Most mothers are stressed when they have a new baby. I absolutely remember how tiring it is to be a mother – and especially when you’re a breastfeeding mother. Being tired is on my mind right now, because in the midst of working with a new breastfeeding mother of a six-day-old, she flat-out told me that, “this breastfeeding thing is taking way too much of my time.” I was left flabbergasted and flap-jawed. What I wanted to say and what I did say were two very different things. What I wanted to say was “Well, what were you expecting? Did you think you were going to drop the baby in the umbrella stand on the way in and out of your front door?” What I actually said is “Tell me how I can help you.”
The mom went on to explain that nursing every two hours was beginning to grate on her nerves. I went on to explain that babies had tummies the size of golf balls and that breast milk was a “perfect food” that made it digest and move through the stomach very rapidly. I quoted how each DROP of colostrum had 3 million cells (the majority being immune cells). Breastfeeding is as much nurturing as nourishing (hoping the old adage would help). I also described cluster feeding as being analogous to a camel getting ready to cross the desert; feed, feed, feed and then you get the big sleep (maybe 4-5 hours max). In my first book “Start Here; Breastfeeding and Infant Care with Humor and Common Sense” I tried to call the hours between 6-10PM the “arsenic hours,” but the publisher opted for something safer like “the witching hours.” I guess that “every hour on the hour” cluster thing is what put this new mother “over the edge.”
So, here are some suggestions I’ve come up with to help you save time during your busy breastfeeding days.
- If you have an exceptionally sleepy baby (or just have to get the show on the road once in a while), I find that you can feed on one side while you simultaneously pump on the other: Bi-lateral Pumping(at least that’s what I call it). That trick alone can save you up to a half hour per feeding and maximize your milk supply. Your body will react as it you’re feeding twins (because both sides are going at the same time) and perhaps even increase supply a bit. It will also expedite your feeding and have your baby feel as though a bigger, stronger twin was on the other breast helping him or her out. Now you’ll want to feed that milk to your baby at some point (perhaps during cluster feeding time), as when I previously instructed another mom to do this, she was giddy with her new frozen stash; problem was the baby hadn’t gained any weight in a week…whoops; I should have been more clear with my instructions.
- Anyone who tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps probably doesn’t shower, do laundry, use the bathroom, open the mail or eat; I never understood that suggestion. I mean, that’s the only time you have to do ANYTHING, isn’t it? So, ALLOWING others to do things for you will help put time back in your day. You shouldn’t feel as though you’re not a good mother if you don’t do everything and do it well (do as I say, not as I do/did). I remember 28 years ago how I came creeping out of my house to get the mail and was spotted by my neighbor. She promptly sent her “nanny” over to my house with instructions to “help that poor woman out.” Problem is that I wouldn’t let the well-meaning nanny in! As I look back on it, I was afraid that I’d be found out; that I’d be “exposed” and my neighbor would know how I wasn’t really holding things together as a mother “should.” In my experience, many mothers feel that same way. They’re overwhelmed but think that they’re the only mother experiencing that. I’m here to tell you that MOST mothers feel overwhelmed in the beginning and if they tell you otherwise, I’d be wary.
- Remember the saying “time is fleeting,” so are these stages! Many times these cluster feeds will pass quickly and after a couple days you’ll have an entirely new baby. It’s important to keep in mind that babies patterns change quickly and you won’t always be feeding around the clock.
When I heard this mother complaining about time, as I think more about it, I’m suspicious there might be something else going on. Is she depressed? Is she lonely and needs to get out of the house for companionship, does she simply have cabin-fever, or are her expectations unrealistic as to how much time infants take out of a mothers day? What do you think?
Blog written by Kathleen F. McCue, DNP, FNP-BC, IBCLC-RLC,
Owner of Metropolitan Breastfeeding