In addition to the problematic latch, Levi wanted to nurse (like many newborns) all the time — every hour on the hour day and night. He needed to feed so often, I was told, because he wasn’t at all efficient. Levi was a sleepy little thing. He took forty hours to enter the world and then slept pretty solidly for the next 36 (I laugh now that we took this as a sign of how he would actually sleep as a baby). He had his lip and tongue ties revised at one day old. We visited our first lactation expert before he hit the two week mark. He never stayed awake through feedings. You must wake him, I was told. You must keep the flow going faster. You need to essentially force him to eat by creating high flow feeds. I cried in the lactation consultant’s office. She looked at me like I was crazy.
This approach to nursing involved breast compressions (LOTS of breast compressions), waking up baby, doing different holds (mostly football and modified cradle). I hated football hold. And keeping him awake involved constant strategizing: okay, between breasts I will change his diaper, this time I will dab him with a wet cloth, another time I will do his lip and tongue stretches.
And then one day…magically…Levi “grew up.” He stopped sleeping so much (a different kind of challenge). He started eating fast and hungrily, emptying each breast quickly. Now I never do football hold. I never do breast compressions. This all happened without me even realizing it.
Without me even being aware, he stopped falling asleep on me during every feeding. One evening recently he dozed off and feel into a deep sleep while nursing. I suddenly became aware of what I had been missing — the thing that I fought so hard in the beginning to avoid — my baby fast asleep at my breast.
What I wish I had known then that I know now is that while Levi continues to feed close to every hour — especially in the evenings — his feedings are so MUCH shorter. They now average about ten minutes, while they used to average twenty minutes, and often he would nurse for upwards of 45 minutes. He stays awake, actively sucking. His latch is still terrible, but he gets what he needs. This means that I have more time (not a lot of time, of course, but more time than I had…) in between feedings, even while nursing all the freakin’ time!