If you are a first timer, nothing, absolutely nothing will totally prepare you for motherhood. Why? Because all babies are different and I guess that’s what make the journey so beautiful and unique.
I remember vividly the day we left the hospital with our son. It was a mixed bag of emotions; excitement, fatigue, anxiety, and let’s be honest, fear. I was wondering how I was expected to take care of this little fragile person! In fact, fear was an understatement, I was downright petrified!
Naturally newborns sleep a lot and so the harsh reality of sleepless nights hadn’t hit yet. But my first shock was that it took 3 days for my breast milk to start flowing. 72 hours! In the meantime, the hospital (Airport Womens’ Hospital) had recommended we give our son formula; newborns don’t drink that much anyway, and despite what any one will say FED IS BEST, whether it be breast milk or formula. In addition, we had bought a breast pump (something I thought I wouldn’t need until I started work) and another recommendation was to use it even if no milk was coming, to stimulate my body to produce some.
Finally on day 3 after several empty pumping sessions, I could see a few trickles into the pump bottle. I ran to our bedroom in excitement, announcing to my husband that “the milk was coming”. I quickly grabbed my son for a feed. At this point, I thought I’d had it all figured out. Motherhood was going to be a breeze….or so I thought.
Shock number 2. Breast feeding is not the most natural thing. In fact it’s an art and a science, and for me it was the most painful thing ever!! I kid you not. But how do you deprive a hungry baby of food, even if the said hungry baby is going to gnaw at your already sore and cracked nipples. I would cry each time I had to feed my son, because it hurt so bad. At our first review after a week, the nurses sympathised and showed me how to get the baby to latch properly with minimal pain….emphasis on minimal; it was still painful, but after a couple of weeks I could manage it better.
In the first few weeks my son would wake up every 2 hours for a feeding, which could take as long as 30 minutes. The good thing is that he was rarely fussy and fell right back to sleep, whereas I would wake up looking like a zombie. I know you can all relate. My husband suggested I start pumping so that he could assist me with the midnight feeds. That was definitely not an offer I was going to pass up. After his last feed before bedtime, I would pump some milk for the night which my husband would give him when it was his turn to feed. This worked so well and gave me the chance to build a milk stash which I would use when I got back to work. But alas, when he was about 6 weeks old, he just decided to stop taking the bottle!
Each time we tried to feed him with it, he would cry endlessly and stick his tongue out in revolt. How could this be happening? This meant that I had to go back to breast feeding round the clock. No more midnight reprieve. I went back to looking like a zombie again all day, every day. I was already half way into my maternity leave with a baby who couldn’t be fed by anyone because he wouldn’t feed from a bottle. I decided to do some research into it. I don’t think there is a single YouTube Video or article I haven’t read on this matter. I tried different bottles in case it was the teat he didn’t like. I could open a mother care with the variety of bottles that I bought that he rejected (glass bottles, latex teat bottles, bottles that look like breasts, you name it, I’ve probably bought it!).
Then I found out about lipase …another thing they don’t teach you in your prenatal class. We all have lipase in our bodies, but some of us have more than others, and it’s present in breast milk. Excess lipase in breast milk will change it’s taste after a few hours, and some babies don’t like the changed taste and reject it. Because I was on a quest to rule out every possible cause of the bottle refusal, I had to check if I had excess lipase. So what did I do? I thawed some of the frozen breast milk I had in the freezer and tasted it. Yep, you will do the undoable as a mother…..and there it was, a changed taste. I thought that this was the end of all my “wahala”. From that day, I scalded the milk (bring it to almost boiling) after pumping before giving it to my son. Thank God for the internet, right? WRONG!….My little human was having none of it! Still wouldn’t take the bottle and had actually now at almost 3 months started crying at the sight of it.
I left him with my mother-in-law once, thinking that in my absence he would cave in and eat. No such luck. He stubbornly refused and cried until I got back. At this point, my fate was sealed, I would probably have to take my son to work or resign. Not taking the bottle meant that if I wasn’t around he wouldn’t eat.
Then one day, I was randomly scrolling through IG, and then I saw a bottle. There was just something about this bottle that made me believe it would work, plus I had to get back to work and so was seriously running out of time. It was sold by @babybliss. I checked all the reviews online. It had worked for other babies who had bottle refusal problems. The next day, I decided to go to Baby bliss and order a bottle (I learned the hard way not to buy bottle sets right away). I was so anxious when I got home, praying all the way that my boy would finally take to this bottle, and guess what?! Well, you guessed wrong, because he didn’t! At least not that day…we tried again the next day. Hubby and I decided there would be no breast feeding until he drank from the bottle. It was a 4 hour standoff, one I almost gave into…but finally he took the bottle and gulped it all down in record time (you would too if your self-imposed hunger strike failed )…finally , victory!
We stuck to the bottle for the next couple of days to make sure he got used to it, and just like that we were back to happy times. After about a week, we tried transitioning between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Hm, these little humans, I am tempted to believe that they know exactly what they are doing. After one night of breastfeeding (because frankly I was too tired to pump), little man started his bottle strike again. Back to square one! We had to put him on a little ‘hunger strike’ the next day just to get him to take the bottle, but he did eventually. At this point it was either pumping exclusively or formula because I couldn’t risk him refusing to eat in my absence. I had enough supply, so I opted to go for the hard labour of exclusively pumping. Mind you, it is a labour of love.
That is what started me on my exclusive pumping journey…..