As a breastfeeding newbie–my experience now spans about 12 days–I found myself dialing the Sibley Memorial Hospital lactation “warm line” two days ago. A warm line is sort of like a hot line only without the crisis attached; you leave a voicemail message and a lactation consultant will give you a call back. I got a holler back from one within a few hours and she patiently listened to me as I basically peppered her with questions about my breastfeeding experience to date.
But for all the small potatoes stuff–yes, it’s normal to have a gimpy side–my two big questions were:
- When should I be pumping?
- Is it okay to feed baby expressed milk if he seems like he’s hungry really soon after I’ve nursed him?
Here’s the deal with Baby P’s’s grazing habits. I have no idea if they are typical of all babies or not. No doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant to date has seemed concerned about it, so I’m thinking it’s pretty normal. But basically, he’s an eating machine. There are only minutes in the day when he is just happy to be awake and chilling. The rest of the hours are divided between eating and sleeping with some diapering thrown in between.
I knew going into this that a newborn–or nouveau né, as we call them in my house–feeds about every two to three hours. The kicker is that countdown begins when you start a feeding rather than when you finish one. And you wouldn’t believe how fast that time flies. In my case, it’s often not even enough time to feed yourself or fold a load of laundry or feed the dog. (My Doberman got breakfast at 10:30 this morning, a full three hours after his habitual feeding time; he was quite unhappy with me.)
Baby tends to nurse rather aggressively and then pretty much deep dive into a food coma. However, for him to stay asleep for any decent stretch of time, I either have to also nap (not always a bad thing) or throw him on the trusty Boppy on my lap for some hands-free time on the computer. Literally, he’ll be dead asleep, so I’ll put him in his crib or pack ‘n’ play and he’s up again in less than 15 minutes. No amount of burping, pacifying, or crying it out gets him back to the Land of Nod.
The worrying part for this amateur mommy is that when he wakes up, he seems to be hungry. He’s not only crying, but he’s sticking out his tongue, opening his mouth, putting his fists in his mouth, kicking his little legs, rooting (he actually latched on to my husband’s collar bone once)–pretty much all the telltale signs of hunger. But can he really be that hungry when he just put down a whole boob full of milk, if not more?
I’ve really wanted to make breastfeeding a success story for me and baby, but I’ve got a few challenges. First, I am paranoid about losing my milk supply; it’s something I constantly worry about because I’ve heard that one wrong move and you’ll see a decrease in supply within a couple days. It’s that delicate of a supply-demand balance.
Second, I’ve got a couple of long trips on the calendar that will be an absolute nightmare if I can’t give the baby a bottle and/or pump. (Can you imagine making the 8+ hour drive from D.C. to the River, flying from Syracuse to Fayetteville, N.C., for my husband’s graduation from Green Beret training, or driving from N.C. to the River with a stop in D.C. if you have to feed the bottomless baby every two hours? It would take forever!)
I learned at one of my breastfeeding classes that the way to build milk supply, like to the point where you can store some for the baby sitter to feed the wee one while you’re at work, is to pump after you nurse. So, I decided last week to try it out.
Now, I was building up quite a decent initial supply by trying to pump after almost every feeding but my mom was emptying it almost as fast as I was stocking it because she was supplementing baby’s normal nursing with a few ounces here and there of the expressed milk. She kept saying that judging by the way he was downing down the ounces at record speed, it seemed to her that he was still hungry even after nursing.
This was driving me nuts for a couple of reasons. First, I was afraid it would screw up baby’s latch (which would mean another round of sore, irritated, rough, sometimes peeling nipples–ouch!) and somehow my boobs would know and then stop producing milk, thus turning me into a breastfeeding failure. Second, every time she gave him a few extra ounces, baby totally quieted down and slept much better, which suggested to me that maybe he was indeed hungry. The last thing any mommy, particularly overly paranoid, totally insecure first-timers, wants to face is the fact that maybe she’s unintentionally starving her baby.
So, I explain all of this to the very nice and patient lactation consultant. The first thing she tells me is that I’m going to drive myself insane if I try to pump after every feeding. (Whew, I was worrying about that as well.) She said I’d be just fine to pump after feedings in the morning, when milk supplies are generally higher, but not to worry about doing much pumping later unless I had some spare time. (As if.)
Then, to figure out if baby’s getting too little food or not. The consultant gave me a little formula or equation to use to figure out how much baby needs to eat in a day; I hope other nouveau mommies might also find it helpful. She said that two weeks after birth, babies should be at least back to their birth weight. So, for baby, we assumed that this week, he should be weighing in at 8.5 pounds.
From there, you take that weight and multiply it by 2.5 to get the total number of ounces baby needs in a 24 hour period (8.5 x 2.5 = 21.25 ounces/24 hours). She also said babies need to have at least 8 feedings a day, so divide your total ounces by eight or however many feedings you typically do in a day and you’ll get an idea of how much baby needs to take down in a single feeding frenzy (21.25/8 = 2.65 oz per feeding).
I found this little formula to be really helpful, or at least reassuring. I could stop stressing that my mom was giving my kid the fois gras treatment, force feeding him too much supplemental milk, but also just be okay with the fact that if he needs a little extra from time to time, I can give him a couple ounces and that should take care of any kind of petit faim that he has. This spells out some good news for some of my marathon trips; it might not have to take 24 hours to get to the River. Wouldn’t that be a plus?