Pretty soon after he was born, Ezra tried breastfeeding for the first time. There was some generalized confusion (I think I may have said, “so, do I just…put him on there?”), but eventually nipple and mouth met. I fed him again just after we got to our post-partum room. After that, he went on strike.
I tried asking the nurses about it, as the hours ticked by, but nobody seemed very concerned. He’s tired, they told me. He’ll wake up soon and want to nurse. But he didn’t.
Some time in the early afternoon, our pediatrician’s partner came to take a look at the baby. She told me to rest up, because by 24 hours after birth, he was going to perk up and be up all night wanting to nurse.
She was right about the up all night part.
Every hour or so, Ezra started fussing. I would pull him out of the bassinet, position him carefully the way I thought I should, and watch him make all the expected “I’m hungry” moves, like sticking his tongue out and opening his mouth for the nipple. Except when presented with the nipple, he would kind of lick it for a little while and then fall back asleep for a few minutes, and then start fussing again. Kid would not latch on.
So, at 4 am, getting increasingly upset, I paged the nurse and asked for breastfeeding advice.
Turns out, the Sunday overnight nurse, sullen and sporting an incomprehensible mumbly accent, is not the best source of said advice. After floating the quickly-rejected idea of feeding the baby formula, she proceeded to tell me that the problem was that I wasn’t “making enough.” She demonstrated this by grabbing my nipple and squeezing it. “See? Nothing.”
Thank goodness my post-partum delirium did not extend to believing that I was getting good advice. “Uh…thanks,” I said. “I’ll just keep trying.”
Monday morning, everything was different. The day nurse was delightful, and summoned Maria, the lactation consultant, for us bright and early. When I told her about the nipple squeezing incident, she sighed and said, “I don’t think she knows how to do it.” Maria grabbed my nipple, did something completely different from what the sullen nurse had done, and a golden drop of colostrum immediately sprang up. “See?” she said, “You’ve got plenty.”
She showed me some new tricks and an Australian breastfeeding video, and told me I was going to be fine.
And I am. It’s not easy. There have been a few total meltdown failures, and there was that one day when he refused to nurse unless I was lying down and I was sure I was never going to get to go out of the house again. I’ve been lucky to avoid any kind of painful nipple cracking, but when he first latches on, the suction is powerful and it hurts. I still don’t totally understand burping (when? how much?) and I don’t have nearly enough nursing-friendly clothing to effectively leave the house more than twice a week.
But mostly it’s going well. After a few days at home, we finally hit our stride. He eats about every three hours (except for a few nights where he decided that instead of eating a lot and then taking a nice long break, he’d rather eat-a-little, sleep-a-little, a plan that’s great for him, but means I never sleep.) And I definitely felt like I’d earned my breastfeeding wings when I figured out how to use my boob as a much-needed pacifier in the emergency room.
I love watching him while he eats, giggling at his odd plans, like the one where he tries to jam his hands in his mouth instead of or along with the nipple. There’s also an adorably idiotic move where he opens his mouth wide and sends his head in a wide arc directly away from the nipple. The best part, though, is the moment when, drunk and sated, he falls off the nipple with a look of pure joy and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to do this.