Breastfeeding Reflections: First Week With a New Baby

I never knew how much of a whirlwind the first week with a newborn was going to be. From the first car ride home from the hospital to the afterbirth pains, the first week felt like a month’s worth of events. When we brought D home after our hospital stay, we thought we were going to have a smooth transition, however we had many unexpected surprises.

One of the most unexpected surprises was how difficult breastfeeding was. I had always envisioned that breastfeeding was going to be a normal process. As I mentioned in my last breastfeeding reflection, I got educated in all different ways about breastfeeding by taking childbirth classes. I thought this sufficed the information needed to have a successful breastfeeding journey. For something that seems like it should be second nature, I never knew how complicated breastfeeding was going to be.

First Night With a Newborn

The evening after D was born, we arrived home from the hospital. This night was such a blur, but all what I can remember was that it was unpleasant and heartbreaking. The one thing that I do remember was how much D kept crying during the night. It might have been how much sleep deprivation I had being that I only slept for a total of 2 hours at the hospital, but all what I can recall was that I kept attempting to put D on the breast each time he cried. I remember trying to make him latch on the breast but it would only last for a short amount of time where his mouth would slip off. Out of either hunger or need for comfort, he kept crying, almost insisting to put him on the breast but his latch wasn’t successful.

Baby’s First Doctor’s Appointment

We took D for his first checkup with his pediatrician the following day. He had lost 9% of his birthweight. Luckily, our pediatrician wasn’t concerned about the loss of weight. If baby’s weight falls down anywhere between 10-15%, that could be a concern, depending on how the pediatrician takes it. During the visit, I told our pediatrician about the latching concerns from the previous night and she suggested that I use a nipple shield to maintain a latch while feeding. I texted my doula if using a nipple shield would cause confusion, but she recommended to try it out as many newborns with unsuccessful latches would prompt them to release milk.

That night, D kept crying and doing the same thing he did the previous night. I remember crying with him and trying to help him to latch. I remember doing what I learned from the virtual classes – placing my nipple on baby’s nose to prompt him to take a deep latch or hand express some of the colostrum out to initiate a latch. However, at that point we were both hysterical and ultimately desperate to find a way to feed him. Out of desperation, I called the pediatrician’s office where I spoke with an on-call nurse. She went through a series of questions, such as how many wet and dirty diapers he’s had in a 24-hour window and if he looked dehydrated. D had a normal range of wet and dirty diapers and he was not dehydrated. However, I asked why he kept crying. Looking back, Alex and I were overwhelmed. We didn’t know that it was completely normal for newborns to cry even if they have been fed. However, I was desperate and wanted to resolve his crying. Again, this was all so new to us. I told her that my breastmilk was “not enough”. The nurse asked if we had formula on hand, if so she advised us to feed him an ounce of formula to see if that would make him content.

I did not purchase formula as this was not part of the plan, however we received samples in the mail from one of the major formula companies. We also received samples as a baby shower gift from a family member (I appreciate the intent but it almost imposes that formula is the best or only option to feed a baby) and I also received samples from my midwife’s office (this shocked me the most!). The nurse suggested that I breastfeed first, pump on each breast or double pump for 15 minutes, and supplement with the expressed milk or formula. Ultimately, I was told to triple feed. Without knowing how to use a pump, I did what I was told.

When My Milk Came In

On the third day, my milk came in. This was when my breasts became engorged. Knowing that I was producing milk, I reached out to my doula to see if I could get support and she offered a virtual meeting to monitor a nursing session. My doula mentioned that it all looked good on her end, however she suggested that I seek a lactation consultant if D keeps popping on and off. It didn’t occur to me to ask my doula if she knew any lactation consultants that she would recommend. As someone who doesn’t know close family or friends who have breastfed, I was not aware that lactation consultants could visit your home. I assumed that these services were offered at high prices and were catered to wealthy families. This naïvety made me believe that I was extremely limited to receiving the support needed.

The Difficult Reality of Breastfeeding

I got into the rhythm of triple feeding for the remainder of the first week. I’m going to be honest, it was a lot of work! It was also painful to pump, but I thought my nipples are sore so it must be normal. Just when I had breastfed D for 20 to 30 minutes, pumped for 15 minutes, and bottle fed him, the process repeated itself all over again. It was none stop and I was exhausted.

No one tells you how unexpected the first week with a newborn will be. Not to mention, for those who plan to breastfeed, this can add an additional challenge with so many unexpected surprises. The first week was full of emotions, sleep deprivation, and vulnerability. Ultimately, we had to navigate this new transition. For me, my breastfeeding experience began in a not so good way and I wasn’t expecting what was yet to come.

Stay tuned for my next breastfeeding reflections. Thank you for reading!

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