No matter how many books you may read (and I read them all), nothing can truly prepare you for the fourth trimester. Each baby expert claims he knows best; while none of them actually agree with one another. If the authors of The Happiest Baby on the Block, Babywise, Moms on Call, and Wonder Weeks hosted a child rearing debate, I’d pay big bucks to attend. Each author falsely leads you to believe that following his specific baby formula will give you a baby that never cries, puts himself to sleep, nurses on a schedule and sleeps through the night from day one. Whatever happened to, “mother knows best?”
Because Channing was premature, I had the benefit of frequent visits from Northside Hospital lactation consultants in the recovery room. Not only did they teach me how to pump, but they gave me a pumping schedule to benefit my milk supply, helped me with a hospital grade rental, and took the time to make sure I felt confident continuing to pump post discharge. Truth, when I recently went into the pediatrician to ask about my daughters reflux, the doctor mentioned I could try formula with mixed in rice cereal. BLASPHEMY. I cannot fathom suggesting a formula laden with corn syrup to an exclusively breastfed baby. I only wish I could have seen the look on my face before spatting back, “I feel very strongly about formula, it is not an option.”
Harvey Karp explains babies need to exist in a womb-like environment as a result of the missing fourth trimester. While I do not think all of his products are necessary, the fourth trimester idea is one I can get behind. If our Creator intended for us to be able to self-soothe as infants, He would have given us the innate skills to do so. Babies cry because they need something, they smell good so we will cuddle them, they cannot lift their heads because they are meant to be held, they have the power to crawl to the breast the day they are born because they recognize the smell of their mother’s milk. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the female body, it’s pretty amazing.
We carry our babies for 9 months in the womb and we’re given everything we need to nourish them for the first 6 months (in my case, 8) of their lives for free. In the past three months I have learned more than I did in the last three years; furthermore, my fascination with mamas and their babies worldwide has grown exponentially. Despite my formula feels, I do understand that some women have lots of barriers to overcome along their breastfeeding journey or might not be capable of breastfeeding, obviously in this case milk banks and formula serve their purpose. Over the last 12 weeks, I myself have had quite a few hurdles in getting my peanut to latch. Bi-monthly lactation appointments and numerous YouTube videos later, Channing is finally getting the hang of it. While I’ve had to pump 8x a day for the past three months, I’ve got a milk supply to keep up with my growing girl and a freezer stock larger than necessary.
Upon delivering Channing I joined a couple Facebook support groups: Preemie/NICU babies, Cloth Diapering Mommies, The Mom Posse, My Atlanta Moms Club (MAMC), and Human Milk 4 Human Life GA to name a few. What I found were groups of supportive mothers. Moms ask other moms questions, it doesn’t matter if we know each other, we are all connected in a tribe of mutual understanding. I’ve sat down with new mama friends for lunch, shared meaningful correspondence online, and I’ve met and donated breastmilk to two mothers struggling with their supply. These groups give mama the support she craves. One mom posts a question about handling her mother-in-law and three hours and 86 comments later she’s found some new friends to commiserate (or drink wine) with. “I dropped my baby off the bed and I feel like the most terrible mom,” one woman writes. Moments later a slew of, “don’t worry I did too…” messages have arrived. When baby experts offer conflicting baby raising techniques, these groups exist to remind mamas that, “mothers know best.” While we may silently judge one another’s decisions, we keep our mouths shut. We are mamas and we understand.
I have partnered with Northside Hospital in sharing my real-life stories from pregnancy, entering parenthood, and post-partum life. Stay tuned for next month’s post featuring an honest reflection of what it has been like to experience such incredible body changes over the last 12 months.