Note: This is a post about breastfeeding. If this offends you in any way, please read on.
I was simply terrified going home: I was terrified that he wouldn’t latch and would starve! I was terrified because I could not tell when he was sucking, even though I was supposed to. I was terrified I was going to break him trying to turn his head the right way to get my nipple into it. But, go home we did. That first night home my milk came in, hard. In a matter of minutes, my breasts became HUGE, and felt like they were stuffed with rolls of quarters. I cried, because we didn’t have an Advil and it hurt so badly; it rivaled the cramps from my uterus shrinking (WHY does no one say how those hurt just as much as labor, huh??). It hurt for them to swing loose, but my maternity bra was too small to wear anymore. On top of this, I had to feed my baby with these things that were stretched to the breaking point?
I almost cried the first few nights figuring out breastfeeding. First of all, he wasn’t a great latcher. But we got through it: I just patiently reattached him over and over again, and eventually, when he got bigger, he got it. Second of all, my boobs were – no joke – about twice the size of his head. Which meant that even my nipple was large compared to him and I had to hold my boob so that it didn’t suffocate him. My hands hurt so much the first many weeks of breastfeeding, from holding his head and holding my boob. Thirdly, he didn’t nurse long enough. I was told I was supposed to be nursing for about 30 minutes each time, and that I was supposed to nurse on one side and then switch to the other.
Well, he would only nurse for about 5-7 minutes at a time. And after I burped him and transferred him to the other boob, he didn’t want any. I spent a couple of days panicking that he wasn’t eating, but my neighbor and mother to five breast-fed kids told me, “is he having at least 8 wet diapers a day? Then he must be getting enough to eat!” Eventually, I came to realize that he was teeny-tiny, and that he probably didn’t need more than 5 minutes of nursing. Also, he was a very proficient sucker. Also, my letdown happened very fast and hard.
Another hard part of early breastfeeding was the quantity of nursings: he wanted to nurse every 2 hours, at least. I basically lived on the couch for the first 3 weeks, until he slept more throughout the night. Because the thing about breastfeeding: you are the only one who can do it, and it is exhausting. I would have to nurse on the couch so that I wouldn’t fall asleep doing it. And even then sometimes I would; I never in my previous life would’ve believed that I could fall asleep instantaneously and sitting straight up, but breastfeeding did it to me! One time, I fell asleep sitting up in our bed, leaning against our metal headboard; when I awoke, I had an inch deep indentation in my head from the bars and quite a headache.
Of course, I had people tell me that I should give him a bottle of formula, that it was heavier and so he would sleep longer. I even had people telling me to mix rice cereal and some formula and he would sleep for a really long time! No offense to you if you are a mother who did that, but I did not. I chose to breastfeed my child for many reasons and I wasn’t going to give it up so I could get more sleep! Of course, it was frustrating and exhausting but it was worth it!
After the first couple of weeks, breastfeeding got easier. He grew, he got better at latching (he’s still not a great latcher, I think he just likes to look around.), he started nursing for longer periods of time and going longer periods of time between nursing. I got more sleep at night, which did wonders for my morale! There were still some frustrating days. For example, some days he would want to nurse every hour and sooner. Which basically meant I was nursing him around the clock – nurse, change diaper, nurse, change diaper- with barely a minute in between. I remember calling my husband one of those times and crying: “it’s so frustrating. My nipple is raw, and my boobs are so engorged they’re hard and they hurt! And he won’t stop eating, that’s all he does!” But, he finished his growth spurt and it got better.
Now, I adore breastfeeding. I love the feeling it makes as he tugs on my nipple. I love him snuggled up in my lap. I love his hungry bird face – how his mouth opens into a circle whenever I pull the booby out. His nighttime “mole face” (where he is half asleep, with his eyes half-opened, rooting around looking for my nipple) melts my heart. I love waking up to him at night, and snuggling him to my breast and nursing him back to sleep. Or, just rolling over onto my side and nursing him while we both fall asleep. I love the way his hands curl and uncurl while he sucks. And the way he sucks – turns to smile at daddy – sucks some more – turns to smile at daddy. I love it when he stops sucking just long enough to give me a huge smile, and then resumes nursing again. I love how he says “uh! Uh! Uh!” when I pull my boob out and he’s super hungry, and then latches on like a piranha. I love soothing him at the breast. I love how he knows that he can take a pull or two of the old breast milk or just do some plain old non-nutritive sucking because he feels like it.
And I love it when he snuggles up to my boobs just to have his head there to cuddle, because it means he’s close to my heart and that’s where he’ll always be, whether he’s breastfeeding or not.