Breastfeeding Community Mom

First days

January 24, 2022

Viv has been a very special baby since the beginning. I call her “Angel” as a term of endearment. She really is my family’s angel. She was miraculously conceived, I mean, truly. She was a gift to George and I. We were both too dumb to make a decision like that on our own. She was 4 weeks early and she weighed only 4lbs and 15oz. I was a first time, single, mom with a premature baby and I lived alone. I was pretty calm, I think, in the beginning. I had her basically alone in the hospital. My sister drove all the way up from Coral Springs, Florida with my two nephews to make it to her delivery. My poor mother was waiting downstairs because I was only allowed to have one person in the delivery room. It was a peaceful and uneventful vaginal delivery. She was beautiful from the start.

The first night we were home together there were tornadoes in the area. I was so exhausted that I didn’t even get out of bed. Viv woke up every 45 minutes to 2 hours to eat. I was fine for a week or two but I think I remember that by the time the third week rolled around I was really struggling. Viv was born October 8, 2020. My birthday is October 30th. On November 1st I got a phone call that my younger brother’s life had been taken. It was something that I always knew was a possibility because of his lifestyle but I also never actually believed that it would happen. Stefan and I are twenty months apart in age. We were very close as young children. When we moved to the “city” after having lived so far out that we didn’t have other children to play with, I remember being heartbroken that he had new friends and wanted to play with them over me. He was always the more outgoing one of the two of us. We had a twin like intuition and a very special bond. My family was devastated by the news. It was especially difficult to process as my hormones were shifting from having given birth but also, taking care of Vivianne really pulled me through that time. That was the hardest week of my life and I hope it stays that way. I had a lot of fear and anxiety already but especially after that, I was a wreck. And still, I didn’t call George.

Viv’s weight was a tremendous stress. Mostly that was because of the pediatricians who kept pushing formula onto us. Viv dropped 15 ounces when she came home. She was a 4 lb baby when I took her to the doctor that first week. I didn’t realize that she had lost weight. The first pediatrician was very pushy and not supportive. She actually felt very threatening. I understood the seriousness of the situation but I also wasn’t willing to give up breastfeeding. The first weekend after our first week of doctor’s visits the doctor asked me to feed the baby and pump at the same time. She wanted me to nurse and then pump and then offer the baby a bottle of formula. I did this. The baby did not like the formula but she did take some. I did pump. Every time I got up with her. It was so rough. It was a success though. I got ten ounces back on her. I thought the doctor would be thrilled. Nope. She was still a bitchy, judgy, unsupportive cold type who was still pushing formula. She pressured me to bring the baby back every couple of days for a weighing. I knew where that was headed. She was also pushing vaccines on us… an underweight baby and you want to stick her with vaccines when she’s just home with me? It didn’t make sense and I’d had enough. I found a pediatrician that I really respect. Even in her office I received pressure to use formula but it came from one of her NP’s. I did everything else they asked of me, I pumped, I increased my fat intake, I added avocado oil to the baby’s bottle. I did continue to offer some formula from time to time so that I could sleep and someone else could feed her because I was by no means a dairy cow. I stressed so much about breastfeeding. I was so worried about her little body and the formula. She was gassy and had reflux. I just knew that breastmilk was the fastest way to heal her little body. I also really wanted to have that bonding experience with her even though I was literally delirious from no sleep. I pushed through. I had two HUGE advocates during this time. I will write about them below.

Eventually Viv got up to five, then six, then seven pounds and everyone laid off of me. It took more than 4 or 5 months for her measurements to “register” on their charts. I bought a scale during this time and weighed her obsessively. I kept my little log going for a month. I watched clocks, I watched ounces, I watched poops and pees and tried different types of breastpumps. I did ALL the things. When I finally decided to shut it all off, Viv and I started doing better. I’m going to bullet point somethings that helped me at different times below.

First days:

Get a doula! I had a doula that I could connect with virtually or over the phone. She was a tremendous help. May She Bloom is her business. She was available to me through text and calls. It was such a relief to be able to ask her questions and to get answers that really helped. She provided resources like recipes, did general research and coached me in breastfeeding.

Don’t go to a doctor that makes you feel uncomfortable or any professional who makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable.

Keep a log for your doctor and so you know your baby is eating but after you get the weight to start increasing rather than decreasing stop obsessing.

Stop turning on lights when you feed. Keep the lights off or as low as possible so that you and the baby don’t really wake up.

Stop looking at clocks. Stop tracking how much you slept or didn’t sleep. Just sleep when you can and stop worrying about clocks.

Find a great lactation specialist and/or doula. Let a lactation specialist or doula help you do feed and weighs if you are concerned about the baby’s eating. That will ease your mind and let you know that the baby IS getting enough.

Stop watching the pump and every little drop that does or does not fall in that bottle. Sit back and try to relax. Read, snuggle your baby, listen to something or watch something that helps you relax. Stress inhibits milk flow. You could even try a warm bath.

My lactation specialist said that it was ok for the baby to eat at each breast for 30 minutes. She said that the fats in the milk don’t start flowing to the baby until after the first 15 minutes. The doctors were telling me that she was burning more than she was consuming. THIS IS NOT TRUE and we know it isn’t true because though the weight increase was smaller than the doctors liked it was STILL an INCREASE. That’s what matters the most. There is an upward gain happening and we definitely weren’t going backwards.

Don’t worry about “the charts.” Focus more on your baby’s growth and if they are developing brain first, then body size, then fat. That’s the order their size should increase.

I worried a lot about what I was eating at first. I am a non-gmo, organic, fruits and vegetables, low dairy and low meat eater, naturally. When I stopped stressing as much about all of this and ate a big juicy burger with French fries every now and again I actually relaxed a little more and noticed that my milk increased. NOW, I’m not saying to stop caring about your diet.I do not recommend eating a burger in the first couple of weeks of postpartum.  Please see a nutritionist or a doula to help guide you nutritionally. I’m going to share some recipes in this blog but let the specialists really be your guide in this area. My biggest message here is to relax. I also felt that a little grease did me a lot of good at that time. Do what feels right to you. I think I personally underestimated the amount of fats that I needed. There are healthy fats and not healthy fats. Increase your healthy fats. You need them when breastfeeding.

Find a great lactation specialist and/or doula. Let a lactation specialist or doula help you do feed and weighs if you are concerned about the baby’s eating. That will ease your mind and let you know that the baby IS getting enough.

Skin to skin was huge for me. I really felt the positive benefits as far as my hormones were concerned. Also, my baby was very small and it was winter so my body heat was very important to keep her comfortable. I wore her all the time for those first three months. In fact, she wouldn’t let me put her down. It was hard and maybe there are resources out there that will tell you otherwise but I wore her.

I kept a microwaveable heating pad around for helping Viv with gas and reflux. Adding the heat to her belly and then laying her face down on my forearm did sooth her belly and the gas would flow right out. Even a heating pad can be used just use extreme caution and don’t let your baby get too hot. Monitor the heat with your own skin. I held her while using anything electric so that it was touching me too. I also did belly massages and used warm baths to sooth her belly. The massages and heat were the most productive for us.

I used the heat pad in the car seat as well. I strapped her in and then laid the head pad on top of the straps and put a blanket on top of her. Again, it was winter and I monitored this closely.

Babies don’t need too many baths and they don’t need soaps and products! Let their skin get used to the environment. Don’t bathe them everyday. Once a week or once every 4 days is plenty at this stage. If you use any products use only natural products. No synthetic fragrances or chemicals. Goat milk soap is my favorite. I buy it scent free from the farmers market.

I co-slept with my baby. I co-slept with her until she was five months old. Do what feels right for you.

Take it easy on the caffeine just so that you can rest. As hard as it is to sleep when your baby sleeps it’s best to try.

There are a lot of things that can interfere with breastfeeding. For a complete list of these things please get with a lactation specialist or doula. I discovered that parsley gave me blocked ducts. It happened two or three times. I had no idea. We ate some Italian food and before I got home I felt the pain starting. A  Haka full of salt water is one option for opening up the duct. A warm bath with massage and Epsom salts is another option. Whichever you go with I highly recommend sunflower lecithin powder. I drank a lot of this and it cleared it up along with the warm water pretty rapidly. I never got to a point where I had an infection.

Silverettes were the greatest help I found for my nipples. Use your own breastmilk and drop them into the silver cups. Place them over your nipples. Save your nipples!!! I used lanolin but nothing helped like these did.

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