Once PJ came home, my new mission was to teach him how to breastfeed. I was thrilled that I was able to supply enough to feed him, and I didn’t want to let it go to waste. I saw how hard some of the other NICU moms worked trying to pump and not getting anywhere, so I never took this for granted. And while he was in the NICU, it was a pain but not that big of a deal to drop everything and pump every three hours.
When he came home, it was a whole different ballgame.
Pumping every three hours when there is a full staff of people to take care of anything else the baby needs, and when you can sleep at night between pumpings, is one thing. Pumping every three hours around the clock when you are also attempting to nurse, giving a bottle, changing, and rocking that baby to sleep each time is a serious pain in the ass. It would take him at least an hour (usually closer to two when we attempted nursing too) to get through this cycle, and then it would be about a half hour of pumping, and maybe there’s time to grab a little snack or catnap and then….time to start all over again. Completely, totally exhausting.
This is where Dr. Internet failed me, and Kym of Berri Healthy saved me. If you Google breastfeeding problems, most of the results are helpful for newborns who are a few hours to a few days old. None of them really address what to do with a month old baby who really wants that bottle, and will do one of two things when you try to nurse: either bite down as hard as he can with those little gums and scream at the top of his lungs, or (less painful but much more annoying), grab onto your nipple in his little fist and use it to steady his hand so he can suck his thumb. I am not kidding. That’s what my baby thought my breasts were for, for a good three weeks.
So thank you God for Kym! If it hadn’t been for her, I would have given up. Not only did she point me in the direction of some actually helpful online resources, but she gave me a great tip that I think really helped us make the transition. She told me to remember the Kangaroo Care we had done in the hospital, and try a modified version of that which encouraged PJ to try nursing in a relaxed, not stressful way. I am being vague here on purpose because I am not an expert and don’t want to frustrate anyone else in the same boat by giving what looks like “do X and Y will happen” advice that doesn’t work for them! If you’re reading this and need that kind of help, please send me a message and I will point you in the actual experts’ direction.
The key part of this process was the same as getting him to use the bottle – watching for his cues, and learning together. The first time he paused nursing to smile at me and went right back to it was, no lie, one of the best moments of my life so far! Once he got past his “no way Jose!” views on nursing, he was all about it. Paul affectionately refers to him as “our little milksnake” now because of the way he zeroes in on his dinner and latches on like someone’s going to take it away from him any second. It’s hysterical, and something I’m really glad I stuck with, even though it was not at all, in any way, easy.