Mark, Six Weeks and Five Days

Warning, guys. If you read this article, you will never see boobs the same again (and I mean it as a turn-off).

Today, let’s talk about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is one of these baby-related hot-button issues. There are some crazy people on both sides, like those who are offended when they see women breastfeeding in public and those women who have toddlers hooked on breast milk. In the midst of the craziness, new mothers try to choose the best option for the baby and themselves.

I do think the pressure to breastfeed is getting out of hand and that it should remain a personal choice. That said, I had decided early on in my pregnancy that I would try it. Why not? Breast milk is free, available and nutritious for babies. I was willing to lend a boob or two to Mark.

However, I was aware that breastfeeding could be a frustrating and painful adventure. There can be some “technical” problems on the mother’s or the baby’s side—breastfeeding is natural but not always as instinctive as you may believe. Hence the “I will try to breastfeed”, emphasis on the “try”.

It all worked out fine at first. Mark was placed on my breast a few minutes after birth and he swallowed my nipple whole, already starving (gee, I wonder why—I did all the work, buddy!) and latching like a pro. It was a strange feeling to have a baby drink from me but it felt right. I was proud to feed him some good French breast milk—gourmet food for a baby.

We came home 24 hours after Mark was born and I swung by the supermarket to buy some “nipple cream” (that’s what I called it), an ointment to prevent sore and cracked nipples. Sexy, I know. Turned out I barely used it: my French nipples were apparently made for breastfeeding, and I didn’t experience any discomfort.

Breastfeeding is hard work, though, as I soon discovered. First, you have to be available at all times if you are feeding on demand as I did. It takes a lot of time, and energy, and it left me very thirsty. It also made me sweat a lot for some reason—I was drenched at night.

At first, our breastfeeding sessions lasted about twenty minutes and then Mark would pass out on whatever nipple he was working on.

Mission accomplished. I could beam like a new mother.

But around the third week, Mark was no longer falling asleep after eating and if I tried to interrupt his lunch/dinner after an hour or so, he would cry non-stop.

I had no idea the poor kid could still be hungry after breastfeeding for so long, but apparently he was. One night, we gave him a bottle of formula. He drank it all and stopped crying, finally satisfied.

Okay, so apparently my milk wasn’t enough.

Meanwhile, during his routine check-up, the doctor was concerned because he wasn’t gaining weight fast enough. I suggested topping him up with formula; the doctor invited me to learn to breastfeed better with the help of a lactation consultant.

I got slightly pissed off.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m perfect and I am more than willing to take advice from experts. But here we were in the doctor’s office, exhausted and worried because Mark wasn’t gaining weight and crying non-stop, and I should somehow find the time to go to the lactation clinic to attend weekly breastfeeding classes?

Uh uh. As I told the doctor, I was perfectly fine with using formula if he needed it to gain weight—because that’s what mattered.

I knew Mark was getting milk—it’s hard to explain if you’ve never breastfed before but trust me, you know whether he is using you as a pacifier or actually eating. And if I pressed on my nipple, milk would come out of it—another “duh” clue that was hard to miss. My best guess is that breast milk wasn’t nutritious enough for him, or that I didn’t have enough milk.

Mark also did a lot of “cluster feed”, i.e. eating every hour or so for a period of time. This is hard on the mother when every breastfeeding session is an hour-long. I was basically spending my evenings or morning breastfeeding. Poor Mark was also getting exhausted and burning more calories than needed!

Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. At this stage, I didn’t care for the reasons. I wanted Mark to eat well and gain weight. And I wasn’t going to stubbornly insist on breastfeeding if he didn’t benefit from it.

So we transitioned to formula, and Mark started gaining weight. He went from 2.76 kg (his birth weight) to 4.58 kg (at two months)!

All in all, I breastfed him for about a month and I’m glad I did. It was a great experience and I think we both enjoyed it, plus he did get some healthy breast milk. But sometimes, you need to be flexible and do whatever needs to be done and whatever works—for us it was formula.

Life with a newborn is stressful enough that you don’t need to guilt trip. We went with the flow—that’s how you are supposed to do with babies, right?


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  1. Cynthia December 14, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Can’t believe they have week-long breastfeeding seminars! I know I would not have the patience for it!

    1. Zhu December 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Nah, it’s not a week long, it’s every week I think. But still, it was too much hassle at the time, we could barely face the day!

  2. Eileen December 15, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Grace Kelly, who was such a huge champion for breastfeeding back in her time, breastfed for a month!
    I think our cultural priorities have gotten a little backwards too.

    1. Zhu December 15, 2012 at 10:34 am

      I didn’t know that! Thanks for that piece of trivia. I now shall compare myself to Grace Kelly 😉

  3. Delph December 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Zoé was a little baby and she always gained minimum weight but for whatever reason I never stopped to breastfeed her. She would not cry however but around 3 months we had a difficult time. I gave her bottle some times but she didn’t really like it… We have “baby clinic” with lacation consultant close and I often went. I find it helpful but you have to be okay with your choice of course…

    1. Zhu December 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      I’m lucky Mark loved the bottle, and for a while when we transitioned we did both breastfeeding + bottle and he didn’t seem to mind at all. He was just hungry!

      Lactation consultants are great, but sometime you need to make a decision and stick to it. For us, the bottle was a lifesaver. I’m still glad I breastfed at first though.

  4. Priyank December 18, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Very educational Zhu! I imagine that period must have been very stressful. With babies it’s so hard to figure out what’s going on! They just have a mono-communication method: crying.. isn;t it?

    1. Zhu December 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Oh yes, at least at first. Then you learn to read other clues!

  5. N December 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I’m with you in going with the flow. What pisses me off is doctors who can’t resist giving you a referral to an “expert”. Nowadays I think most moms (but not all) are well informed and can take decisions by themselves !

    1. Zhu December 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      I completely agree with you. There is a lot of info around for us to make informed decisions, so please respect us!

  6. Sandra April 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Hi Zhu! I’m Sandra, Paco’s wife. I was reading your blog for a long time and I think is fantastic and really useful 🙂 Also I love your photos, I saw each one of them at Flickr.

    Now I want to comment this entry because I really understand the uncomfortable that you feel about the unrelated comments about how we are raising our kids.
    Mi little one is 3 years old and he is still breast feeding, but since he was 6 months, I’ve been receiving all kind off critics about these practice; we continue because we believe in it’s benefits but we never try to convince other families about it or judge other mom’s like you that took the better decision for your baby at that moment, every baby is unique and every family too.
    I don’t understand why the people feels on the right for judge how we raise our kids, is a very personal decision and no one has to meddle.
    Mark is a beautiful baby and you are his perfect mom! 😀

    Also I’m a Lactation Consultant, so I’m a mom who help other moms when they have doubts about breast-feeding their babies. I’m so thankful to the moms who help me when my baby was 1 month and a half and I was impressive for the way my baby want to be hooked to my breast all day long and these moms help to understand the natural process of the breast-feeding. I don’t know how it works in Canada, maybe the “experts” are nurses, but here in Spain the only help we have are these groups of moms and it really helps and comfort in this process. Doctors here don’t recommend you these consultants, here they only recommendation is to avoid breast feeding at the moment and skip directly to formula.

    So, my point is that everything in our life is just the way you experiment your exclusive situation and no one has the right to judge the way you raise your kids or live your life. You are an extraordinary mom Zhu! only because you love your baby and care for him, no matter if you breastfeed 3 days, 3 months or 3 years 🙂

    My English is not as fine as Paco’s but for me is an opportunity to practice for our new home in Canada.

    1. Zhu April 30, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Hi Sandra,

      Your English is great as well, as good as Paco’s!

      Thank you so much for your input. I admit it, I didn’t know you could still breastfeed a toddler, because I had no examples around me. I certainly wouldn’t judge, one thing that mothering taught me is that every family is different and every baby/toddler is too. I can’t picture myself breastfeeding Mark now because we chose another path, but at the same time I’m happy that it works for you and I don’t see anything wrong, taboo or whatever in breastfeeding if he is happy and you are happy. 🙂

      I am very glad I was able to breastfeed Mark at first. I had planned to do it longer than a month, it didn’t work out that way, and that’s fine too.

      I can’t stand people being judgmental or trying to convert other to their beliefs (and there is no shortage of sanctimonious people here!). Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience and for being open-minded. That’s what matters the most 🙂

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