6.19.2013

Breastfeeding.

This is the post in which I talk about breastfeeding.
If you're not interested.  Click. Away. Now.  :)


The Beginning (Nate).
So, to start from the beginning, breastfeeding was something that I have always "wanted" to do.  I planned to breastfeed Nate, and had some setbacks from the start.  I gave birth to him, he didn't latch immediately, and I had help from lactation at Women's Hospital.  She immediately looked at him, told me he had a "tongue tie" and said we probably wouldn't be able to breastfeed or we would have a lot of trouble.  Discouraged.  Immediately.  Looking back on this now, I see how horrible this was to say to a first time mother.  At the hospital, they made us give him a bottle of formula because he still had not urinated, and they wanted to make sure that he was functioning correctly.  Looking back on THIS, I was not an advocate for my child, I should have stood up for that and looked into another option.  When you know better, you do better.   Nate never truly latched.  Every time I tried to put him to the breast, he screamed like I was literally HURTING him.  Heartache.  So I decided to pump.  I was diligent.  I made a decent amount of milk to start with, but this quickly decreased.  I was upset he didn't latch, upset I didn't make enough milk, upset we were feeding him formula... just upset.  Heartbroken.  Stress decreases you milk supply as well, making for a no-win situation.  When Nate was 8 weeks old, I put away the pump.  Devastated.

The Tongue.
9 months after Nate was born, I found out that they could "snip" a tongue tie.  Yeah, thanks for letting me know "lactation consultants."  This could have been the answer to our problems.  Yeah.  Thanks.

I ached.  I am obsessed.
Ever since I stopped pumping, well, really ever since our failure at breastfeeding, I ached to breastfeed.  I can't even describe it, except for the word "ache."  I wanted to try again.  I wanted to succeed.  When Nate was around 1 1/2 we decided to try for another baby, and conceived around Christmas/NewYears.  I became obsessed.  I researched, and researched, and researched some more.  Tongue ties, supply, demand, anything and everything that had to do with breastfeeding, I read.  My goal for Jackson was no formula.  To go even further, I didn't want to give him any solids at all for the first 6 months.

Enter Jackson.
Born at 2:56 pm.  Jackson didn't latch right away, though we tried, and tried.  Family came in and out, we were busy, we still tried here and there.  I asked for lactation, as I knew to establish supply, the sooner he latched, the better.  They were gone for the day.  Do they not realize people have babies after 5:00????  Ugh.  Nurses tried, and we scheduled lactation for the next day.  We even put off his first bath, as that would make him more lethargic and less likely to stay awake.  I also asked a pediatrician that came in our room whether he had a tongue tie, and he said "no" he looked great!  What a relief!   Meanwhile, I pumped collostrum and fed him through a syringe.  Liquid GOLD baby!  That next day, we did it.  Jackson latched.  That night, he fed for 45 minutes straight.  Maybe we can do this?  What a VICTORY!  I told all of my breastfeeding friends... we were doing it!

Feed. Feed. Feed.
Jackson was a cluster-feeding child from the start.  He fed ALL THE TIME.  Well, that's what it felt like anyways!  He has been a very fussy child, just his temperment I suppose.  You begin to doubt yourself, well, I do anyways.  He lost a bit of weight at the hospital, and didn't gain it back as fast as the doctors wanted him too.  We had multiple weight checks and home visits to check him.  We had to make sure he could gain weight!

Mastitis.
A week and a half into our breastfeeding journey I was hit hard with mastitis.  I cannot even tell you the last time I was that sick.  I never get a fever when I'm sick and I had a temperature of almost 103!  I didn't want to give him a bottle, but I got so sick that we gave him a bottle of pumped breastmilk.  A round of antibiotics and toe curling nursing, and we were back to normal.

The Doc.
Jackson had an appointment at 2 months and the doctor wasn't too thrilled with his weight, but he HAD gained, so we continued on.  I started taking probiotics and fenugreek to boost supply and hopefully boost the fat content in my milk, apparantly I make "skim milk"!  :)  Who woulda thunk it?
At 4 months we were given an ultimatum at the doctors office, we had to make sure he COULD gain weight, or we would have to go through a battery of tests.  Between November 20th and February 1st, Jackson only gained a little over 2 lbs, since birth he had only gained 4 lbs.  This is not typical for a breastfed baby.  And trust me, he was DEFINITELY feeding on demand.  Here begins our struggle.  Our pediatrician told me that I needed to build up my supply, feeding him first, then "topping him off" with formula to make sure he was getting enough.  (As I've done more research, I'm fuming as I type this, I should have just trusted my body here.)  I was already giving him some oatmeal (trying to avoid formula), made with my breast milk, but I wasn't able to give breast milk to that, and to him as well.  At the time, I simply wasn't making enough.  Oh yeah, stress didn't help the supply situation here either.

Enter the hardest day of my life.
Opening the can of formula.   I couldn't bear to do it.  I said "no formula."  I cried.  No really... bawled my eyes out.  Sobbing.  I couldn't do it.  I literally couldn't do it.  Finally I looked at my husband and said I wouldn't, he needed to do it.  It was such a heartbreaking moment for the both of us.  The bottle was made, put to his lips.  YUCK!  He hated it!  Enter satisfaction.  He KNEW what the good stuff was!

From then on, a "compromise"  (of sorts) was made.  Formula was used for oatmeal, and ONLY if he had "emptied" me and was starving for more.  Even then, he often wouldn't take it.

The Lip.
Around 8 months, we found out about a condition called a "lip tie" (in the same realm as a tongue tie, but on your upper lip).  The symptoms fit Jackson to a T.  OH, THE FRUSTRATION!  Could this have been the answer?  Why didn't the pediatrician or lactation consultant look at THIS in his first hours of life?  Could we have avoided formula YET AGAIN?  We went to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist and confirmed the lip tie, but he wasn't interested in putting an 8 month old under anesthesia at this point.  If you're not educated on what a lip tie is, it often hinders a correct latch, causes painful breastfeeding, and many times can cause supply issues.  If a baby is not latched correctly, they cannot empty adequately, therefore, cueing your body to make less.  UGH.

So, where are we now?
Right now, Jackson is nursing in the morning when he wakes up, before nap time in the afternoon, and before bed.  Most nights he wakes up and nurses one or two times in the bed with me.  Nine times out of ten he stays there until we wake up for the day.
I'm still struggling with supply.  Right now, I am using a soap that has fennel and basil in it, which is supposed to help with lactation (3 Little E's, y'all), and eating granola bars here and there.  (oats are supposed to help as well)
I've drank teas (that were super gross), taken supplements, etc, etc, etc.
At this point, Jackson is eating pureed baby food (most of which I make), some oatmeal here and there, and we are starting him on chunks of real food (bananas, avocado, squash, zucchini, just to name a few.)
Probably 50% of the time, he has a bottle of formula during the day.  Sigh.
Jackson is thriving, happy (well, most of the time!), and satisfied with the nutrition he is given, whatever that consists of.

Where am I now?
At this point, it is what it is.  I'm really frustrated that in the thick of it, I didn't trust my body.  I was weighed down with an ultimatum given by my doctor and worried about the possibility of my child having weight issues.  No one wants their child to go through a battery of tests!  In reality, if I would have kept ONLY nursing him, no oatmeal, no formula, my supply would have caught up.

On the other hand, I am STILL nursing my child.  Today was Jackson's 9 month birthday, and I feed him everything I have 3-5 times a day.  I still offer my body to him, though it doesn't supply his full nutrition any more, it is still breast milk, and it is STILL what is best.  So in those regards, I am happy. I am proud of myself that I'm breastfeeding him 9 months longer than I did my first child.

I plan to nurse him until he is a year old, after that, I'm just along for the ride.  If he decides to wean at that point, so be it.  If he wants to go a bit longer, I'll work with that too!

So, there is is.  Our breastfeeding journey up to now.  Nine months in and counting.  For the next kid.  Well, I say again:  When you KNOW better, you DO better.  Here's to trusting my body.  Learning from the first two, and hopefully exclusively breastfeeding and having extra!  Who knows, maybe we'll even be blessed enough to donate milk to other babies the next go around!  :)



P.S.  I wouldn't be where I am without a great support system.  My husband, first of all... also Dana, Dusti, and Veronica.  Thanks for letting me ask questions, vent, call, text.  You ladies are amazing.