ONE huge breastfeeding milestone

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A little over a year ago, sitting in my hospital bed, swollen and bloated with IV fluids, getting a blood transfusion, and trying to breastfeed my screaming starving newborn baby with my flat as pancake nipples, I never would have thought that I would still be breastfeeding a year into the future.  Today, I am and I am patting myself on the back for it.  It still is hard sometimes, but so incredibly worth it.

In the earliest of my breastfeeding days, I wanted to give up.  Everything about breastfeeding was so hard.  I was so tempted to throw in the towel and quit.  Here are some of the reasons why I almost quit and along with those reasons are the actual reality.  Well, my reality, that is.  I know that not everyone has an easy time breastfeeding and some women, no matter how hard they try, are unable to continue.  That's ok, too.  If you are reading this and trying to decide what to do, hopefully this will help you out a bit.  I wish I had read something similar 12 months back.

1.  I had a c-section.
Ooooof, strike one.  If you end up with an emergency c-section, like me, you'll hear it from nurse after nurse that having a c-section means that your milk will come in later than if you had a straight-forward vaginal delivery.  This means day 4 or 5 compared to day 2 or 3.  Although it is proven that milk will come in later when you have a c-section, I believe that this is partially a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you are super stressed about waiting for your milk to come in then it will take longer.  Thankfully my milk ended up coming in on day 4.

2.  I had to give my baby formula so I may as well just continue making bottles.
My baby lost 10% of his body-weight in the first few days after birth.  Since I had a c-section and was delayed with my milk coming in, the doctors and nurses convinced me to give the baby formula.  Even though it was not in my master "plan" and I felt terrible about it at the time, I did what I thought was right.  I didn't want my baby to suffer at all and to go hungry.  We used the SNS (supplemental nursing system), which hooks a tube of formula to your nipple so the baby gets a good supply of food while still learning how to nurse at the same time.  Guess what?  Once I left the hospital, I never used the SNS again or needed to give the baby formula.

3.  It HURTS too bad to bear.
When my milk came in on that 4th day it was so painful.  It felt like to 2 hot, hard, rocks on my chest.  I had a slight fever.  I thought I was getting mastitis.  More than the breast pain was the nipple pain.  My nipples chaffed, bled, and scabbed.  I cried every time the baby latched on.  MISERY, I tell you.  For something that is supposed to come so naturally to a woman who has just given birth, this felt just about as unnatural as humanly possible.  Experience helps here because this pain is temporary.  If you haven't had the experience, call someone who does.  Let them talk you through it.  My mom assured me that the rock solid feeling of my milk coming in would go away.  It did.  She assured me that my nipples would "toughen up".  They did.  I liken the early days of breastfeeding as running the first mile of a race.  Getting into it is hard, but once you get warmed up, you'll be on your way.  That is not to say that you can't use tools to help make the pain go away...nipple shields, lanolin, soothing gel pads, heating packs, ice packs, ibuprofen...YES.  Anything that helps with the pain in those early days is worth using.  Seriously.  USE IT!!

4.  Breastmilk isn't filling enough so my baby won't sleep through the night and I NEED my sleep.
First things first, I am not sure that it is a fact that your baby will sleep longer if he/she has formula instead of a bottle.  Some people may tell you that breastfed babies will continue to wake several times a night because they are not getting enough milk or because they want the comfort of their mommy.  My experience has been this, it isn't the amount of milk that he is getting (if I pump instead of feed, I get 7-8 ounces), but the comfort factor.  For me, even though the lack of sleep sucks, I work all day and don't get to see my baby very much all week.  It is nice to get to spend some snuggle time with him, even if it is at 3 AM.  They are only little once and he isn't going to be up all night and in need of his mommy forever.

5.  I am going back to work and don't want to deal with a pump and pumping.  
So this one is probably going to vary greatly for each person based on the job that they do.  I have a lot of teacher friends who really have a very limited amount of time to pump during the workday so their experience was much different than mine.  Luckily my work is pretty supportive of nursing mothers and basically ask no questions and make no demands about what you can and can't do.  I started pumping 3 times a day when I first got back to work and that was difficult.  Constantly getting interrupted from work, cleaning the pump parts each time, answering lots of awkward questions about what I was doing in that "little room"...not the most fun I have had.  Moving down to 2 pumping sessions a day was such a treat.  So much more time during the day and I could finally go out to lunch again!  This past week I have dropped down to one session a day, and let me tell you, it is like a vacation.  No more washing pump parts!  I can just pump at 11:30 AM, throw the parts in a bag, and wash them when I get home.  I am down to 18 minutes from my desk back to my desk, 4 days a week!  Looking back on my pumping experience, I would not change a thing about it.  I think it worked out for me and I was lucky.  It wasn't always easy and I did have some mishaps (forgetting parts, plugged ducts, scheduling follies), but nothing that I couldn't handle.  It was a sacrifice of time, but I feel that it was worth it for me and my baby!

6.  Reflux, spitting up, MSPI, oh my!
Seeing my baby so upset at the breast and constantly waring bibs because of the crazy amount of spit-up, was hard to watch.  When the pediatrician told me that I would have to give up so many foods that I like to try to alleviate the problem, was hard to fathom.  I didn't think I could do it.  Dairy, soy, nuts, wheat, eggs, etc.  Yikes, what else is there to eat??  Wouldn't it just be easier to give him some hypoallergenic formula?  Yes, it may have been easier, especially coming from someone who had to restrict their diet during pregnancy due to GDM.  It turns out that there is a lot to eat that doesn't include the above items and when you finally start adding back those items, you either find that do don't want them anymore or that they taste that much better since you haven't had them in so long.  Either way, babies usually grow out of this around 6-8 months and this was true for me.  Although I am now mostly Paleo, I do eat some raw milk cheese, butter, and occasionally a wheat-laden treat (like a cookie).  Eggs and nuts didn't seem to be the culprit of his issues so I added them back in early on.  I also gave him some Zantac in the early days and that seemed to help with his discomfort and it helped me to sleep at night knowing that it was making him feel better.

7.  I'll breastfeed until the baby gets teeth...then I'm done for sure.
I actually said this several times before I had him.  Lucky for me, B got teeth before 4 months.  Haha.  Right now he has 8 and is working on a few more.  I have been bitten a few times, but surprisingly, not that much.  Usually it is when he is really teething, isn't hungry, or can't breathe out of his nose because he has a cold (just had him bit me for that reason today).  It hurts, but no more worse than my nipples hurt when I started breastfeeding and the pain is gone fast.  When he bites, I say no and I unlatch him.  I wait a minute then I try again.  If he bites again, he is done for the session and I try again later.

Here are a few other tips that I ave found to help me in my breastfeeding journey so far:

  • Take it one day at a time.  Today may be really rough, tomorrow will be a little bit easier, and months from now it will be a breeze.

  • Set realistic goals.  My first goal was 3 months.  When I hit that goal, I made another which was 6 months.  I hit that with no problem so my next goal was 1 year and I am about to hit it!  Those goals have been realistic for me, but might not work for you.  Manageable goals are much easier to attain!

  • Extra pump parts are a MUST for pumping mamas!  Cleaning regular dishes sucks.  Cleaning pump parts sucks more.  Cleaning pump parts multiple times a day sucks even more. That was the best $65 bucks I have spent!

  • Don't be so hard on yourself.  If you have to supplement then by all means, supplement!!  You have to do what you have to do to get by.  When I had to supplement in the beginning I felt like a failure of a mom, but I should not have.  We are so hard on ourselves when we should not be!  

  • Mother's Milk Tea.  Do it.  The taste is acquired, but now I kind of like it and it definitely helps with production.     

  • Seek advice from others who have been there.  My mommy friends who have breastfed their babies have been a tremendous support to me.  So has my mom.  

  • Ignore the nasty comments.  Whether it is asking why you are still breastfeeding or asking why you formula feed just explain that you are feeding your baby.  It is working for you and your baby.  Period.  None of their business.

  • Build up a freezer stash.  You may or may not need to use it, but it is like insurance.  If you need it, it is there.

So on to my next breastfeeding goal...until it is time to stop.  I'm not sure when that will be.  I can admit to you that thinking about my last breastfeeding session in the future makes me weepy.  I have read several stories from moms who have weaned and I get upset every time.  I have not always enjoyed every aspect of breastfeeding, but I am so glad that I have stuck with it.  It has made me feel incredibly close and bonded with my son.  I am so lucky to have been able to experience this.

My young little nursling.  They grow so fast!

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One Response to “ONE huge breastfeeding milestone”

  1. I can relate to all of this! I struggled in the beginning - but am still nursing my 17 month old. I love it. I can't imagine raising a toddler without having the ability to
    A) get a moment of quiet and peace by nursing
    B) cure bumps/scares from falling by nursing
    C) help de-escalate temper tantrums by nursing
    D) reconnect after a day away from her by nursing.
    E) Deal with a winter from H*ll with sickness and not nurse her and worry about her becoming malnourished or dehydrated
    It isn't for everyone...but I love it! I also agree with all your tips. Especially finding a support network. LeLeche League was my saving grace!