An 18-Hour-a-Day Job
It all started out just fine. My daughter Isabella latched on beautifully and seemed to have a knack for sucking. But after a while that became the very problem -- she nursed constantly. When I was pregnant, my friend and lactation consultant, Minna Kapp, warned me that breastfeeding a newborn takes up 18 hours a day: "It's the most demanding job a woman can have" she said. I shrugged this off at the time. But reality hit hard as I became one with the sofa, sitting there hour after hour, day and night, stuck with a baby on my breast.
Each of Isabella's feedings lasted about 40 minutes and she demanded to be fed every hour and a half. If you do the math, that gave me less than an hour at a stretch to take care of anything else. I could barely meet my own basic needs -- sleeping, going to the bathroom, showering, getting dressed, or preparing a simple meal. As a nutritionist I was used to eating well, and I could barely get up to scramble myself an egg.
My poor husband, Thom, had to be at my beck and call: "Refill my water glass, empty the dishwasher, burp cloth please, go get these groceries." It was all I could do not to bark orders at him.
I tried to gain a bit of free time by pumping so Thom could give Isabella a bottle, but that went horribly. You should have seen me -- in tears and exhausted, hooked up to a breast pump in the sliver of time between nursings, eking out a sole ounce of milk, if I was lucky.
Breastfeeding was also scary in the beginning because I was literally afraid I was starving my child. I couldn't quantify how much Isabella was getting -- and I worried that it wasn't enough. She never seemed satisfied, even when she had just finished eating. I felt inadequate and nervous that I didn't have enough milk for her. However, there is some solace in the diaper pail. Kapp told me as long as a baby is dirtying enough diapers -- two to five poopy ones (that's a technical term) and five to six wet ones each day after the fourth day of life -- she is getting enough food. Your baby is also doing fine if she's gaining four to seven ounces a week. But you only visit the pediatrician for weigh-ins every two to four weeks, which leaves plenty of time for anxiety to set in.