Fog consumes all;
his eyes focus, small smile
The first two weeks after delivery are the slowest, and the first month is really difficult. Your little miracle of life is the helpless embodiment of a To Do list. Though, as you start to leave this time in your past, it stops feeling so intense. What percentage of your life is two weeks, really? How well do you remember most two week segments? Some details recalled with an “Oh ya!” but only if the memory is specifically triggered. This is the same. Both sadly and happily, the memory is altered by time and new experience.
The amnesia of this time is helped along by the fact you’re scrambling to implement all the techniques you so confidently read about, the complete lack of decent sleep, and when your baby eyes suddenly focus on yours and he smiles.
Top Items: Month 1
Before I get dreary with the struggle that was month 1, I gotta list out the items I would have died (figuratively) without:
*Note: I’ve not received anything from these companies, just plain old word-of-mouth advertising for some great solutions.
- Aden & Anais Swaddling Blankets (the extra 4 inches and the muslin cloth make it PERFECT for swaddling and as a breastfeeding cover)
- Fisher Price’s Rock N Play Sleeper (He slept in this almost exclusively)
- The Happiest Baby on the Block (Dr. Harvey Karp, bless you sir. My husband and I watched this movie about 12 times)
- Amazon Prime / Amazon Mom / Amazon Subscribe & Save (Diapers, impulse buys, not having to leave the house for wipes y’all)
- Baby Connect app
- Bathing Technique (post-umbilical cord):cover baby’s body with soaked hand towel to provide a nice warm/wet/comforting experience. “Hmm, I kinda like this :)” – Baby D
- Soft Surgical Brush Use while washing hair, no cradle cap for our little dude.
- White Noise Machine (or an app if you can get it loud enough, I felt that this machine might be a little overpriced)
- A touch lamp (oh… 3AM… the witching/breastfeeding hour of doom)
- Pampers Swaddlers (the best for a reason)
- Air Time (nakie time to prevent diaper rash…still going strong)
Not much else. We didn’t really use baby clothes until Month 1-2 because he spent most of his time swaddled, and dealing with snaps in the middle of the night was super frustrating.
- Pop as many “first time” bubbles as you can
We went on a walk with our dog, to a restaurant, grocery shopping, a longer car ride, and to the doctors. Do this within reason, obviously, but it’s important to let yourself know you CAN do things, even if you don’t do them again for another month.
- Accept advice, but with a grain of salt
People give an obscene amount of advice in the first month which seems to taper off significantly. Take it all with a grain of salt, even our lactation consultants contradicted one another. You can get great advice even from unlikely sources, but most advice is just echoes from their own experience.
- Avoid allowing others soothe your baby
Mom, partners…you really need to use this awful first month to gain the experience in soothing your baby. You don’t want well-meaning-super-talented grandma to always soothe your little babe during the day, and then be stuck still skill-less at 3AM. You’re too tired to learn then. Just ask your college English final…that paper was terrible and you know it. What can they do to help the baby? Please cook. New parents are so painfully hungry and tired.
- Dads/Partners… she really needs a moment, and by moment, I mean…two months
I am normally a very self-sufficient, dont-help-me, kind of person. But I struggled really hard with “baby blues” and getting back into any sort of groove. And my husband struggled to be compassionate about this seemingly jarring difference in my personality, especially after my stitches healed and my physical stamina began to return. Normally, he is a kind and caring person, very in-tune to people…but the first “You couldn’t even vacuum or make dinner?” or the first critique on the amount of breast milk that happens to fall out of your face will do way more damage than you realize. It is genuinely difficult to get back to “normal.”
- Let it be
Those sappy articles about loving yourself, and not blaming yourself? Please remember you’re not alone. Partners and new moms, both of you. You may feel like you’re going crazy…why can I not do [insert anything you are struggling with here], why am I different. But, honestly, you’re really experiencing something all new parents went through. Don’t beat yourselves up, you can do this.
- Hang out with parents whose babes are within one month of your babe
I had the benefit of having a prenatal group, all due in December along with baby D. This was the single most buoying thing in postpartum. I’m a hyper introvert, but just hearing how everyone struggled with their breast milk experience, knowing their birth visions and then hearing how their birth experience differed. Knowing I wasn’t alone… I could not love those ladies more. Anyone with an infant who talks to someone with a three month old…don’t listen. Those moms suddenly don’t mind a whole lot of things that you’re still struggling to adjust to, you’ll get there.
- Yes, you CAN now tell who doesn’t have kids
Yeah, it’s just…so obvious it almost hurts. You were so that person last year.
Baby D was 7lbs 9oz at birth and lost the expected 10% at the hospital. They said he should regain this starting weight by his 2 week appointment, or more. When we went in for his 2-week appointment and laid him on the scale, he weighed 7lbs 0z and the nurse wrote “9th percentile” on his sheet. I looked down at my son and wondered what I had done wrong. Why wasn’t he gaining?
We had been breastfeeding on demand (which felt non-stop). We were tracking his wet and dirty diapers in our Baby Connect app, and he was exceeding the numbers the lactation consultants had said we needed to meet each day to know he was getting enough food.
All-in-all things seemed to be going as expected, and I was feeling happy.
My husband clearly sensed I suddenly became unhappy while we waited for the pediatrician. “What’s wrong?” he asked me. “He didn’t regain his birth weight! He’s 9th percentile from 47th percentile!” I said, shaking the hospital data sheet. He scoffed at me, “He’s been peeing and pooping as much as the lactation consultants said he should, don’t be dramatic” he said, shaking his iPhone with all our meticulously recorded poop and pee charts.
The pediatrician entered, looked over his data. “Oohh…he is too skinnyyyy.” My husband showed her the charts, but she only nodded. “Mom, you might not be making enough milk. Normally we don’t mention if the weight is close, but his gain is too little.” She explained the three kinds of formula: milk/soy based, whey based, and hypo-allergic. She recommended we go with whey as it’s the a good complement to breast milk, and gave us some free samples. She suggested I begin pumping so I could see how much milk I was producing.
We went home. I ordered a baby scale off of Amazon because I was NEVER letting his weight decrease again. Then I sat down, fed baby D, and offered him a 2 ounce bottle. He ate it so vigorously that I started sobbing and he fell happily and quietly to sleep. No more screaming. My husband and I looked at him in his rock n’ play in disbelief.
When I pumped, I produced 3 ounces. For his age he should be eating 2-4 ounces per feed, it made me frustrated. But…after we started supplementing…he stopped crying. Our angry, crying babe was just hungry. I sobbed every time he ate from the bottle, every time I pumped less than 4 ounces, and every morning when we had a peaceful nights sleep. I cried more in the first month of my son’s life than in the entirety of my own.
Breastfeeding: The other ‘B’ word
When I started pumping, I noticed something else. I had the wrong attachment size! Despite my enormous baby milk machines, the er…nozzles…were SMALL. During our stay in the hospital, the lactation consultant gave us her diagnosis that baby D had trouble latching due the nozzles being too flat for him to get a proper hold, so she gave us medium size nipple guards which solved the problem. She also gave us the Large size stating, “I’ve never known someone with nipples so small as a medium” (haha)
“Ah!” I thought. I need the proper size, I’m not getting enough suction, that will help my production. Amazon was on back order… grr. Called several baby stores, nope, but they carried the medium sizes…thanks, but not what we’re after. I also started psychotically consuming carrots, spinach, mother’s milk tea, and making sure I drank tons of water. I was pumping exclusively, feeding baby D with the previous pump and then pumping after feeding and supplementing. I started noticing patterns in my pumping. I tended to produce the most at night and early in the morning, and very little in the afternoons. I even managed to get a few full four ounces.
My claim to fame
I noticed my production kept slowly, but steadily decreasing. I felt terrible, extremely depressed. When my small size nipple attachments and guards [finally] arrived I noticed a slight uptick in my production, and was elated. “I can do this!” I thought. Then it leveled off. Then it started to decrease again. My husband, normally supportive, kept making comments like, “You know, he only got 6 ounces of breast milk so far.” or “Breast milk is better than this formula for him” while reviewing the log which showed I only managed a 2 ounce pump.
My mom encouraged me to give up and kept saying my quality must be bad and I was risking my son’s life. My husband encouraged me to pump out more. One of my friends (without a kid) kept repeating, “I don’t understand, you were pregnant so long, where does all the milk go?” to which I never successfully explained to her that you do not fill up with milk while pregnant.
The gradual decline stressed me out so badly I eventually threw my pump into the back of the closet and decide to just breastfeed exclusively. Ignorance was truly bliss.
Then my left breast sang its swan song. It was suddenly gripped with pain sharper than when it was full, and so I decided to lift my son up and offer him an extra meal. And he ate happily, falling into a nice food coma with a little milk dripping out his mouth. It made me feel happy. After that… the left never produced again. The right lingered on for almost another full week, but the left just served to anger my son as nothing came out. Then my right finally stopped too.
I met up with my prenatal group again, anxious that I would be revealing this. I knew the topic would come up. We’d been so open during pregnancy, sex, bodily discomforts, everything was on the table. But not one of them had gotten into breastfeeding and came out unscathed. One of them lost half her nipple, and her milk didn’t come in for almost a week so her son was on formula at first. Another was supplementing with formula and taking an ulcer medication that had the side effect of lactation (frankly, I wish I knew about that). A third had the same exact drama as myself, but her production finally kicked in. I felt a little better, knowing everyone had struggled. Even if I was the only one no longer able to produce.
I’m one month old!
Yay! We survived!