I don’t know why I thought this would be easy. With eight zillion resources online and books and support groups and lactation consultants, plus about two years of blog reading where breastfeeding was discussed at least once a week, I thought I was totally aware of how things worked. I took a class. They gave me a CERTIFICATE. Unfortunately, my baby obviously wasn’t paying attention, since he absolutely refuses to latch on. He either falls asleep with my nipple sort of drunkenly hanging out or he gets supersupersuper excited and thrashes his head around like a crazy person making squeaky noises until he gets milk all over his face – but none in his mouth.
Since Baby Evan needed to eat immediately after birth because of his body temp and low blood sugar, I did the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do and allowed the nurses to give him formula. It felt like I had failed my child only ten minutes after bringing him into the world. From that point on it only got worse. My lactation consultant Andrea – the one I luuuuuved from class and was so looking forward to working with – no longer works in the birthing center. She went and got a new job just a few days ago. I feel personally abandoned. The first night after the birth the baby stayed in the nursery for observation and when the nurse would bring him in to feed she just dropped him off and left. I had no one to help, no one to tell me what I was doing wrong, no one to explain how to FIX IT. I may be a first time mom but one thing I definitely know is babies need to eat. It’s pretty much their only job in life – and my only job is providing Baby with food – so when it’s not working on either end we are both miserable.
By Wednesday morning – Baby Evan’s 3rd day of life – I couldn’t stop crying. Every time I thought about breastfeeding, or held the baby, or tried to get him to latch with absolutely no success I had a little breakdown. It didn’t help that despite my failure my milk came in and my boobs are literally like two big cantalopes stapled to my chest – rock hard and so swollen I can’t put my arms by my sides. My baby book says you should establish a breastfeeding routine before you start to pump. The nurse at the hospital said I should pump a little first so the baby could get a better latch. I thought pumping was for women who had to work, not moms who’s ONLY to-do item is Breastfeed on Demand. I also had no idea how my little hand pump worked since I hadn’t planned to use it.
We needed to get things set up with the Navy health care pediatrician yesterday, since the on-call ped wanted me to have his billi levels checked (a fancy way of saying he looks kind of yellow) within 24 hours. I won’t give you the whole horror story about how totally incompetent practically everyone we dealt with was, but lets just say the baby no longer has virgin ears. His first words may be “useless douchebags”. The whole process took three times as long as we thought and we didn’t bring any formula to supplement my attempted feedings. I actually had to leave the waiting room and go cry in the car while E almost got himself in a huge amount of trouble by yelling at an officer who kept telling him the baby couldn’t see the doctor until all the systems updated. Most of the time I love my socialist health care. This was not one of those times. When we finally got to see the Navy doctor I scared her by being such a wreck. Since the cure for jaundice is poop, getting the baby to eat was now everyone’s top priority. Super. Now someone PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO DO THIS.
Luckily, someone did. The pediatrician gave me the number for a lactation consultant who we called before even leaving the parking lot. In a 5 minute phone conversation I went from panicked to FINE. She said of course I should pump if the baby won’t latch. She also told me to put some hot compresses on my enormous swollen boobs ASAP – which is the best advice about anything I have ever gotten ever – and we made an appointment to see her today at noon. I managed to pump enough to feed Baby Evan all night. E and I took turns sleeping – 5 hours each, and he actually let me have 6 – so this morning I felt great. We went back to the doctor (A+ for baby improvement!) and everyone was much much less scared of the hysterical woman clutching the diaper bag and sobbing.
At noon we met with our amazing, fantastic, reassuring, incredibly knowledgeable lactation consultant Carol. (BTW, if you ever thought teaching women how to breastfeed sounded like the ideal job, you might want to look into it. Although we got a military discount and some insurance companies help to cover it, the cost for a consultation is $100/hour. And you get to look at boobs all day!) Carol taught me about magical nipple shields. It turns out that my body is SO EXCITED to make milk my boobs have swollen and my nipples have practically disappeared. The baby can’t latch on to flat nipples. But if I correct them with this soft little plastic nipple-shaped cover, he is AWESOME at feeding. He actually eats so much so fast I have to pull him off and make him slow down. A nipple shield saved my life. THREE DAYS of panic and crying and worrying my baby would die was cured by a $4.99 piece of silicone.
After our meeting with Carol, a visiting nurse provided by the Navy and Marine Relief Society came over to check on me. She brought lots of great information, not just about breastfeeding but about our options for choosing a pediatrician and getting the baby covered by our health care. She’s going to keep calling and coming to check on me at least once a week, which is really reassuring, since after our final jaundice check-up tomorrow Baby Evan won’t go to the doctor for another 2 weeks. Basically, I am no longer worried about anything baby related. It’s going to take a while for me to really get the hang of breastfeeding but the fact that things have improved 1000000000% in the last 24 hours is a good sign. Next week I’ll probably be feeding while walking around. We’ll hold off on feeding while juggling chainsaws until at least month 2. And after I learn to juggle.