The first week of my daughter’s life felt like an episode of The Walking Dead, just less blood. I lived day to day in such high adrenaline, short increments of time. Everything was focused on getting to the next feed, the next diaper change, the next nap. In between all of that I was trying to do things necessary for my own survival: eat and sleep (but mostly sleep). This may sound very dramatic, but if you haven’t lived this yet then you don’t know how accurate of a depiction of your life this is when you are in the first week or so of postpartum.
On top of all of this, my daughter left the hospital at very low birth weight: 5.10 ounces. This required me and my husband to finger-feed her after every breastfeeding session to get her weight up. To say the days were long, is to put it mildly. Additionally, I was so paranoid my daughter was not going to take to breastfeeding that I refused to let her take from a bottle or even try a pacifier. My fear: nipple confusion. I was told repeatedly after birth that nipple confusion was as rampant as the common cold. I obviously took that to the extreme under the duress of just having given birth, to thinking that once my kid had a taste of the bottle she’d be hooked on it like crack (think those PSA commercials with Pee Wee Herman–Google it).
Well two things changed my mind. First, after a visit to the doctor a couple days after her birth for her check-up, her doctor wanted us to continue finger feeding her for another week since her weight had not improved as much as we wanted. I almost died at that news. I think I cried the whole way home thinking about another week of rough breastfeeding and finger feeding. Second, after much difficulty breastfeeding, I hired a doula to come to my home to help me. The best advice she had for me after seeing how incredibly stressed out I was was to give my daughter the bottle so that I could sleep. She quashed my worries about nipple confusion. Spoiler alert: it’s super duper rare so don’t even worry about it. In that moment, I changed my game plan and my attitude about trying to fit my postpartum experience into a perfect box. I started having my mom or my husband give my daughter a bottle around 10 pm every night so that I could sleep immediately after her 8 pm feeding until 12 am or 1 am. That helped greatly with getting through the night since I got a solid 4 of 5 hours of rest.
Most importantly, my daughter never had nipple confusion with the introduction of the bottle. I breastfed her for 11.5 months. So, if you’re thinking about what to do to get through those nights in the early weeks, don’t be afraid to introduce the bottle for a feeding or two to be able to rest. And it also helps if you have someone that is willing to give your baby a bottle in the evening so that you can sleep for a few hours. You’ll get through this Momma. We all do!