We join Jessica Sutherland at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto as she shares her first 48 hours feeding baby Ben.
Friday May 15th, 2020
12:54 a.m.: Our son Ben has arrived. He is eight pounds, 10 ounces, and 20 inches long! My midwife said I “hid him well”. We do some skin-to-skin for about 30 minutes, and then I pass him to his dad for some more skin-to-skin time. Meanwhile, I deliver the placenta and my midwives take care of a few stitches. I’m overwhelmed, but mostly I’m shocked that a human being came out of me—and he’s been yelling the whole time!
My labour was around 36 hours. I labored at home for about 18 hours until active labour started, and then we transferred to the Toronto Birth Centre. We were there for about five hours, but my dilation stalled out and my contractions turned into back labour. I had been coping well until that point, but back labour was a game-changer, and at my midwife’s recommendation we transferred to the hospital. I had an epidural, which allowed me to rest for a while, and Pitocin to help get my dilation going again.
2:00 a.m.: I try feeding him for the first time and he latches on right away! I had no idea what to expect but it goes quite smoothly and he stays on for about 45 minutes. One of my midwives helps with the latch and gives us some pointers, like how to hold your breast from underneath in a U-shape instead of from the side in a C-shape to help his tiny mouth latch on and how being “tummy to tummy” with him during feeds will help.
3:00 a.m.: Prior to being discharged, I feed him for about 10 minutes, just on one side. We’re not too nervous about going home, although my left leg is still quite frozen from my epidural and I’m having some difficulty walking. Overall, I feel pretty good, but I’m tired and looking forward to being in my own bed.
5:00 a.m.: We arrive home and Ben’s sleepy, but he still manages to nurse a little more. We snuggle together until about 9:30 a.m. while sleeping on and off, and then he latches again and has breakfast!
11:15 a.m.: Another short feed. He’s not interested in the left breast but latched on the other breast before falling asleep. He is almost 12 hours old at this point and, surprisingly, I am not finding anything too challenging. Our plans for the day were to lay in bed with him and rest. My husband has been bringing me food and drinks all day and we’re watching Nailed It! on Netflix.
Throughout my pregnancy I tried to have no real expectations for how things would go after he was born, since babies are unpredictable and do what they want. Luckily, Ben seems to like being with us so far.
1:00 p.m.: I feed him on the left side and then continue alternating breasts every five to 10 minutes all afternoon and into the evening.
11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.: Cluster feeding! I nurse Ben for about five to 10 minutes, every 30 minutes. We barely sleep. He doesn’t want to be in his bassinet at all, but he seems happy when he’s swaddled and held.
Saturday May 16th, 2020
6:00 a.m.: We eventually get a decent three-hour stretch of sleep. Since he doesn’t like his bassinet, I let him sleep on me, but bed-sharing makes me pretty nervous and I’m hoping he takes to his bassinet soon.
10:00 a.m.: I nurse him for about five minutes. I’m starting to think of meals under 10 minutes as a snack. I download the Huckleberry app to track his feeds, and this is really helpful because there is zero chance I would remember the last side he nursed on and for how long.
11:30 a.m.: Our midwife comes over to check on us and do Ben’s newborn screens and bloodwork. He sleeps through most of it, but cries during his heel prick and our midwife encourages me to nurse him for comfort. This mostly settles him down, but he still cries, which is heartbreaking!
12:25 p.m.: He has a good nursing session and then has no interest in eating all afternoon. He sleeps for six hours while his grandparents visit only waking because of a poop explosion so bad we have to give him a bath. We learn that he hates being naked in the bath.
4:30 p.m. to 10:20 p.m.: We’re cluster feeding again. He nurses for approximately 20 minutes every hour. Our dog also arrives home from a friend’s place, where he stayed while I was in labour, and completely ignores the baby’s existence—just as we expected!
11:20 p.m.: I nurse Ben for 20 minutes followed a few minutes later by a seven-minute feed.
Sunday May 17th, 2020
1:20 a.m.: He nurses for 45 minutes! Hopefully this keeps his tummy full for a bit.
2:53 a.m.: I give him a 13-minute feed after changing his diaper. He really hates being changed and I plan to always feed him afterwards now.
6:55 a.m.: A small stretch of sleep before another 40-minute nursing session.
8:25 a.m.: I nurse Ben for 20 minutes after which he falls asleep next to his dad and I sneak out to shower and make myself feel human again. I feel amazing after this.
9:54 a.m.: A 15-minute breakfast snack. He passes out immediately for a morning nap.
Looking back on the first 48 hours I’m surprised at how smoothly it all went. I feel like I’ve adjusted really well. My recovery from birth is also going well, though I spend most of my time sitting on ice packs! It’s somewhat painful to sit down and stand up, not because of birth, but because during my back labour my husband and midwife provided so much counterpressure on my lower back and tailbone that I’m pretty sure my tailbone is bruised. Some of this pain may also be due to the back labour as well.
I feel very lucky that my baby ‘fit in’ with us quickly and bonded. He’s a great eater and sleeper and overall happy little guy. It didn’t feel like the exhausting blur others described to me. I don’t want to call it ‘easy’ because it wasn’t, but it also wasn’t as hard as I was anticipating. So far, I am feeling confident in our new family dynamic and looking forward to seeing how Ben grows and changes over the coming weeks and months.