If I had one piece of advice to share with brand new parents it would be this: it gets easier. Not that I’m any sort of expert at this point. After all, my daughter is still only 7 weeks old. But having survived the first few – very challenging – weeks to reach a point that seems much more manageable I do think that advice is pretty sound.
For some people being parent comes naturally. J is one of those people, and thank god because I am not. The transition to being a mom hasn’t come as easily to me as I had hoped and expected and that, coupled with a c-section, nursing issues and sleep deprivation, made for a rough few weeks. There were many tears, both mine and H’s. Thankfully my husband is amazingly supportive and helped both of us to adjust.
I shared in a recent post that I have hated the breast feeding experience so far. I did not expect to feel this way so I’ve been disappointed and beating myself up about this. When I last wrote about the topic I mentioned my desire to avoid formula feeding, and I still feel that way, though I have come close to throwing in the towel a few times. H swallows so much air while feeding that she has terrible gas pains and listening to her cry and scream is heartbreaking. Add that to my own pain and it’s hard to stick it out.
I recently met with a new lactation consultant, through my pediatrician’s office. I had been meeting with the hospital’s LC, who is great but as H and I were still having issues I thought a new point of view might be helpful. I found the experience with the new LC to be very frustrating. Without going on a big rant, I felt like I was rushed and got very little from the session. The one thing I found to be helpful were some exercises to help H learn to open her mouth more (part of our problem).
That weekend I was so frustrated that I had now met with two LCs and still couldn’t feed my child without awful pain for me and gas for her. Sunday night I gave in and let J give H a bottle. Though it was breast milk and not formula I still felt terrible guilt. I decided to give it until that Tuesday, when my support group meets, to make any decisions. I figured my nipples could handle a few more days. When I nursed H that night I used the side-lying position, which I like very much but the new LC had said not to do because for some reason she doesn’t like it. I went with my instincts and did it anyway, and I am so glad I trusted myself because I was able to nurse almost entirely pain-free and, after re-latching a few times, H did much better with the air swallowing. Not perfect, but better. This continued all night. The next day I tried a new seated nursing position and, again with some re-latching, had similar, positive experiences.
Since then we’ve had some highs and lows, and I still can’t nurse on my left side, but overall I’ve felt pretty positive and we are still formula free. H’s gas had also noticeably improved so she’s not screaming in pain for hours every day and night.
The second LC gave us a referral to our local children’s hospital’s feeding team, for oral motor training – basically occupational therapy for the mouth. We go for our evaluation at the end of the month. A girl from my BF support group had success with this for her daughter, and I am hopeful they can help H and me.
Sleep is also improving. We stopped fighting H by trying to force an early bedtime and now I generally nurse around 8:00 or 8:30 pm and she is asleep between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. She typically sleeps one longer stretch of 4-5 1/2 hours then a couple 3-hour stretches. We are working on naps and have added in an afternoon nap around 1 pm. I’ve gotten up to an hour a couple times and am hoping to lengthen that as well as add a second nap. I’ve been more well rested and less stressed as a result of the better sleep.
The better sleep is improving H’s mood, too, as she’s less cranky from being too tired. She’s generally a pretty happy little girl and it’s so fun to be around her.
It definitely took several weeks for me to feel like myself and like I had my shit together but now I have things under control (as much as you can with a newborn, anyway). I’m still exhausted but each day it gets easier and I am enjoying it more.
So for all you brand new moms who may be struggling: hang in there! Things will improve, I promise.