The first few days of having a new born are such a mess of emotion, exhaustion and new information that you kind of forget about it all. We’re in week 3 and its already so very different. When you’re pregnant you take each day at a time toward the end, looking forward to the new baby and to being rid of the weight of your massive belly. The lead-up to the childbirth is tiring and you’re already in a different mindset, looking forward to the end. Then the baby arrives. However it comes, you go through some serious pain for it to arrive, even with an epidural its quite likely to be a large life ordeal. Then you suddenly start co-existing with a new person in your life with their own agenda. Here’s a summary of my first few days, maybe you can relate.
Thursday 18th June: Day 0: AJ is born at 2.42pm. AJ is wide eyed and quiet when he is born. He latches on for a mini feed, good latch, but is sleepy. We are discharged from the birthing centre 5 hours later at 8pm and we go home. The grandparents had kindly picked up Lolo so we came home to a full house. Lolo all washed and ready for bed, not quite sure what to do with the new arrival. The midwives tell us the baby should be fed every 4 hours and no longer than 6 hours. We try to get AJ to comply. Nipples start to hurt. I can’t sleep. All that energy spent and I am wide eyed most of the night even though Daddy goes on baby duty. There’s not much crying.
Friday 19th June: Day 1: I start panicking. AJ goes on to the nipple, latches on when he can be bothered but does not suck. He starts waking up more this day and crying. I call the midwives about the feeding as this does not seem right. They tell me NOT to try formula or water or anything (even though I’m sure its not healthy that he’s not eating) its all ok and as it should be. A breastfeeding specialist comes round: the latch is great and he’s eating beautifully – they always do when the health visitor comes round (… the problem of course is that he’s not because he’s not sucking for longer than maybe 30s). Here’s what we find out: The first 24 hours babies mostly sleep and may not eat at all, maybe once evry 6 hours. Don’t stress (that would have been helpful to have known at the start). Day 2 they wake up and start eating furiously but you will only have colostrum at this stage. This is normal and actually the colostrum is like rocket fuel! Full of good stuff. The baby starts building up an appetite but the breasts are not producing as much as they would like: babies tend to get a bit fretful on this day (similar words from Gina Ford!) Then between day 3 & 5 your milk comes in and the baby becomes satiated. I swap with Daddy that night and am up with AJ all night getting him to sleep on me, trying to feed him anyway possible. If I can’t feed him as much as he needs I may as well be there to hug him!
Saturday 20th June: Day 2: AJ becomes lathargic, his lips are very dry and his cry is hoarse and exhausted. My mummy alarm goes off. this is not right. But I’m caught in a rock and a hard place. AJ is tired and visibly dehydrated but according to the midwives he’s doing ok with the feeding (except he was not) and my milk has not come in yet. Coupled with not sleeping all night, I break down crying for about an hour. I’m exhausted and my baby is not eating. When they are this small and are not eating, I don’t want to be over dramatic, but it’s not good. You end up in a little world of hell of trying to do the right thing – but there’s nothing you can do. You have to wait. And I do. He had no wet nappies all day. This in baby terms is bad, very bad. By the evening my breasts are feeling a bit heavier- I start expressing like crazy on the off chance. I manage 30ml TOTAL after expressing 15mins each side (yup 30mins total!). We start feeding AJ with a syringe.
By Sunday 21st June, day 3, I’m expressing pretty much every 2 hours and producing about 30-60mls at each session which is fine for such a tiny tummy. It feels good to be feeding him any which way I can. He still won’t take the boob and I give up on the syringe and give him the expressed milk in a bottle which he takes to immediately. Am I worried about nipple confusion? Of course I am but he’s eating! But he may never take to the breast anyway (oh yeah, in addition he’ll only latch on to the right breast and not the left one… you know, when he latches on and pretends to eat!!). I also notoriously hated breastfeeding Lolo for all 8 months as I was in pain for the full 8 months so I’m not holding out hope for AJ.
Interestingly mums only recently started being sent home so fast. Back in our parent’s time mums would stay at hospital for the first 10-14 days. They are unlikely to have experienced a lot of this. Midwives coming in and telling you when to feed, on hand for advice, checking the baby over. In a strange way its like we’ve regressed a bit because they need the hospital beds back. back home in a flash.
In short, mums – use your instinct. You HAVE to use logic, you won’t always be told what to do much like the rest of motherhood. In amongst the mist of all the exhaustion, guilt and pain, you still need to figure out how to keep this little person alive and well. The first few days are hard.