James Michael came into the world a hungry little fellow. I credit this predisposition to his daddy. They say that, on average, a mother’s milk comes in at 3 or 4 days postpartum. Until then, babies nurse and get a small amount of colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and antibodies, and helps babies to pass meconium.
I’m not sure if I produced less colostrum than the average woman or if it was more the wacky horomones. But when James Michael nursed the two days we were in the hospital, he seemed downright mad that he didn’t end up with a full belly (despite the fact that his belly was only the size of a walnut). As a new mother, this left me frazzled and second guessing myself as to whether I could satisfy his needs. If only I could give a few words of nursing advice to myself those first 48 hours post delivery: Relax. Breathe. Rest. It will all work out. My mom, of course, tried to reassure me of this multiple times, but in the moment, I was so focused on James Michael that relaxing was the last thing on my mind.
My nurse tried to help James Michael latch on. But latching wasn’t the issue. As soon as he realized all that work wasn’t getting him anywhere, he stopping nursing and got upset. So I used the pump the hospital provided to try and jumpstart my milk. Many women will tell you that nursing is painful. To me, pumping before your milk comes in was the most painful part of my nursing experience.
By the middle of the second night in the hospital, as James Michael’s frustration grew, I decided I would reach out to the lactation specialist the next day before we were discharged. The specialist was very helpful at reminding me that what I was going through was quite normal. She also noticed that James Michael had a slightly high pallet, and said that nursing was a bit of work for him right now. Obviously, it was much easier for him in the womb 🙂 She gave me tips for angling him when he nursed, and also noticed that he was hungry and not satisfied by my colostrum.
So to satisfy James Michael, I did something I hadn’t planned on doing at all. I gave my baby formula.
The specialist gave me this little contraption called a supplemental nursing system that basically allows a baby to take in formula while still nursing at the breast. It also helps to stimulate the breast so that you can breastfeed once your milk comes in. James Michael took roughly 20-30 mL of formula each feeding using this method, which we only used for 24 hours because my milk came in at 3 days postpartum, exactly 72 hours after his birth.
Even though he only ate one to two tablespoons at a feeding, James Michael ate the formula heartily. As much as I hated that my body wasn’t providing for him during those 24 hours, his appetite reiterated the fact that I had made the right decision by supplementing.
Some alternative mamas might turn up their noses up at what I did. Others might think I’m making a bigger deal of it than needed. When it comes down to it, I did what I thought was best for my baby. He was hungry, and I was tired of making him wait it out. It was a big deal for me because I had a plan in my mind as to how I wanted things to go. But life didn’t happen exactly as I had planned, and that was and is ok.
Knowing what I know today about nursing, if I could do redo those first 48 hours, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would have still given James Michael formula until my milk came in.
I now understand that colloquialism “mama knows best.” It doesn’t matter what your family or friends think is best for your baby. Motherhood is instinctual, and you are so deeply connnected to your baby that you really do know more than you want to give yourself credit for. Trust me on this one.
By revealing my breastfeeding experiences, I truly hope that I never come off as a breastfeeding snob. There are many women out there with that attitude, and I hate how it makes other women feel inferior–including myself who actually breastfeeds. Whether a woman breastfeeds, formula feeds or does a mixture of both, ultimately, it’s her decision. I think we would all see the world differently if we walked a day in someone else’s shoes.
Next up: Breastfeeding from 0-3 months…