Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Attached at the boob

Sweet baby Val with a belly full of
boob juice
It has been four weeks since Val, my second daughter, came into this world. Four weeks of very little sleep, learning to do everything with one hand while Val sleeps on my shoulder and four weeks of lots of caffeine. Val is much different than her sister M - she was fully cooked when born, not five weeks early like M, which of course meant she was larger and more developed. Val has better neck control at four weeks than M did at four months! Also, they facially don't look a damn thing alike...which I love as it makes them their own little individual selves.

But the biggest difference, for me at least, is that for the last four weeks I have been exclusively breast feeding Val. I had severe anxiety about attempting to breast feed her before she was born, but just minutes after she was born she was latched and ready to roll. And she has been eating like a champ ever since. She is packing on the pounds, I haven't had any pain and my milk supply could feed a small village.

So what is there to complain about you might ask...

Well it is a strange thing being the sole food source for another human being, and because I am only pumping once every other day (at most) it is all boobs all the time. If Val was my first born it would be different, but on top of her I have a toddler to take care of as well, making life even more exhausting. And in the last ten days she has been cluster feeding like it is her job. Schedule? What is a schedule? Sometimes she eats every three hours, sometimes it is every 45 minutes. Sometimes it is nonstop for an hour.

Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the bonding time with her when I feed her. That is, when it is quiet, and I am not in a rush to go anywhere, and I am not stressed about what I have to do next. I love looking down at her little tiny self and rubbing her back and knowing how much she relies on me right now to survive.

But try breast feeding a newborn while trying to make dinner for a whiney toddler with one hand, and having your dog bark at you incessantly because you forgot to put her food out for dinner. Or breast feeding standing up, holding your baby in one arm, while trying to fix your daughters curly mess of a head of hair before school with one hand.

See, even after she is fed Val does not like to be put down. She likes to be held in your arms, preferably over your shoulder. She has a bit of reflux (apparently I breed children with reflux - I am waiting for a study to show that eating a excessive amount of American cheese sandwiches while pregnant causes reflux in babies) so we have to do the holding her upright for twenty minutes after feeding thing now, but even after that 20 she is irritable when I put her down. 90% of her life she has spent in my or someone else's arms, the Ergo or Moby Wrap.

Because of this, things have definitely fallen by the wayside. I shower every other day if I am lucky...and forget shaving my legs. M has been watching a lot more television than she used to, and I am fine with it. I hardly ever cook dinner anymore. I have a laundry basket full of clean clothes in my bedroom that has been there for two weeks and I now use it as a remote closet.

A few nights ago I was ready to throw in the towel. It is hard to go from sleeping 8-9 hours at night to sleeping 45 minutes here, an hour there, and most times with a baby on my shoulder. And then to look over and see my husband sleeping so soundly next to me, while my blurry eyes are trying to focus on the latest round of Scramble With Friends on my iPhone so that I stay awake instead of smothering my tiny baby with my giant breast...after having done the same routine just an hour before. I was driven to tears. I longed for the days when M was a baby and my husband and I took turns feeding her at night, instead of me taking sole responsibility for the 3-4 a night feedings. Mama does not function well on no sleep!

During the next feeding that early morning I got out my iPad and did some research on cluster feedings and it turned out that what Val was doing was fairly common in babies at her young age. Everything I read said that there will be some life come the three month mark...though I don't know if I can handle two more months of this insanity.

But then I came across the most touching article, that brought more tears to my eyes. It is a letter "written" from a newborn to her breast feeding mommy that was featured on theleakyboob.com website last year. It is heartfelt and touching, and kind of gave me a slap in the face. What I am doing is so important for her health and well-being right now, that I just need to put my needs to the side and tough it out for a few more months, maybe more.

My husband asked me the other day "so how long are you planning to keep solely breast feeding Val?" and I didn't really have an answer. I had never set a goal for myself (and Val) but I couldn't be happier that I made it to four weeks already. Hopefully the nights will get easier in the next few weeks as she gets bigger and bigger, and hopefully some day in the near future we will actually be able to go more than 45 minutes without being attached, as Mama's back needs a break peanut!!

I would love to hear from other nursing mothers out there about cluster feeding in the first few weeks, as well as if there is any hope for feedings to get shorter and more spread apart any time in the future!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Everything you write sounds so familiar! I'm about 2 weeks ahead of you w #2, though my son is barely 2 so he's not in school (heeeelp). We've definitely been feeding a ton during the day, but I saw a lactation consultant at 3 weeks to help control my overactive letdown, and since then nights have been better. One thing that seemed to make a huge difference: I nurse on one side per feed, and keep nursing on the same side for three hour chunks (so if she nurses on the right at 10, and then wants to eat again any time before 1, I'd stay with the right). She was getting overwhelmed/super gassy from too much flow and too much lactose because she was only nursing the foremilk at each feed. You want to completely drain the breast so they get the fatty stuff at the end. Anyway, combined with nursing in positions that let her control the flow more (leaning back with her against my stomach; side-lying) it has really helped. She'll be 6 weeks on Thursday and last night she slept 5.5 hours in the first chunk!

    She still will only sleep during the day if I'm holding her, though. Swings do nothing. Trying a bouncy chair as soon as it gets here from Amazon. Desperate to be able to set her down for 10 minutes!

  2. You need to get the book The Baby Sleep Soluton by Suzy Giordano. Rachel G recommended it to me with #1 and it was a savior with #2. Be prepared to trust the system and follow it to a T. It is the KEY to getting back to sleep ( for mom, baby is an added bonus).

  3. Don't worry, you will come out on the other side! I was feeling the same way with William the first few weeks--wondering if I would ever sleep again and wondering how much I could possibly feed someone (as I remember with O that she was on a very strict schedule almost immediately). It will go by and before you know it--you will pass that 6 wk mark and life will get better/easier. definitely pump a bottle for your honey to feed her on friday and saturday nights so you can get a little more sleep. also, for sleep, you might want to try the rock and play from FP if you haven't already as it has an incline to keep her back up and acid down. it is also very portable so you can drag around the house with you as needed. if you can get help for an hour or two one day, make a few things that freeze well. we lived off my frozen stash for the first few weeks. chicken caccitore, chili, sauce, etc.

    the cluster feeding is hard, but if you can try to go to sleep right after a massive string of feedings, or feed her laying sideways, maybe you can rest at night (I did not say sleep, lol) .

    Also, when M is at school, force yourself to lay down if the baby is sleeping. it is a weird concept, and I never did it with O but with W I FORCED myself to take a nap when O wasn't around and W was sleeping and it really did help me get some of my strength back.

    Hang in there, I was trying to savor the itty bitty baby, but part of me was also so sad and tired during that stage that I was looking forward to the next turn. and sure enough, before I knew it we were there! Good luck!!

    oh, and ps--maybe you could get a teenager to come over for like an hour when you have to get dinner ready, as a mother's helper just while you get back on your feet and find your rhythm?
    XO, Beck