Breastfeeding Stories - Breastfeeding - Making it Through the Trials and Tribulations
I knew from the time my husband and I were trying to conceive that I would breastfeed. I had such positive vision of it. I would put the baby to my breast the minute s/he was born and we would have hours and hours of beautiful nursing memories.
I read all sorts of books on breastfeeding while I was pregnant. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League), The Nursing Mother's Companion, and a few others helped me to get an idea of technique. What they did not prepare me for, or what I did not fully comprehend, was the work that breastfeeding is - at least in the beginning.
Like many new mothers, and despite all the reading I did, I was quite a bit naive about breastfeeding. I didn't believe the books and the mothers I met on-line when they said that breastfeeding was hard at first. I thought, "It is so natural the baby will surely know what to do". And my daughter did know what to do but I didn't realize that in order to keep that knowledge I'd have to learn some techniques to teach her.
My baby daughter was all content inside my tummy. But my body was done being pregnant and she would have been harmed by staying in any longer... My blood pressure was way too high and her heart rate was a little too low for anyone's comfort. So we decided it'd be best to induce labor.
I had to have an Epidural. This made me better able to handle the contractions. What it also did was make both baby girl and Mommy very tired later on.
Finally, after 29 hours of labor the doctors said they needed to take her out by c-section because I was still only 4cms and her heartrate had decelerated for a 3rd time. So at 1:06am on Thursday June 16th my beautiful baby girl was born. She had a little trouble breathing and so had an Apgar score initially of 5 but as soon as they bulb suctioned she did breathe and she ended up with a 9 five minutes later. She was 5lbs 15oz and 19 and a half inches long.
Daddy was the lucky one at this point because I was out of it from the analgesia I had been given. So Daddy has most of the memories of when she was born and the hour in between when in the nursery. Missing that time made me sad but I'm happy that Daddy got to spend it with her.
When my daughter was finally brought to me I immediately put her to my boob and she latched perfectly. Everyone said, "Oh, she's nursing like a little champ." And they continued to say that. By Friday, though, my nipples were purple and sore and my baby was quite obviously hungry and was nursing constantly and never seeming satisfied... not even for a brief moment and even though I was leaking colostrum. The nurses kept telling me I was doing fine and they gave me Lansinoh which did help somewhat.
On Saturday morning, a male nurse came in and determined that my daughter had a fever. He undressed her and the fever went away. He then watched me latch her on and he said something to the effect of, "She's not doing it right. This doesn't look good." But he got her to latch correctly and my nipples almost immediately started to feel better. I wish that I had known that nipple soreness was likely a sign of a bad latch or I would have asked different questions. Unfortunately, this nurse wasn't very supportive even though he clearly knew what he was doing. So instead of helping me, he totally wrecked whatever confidence I had.
At midnight, Sunday the 19th (my discharge date), Eula (the best nurse we had) wheeled in a baby scale. This was the first time our daughter had been weighed since she was born. We also found that her fever had returned. She now was 5lbs 2oz. Eula spoke with the doctors and they ordered 2 oz of formula/EBM to be given. I was devastated. I had not wanted her to be given any formula at all, but the fever was scary so I agreed. I managed to pump about 6 cc. My husband fed her that in a bottle. I asked if we could use a syringe or some other method because I was scared of nipple confusion but the nurse said no, that we had to get her hydrated as quickly as possible. Then she gave our baby about 2 ounces of formula. I cried the entire time. I felt so defeated and I was upset that people had kept telling me that things were going fine even though she wasn't properly latching and that was why she lost so much weight. Our daughter slept soundly for the first time since she was born after that. I felt horrible.
Later, the NP/lactation consultant comes in. She expresses some fluid from my boobs and declares that my milk is coming in. She watches our baby eat (with my new-found skills which I SHOULD HAVE been taught on day one not on day 4) and she says she doesn't want to supplement any more with formula. That as my milk comes in and our baby gets more to eat things will work out. We have an appointment for the next day to weigh her again.
Actual due date: Monday June 20th, we made it thru our first night at home. And oh boy has my milk come in. We go to the doctor and she has gained 2oz in one day. This is great.
Tuesday June 21st 5:30am, our daughter poops. Tuesday night my breasts become so engorged. I join an on-line breastfeeding community. I got and continue to get lots of great advice and support there. I also joined a breastfeeding mentoring program and got a great mentor.
On June 24th I was exhausted and nearly ready to throw in the towel and at 11pm I sent my husband to the store to buy formula and we did give her about 2 oz of that. I think that it was when I was the most tired that breastfeeding was the hardest. After that I vowed never to feed her formula ever again if I could help it. I just didn't want that for her and I decided that I needed to trust myself more. Nature doesn't give us that which we can't handle.
I saw a Lactation Consultant (LC) that first week after her birth (on the 25th I think) who said she had a weak suck and a poor latch and as a result my supply had dipped. She was also a sleepy baby from the Epidural as well as the pain killers I was taking to relieve the pain of my c-section. This made it so she wasn't taking in as much as she could. She put me on a regimen of:
-breastfeed a minimum of 10-12 times a day (each session
as long as she wants and spending at least 30 minutes per side to make sure
to get the hindmilk)
-supplement her with expressed breastmilk (EBM) 1-2 oz after each feeding. Sometimes we would supplement with 3 or 4 if she still seemed hungry. I was lucky in that my supply picked up pretty quickly *if indeed I had a supply issue at all*
-pump after every feeding or a minimum of 9 times
-Mothers Milk Tea (she also said Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle - but they were so expensive that I didn't do it)
-drink plenty of water
-wake her up if she doesn't nurse at least 15-20 minutes on the one side
I also started using a nipple shield around the 28th of June. I hadn't wanted to but the LC said it would help her latch and her suck. That it did. What I also liked about the nipple shield was that there would be milk left in it after she nursed which helped me to know she was getting milk. She also began to get less and less EBM supplements.
In an effort to wake her up more, I also stopped the Vicodin completely even though I still battled quite a bit of pain from the surgery. The only thing I took was Motrin and let me tell you it was hard but completely worth it as our daughter definitely woke up much more after that.
By July 5th she was up to her birthweight. It was only 2 and a half weeks but it sure seemed like forever. I was really coping big time with the trauma I experienced from my birth as well as the worry about her weight. But I also switched pediatrician's at that time and I found such a great source of support in our new pediatrics dept.
By July 7th she was 6lbs 3oz! Her pediatrician and I developed
a plan to wean her off the supplements and
the nipple shield. The plan was:
-feed her a half-ounce or so first if she is over-hungry to help her latch better
-latch her on to my nipple whenever possible
-dribble ebm from a needle-less syringe down my boob onto the nipple while nursing to encourage her to suck longer/more (this worked very well and I have never seen this piece of advice anywhere)
-use nipple shield if she's having a hard time
-supplement if needed
By July 12th she was latching 90% of the time onto my nipple. Breastfeeding had gotten so much easier and our daughter was gaining weight almost exactly on target. I think that by the 6th week we were pretty much on the road to easy nursing and better weight gain.
I did attend one La Leche League meeting on June 21st. We were nuts but we took a cab with little itty bitty 5 day old daughter and went to the meeting. I was desperate for some support IRL. It was nice but most of the women had older nurslings and they were talking about nutrition so I just couldn't focus. I remember afterwards my husband and I went to lunch at a nearby cafe and I nursed in public for the first time there (I don't count nursing at LLL or in the doctor's office as NIP). Can you imagine? I was 5 days post-partum sitting in a cafe nursing a newborn. Crazy.
I also continued to pump every morning and sometimes in the day and I built up quite a stash in the freezer - so much of a stash that I was pleased to be able to provide some to a gay male couple who had just adopted a second baby. I was lucky also that a friend of mine from temple let me have her Medela PIS pump which she was no longer using.
On August 11th, at 8 weeks postpartum, I returned to work full time. It was really hard to leave my little girl. And it was a challenge maintaining her on strictly breastmilk (and then solids at 6 months) because it got tiring pumping 2-3 times a day at work and every morning 7 days a week. BUT, I would not have changed a thing. I love nursing my daughter. Nursing allows us a closeness that we may never have had using formula. There have been challenges but I truly believe that nursing is what helped me deal with post-partum depression (PPD) and with the trauma of my birth experience.
Around 10 months we battled her biting me - especially when she was heavily teething. However, we learned some techniques to prevent her from doing so and I used gentle discipline when she did. I would calmly say, "No biting, Mommy! It hurts!" followed by putting her down for a minute or 2. The third strike meant no more nursing for at least 15 minutes.
I found she bit when she was hungrier for solids than milk and if she was really tired and almost always at the end of a nursing session. I could no longer mindlessly do something else while she was nursing or I would be in for it. She stopped regularly biting by 12 months and has not bitten me at all (knock on wood) since 18 months.
I also found that at around 18 monthsour daughter developed a bad latch (a "toddler" latch) and I had to again be persistent in making sure to relatch her and not allow her to maul my nipples as I had in the beginning.
A wise wise woman on-line told me when our daughter was only a few weeks old that breastfeeding is Mama's first discipline she teaches her child. Discipline is not about punishment but about learning persistence and making improvement despite something being difficult or hard to cope with. It is not a bad thing - it is a necessity that all children, and adults, need to have.
I truly wish that every mom and child could have this experience. I think that nursing has increased my self-confidence and has strengthened me as a mother. It has helped make my daughter a smart, healthy and attached little girl.
At 24 months, our daughter still nurses - though usually just upon going to bed at night and at nap times. There are many days when I reminisce about the days when she would want to just lay and cuddle and nurse rather than zooming about like she does now. Before I got pregnant I thought it odd to nurse past a year. Then when I was preggo and started reading up on breastfeeding (BF), I changed my mind to 2 years. Then I started nursing and now will let her lead the way to weaning in whatever way and time-frame she needs to.
I hope that reading this is helpful to somebody - it was helpful to me in writing it... I feel truly accomplished and proud.
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