Feed the Beast

I've been a little bit surprised to find that breastfeeding feels like the most difficult part of taking care of a newborn.  Probably this is a reflection of my inexperience with babies and parenthood, but to be honest, this was one area where I did not realize I was ill-prepared.  By that I mean that I had read an entire book on breastfeeding, nearly cover-to-cover, before our son was born.

What I thought would happen is that I would breastfeed and it would be healthy both for my baby and for my body as I recovered from pregnancy and childbirth, and that it might be mildly tricky, but not necessarily that much trickier than any other method of nourishment for a baby.  While those things appear to be mostly true, there are a few additional twists.  One is that in spite of having read that book, I somehow failed to absorb the  details about the frequency with which breastfed babies need to eat.  Breastfed infants need to eat a minimum of eight to ten times a day, with no more than three hours passing from the beginning of one feeding to the next.  The details of this became extremely important to us during our son's first week of life, as he was a pretty small baby, and was dropping weight too quickly (we learned that it is normal for an infant to lose eight to ten percent of their body weight in their first few days of life, but our son had lost twelve percent).

Managing this quick feeding cycle has been made difficult by the style with which our son approaches mealtimes; he takes after me, eating slowly and deliberately.  An hour often passes from the time that I start feeding him until the time that he is finished and burped.  Since I need to follow feeding with pumping to insure an adequate milk supply, I am often left with only an hour and a half or less before it is time to begin again.

I'm told that eventually I will find breastfeeding more convenient than formula feeding because I won't have to prepare formula, and I will always have what he needs.  In the meantime, I can't lie, there have been days when I have wondered if it is worth it, especially on those mornings when I really want a strong coffee but am afraid that drinking one will leave the baby sleepless and me more desperate than before.

This baby business is every bit as tricky as I always suspected it was.  Good thing he's so cute.