that it should be easier from now on, so I do hope to be able to continue a while longer until I start working again in 2014. We'll see.

And we'll see how much more I'll learn about breastfeeding along the road.


Gudrun said…
Goh... Je kan echt niet zeggen hoe lang die frequente voedingen nog zullen duren, hoor! Dat varieert van kind tot kind: alledrie de mijne zaten na een paar weken op een ritme van om de drie-vier uur, dus 5 voedingen per dag, en 1-2 per nacht. Dan valt dat allemaal best mee. En heb je al tepelhoedjes geprobeerd? Dat kan ook soms serieus de pijn verzachten.

Alleszins niet opgeven: zeker als ze wat groter zijn en dus minder vaak drinken, kan je er enorm van genieten. Ik ben, zodra ik gaan werken ben, overgeschakeld op twee voedingen: laat-avond (soms een keer 's nachts) en 's morgens, en dan overdag papjes en een fles.

Het went...
Goofball said…
@Gudrun: hij leek te evolueren naar een ritme elke 3 (/4)u vorige week, maar heeft het nu zelf weer opgedreven naar elke 2-3u en zit zo weer dus op zijn 8 voedingen per dag waarvan idd 2 's nachts. Dat is wel te doen ja.

Ik gebruik heel veel tepelhoedjes maar probeer het af te bouwen nu.

Zoals mijn conclusie was: 'k ben meer gemotiveerd dan in begin en denk effectief dat ik het nu wel gewoon geworden ben, dus hopelijk kan ik nog een tijd doordoen.

Welke leeftijd waren je kinderen toen je 2-3 voedingen meer deed? Daarover lees ik dus waarschuwingen dat je productie kan kelderen als je dat voor 9 maanden doet?? (en dat ze kan kelderen als je geen nachtvoedingen meer hebt onder de 6 maanden). Jij hebt daar dan geen last van gehad blijkbaar?
Leslie said…
Yay for you and Kabouter! Breastfeeding isn't always easy, but I've always felt like it was worth it.
Jennifer Brown said…
Glad you are sticking with it. I agree it is very challenging and I think people can tell you all about it, but until you have to go through it then you really find out. When they start to eat solids I found they could go for longer between feedings. But yeah sometimes they eat lots and sometimes not so much. I found as soon as I thought I had it figured out they would change!

Brian Miller said…
ha. my wife started breastfeeding...and then we went away from it...mainly because of the pain it caused her...oy i remember the lack of sleep..ha...i dont envy you that...smiles.

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