Monday, September 26, 2011

The honest truth about breastfeeding - Birth to 72 hours

A long time ago, before I became my humbler self, I decided I was going to breastfeed. I read things that said it wasn't going to be easy. I was prepared for it not to be easy.

When my sweet bundle was born, I was able to nurse her in the delivery room. My midwife and doctor were impressed, she latched and nursed for about 20 minutes like a champ. "Sweet," I thought. "I got this."

A few hours later, it was close to midnight and my husband and mother were kicked out of my German hospital room. So began my sojourn to insanity. Baby slept for a few hours and then roused around 3am. I brought her to my breast just as I had in the delivery room. Her reaction was like I had just sprayed Aquanet in her mouth, not the nourishing aqua vitae that I lovingly produced for her.

Patiently, I tried the other side. Same reaction. Keeping my cool, I switched back to the first side. Hellacious screams bellowed from my tiny babe. I was determined to keep trying. She was apparently determined to keep screaming. My German nurse heard the commotion and came into the room. "Baby wants to drink" she said. I suppressed my urge to tell her to shove it. What did she think I was doing? Provoking her to scream? My nurse worked with me by squeezing my breast in a medieval manner. Baby girl "drank" for a few minutes and then lapsed back into slumber for a few hours.

The next time she woke, I attempted to nurse her again. I was treated to another rendition of Screamfest 2011. After trying to get her to latch for about an hour, I desperately looked at the clock and noticed it was now visiting hours. I called my husband and politely asked where the hell he and my mom were. Sensing the desperation in my voice, they came quickly.

My mom (a labor and delivery nurse), worked with us and we got about 5 minutes of successful nursing before she dozed off again.

Over the next 2 days, I slowly lost my mind. The screaming and rejection of my breast made me feel like my baby hated me. The fact that I was alone in the hospital with limited visiting hours shook me more, plus the fact that my husband would be leaving for Afghanistan in a week and a half. The end of every nursing session ended with me and baby in tears. My husband thought I wasn't going to make it.

The second night we were in the hospital, baby had to be given a bottle of formula because she had lost too much weight under German law. That coupled with the exasperated looks I got from my nurses, was a blow to my confidence. I wasn't really sure we could do it.

Insert my mom, breastfeeding cheerleader. She continuously worked with us and instructed my husband to take the baby and walk around when I was a big puddle of tears in my hospital bed. I felt like such a fool for imagining my baby could latch on to my boob and suck until she was full. My mom assured me it would get better once we were discharged and at home...