Kamloops Breastfeeding

The first 40 days

November 1, 2017

Everyone who has had a baby knows this to be true: It will turn your world upside down and nothing you could have read or studied could have prepared you for the stressful, joyful, sleep deprived haze of early motherhood.  There is an expectation to come back to “normal” very quickly following the birth of a baby.  Getting back to ‘normal’ just isn’t something that happens that quickly.  If you are trying to successfully breastfeed it can seem like you are doing things completely wrong and that you are totally out of sync with the ‘picture’ of motherhood you imagined.

Why does the societal and personal pressure we put on ourselves to appear back to normal shortly after having a baby so negatively impact breastfeeding success?  Here are a few facts and figures to explain what the first few months may look like if you are to successfully breastfeed.  As you might expect, it’s not anything like your life before.

In the first month or so of life babies breastfeed for a long time and often.  The amount of time per feed can be 20-40 minutes and those feeds can occur 8-12 times a day.  That means you might have started your day breastfeeding at 8 am until 8:45. Then at 10 that baby wants to eat for another half hour.  Now it’s 10:30. Then at 12 it’s another feed.  So, your whole morning where you used to be able to eat a nice breakfast, shower, organize, get out the door or get something done is gone.  You’ve had maybe 2 hours of non-breastfeeding time to do everything that needs doing.  That non-breastfeeding time isn’t all about you either, there are still diaper changes, burping, dressing and soothing your baby that needs to be done.  Amid all of this you know you should also be “sleeping while the baby sleeps”.  You simply can’t bounce back and be like you were before on that schedule.  But it’s a normal early newborn breastfeeding rhythm.

Babies may cluster their feeds together so that you spend an entire afternoon with them on and off the breast, getting absolutely nothing else done.  You might be exhausted because your baby might have been feeding like that all night as well.  

In those first six weeks of life, newborns will be exhausting regardless of how they are fed.  But it is also important to know that breastfeeding especially can feel like a burden in that time.  It is enormously time and energy consuming.  You won’t be sure if your baby is getting enough and if they’ve eaten too many times or not enough.  Their sleep patterns will be all over the place.  On top of this you may feel pressure to give a bottle or change what you’re doing because others think it sounds like breastfeeding is too difficult or it’s not working

In the first month after having a baby your body is working on maximizing your milk supply to meet the needs of your baby for the next 5-6 months.  After about a month of breastfeeding your milk supply is mostly set.  The amount your baby eats each day will be about the same until they are ready to start solids around 6 months of age.  Once you get to this stage, breastfeeding should start to feel a bit easier and more settled.  All babies will be different.  But typically, the amount of time it takes to feed them will be less.  You will get to know when they are hungry and when they are just fussy.   You might even have an idea of what sort of sleep pattern they are developing.

Breastfeeding should go from being a 24/7 all-consuming chore to something different.  It can start to slot into your day without you noticing it so much.  You won’t necessarily need three different pillows propped up just so.  Your baby will be a bit older and better at latching themselves.  You can breastfeed in different places. You will know that you have time to get to the store and back before you should feed.  Your baby will be getting bigger and it will be easier to see this and know they are eating enough and growing well.  So, six months out, things may be starting to look more like what your ‘normal’ used to be.

If you get to the 1-month mark and it’s still an all-consuming struggle to breastfeed and get enough for your baby and if it’s still taking all your energy and time, then it’s possible that you need some help and assistance to make sure things are working out properly.  There is help available to get you to that nice breastfeeding relationship that makes it clear why some people say breastfeeding is easier.  I, for one, would certainly not say that breastfeeding is easier in the early days.  For some it may never be easy or enjoyable.  But for many, it eventually becomes something so much nicer than those early weeks of sleep deprivation and worry, with a baby constantly feeding and wanting something from you.  

Hopefully, if you are in those early weeks and months of disarray you can have faith that it will be worth it and you will adjust.  Babies are not little for long.