One of the most frequently asked questions when you have a newborn: are you breastfeeding? The doctors, nurses, public health officials, family, friends and online surveys all want to know. There is so much pressure to breastfeed these days, it is insane really.
When I was pregnant with Drew, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but also incorporate pumping so that I could have some freedom and so that Rob could play an active role in feeding. Even when I asked the instructor about introducing bottles, she wouldn’t hear of it. Turns out that Drew had a latching issue, he became dehydrated and thus began our adventure with formula. Formula, while expensive, was great: convenient, easy and allowed anyone and everyone to feed our baby. He is 100% healthy, I would say even more than some of our friends babies who were breastfed. I remember feeling like such a failure going to formula. For his first 4 days of life, Drew didn’t stop crying. I didn’t stop crying because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I stared for many hours at the formula can in the cupboard. When the doctor finally told us that we needed to supplement, it was an epic fail to me because all that had been engrained into my brain was YOU MUST BREASTFEED. I quickly realized that this was what he needed. He slept for 8 hours straight (and so did I), he was happy and healthy.
With Blake, I had a much more relaxed approach: I’ll try to breastfeed, but if its not working, I will be ready to pump and supplement to ensure a healthy, happy baby. He latched right away and things were great – until this 3 week growth spurt, and the first few days of “cluster feeding”. For a couple days last week he was feeding every hour during the day, but would go back to his usual 3 hour stretch in the evening/overnight. Not bad since I was able to rest during the day. Last night was a different story. This tiny little thing ate non stop from 11:30pm until 4:30am when my amazing husband came to my rescue. This is cluster feeding. My body is exhausted, thirsty and hungry from all the feeding. My boobs have never hurt so bad. My back hurts from all of the standing and rocking (thinking there is no way this kid is still hungry, there had to be something else up with him).
How come no one ever tells you about this? I’ve heard my friends say “oh, he’s been cluster feeding”, but have never heard how awful it was for them as the food source. Maybe because we are told that breast feeding is amazing? How could anyone hate nourishing their baby? It is amazing that we can nourish a human being, but we can’t be afraid to say that it sucks sometimes. Breast feeding can be a lonely task in the middle of the night when everyone else is snoring. It’s even more lonely when you’re up every 20 minutes with a hungry baby, not sure if your body has anymore to give. For me, it brought frustration and tears. For my husband, I’m sure it brought a sense of helplessness and frustration at my stubbornness to not just give him a bottle. But he rubbed my back, wiped my tears and said “You’re doing a great job. I love you.” It was all I needed – I finished feeding, handed him off for a burp and a cuddle, and went to bed for a couple hours until he had to go to work.
I know there will be more cluster feedings in the future, but I know I can get through them because I have this supportive husband as my teammate in this parenting gig. So moms: head’s up that this is going to happen and have tons of lanolin handy (and water and snacks). Dads: check in on her once and a while. If she’s been up feeding constantly or for long periods of time, she’s either fallen asleep or she’s in tears. A little encouragement can go a long way (and a back/foot rub doesn’t hurt either!).
Here’s to hoping there is sleep in our future tonight 🙂