Neurotic first-time breastfeeding moms: this niche blog post is for you!
If you don’t happen to fall into that oddly specific category, please do keep reading for entertainment value and perhaps a wee bit of schadenfreude.
Picture me, reader. The year is 2012, I’m 28 years old, and I have a two-month-old currently sleeping in a bouncer. He’s my first baby, and like most first babies, he has absolutely upended my life. I’m finally sitting down to lunch after spending most of my morning doing laundry, taking two showers (the first was interrupted by a screaming infant shortly before I could condition my hair), and bouncing said baby to sleep for approximately forty years.
I’m about to heat up my leftover chili when I see the clock on the microwave. Crap! Somehow it’s already 1 pm, and I have a sinking feeling as I reach for my phone and open up my “baby” app.
A quick glance at the breastfeeding tab confirms my fears; it’s been three hours since I last fed Silas. Sigh. I put down my bowl of cold chili, head over to the bouncer, and proceed to wake him up.
Yes, let’s read that again. I WOKE. UP. MY. SLEEPING. INFANT.
I woke him because it had been “too long” in between feedings, and I suppose I thought he’d starve, or immediately develop jaundice, or not sleep well ever again if I let him go twenty minutes longer than the suggested average for his age.
Needless to say, we were both pretty unhappy with the forced feeding, and it ended in frustration and tears for mama and baby. Obviously, I was the only one who actually needed to eat at that time, and I should have just let Silas sleep while I had a quiet lunch to myself. He would have woken up soon enough, ready and willing to nurse with ease. But I just couldn’t let that happen because the thought of not sticking to a schedule was terrifying to me at that time.
This is why breastfeeding your first baby is particularly hard if you like any semblance of structure, routine, and control over your life. (“Welcome to parenthood!” the seasoned parents cry.)
By my third baby, however, it was so much easier. Not just because I had more experience under my elastic-waist maternity belt, but because I stopped being a slave to a schedule. I deleted the baby app off my phone and decided to follow an on-demand breastfeeding style. If Libby cried, I fed her. Hungry? Tired? Hot? Bored? Here Libby, let’s nurse. Sometimes I just wanted some time away from my sweet, loud, exhausting toddlers, so I’d leave them in my husband’s care and Libby and I would disappear into a quiet room to nurse/binge the new season of Gilmore Girls in peace.
Not watching the clock was liberating. I didn’t worry if Libby chose to have a marathon-long nursing session or just a quick comfort snack. I stopped stressing about which side I should start feeding her on. (Left? Right? Hmm, which one’s more lopsided?) Having two other children meant I was often on the go, so I became more comfortable nursing in public rather than rushing back home to surround myself with boppies and BreastFriends.
Overall, I feel like I’m parenting much more successfully this time around because we’re all so much more relaxed.
Libby turns one this month. She’s happy, healthy, and thriving–and so am I. She loves breastfeeding–and so do I!
Moms out there who are breastfeeding and prefer to stick to a schedule–I absolutely respect that, I really do. If you and your baby are happy and healthy, then do what works best! But if you were like me–a stressed-out, first-time mom obsessed with the minutes ticking by on your clock–then please consider doing yourself a favor and tossing the clock out your window.*
*Of course, there are many circumstances in which we must keep our babies on schedule due to baby’s health, parents’ job demands, or mama’s supply, for example. Please consult your pediatrician or a lactation consultant before making any drastic changes.