Week 1 milestones
- established breastfeeding
- can lift head upright (though can’t hold it up for long)
- smiles involuntarily
- cries liquid tears
I’ve listed established breastfeeding as the top one, because it’s the most important one for me. Breastfeeding is, by far, the most challenging thing I have ever done… and yet also the most rewarding.
I won’t be one of those smug (okay, maybe they aren’t and I am just envious!) mums and declare that “it was sooo easy, he breastfed like a pro right from the start!” It was very difficult for Hunter and I and took us a full 4 days to get the hang of, with many tears and a mountain of worry before we got there. It may not sound like long, but when you’re feeding 8 – 10x a day, it feels like forever.
To put it plainly – I initially found breastfeeding harder and more painful than labour itself.
The thing is – not only did Hunter come out the size of a 1 month old, he also had the appetite of a 1 month old. From day 1, he demanded a LOT of milk. I’m fully aware that a mother’s milk takes a few days to come in, so at the start you make colostrum (a substance that is produced in small quantities but perfectly fine to sustain a newborn). He had a voracious appetite, and would LUNGE for my breast the moment he spotted/smelled it. In fact, at just 2 days old, he was on his tummy next to me, and lurched himself straight across and over.. to get to me for a feed! He would suck like he was half-starved, and would be initially satisfied with the colostrum.. but then he would demand more and cry pathetically afterwards. Even the nurses and lactation consultant were surprised at the intensity of his appetite, even though they gave me the all-clear that I was fine and should have enough to sustain a newborn.
And the pain? Indescribable. You cannot imagine the AGONY of breastfeeding at the start! First of all, you have to get the latch right, which is a learning process in itself (took us about 1 day to figure out). More difficult for me since I had a Cesarean and held him a bit awkwardly. Then, there’s the sheer friction involved. 15 mins of sucking every 2-3 hours…. imagine the friction burn and pain. It’s pretty horrific! And you know there’s nothing you can do, except grit your teeth and push through it all. I was surprised at the amount of determination required – and I can easily see why so many mothers give up and go to formula. I was soooooo close and it was so tantalising, that it took every ounce of willpower not to cave.
When he was 3 days old, he had lost over 11% of his body weight :( It’s normal for a newborn to lose up to 10%, but he was steadily still losing weight. So we made the difficult decision to supplement with formula. This was awful for me as it really did make me feel I couldn’t provide for my own child, but we were at a loss because my full milk hadn’t yet come through. We soon learned it was a good decision, as he was guzzling 60ml of milk (!!!) each time – when newborns usually only need around half that! YIKES. Greedy, like his parents.
When we got home from the hospital on Day 5, I was near rock-bottom because I was so upset at having to formula-supplement, not to mention the razor-blade pain that breastfeeding brought (from the intensity of his sucking). Again, it was my plan that I would 100% breastfeed, so it was a huge blow that I couldn’t step up to the task. Chris then suggested we try pumping with the Medela Freestyle pump that my parents bought us. Next thing I knew, my full milk had come through! I don’t know if it was the regular, rhythmic action of the pump that kicked it off, or it was just coincidence, but I cried tears of pure joy.
From then on, it was upwards as it got easier and easier. All the stress and worry melted away, though it took 1-2 days for me to pump up the volume to suit his big appetite. The hospital staff said he still takes in much more than a regular newborn, but because he’s so big it’s OK. And, at 10 days old, he was back to his birth weight.. and counting! :) He’s very strong, chubby, and full of energy and life.. so I know breastfeeding is working for us and he is thriving now :)
So now, we’re on a regular rhythm and both of us know what we’re doing. It’s a pleasure to breastfeed now and I do feel we bond a lot more. So the lesson is – it is agony at the start, there will be tears, you will want to give up (and that urge is almost irrestiable when you’re in a blind state of pain). But if you just force yourself to push through it for the good of your child, you WILL get through it and it is the most rewarding and pleasurable things ever. The sound of your child happily sucking and swallowing is the best sound in the world.
Hunter, zonked after a feed
Curled up and happy
Chris doing the very first bottle feed of formula top-up
Video of Chris feeding Hunter