Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mommy, Daniel, and the Nummies: Our Breastfeeding Struggles

        Aside from a few minor issues, if you were to look at Daniel and I today, you'd notice that we have a great nursing relationship. I can read Daniel's hunger cues very well and he hardly ever resorts to crying to let me know he's hungry. As soon as he's hungry, I usually pick him up and, within a few seconds, he's latched on and enjoying his meal. But it wasn't always this way. We've had our share of struggles along the way.

        A short while after Daniel was born, he latched on like a pro. Afterwards, my midwife told me I'd have to go to the hospital to be stitched up. She wanted me to nurse Daniel before I left but he only nursed for a few minutes and then refused. When I returned to the birth center, the midwife said she'd like me to nurse Daniel before we went home but, again, he nursed for a few minutes and then refused. At home the next day he continued to refuse and avoided my right breast like the plague. At my 2 day postpartum appointment with my midwife, Andrea,  she said he had jaundice and I would have to nurse him every two hours. She said I should come in the next day to meet with the breastfeeding counselor and that the refusal of my right breast might be due to the way he was born and I should visit the chiropractor to have him checked out and adjusted. I also had badly cracked and sore nipples by then. Andrea showed me that Daniel was tucking in his lower lip which was causing a lot of my pain and showed me how to untuck it. She also suggested I get a nipple shield.

        The next day, I met with the breastfeeding counselor, Carmen. She suggested I use lanolin on my nipples and gave me some samples of that and a soothing gel pad. She suggested I only use the nipple shield if the pain was so bad that I felt like giving up on breastfeeding since it could cause other problems and I'd have to wean the baby off of it later. She also showed me how I was holding the baby incorrectly and taught me the right way to hold him. We also went to see my chiropractor that day. He said Daniel needed a little adjusting in his neck but that he was fine and wouldn't need adjusting again unless he was injured. The chiropractic seemed to help with the breast rejection, as Daniel began to take both breasts after this and he no longer refused to eat. It took a while for my poor cracked and sore nipples to heal, however. When I nursed Daniel, the pain was so bad I cried sometimes.

        The situation was aggravated by the fact that, after the first few days, Daniel was hungry non-stop. He barely slept day or night, all he wanted to do was nurse. He would sometimes nurse for 2 or 3 hours straight and was eating a lot more often than every 2  hours. I was barely getting any sleep and was exhausted and in pain. My mother, who was unable to breastfeed and therefore is unaware of the differences between breast fed and formula fed babies, became convinced I just didn't have enough milk and urged me to use formula. She was also concerned about how tired I was and insisted that, if I used some formula, she could feed the baby sometimes and let me rest. I totally understand why she was concerned about me and rest sounded great but I did not want to use formula and I knew that feeding Daniel any bottles of formula could affect my milk supply which was being established. My mom also insisted that Daniel needed a pacifier to satisfy his sucking needs which was another nursing no no. Daniel also became gassy and my mom made him anise seed tea with the midwife's approval. However, instead of using a dropper like the midwife suggested, she began using a little medicine bottle I had gotten as a gift which doesn't even have a breastfeeding friendly nipple which I feel aggravated the incorrect latch-on problem.Since she didn't understand why we did not want to use bottles or pacifiers for the first month, I just ended up hiding the little bottle from her so she couldn't use it. My husband wasn't helping much either. Anytime I became upset, tired, frustrated, and in pain, he would say "That's it, I'm going to buy formula!" Again, I totally understand that he was just worried about me but that just made me feel even worse. I briefly considered giving up many times during this period but I wasn't really serious. There was no way I'd give up giving my baby the nourishment he deserved!

        I felt like such a failure at times. I felt like I wasn't satisfying my baby. He never seemed content after nursing. He would cry a lot and act like he was still hungry and wanted to continue nursing. But he began getting off the breast a lot and crying when I tried to feed him and I just didn't know what to do. Then I developed a rash all over my body a day or two before Thanksgiving. After trying the home remedies suggested by a midwife and the pharmacist for a couple of days, it seemed worse instead of better and I was going crazy with the itching. Because of the holiday, I wouldn't be able to see a doctor till the next week and there was no way I could wait. Plus, I was worried that I might be contagious so I ended up going to the emergency room on Thanksgiving day. I didn't want to take the baby to the germ filled ER so he would stay with my mom but he needed food. So my husband ran to Walmart to get a manual breast pump with one of the gift cards we'd gotten from family since we couldn't afford the Ameda Purely Yours I'd had my eye on. We figured I'd pump some milk and leave it with my mom. Even though we didn't want to use bottles, we figured this was an emergency and it was better than taking Daniel to the germy ER. However I quickly discovered that manual pumps totally suck and I got maybe an ounce in 30 minutes and then the baby was hungry and I had to feed him. So my mom sent my husband out for formula and he gladly went.  I was so upset that Daniel had formula that day that I cried. It made me feel like I was failing because I should have done whatever it took to avoid it.

        Finally, I began to worry that my mom was right and I wasn't making enough milk. My husband called Daniel's pediatrician and he said to bring the baby in for a weight check so we did. Daniel had gained more than the minimum requirement and seemed to be doing great. I had also been keeping track of his wet and poopie diapers and he seemed to be doing fine. This eased my fears regarding my milk supply.  The pediatrician said we should try the pacifier because maybe Daniel just had high sucking needs. I wasn't convinced but my husband got the pacifier we had at home just in case. The next night we tried the pacifier when Daniel got cranky and it seemed to work but I was still not convinced. I decided we would only use it in extreme circumstances and I aggressively monitored Daniel's nursing and diapers to make sure he was eating enough. He seemed to be doing fine so we started using it more and it helped. His latch on had improved by then and the pacifier didn't seem to have an adverse effect but I was still very careful.

        So by now Daniel seemed eager to nurse, was latching on correctly and no longer nursed for 2 or 3 hours straight and my nipples had healed. However, this was not the end  of our problems. Daniel developed this crazy habit of pushing my breasts and becoming unlatched multiple times during nursing and getting very angry and upset. It almost seemed like he was fighting with my breasts. He smacked and pushed with his hands but his mouth was trying to latch on at the same time. It hurt me and I also did not know how to get him to eat properly and not be so upset. We tried everything and nothing seemed to help so we fell into the trap of giving him a bottle when I became too frustrated. My mother in law bought me a Medela Pump In Style Advanced pump but I wasn't getting a whole lot of milk when I pumped and we used it up pretty quickly so we ended up using formula a few times, which I hated. And so I continued to be upset and feel like I was failing.

        There was also the issue of breast feeding in public. Whenever I tried to cover Daniel and my breast with a blanket, he would become very upset and detach from my breast. I felt very self conscious exposing my breasts and it made my husband very upset and nervous as well so I refused to do it. I had so much trouble with this, I felt like I couldn't go out of the house. I avoided going out as much as I could until later on when I could pump more milk and take bottles with me everywhere.But  I hated pumping and couldn't believe I'd always had to do this. Some moms I know said they simply breastfed in public and either covered up a little or not at all. Others covered up so well no one even knew they were nursing. So I felt bad about myself for not being able to handle public nursing. I wasn't confident enough to go uncovered nor skilled enough to cover up.
        Then one night I had horrible pain in my breasts so I asked my husband to feed Daniel a bottle and went to sleep. We discovered I had a lump in my left breast so I called my midwife the next day. She said I probably had a plugged duct but the pain sounded like thrush and I should take the baby to the pediatrician since the birth center was closed that day. The pediatrician said the baby had some oral thrush so my midwife advised me to use gentian violet on his mouth and my nipples and areola. I should also take a garlic supplement and a probiotic and give the baby some probiotic and apply hot compresses to my breast as well. I began doing the treatment, which was a crazy mess. I dropped the bottle of gentian violet one night and now my bathroom has permanent purple stains on the walls and tiles! One day, when I didn't have enough pumped milk, I gave Daniel a bottle of formula and he threw up 3 times. His doctor was out of town so I took him to a walk in clinic and was told nothing was wrong. Another night we gave him just a bit of formula to supplement the few ounces of breast milk I fed him and he threw up so much I got scared and almost took him to the emergency room. His doctor assured me it must be reflux and advised me to feed him smaller meals, put rice cereal in his bottle (which I later found out I shouldn't do so I didn't), and keep him upright for 30 minutes after each meal. I started thinking and put two and two together. both times he had thrown up, he'd had formula, plus he had a very bubble bottle. that was the last time my baby ever had formula.

        The night I took Daniel to the walk in clinic, I got home to find my husband really sick and had to take him to the ER. My parents kept the baby and I pumped at the hospital. We ended up staying at their house for at least a week so they could hep me since I had a cold, thrush, a plugged duct and a sick husband. 
By this time I was able to pump a lot more milk at a time and, due to the pain I was in, and my messy purple nipples, I began to use a lot more bottles. My grandma and cousins were here visiting for Christmas and were more than happy to feed the baby for me and I just let them and I didn't always pump to replace a feeding.  This started me on a downward spiral to low milk supply issues. Daniel began to act hungry and upset after feedings and I didn't know what to do. My plugged duct/thrush didn't clear up either. I finished the gentian violet treatment and began using grapefruit seed extract and Daniel's oral thrush and most of my pain cleared up but the lump remained. At my 6 week postpartum appointment, Andrea suggested I try antibiotics for mastitis and I had them prescribed for 2 weeks but the lump remained so I was sent to see a doctor. The doctor said she really believed it was unresolved mastitis and gave me two more weeks of antibiotics and advised me to continue the hot compresses. After that, the lump and the pain finally disappeared.
        However, I now had the issue of low milk supply and Daniel was fighting with my breasts even more. I began to pump a lot more often, feed the baby as much as possible, and drink mother's milk tea, which tasted disgusting. Then I read about the positive effects of beer on milk supply. Since I don't drink alcohol, I decided to research a Spanish drink called malta that is made from barley malt and hops in a similar way than beer but is sweet and contains no alcohol. I found that malta could possibly help so I began drinking it and my milk supply increased. But Daniel was still fighting with my breasts a lot. A La Leche League Leader suggested that I feed him at the first sign of hunger in case he was just overly hungry. Another one suggested I walk around while feeding him and that seemed to work sometimes but not always. My doula suggested a nipple shield. I hadn't gotten it before because I didn't want to have to wean him off of it but, at this point, I was desperate. However, he totally hated it. Eventually, I learned that if i just put his pacifier on and walked around, rocking and comforting him, when he detached from the breast and cried, that eventually he would settle down and be ready to nurse again. Once I started doing that, the need for bottles declined and, eventually, we stopped using bottles altogether and I stored all the milk I pumped.

        Today, Daniel eats enough, latches on like a pro and no longer fights with my breasts and my nipples and breasts are pain free. I no longer keep track of or even time feedings and I no longer have to count pee and poopie diapers. In fact, some nights I even breastfeed Daniel lying down and half asleep. We have come a LONG way. We haven't used a bottle in months and I stopped pumping once I had a small stash in the freezer. I have started pumping again since most of that stash spoiled and Daniel has recently begun solids, which I make myself, usually with breast milk. I am even considering pumping some extra milk to donate to a mom and baby in need. We now have a great nursing relationship and I wouldn't  trade our special bond for anything in the world.There are no more tears and frustration and I am really proud of us for getting this far.We still haven't mastered public breastfeeding but have improved a lot and I have faith that one day we will get there. I am now considering becoming certified as a lactation consultant and I feel that my experiences would help me succeed in helping other women and their babies get to where we are: a beautiful, loving, happy, nurturing and peaceful nursing relationship.


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