Many of us dream of that day when we get to snuggle our beautiful, perfect newborn in our arms. And those moments are nothing short of bliss. Your eyes well up, your heart is full, and if you are breastfeeding–your milk comes in. However, there are a lot of hard times: cluster feedings in the middle of the night, sore nipples, unexplained crying and wailing, sleep strikes, flipping days and nights around, sickness, acid reflux/spit up, and worst of all the nagging fear that you are doing everything wrong and messing up your new child.
If you are pregnant with your first, I am not trying to scare you. I never expected becoming a mom to wreck me the way it did. But it is also way more beautiful that I could have ever dreamed. And God is still teaching me to be less selfish and to endure. It is worthy work. But it is work. I am still right there with you. Currently, I am trying to figure out these crazy toddler years with our daughter while preparing for twin boys. Life is about to get crazy up in here.
My goal when talking to a new mom or soon-to-be mom is to be real, but encouraging. As someone preparing to have twins, I inwardly laugh when someone says “How wonderful–I’ve always wanted twins! They will be so cute!”. I laugh because I cannot help but think about what it will be like trying to nurse two babies, take care of our two-year-old, and run on little to no sleep. (I am excited and cannot wait to meet our boys, but some days I wonder what God was thinking…) It fills me with anxiety when I meet a parent of twins who just looks at me through sleep-deprived eyes and says, “The first six months suck. Let your mom move in.” Gulp.
Fortunately, not everyone is overly idealistic or pessimistic. We randomly met the most amazing family sitting across from us at a restaurant. They had toddler twin girls and two older kids. The mom owned that it is hard and that sleep is elusive. But she was also so encouraging that it was worth it. She even said that they were able to do a natural birth at full term–40 weeks! Since we are doing a hospital birth with the twins, that was incredibly reassuring to me.
So, instead of hitting you with all horror stories, or sugar-coating the truth, I am going to try and be real. Because the reality is that your life is about to be filled to the brim with a deeper love than you could ever imagine, but also frustrating moments and tears. (I also want to remind you that I am in NO WAY an expert!)
Before I begin, I must apologize. As I started writing I quickly surpassed 2,000 words. And I was trying to be brief. S0 I decided to break this post into a series. Part one will be on breastfeeding. (I have no judgement or shame for those who have chosen to use formula, supplemented, or had to for medical reasons. I just don’t know much about it personally. Thus I have little to say on it.)
Breastfeeding–the Early Days for New Moms
If you are planning on breastfeeding that is great! There is a ton of research supporting the benefits of breastfeeding. Even without research, I knew it would save money and was the “healthy choice”. To be honest, I just crossed my fingers and hoped it would come naturally. It did. And it didn’t. My daughter took to nursing, but I had such a hard time getting a comfortable latch. Breastfeeding was painful. But, after the pain subsided (it was usually only intense for the first 30 seconds), nursing was a beautiful bonding experience that made my heart feel like it was melting into a puddle of love.
Still, my nipples were sore. So, I sought some help from my patient midwives, watched helpful latch videos on youtube, and read advice blogs like innerparents. Our pediatrician at the time chimed in once to say, “Something doesn’t look right, your breasts should be gushing milk. It should just be pouring out.” Um. No. She also told me to pump to see how much I produced. This is also bad advice, because if you are like me, you don’t let down the same for a pump as you do for your baby. The most help I received came from two places: WIC counselors and a dear friend.
My friend told me before Rebekah was born to hang in there and not give up for at least six weeks. She promised it would get easier. I trusted her and sure enough around 2 weeks it improved a lot! But expect discomfort and difficulty for awhile. Unless you are very lucky and truly a natural, it will be hard.
We didn’t seek out WIC. But the only clinic that was in network with our insurance resided in a low income part of town. Everyone that worked there was bilingual and half the clinic consisted of WIC. I didn’t even know what WIC stood for. (In case you are wondering it stands for Women, Infants, Children.) Our doctor recommended we go over there for free breastfeeding counseling because everyone that works there is trained in breastfeeding support. I simply smirked and said we probably didn’t qualify.
Turns out we did. And more people than you would expect do. Their income threshold is pretty high. And their services surpass just food checks. Breastfeeding support and nutrition are a cornerstone of what they do. The women there patiently worked with me and offered advice that was actually helpful. They were hands-on in assisting me as I practiced different positions and techniques that made nursing much less painful.
Finally, if you don’t want to breastfeed, or discover you cannot (this happens for various reasons), set aside the guilt. I know plenty of healthy and smart babies and kids who grew up on formula. You feeding and loving your child is the most important part–no judgement here!
I am not going to say much about pumping because I rarely did it with Rebekah. However, I will gladly take advice, because I am planning on pumping with the twins! Have any of you ever used the Rumble Tuff breast pump? It is what my insurance offers for free. I was hoping to try Medela, but I’ve been reading positive reviews of Rumble Tuff.
Also, veteran moms, please share your insights. New moms or moms-to-be, please share your questions.