Saturday, May 22, 2010

My breastfeeding experience

Could also be titled: Why I'm super proud of myself! Or: This is way tougher than I thought! Or: Follow your instinct as a mama!

When Asher was born, he was born big and hungry. The lactation ladies assured me that my colostrum would be enough to fill him until my milk came in. I had my doubts. He also didn't latch on well. He was so hungry and so frustrated to latch and get nothing much in return for his hard work. By about day two, the nurses would bring him to me from his nursery assessment and say "He's starving. Can you feed him before we do this?" I would start crying right along with him. I didn't have anything to give him. But I kept trying.

The third night one of my nurses woke me up and said, can we give him some formula via a syringe to get his little tummy full? I said, yes. Please make him comfortable. His crying and hunger had gotten the best of my emotional stability. I felt like I couldn't provide for my child. So, they gave him some formula and I started pumping every few hours to try to bring my milk in faster.

The next morning, he was settled. You could tell he was more willing to play the latch game since he had a full tummy. The pediatrician noted that he was dehydrated during her visit that morning. She said the formula supplementing was the right thing to do until my milk came in. Sigh, we did the right thing.

But then, the last night, he was starving again. He wouldn't be settled. It was awful. I finally asked the night nurse to bring me a bottle and formula. I was Asher's mom and I was going to feed him. I didn't care what I was feeding him, he just needed food. That was my responsibility. They brought in a tiny bottle. I fed him and tears of joy streamed down my face. I felt like a mother for the first time - I was feeding my baby. He was happy, and so, so hungry and I could help.

We go home the next day with formula in hand. The lactation consultant gave me a hard time before I left, saying that supplementing was not necessary and shame on me for letting them talk me into it. Rusty jumped in and explained that the pediatrician said Asher was becoming dehydrated. The consultant then said "Well, ok. That's a different story." (These lactation people sure are passionate about this stuff, aren't they?) She then showed us how to take the formula and drip it onto my breasts to encourage Asher to latch on. It was quite the process.

By the time we were home, we were exhausted. We gave Asher a few formula bottles the first day and night; my milk still wasn't in. And the drip game to get him interested took too much energy at that time. And honestly, the formula was easy.

Our first morning at home (after a long, rought night), I looked and Rusty and said I didn't want to give up. I could feel my milk coming in. I asked him to help me take the more difficult route and try to give breastfeeding a fair shot. And then it began. We had our process down. He changed diaper and stripped Asher (to wake him up good). I arranged no less than five pillows in the positions I was taught to prepare for Asher. Rusty got the formula bottles, the feeding tracking app and a bottle of water for me. And we worked at it. Every two hours. As a family. And eventually, a day or so later, Asher got the hang of it. We no longer had to trick him with formula.

So, the engorgement hurt. My nipples felt like they were on fire the first few minutes of every nursing session. But now, almost four weeks later, they feel ok. The only time I feel full or painful is if I miss a feeding or Asher goes longer between feedings and my body is a little confused. Asher is gaining weight. And I'm doing it! I'm producing enough milk for my big baby and I'm helping him to be healthy. I had every excuse and opportunity to give up on this. I could have walked away from the challenge without guilt, really, because it was in Asher's best interest to start that formula. But I'm so proud of myself for sticking with it. And I'm so proud of my body for being able to do this. Going through the neverending (seriously) feedings of his three week growth spurt this last week put my body to the test, and I think I passed. It's pretty crazy that my body knows how to do all of this. It's amazing.

So, to those out there who may have to supplement in the hospital - it's ok. Or for those who have a baby that doesn't quite want to latch. Keep at it. It can still work. It's not really the easiest thing, but so far it feels pretty worth it. (I'm not going to lie, I'm ready for the feedings to be shorter in time and longer in between.)

I went into this pretty clueless. But with Rusty's support, my family's support, my friends' support (big shout out to Tisha!), the lactation nurse at the ped's office and a lot of educational reading (not googling!) - I think we're on the right path. And I hope that I can be of assistance to my many mama-to-be friends in the months ahead.


Lindsay said...

Yay for you, Rusty and Asher!! It really does take a family to make it work! I so sympathize with you on all of it. My first was a lazy eater and was born weighing 5 pounds. She ate for an hour every two hours so I never go more than an hour break between feedings. Many days it came down to - should I take a shower or run this important errand. I was quite scary looking the first 3 months! It all worked out in the long run but it def. take work, patience and support - and it looks like you have all three!

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited for you! breastfeeding was definitely hard for me with both children in the beginning. I had yeast infections and mastitis in BOTH breasts with BOTH children!! However, I can say that I, too, feel all the work was worth it and we made it through as a family. It will continue to get easier and easier as time goes on. Soon, you'll be able to to feed Asher anywhere at anytime and without offending anyone :-)

Gail Wester said...

I am so proud of you Kira! You not only had to feed a big guy...but your body was healing from a major surgery(c-section)...and you were in the process of losing your Grandma...A nursing mom has to take care of herself physically and emotionally to produce truly beat the odds!!!I love your determination and having nursed all 4 of our boys I know you will never regret your decision. Love ya!

Melissa said...

I think you are supermom! I am so proud of you and appreciate you letting me and others take this journey with you. I love you and think you are doing a great job.

Sara said...

Hi Kira! Thanks for your comment. I hate that you feel chained to your house... my son never had colic but it seemed that when he was fussy, getting out of the house made things all better. He liked being in the car, and looking up at the lights when we walked around in a store. Just try it a couple times and if it's horrible, then move on to plan B obviously, which could just be a walk around your neighborhood. I will write a post soon about why we stopped breastfeeding, but long story short: i had a "reflex" that caused a depression/dread/lonely feeling when my mild would let down and it made me hate feeding him. so we switched to formula because happy mommy = good mommy.

Deborah said...

Amen, fellow new mom (and coworker and friend:)! I also encourage ALL new moms to feel NO guilt about supplementing formula, especially at the beginning. I did it in the hospital and it gave me the sleep that I needed. Yes your body knows what to do, but just like with pregnancy, it doesn't always work the way it is "supposed to." Thank God that we have the option of formula to take some of the stress our of an already very stressful time period. While the breast is great, the best thing for a healthy baby is a healthy momma. And take everything a lactation consultant says with a grain of salt. Yes they are wonderful but sometimes a little intimidating and persistent. The last thing we need as we start our journey as new moms is a guilt trip.

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