Postpartum emotions can be difficult on their own, and then add in the frustrations/challenges with breastfeeding…. it can be overwhelming! My postpartum situation was unique in a lot of ways since Ms. P needed to stay in the hospital. It was challenging emotionally to not be able to hold her whenever I wanted or take her home from the hospital when I checked out, but there were positives to the situation too. Of course, she was getting the care that she needed, and so was I!
Once P was born, I was overcome with my new “role”. Baby’s priorities trump any and all previously planned events or routine schedules. Ms. P quickly became the boss, and I realized my new “role” was to ensure her happiness. For us, we had a great team of ‘co-workers’ helping us. They were trained, rested, and patient with both Ms. P and us. No matter the time, these professionals were kind, supportive, and generous with knowledge and action. A 3 am feeding schedule? No worries! A feeding that took over an hour to complete? No biggie! They were on it!
Subsequently, Ms. P came home on a schedule that was better than a clock. And better than that, she came home to parents that were rested and not still in shock over the wonderment of parenthood. We knew how to change the diapers, and take care of her belly button stump. We knew how to swaddle her like the best of them. And most importantly, I knew how to feed her. I was lucky that my milk came in as well as it did for her being premature, but we still had a bit of struggle in the feeding department. Moving Ms. P over from a feeding tube, to a bottle, then to the breast was quite a process. We took one day at a time, and eventually had to use a nipple shield. A nipple shield is a plastic “shield” that covers your nipple and extends the nipple deeper into your baby’s mouth. These shields are used by women that have flat or inverted nipples, or with preemie babies, like in my case. This extension of the nipple helps to stimulate the suck/swallow reflex better for preemies. Once we got the nipple shield going, we were able to nurse much more effectively.
Because Ms. P’s weight was a constant concern in the beginning, we did have to bottle feed her “milkshakes”. In an effort to up her daily caloric intake, these bottles were a mix of breast milk and formula. Out of the 8 feedings a day, 4 of those were the milkshakes. During those bottle feedings I still had to pump in order to keep my production up, which was annoying to say the least. She continued to gain weight, and luckily for me, easily went from the bottle nipple to the nipple shield without concerns. Even though we were chugging along, I couldn’t help but get emotional and frustrated with situation. I had it set in my mind that P would be exclusively breastfed. Unfortunately, it felt like another “failure” in my fragile postpartum emotional state, and some days I couldn’t help but cry it out.
Thankfully, I had a great support team around me. My midwife was constantly checking in, and even came out to our house a few times to ensure a positive breastfeeding experience for both baby and me. Without this support, I could have easily gotten fed up or overwhelmed, and thrown in the towel in the first couple of weeks. A decision I know that I would have regretted in hindsight.
While breastfeeding may come easy for some… that is not the case for everyone! I had a team of nurses round the clock for the first 2 weeks, a hospital that provided me with a lactation specialist, and the continued support from my midwife… and some days it was still hard! If you need support, contact: http://www.llli.org/ to find a local La Leche League group in your area for assistance.
And, I’m happy to report that Ms. P now exclusively receives breast milk!
So for all of you new moms out there… have patience with yourself during this transition. Take time to process your emotions, and seek help early! Breastfeeding will be a wonderful experience for both you and baby; it sometimes just needs time to click. Breast wishes to you 🙂