Looking back on the first few weeks…

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For those of you who were able to attend our first Expectant Mom Dinner of 2011 with our Resident Lactation Expert, Kathy Lipke, RN, BSN, IBCLC, I am sure you can attest how reassuring she is about the whole birthing/bringing your baby home/breastfeeding experience.

 
The first time I heard Kathy speak was last June, when I myself was five months pregnant. Part of the reason I love Kathy so much is her willingness to support new moms in what they hope to achieve, and not judge them for what she believes is right or wrong. This is why I have chosen her as our expert when it comes to lactation and why I share her with you. What I found interesting listening to Kathy again last week, having now had my baby, was really how much truth there is to the perspective she shares with us at our dinners and seminars she attends. I couldn’t believe how many times I smiled to myself during her talk, or nodded my head in agreement. For those of you who were not able to attend (and for even those who were there), I wanted to share with you some of Kathy’s key mantras and how they have worked for me throughout the birthing/bringing baby home/breastfeeding process.

 
1. BE FLEXIBLE: This is a key point that Kathy always stresses and I could not agree with more. Flexibility is key to your sanity throughout this process. You can certainly choose and think you know the way that you want things to go, but in reality, they may or may not work out that way—and that’s alright. Many of you remember me being five days late with Baby J–trust me when I say, that certainly was not planned 🙂
 
During Kathy’s talk she discussed trying to bring your baby to breast or at least skin to skin when he or she arrives. But take it from one who knows—that can’t always happen, and I promise, if it doesn’t, it will be ok.
 
When Baby J was born she had ingested meconium (basically her poop) during the birthing process. When the doctors realized this would be the case after asking me about my water breaking (from its color), they prepared me for what would happen when J arrived. When she came out, she didn’t move nor did she cry. Had I not been made aware of the situation prior, I would have been very scared. My labor and delivery room went from having four medical professionals to forty in less than sixty seconds in order to handle the situation.
 
With J on the Giraffe Infant warmer across the room from me, it seemed like an eternity before she actually cried. When she did finally cry, the head of the pediatric team came over to me and cautiously asked me what I wanted to do about feeding her. Since I had gestational diabetes, J needed to be fed almost immediately. I knew that I was going to try to breastfeed, however at the moment I was a little tied up with my own doctors to be able to do so. I told the team to do whatever was best for the baby—and at that time, she needed to be fed. It would be a good 30-45 minutes before I was able to feed her, so my husband gave her her first meal–a bottle of formula. When I finally did get to go skin to skin with her, it was the most amazing moment of my life. And then, a few hours later, I breastfed her and have successfully been giving her breastmilk (both from nursing and pumping) and formula from a bottle, since the moment she came out.
 
It may not be for everyone, but for me, it works well that way.
 
The point of me sharing this information is that when J was born, I was in a situation that demanded flexibility. Not only could I not breastfeed her at the time, but I couldn’t go skin to skin either. Things may not have ideally happened the way I wanted them to, but I made sure to make the choices necessary to eventually turn them around and get them to where I wanted them to be. Some things are out of your control, which is why flexibility is key.
 
2. IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP: No one ever said that you had to do this on you own. If you are lucky enough to have family close by, take them up on their offers to come help out with the baby, the dog, the house, whatever. One of the things that Kathy says which I always laugh at is that no one can come over without making you a meal or putting in a load of laundry. She means it when she warns to limit your visitors. It’s innate for most of us to play host when people come over, and it is not necessarily the best thing to do as you try to recover.
 
When your baby arrives, you are tired. Your labor and delivery were probably exhausting, and now that you are home, it’s likely you are not getting much sleep. Don’t worry about cleaning your house, or offering your guests food and drinks when they stop by. Go about doing what you need to do for you and your baby—let your guests help you in any way that they offer, and don’t hesitate to ask.
 
When Baby J was less than two weeks old, my husband had to go on a business trip. So I called in the reinforcements: I asked my mom to come in from Detroit to help me with the baby. There was no way I could do it on my own, and I would never admit to thinking, or even trying to think that I could. Any help is greatly appreciated and you will be glad when and if you ask for it.
 
3. DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU: When it’s all said and done, no one can tell you how or what to do when it comes to you and your baby. Everyone does things different and only you know what will work best in your situation. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
 
As you all know by now, I abide by almost all of Kathy’s mantras and suggestions. However I too have done some things my own way throughout the course of Baby J’s three months. One example: I sent her to the nursery both nights I was in the hospital.
 
I only slept for a couple hours the night before my water broke. So basically after J arrived, I had been up for almost two straight days. I was exhausted. After I got to my room, and breastfed her, I myself ate a chicken sandwich from the Prentice cafeteria at 1am and nearly passed out asleep while eating it. My OBGYN said it was ok: send her to the nursery.
 
While I know it is not the choice for everyone—and even Kathy suggests to have the baby in your room—for me, it was the best thing I did. I fell into what was probably the deepest sleep I had experienced in over nine months. A coma-like state…lasting almost seven hours…the longest I had gone without having to pee in a very long time.
 
And guess what? I did it again the second night, and it felt great.
 
One nurse claimed “not to be judging me” (she actually said that), but that sending J to the nursery would inhibit my ability to breastfeed her. Thankfully my OBGYN, who I adore, gave me a talking to about that one. They gave J formula in the nursery at night (because I was ok with that), but I nursed her during the day. For me, after sending J to the nursery, and sleeping for 6-7 hours two nights in a row, I felt rested. I know my body and I need sleep or I get crazy. I truly believe that the choice I made helped me to recover faster—and put me in a better place for when I came home and REALLY wasn’t able to get any sleep.
 
The long story short: you can have a plan, and you can think things will go a certain way—but the best plan to have is one that is flexible. Things happen, they change, and you may have to adjust how you do things.
 
I share this with you so that you know there is no “right” or “only” way to do things. The things that experts like Kathy share—they are suggestions.
Good ones—I can promise you that. But know that even I don’t follow all of them.
 
Ultimately, you know what’s best.
Follow your gut.
When needed—call in the reinforcements. Whether it be a lactation consultant to help get your breastfeeding underway; a walker to walk your dog; or your mom to hold the crying baby so you can shower, run to Starbucks, or if you’re lucky—get a manicure.
 
This journey is an amazing one, and one that as Kathy says, will have some “bumps” along the way. Just keep that in mind as you navigate your first few weeks at home. For some of you, it may be tough at first. For others, it may be easier. I can promise you one thing—it’s crazy the one day when you wake up and things just truly click.
 
More on that soon…but for now, I have a sleeping baby, so it’s time to close my eyes too. Good night 🙂