My youngest son is currently three and a half days old 🙂 He’s beautiful! We’ve been hanging out at home (no hospital stay and then shift home to interrupt our bonding and family time) and I’ve had plenty of time to just BE with him. I’ve had a couple of revelations during our short acquaintance which have given me new insight into my past early parenting moments.
(So you understand my state of mind during this post and forgive me for anything that doesn’t quite make sense: I had a baby on my knee for half of it, a toddler asking to come “up” multiple times, and a four-year old throwing mini-tantrums ALREADY at 7:30 this morning… I’m lucky I got to type anything at all! More on having a newborn while dealing with your other progeny later–if I have time!)
First, it’s with only a tiny bit of guilt that I have thought multiple times already that I’m so glad that little Peanut isn’t part of a set of twins. Chris was holding Peanut on his chest while laying in bed. Oh they looked so sweet! We both had a flashback to when Punkin was that size and we did the same thing. Chris looked at me and said, “I don’t remember this with the girls.” My reply, “Because we didn’t have this with the girls!” and we literally didn’t. I won’t rehash how difficult those first days and weeks were (you can read it in my other blog) but these were the moments we both sorely missed amidst our haze of exhaustion and frustration. Peanut and I have had the individual time to look deep into one another’s eyes and just allow the bonding to happen. I feel so connected to him, like I did with Punkin when he was new, it took me weeks to feel that with the girls because I never had time just to BE with them.
The second thing I realized has to do with how we’ve been breastfeeding. This is my fourth time around the boob bend so I theoretically know what I’m doing. I nursed Sam almost continuously from a few hours after birth (I nursed him almost immediately but we took a break because we both needed some tidying up and checking up on) through his first two days. With Punkin, in the hospital, when he’d just fed but wanted to suck the nurses offered us a pacifier. I love pacifiers, my younger sister and nephew used them and it was a great soothing tool, so I said sure, go ahead. I’d known about nipple confusion but he was still nursing every two hours (meanwhile in Peanut’s first 48 hours he was nursing more than once every hour!) so I didn’t think anything of it. Later, after I was home and away from my support system of nurses and lactation consultants, my milk came in, his latch became painful and I didn’t know how to fix it so I cracked and bled and cried through every nursing session for over a week. I’d figured out how to fix the latch issue before it became a problem with Pinky and I relatched her up to ten times a nursing session to make sure she got it right and I didn’t crack and bleed (how on earth would I have kept up nursing twins with damaged nipples?!). Because Peanut was so huge at birth I was warned that I needed to nurse often to keep his blood sugar from dipping and I already knew he was prone to jaundice (all babies in my family are) and that also would be cured by frequent feedings. So we nursed all the time.
After two nights, however, you can imagine how tired I was getting. One hour of sleep at a time is not healthy or really very restful. So on his third day I decided to use a pacifier to start stretching his daytime feedings to at least 1 1/2 hours apart so that, hopefully, he’d continue that pattern at night. We used the pacifier after feedings when he looked like he wanted to suck again almost immediately. It worked like a charm! He went two hours and then FOUR!! I did worry about that just a little because of the need to feed regularly but by this time my milk had come in (almost exactly 48 hours from birth–all that early nursing!) and he was having “real” poops, all meconium out of his system, which is how the bilirubin (jaundice) gets out of their system.
Here’s my “aha” discovery moment though: After he’d had the pacifier in and I began to nurse him he latched very shallowly and painfully! Had I not known what was up I would have muscled through the initial pain (that’s what I did with Punkin) and let it be, hurting my nipples in the process. Being a seasoned mom has a lot of advantages! I am more careful when feeding him after he uses a pacifier and relatching until he gets it right (I definitely notice the flat nipple thing of a shallow latch when it hurts which just lets me know I’m absolutely doing the right thing!). Unfortunately it makes me resent the nurses who offered me that pacifier in the first place. No one said, “Just go ahead and feed him whenever he’s fussy but not in need of a diaper change, he is just helping your milk come in and it’ll just be the first few days.” Why not? I will never know if it was ignorance of how breastfeeding works in the first few hours and days or if it was a tiptoe dance that they are forced to do not to “pressure” new moms into breastfeeding or feeling inadequate if it “doesn’t work”. Probably it’s a combination of the two. I was lost and frustrated there in the hospital I wanted ANSWERS and KNOWLEDGE, not someone just trying to make me feel better for the moment. I wanted to know how to sooth my baby, absolutely, but I wish someone had made it clear that I could do it on my own and that Nature was telling me exactly what Punkin and I needed…
So, here’s the breastfeeding tip I learned: Seemingly continuous nursing by your baby in the first few hours/days is absolutely the best thing for you and your baby. It feels like a lot and you may feel like you’ll never be able to keep up but it won’t last forever and it makes the next few days and weeks EASIER by helping your milk to come in faster and establish good bonding/trust between you and your baby.
We have the instincts (I was seriously unhappy with how Punkin was acting and feeling but he was in an incubator for his jaundice instead of on my breast!) we just have to learn to trust them and hopefully we’re lucky enough to get the guidance to reinforce our instincts instead of undermine them, no matter how well-meaningly it is done.