Life with a newborn is boobs out, changing a diaper only to change it again 2 minutes later, constantly asking myself “when did I feed the baby last?” and “when do I feed him next?” Even though everyone says, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” I don’t want to, because all I want to do is stare at my precious baby boy’s face. And oh my gosh, look at those little hands and get a whiff of his delicious skin! I think I’ll kiss him a thousand more times before I put him down. Put him down? Yeah right! I can’t put him down, I want him close to me! I’ll just let him sleep on my chest a little longer. He won’t be this little forever, right? And before you know it, it’s time to feed him again and the cycle continues. I wish I could stop the clock because no amount of time with Tucker is enough. These past 5 weeks have been, hands down, the BEST days of my life!
I was determined to breastfeed, but it wasn’t as easy as I had expected it to be. Tucker had zero interest in eating for the first two weeks. Literally, all he wanted to do was sleep. Tucker was born early at 36 weeks and 6 days, so technically he was a “late pre-term” (LPT) baby. Thankfully he was a healthy 6lbs 12oz and we didn’t have to spend any time in the NICU. But LPT babies aren’t completely ready for the world yet, so we’ve had to do some extra steps to help him grow outside the womb.
While we were in the hospital, Tucker was having problems latching and he lost more weight than he should have. “My plan” was to exclusively breastfeed at least at first. I did not want to bottle feed or use formula, but the baby needed to eat. The nurses suggested we use a nipple shield to help make it easier for Tucker to latch and do a “supplemental nursing system” (SNS) through the nipple shield to feed him. This all seemed so foreign to me. I thought babies came out and immediately started eating off the boob. And some do, but Tucker was young and not quite ready for the challenge. The doctors assured me that by the time Tucker got to his due date he would be much more interested in eating, but right now, we needed to do whatever was easiest for Tucker to get food in his little belly. So, until my milk came in, we had to use formula. I was disappointed, but the doctors tried to get me to think of the formula as medicine that Tucker needed. We fed him the formula in a syringe that hooked up to a tiny little tube that we’d sneak underneath the nipple shield and into his mouth. At least it made him think he was eating from me. All of the sudden I found myself praying for my boobs – for an abundance of milk, for a good latch and for us to figure out breastfeeding together.
I worked with a lactation consultant and the doctors to make a feeding plan for going home from the hospital. The plan was to start by using the hospital grade pump they let us borrow for a month to pre-pump for a few minutes on each breast. Then put on the nipple shield, latch the baby, compress, compress, compress and do everything in our power to keep the baby awake long enough to eat. We would strip him down to his diaper, constantly rub him, tickle his feet and even use a wet cotton ball to try to keep him awake long enough, but even that wasn’t enough. All he wanted to do was sleep. After about 10 minutes or so of trying to get him to suck on the nipple shield, we’d start the SNS (supplemental syringe of formula/breast milk). I say “we” because it was a 2-person job. Heck, sometimes even a 3-person job. My mom stayed with us for the first week and between her, Nick and I, we had all hands on-deck trying to keep the baby awake long enough to feed him. Plus, someone had to sneak the tube under the nipple shield and feed him the syringe too. After feeding him on each breast, I would double pump for 10 minutes and then clean and prepare the syringe and pump for the next feeding. The whole process took about an hour and we needed to feed him every 2 hours from start to start (which meant 1 hour of feeding, 1 hour break, then back to 1 hour of feeding, 1 hour break, etc.). Thankfully my milk came in quickly and we only had to use formula for one day, but the real challenge was keeping the baby awake. That whole “never wake a sleeping baby” line definitely didn’t apply here. The doctors wanted us to wake him to eat, every single time. Thankfully, we found a great app to track our feedings. Click here for details on the “Baby Connect” app — it’s worth every penny.
I’m incredibly stubborn and also very determined once I set my mind to something. I realize that I could have made it easier on myself by offering the baby a bottle so someone else could feed the baby and I could take a break, but I refused. I just kept telling myself, “I can do this!” Looking down at Tucker’s sweet face was all of the motivation I needed to stay awake and feed him. Even though I was completely sleep deprived, I was on such a baby high. My baby was finally in my arms and I wanted to do what I thought was best for him and that was (and is) breastfeeding him.
Tucker started to show a little more of an interest in eating and we were able to space out our feedings at night to every 3 hours (from start to start). It’s amazing what a full 2-3 hours of sleep can do for you! We still had to wake him up every single time, but he was starting to stay awake during the entire feeding, which was a huge improvement. We had gotten into a routine with the feedings and it was starting to get easier on all of us. We were seeing the pediatrician twice a week for weight checks and boy was that scary. It was a lot of hard work to feed him and I wanted to see his weight go up on the scale. Never have I wanted to round UP on a scale before in my life, but all of the sudden every ounce mattered, and I wanted to round those ounces up to the next pound so bad! Our feeding plan was working because Tucker was gaining, not a lot, but he was gaining!
When Tucker reached his due date, it was a big turning point for us. He surpassed his birth weight and he was waking himself up to eat every 2 to 3 hours! Praise the Lord! The little boy finally acted like he was our son and liked to eat! We even got the OK from the pediatrician to stop with the SNS feeding, which also meant I didn’t have to pump all the time because we didn’t need all the extra milk. This was huge! It cut out a huge chunk of time and it meant I didn’t need the extra hands to help me feed him.
We just had one thing left to do… ditch the nipple shield. I had been seeing 2 different lactation consultants – one told me to wait to ween Tucker off the nipple shield for another two weeks and the other one said start weening him off now. Both said the process could takes several weeks to ween him completely. They suggested I start feeding him with the shield on for a few minutes, then take it off and see if he’ll take the nipple without the shield. They said I might have to go back and forth several times during a feeding, but to remember that the most important part is to easily get the food to the baby. So don’t try too hard to get him to go without the shield.
Honestly, I was sick of using the shield. Washing it every time and then making sure it was perfectly placed on my nipple, only to have it slide off the second Tucker tried to latch, was just frustrating for both of us. Don’t get me wrong, I was going to do whatever I needed to do to feed my baby, but if we could cut that last step out of the equation, oh my goodness would nursing be a heck of a lot easier! I was determined that since Tucker was showing much more of an interest in eating at this point, we could figure out the good old-fashioned breastfeeding with no plastic interventions. So, we kissed daddy goodbye as he headed out the door for work and we got down to business.
It certainly was NOT easy though. We had our old system down pat, and breastfeeding without the shield was a whole new learning curve for both of us. My nipples were sore again…and cracked…and bleeding. I couldn’t put the lanolin cream on quick enough. I let out a few shrieks and even shed some tears in the process, BUT, I refused to give up. I kept reading that if it hurts, something isn’t right, so we just kept trying. I was nursing the baby 10-12 times a day, so we had lots of time to practice. And lots of time to research. I read all sorts of articles online and even watched youtube videos to try to figure out what we were doing wrong and how to get a proper latch. We had two issues: I had flat nipples and Tucker had a shallow latch (no, he’s not tongue tied, we ruled that out already). It just meant we needed to work together to get a good latch.
Three days of back and forth with the nipple shield and then something just clicked. We got a solid latch! No more nipple shield – just Tucker and mommy! I knew we could do it! Like clockwork, he’s ready to eat every 2-3 hours for 10-15 minutes on each side and that’s it. At night we’re even getting an occasional 4-hour break! After eating, Tucker’s either completely milk drunk and passes out or he’s bright eyed and ready to play. His weight gain is steady at an ounce a day and breastfeeding is getting easier every day. We had been seeing the pediatrician 1-2 times a week, but now we don’t go back until he’s 2 months old because he’s doing so well! And my nipples don’t hurt anymore, Hallelujah!
Can I just say that the woman’s body is absolutely incredible? The first photo was taken right before Tucker was born. The second photo was taken a week later. (It looked wayyy easier in all of the cute pinterest pics. Actually holding a naked baby in one hand and a phone in the other is really difficult.) But the real photo is the third one… He pooped all over me, the floor and even the wall. Crying laughing! #reallife
As if growing a human inside my body wasn’t amazing enough, the fact that my body can produce exactly what my baby needs to survive just blows my mind. Wow, seriously. It’s incredible.
Anyway, I am SO glad I stuck with breastfeeding so I could get to this point where I am today, because it is SO WORTH IT. Now, breastfeeding is relaxing and looking into those slate blue eyes while he’s eating is the best part of my day! It’s not painful anymore and it’s so easy! No bottles, no mixing formula, no heating the milk, nothing! Tucker’s meal is hot and ready to go whenever he’s hungry. Over the weekend we had our first warm day of the year and we decided to get out of the house. All we needed was the stroller, the diaper bag with lots of diapers and my nursing cover! We spent the entire day walking around downtown Burlington and when the baby was hungry, I just had to find a somewhat private spot to sit down and discreetly feed him. We’re working on the whole “discreetly” feeding him part now. He still needs help latching each time and I need to see what I’m doing in order to help him. I’m sure that will get easier with time but take a look at this endearing photo my husband snapped of me while I was desperately trying to latch the crying baby as quickly as possible in public! Thanks babe…
Oh you mean the nursing cover doesn’t go over mommy’s head too? Haha!
While I was pregnant, I read baby books, obsessed over baby apps, took a class, met with lactation consultants and talked with lots of mommies. No matter what, nothing quite prepares you for what life is like with a newborn until that baby is actually in your arms. Same goes for nursing. To all the mommas out there, HIGH FIVE! This job is not easy, but it is certainly the most exhaustingly rewarding job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Here are some products that have made my life a heck of a lot easier:
Comfortable Nursing Bras
Nursing Cover & Car Seat Cover in 1
Boppy Pillow & Covers (get a couple of these, they get dirty fast)
This breast pump! HIGHLY recommended. I had to return the $2,000 hospital grade Medela Symphony pump after a month and this is the pump I purchased. I like it MORE than the Medela! It has a timer, a back light, it’s quieter, it’s smaller, it’s cordless, it’s every bit as strong as the Medela and it just so happens to match my house! Oh and it’s only $200!