Our time in the NICU was hard, but in many ways the first days/weeks* at home were even harder. I was thoroughly unprepared for how overwhelmed and incompetent I would feel as a new Mum. As soon as we got home, any progress we’d made with breastfeeding backtracked. We no longer had the nurses to help and reassure me and my stress levels peaked (again). Declan rarely woke to eat, so we were constantly setting an alarm to make sure he didn’t go more than 4 hours between feedings. He spent most of the feedings alternating between screaming at my boobs and falling asleep.
Eventually, and thanks to some neighborly advice, we discovered that gas relief drops would calm him enough to latch and we started moving forward again. For the first few days we were still supplementing with breast milk by bottle and I was still pumping. This meant that the whole process took at least 90 minutes and usually around 2 hours. Then there were just 2 more hours until the alarm sounded for the next round. I was a wreck (again). I felt like I was falling into a deep, dark hole and there was no relief. I saw a future in which I would never sleep more than an hour or so, and I would never be able to do anything except feed and cry. I wasn’t finding time to eat and barely had an appetite anyway. I dreaded each feeding and cried with Declan whenever he couldn’t latch.
Four days after coming home and with guidance from the lactation consultant, we decided he was spending enough time feeding that I could stop pumping. Hallelujah! But we were still setting the alarm for feedings and good LORD how I hated that sound. All I could think about during each feeding was how much time there was left until the next one began. This made me even more irritable when Declan took his time about it. Our life was a giant countdown clock on repeat. It didn’t help anything to think like this, but I couldn’t stop. I begged Christian to let me give up breastfeeding.** I worried that Declan wasn’t eating enough and that my milk production was slowing. I cried some more, a lot more. Who knew there were so many tears in me?
One week rolled by since coming home and Declan returned to his birth weight. Our pediatrician recommended that we switch from wake-to-feed to feed-on-demand, which meant no more alarms! The first afternoon and night of this were amazing and I was full of optimism and hope for the future. But then the next day Declan woke every 90 minutes to feed. 90 minutes! Giving me barely time to catch my breath between each one. He hardly slept that day or night between feedings, fussing and crying the whole time. I cried some more (surprise), and desperately wanted to quit again.
The next day was calmer, with fewer feedings and less crying from both of us. That was yesterday. Today feels good so far, though I’m back to worrying that he’s not getting enough. It never ends. But I haven’t cried in 24 hours and that alone is progress. :)
* The hard times/baby blues are by no means over yet.
** I imagine it won’t be the last time I make that plea.