Myth #9: All You Need is Liquid Gold
Hypnobirthing classes intended to deliver a drug-free newborn turned into an unplanned C-section and lots of anesthesia and Percocets. My stockpile of newborn diapers and teensy onesies went untouched when our 9-pound, 3.5-ounce hulk called for size 1 diapers and 3-month-old sleepers right out of the womb.
My confidence that we would never need a single ounce of formula morphed into despair when we had to rely on it for the 8 endless days it took my milk to make an appearance.
Eight exhausting, demoralizing days that I will never forget.
From day 1, I pumped colostrum (a.k.a. “liquid gold” as it’s known on the playground) like a damn fool—every four hours around the clock—only after repeated, failed attempts to get my son to latch. Every four hours, I then mixed that colostrum with way more formula than any book said he should need because he was HUNGRY.
“Suckling on colostrum for a few days satisfies your baby’s tender appetite while getting her off to the healthiest start in life.”
—Page 77–78, What to Expect the First Year
Myth! My state of mind? Tender. My nips after all those doomed latch attempts? Tender. My baby boy’s appetite? Not freakin’ tender.
Nobody tells you that a lot of newborns—dare I say most newborns—get really really hungry before your milk comes in and it’s hard to know what to do.
Yes, breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand system that means (in theory!) that more nursing equals more milk production. But to nurse often (and therefore stimulate milk production) you need a cooperative baby and a cooperative body. And sometimes it just ain’t happening.
Joy, mother of two elementary schoolers, wishes someone had prepared her for the reality:
“I started breastfeeding as soon as Liam was born and we did pretty well. But the night before my milk came in was the worst night of my life. The midwife told me, ‘You will nurse him all night long. You will not sleep. He will cry because he is hungry. Your milk will come in by morning.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
Just once, I would love to read in the propaganda that they give you left and right during pregnancy that breastfeeding is hard. Worth it, but hard.
I would love to read that natural doesn’t mean perfect and formula doesn’t equal failure.
I would love some brave soul to say that there are many paths to successful breastfeeding and they are all admirable.
But there is still a silver lining of sorts—according to lots of milking mamas, breastfeeding gets easier with subsequent children.
The second time around, even I enjoyed a textbook experience with my daughter, who couldn’t have been happier with her share of liquid gold. But, then again, she latched like a pro immediately after birth and didn’t have to wait 8 days for real milk.
Next post…Myth #8: Pumping is Easy and Convenient (Sure, if you don’t mind replacing your baby with a black backpack and hanging out in janitor’s closets with grungy mops.)