There are a ton of things to stress about when you’re pregnant, and when you have a new baby. An infinite amount, really, from toxins to sleeping arrangements to car seat safety to parenting styles to diseases to family drama to nursery decorations. (Yes, nursery decorations. Don’t judge.) But by far the most stressful one, for me at least, is feeding. Babies need to eat to stay alive, y’all, and we have to figure out how to do it.
When I was pregnant I did a ton of reading about breastfeeding. I tried to wrap my mind around how it works and how much they eat and how often and what if it hurts and what if there are issues and what if she can’t latch on and what if what if what if.
We delivered at a women’s hospital that has a wonderful lactation boutique staffed with 24-hour lactation consultants who will come to your room and help you figure out what to do. These are women who have devoted their lives to breastfeeding and teaching new mothers the basics. Also, they are SCARY WOMEN. Super intense crazy nursing ladies who will manhandle you and talk a thousand miles a minute and make you feel like you’ve totally got it until they walk out the door and you realize you have no idea what just happened. I was given tools and tricks and several position options and an overwhelming sense that if I didn’t get it figured out I would be not only depriving my baby of vital nutrition but also of bonding time with me. She would be unhealthy and also hate me.
(Possibly I am projecting onto these women a bit. Possibly I found the whole thing completely overwhelming and stressful and it is easier to put that on them than admit to my fear of failure. Possibly.)
They told me if it hurt I was doing it wrong. It hurt. A LOT. Turns out that when you ask parts of your body to do something they’ve never done before, they resist. And resistance hurts. But we powered through and started to get a handle on things, or so I thought.
But when we went in for her one week appointment, the pediatrician was concerned. She wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as they would have liked. I was convinced it was my fault. I had low supply, something I was eating was causing her problems, I hadn’t listened closely enough to the scary hospital ladies. They sent us home with a plan: nurse, then give her formula, then pump. Every time she ate. Day and night. It took an hour and a half start to finish, and she was eating every two hours.
I cried and cried and cried. One week in and I had already failed. I couldn’t feed her on my own.
We stuck to the plan for three weeks and she plumped right up, blowing past her birth weight in no time. We slowly dropped the formula supplements and found our groove. She got stronger, I started to relax, everyone felt happier.
Our nursing relationship has gone really well ever since. She’s been almost exclusively on breast milk, having a bottle of formula maybe once or twice a week with the sitter. I’m not a perfect pumper… my hours in the office are so limited and meeting-filled that I have a hard time getting it done. I have no idea how anyone ever established a freezer stash. I am literally pumping on Monday the milk she will drink at the sitter’s on Tuesday.
But I’ve learned to cut myself some slack. She’s fine. She’s great. She’s in the 85th percentile in every possible measurement. Her chances of becoming a neurosurgeon rocket scientist painter author rock star with a perfect immune system are still pretty high, AND I’m pretty sure she can beat up any baby who tells her otherwise. I’m not letting myself stress out about it anymore.
Besides, it’s time to start solid foods. That should be a super fun stress-free process, right? RIGHT?