We now start the second half of our ten-part series! Being home alone with a newborn – scary. Even though, as they say, the life of a baby at this age is barely more than eating, pooping and sleeping, with some crying thrown into the mix. But eating, or rather feeding, isn’t even that simple! Many first-time moms struggle desperately with not having enough milk. Let’s see how Ágnes tackled the problem and what was the result of her struggle! Written by Ágnes Szabó.
Our new life started on a Friday. I must say, it didn’t start smoothly. We left the hospital in the morning. I would add that rushing to get my stitches removed in Budapest traffic while having a three-day old perineal wound and hemorrhoids isn’t too amusing. Sitting on one leg, leaning on both arms, I prayed that we wouldn’t drive over too many potholes along the boulevard where renovations were going on. Removing the stitches only took a few seconds. Those waiting in the hallway can tell it’s painful. But then it got better. Even so, the roughly one-hour trip home wasn’t pleasant.
It was a great feeling to get out of the car at home and not be in the hospital at last. We unpacked, and life with the baby could begin. Even the first day wasn’t easy as my milk supply was low, so my husband went to the pharmacy and got the formula prescribed by the pediatrician. Of course, I didn’t give up breastfeeding, so the first days went like this: I sat down in my breastfeeding couch about every three hours, and with my electric breast pump I pumped for about 10-15 minutes to achieve a let-down. Then I let my baby girl latch, who tried to nurse for 20-30 minutes, later even longer. Since she was still hungry and crying, she was given a nutritional supplement. We didn’t do this in the simplest way either, because I didn’t want to bottle-feed my daughter. So we mixed the formula in a bottle (my husband helped a lot with this, a big thank you to him!), then I gave it to my daughter in a sippy cup. She drank from this cup very skillfully already in the beginning, so we never used a baby bottle. By the time we finished feeding, we could start almost start over right away.
On Saturday, we started measuring our baby girl before and after nursing to see how low my milk supply was. For two or three days, I could only give the baby 20 ml of milk per feeding, together with the few drops from the pumping, while she already demanded 60-80 ml. Feeling unable to satisfy her hunger with breast milk wasn’t pleasant, so I tried everything to increase my milk supply. I drank Karamalz, Ukko tea, and 3-5 liters of water per day. Meanwhile, due to all the trying, my nipples became sore. It was getting harder to start pumping and nursing, but giving up was never an option.
Then, Sunday morning was a real shock. After getting her 20 ml of milk, our baby girl spat up a mouthful of fresh blood. My heart skipped a beat. We immediately called my doctor friend, the pediatrician: what’s wrong with the baby?! It turned out, of course, that it was all due to the sore nipples and there’s no horrible disease making our daughter spit up blood. So what happened was that upon suckling at the sore skin, some fresh blood got into her breakfast along the milk, something her body apparently didn’t need at all, so she returned it to the sender. In hindsight, this story makes me smile, but it wasn’t fun at all when it happened.
After 3-4 days my milk supply finally started to increase. A week after getting home I managed to give my daughter 50 ml at a time. Parallelly, of course, her appetite also grew and she already ate 120 ml per feeding. So I still couldn’t feed her properly without the formula. I hated the whole thing. The pumping, the sore nipples, heating the formula, and the fact if we made too much, we had to throw the rest away, if it was too little, we had to prepare the next portion at lightning speed… But I wanted to breastfeed more than anything. I wanted to know if it’s really as wonderful as they say…
It took 16 days, but it finally worked out. I could produce 70-90 ml of milk at a time, and if the breaks between feedings weren’t too long, she cried less and less due to hunger. By this time my nipples got so sore that I sent my husband for a silicone nipple shield. This proved to be great. From then on, using the nipple shield, I breastfed her on demand for two weeks without the formula. This meant that our baby started nursing in the morning, and did so almost continuously till the evening. Meanwhile, of course, there was burping, changing diapers and sometimes a bit of sleeping, but we moved very far from feeding every three hours. After two such days, however, we could completely skip the formula and, at the same time, we could skip the measurements as well. I still don’t know how much milk she drinks at a time, but she isn’t hungry and she’s growing, so I don’t care.
In the end, breastfeeding on demand didn’t work out for us, because, as I’ve mentioned, she demanded it throughout the day. Because of this, however, her tummy was constantly upset. Stomach pain cries are a bit worse than hungry cries… These two weeks were useful to help my milk come in, and it has been enough since then. Afterwards, we could also skip the nipple shield and switch to feeding every three hours, which we’ve been able to maintain well ever since.
Fortunately, she’s been sleeping well right from the beginning, waking up to eat at most once, so I had the energy to try and do everything to breastfeed during the day. Although, knowing myself, I would even have fought sleep-deprived until the end.
Our daughter was about two to two and a half months old when breastfeeding finally stopped being painful. Since then, it has really been such a wonderful feeling as they say. It was worth it. I’d never do it differently. I encourage all moms struggling with a low milk supply or painful, difficult breastfeeding to fight for it. We gave birth to these tiny tots; our bodies can easily withstand a couple more months of suffering and struggle. And the end result really is wonderful.
Source of featured image: pxhere.com
Translation by Ádám Hittaller