…well, that was my story at least. As a new mom and in the many weeks of preparation before your little one comes along, so many thoughts, ideas, and plans manifest. One of mine (and of many mothers) was to exclusively breast feed. I mean after all, “Breast is Best!”
I went to the breast feeding classes (and so did my supportive husband). Read the books. Bought the supplies (breast cream, nursing bras, breast pump, nursing pillow, etc.). I was ready! Not only was I adequately prepared (or so I thought), it is the “most natural” thing a woman can do right!?!
I am not posting this blog to disagree with what anyone says about breastfeeding; rather, I am just going to tell my experience, because I feel like everyone’s breastfeeding story is unique. But I also want to normalize some of the struggles with breastfeeding. For some, the VERY LUCKY, breastfeeding truly is super easy and natural; and for others, LIKE ME, it is definitely a struggle.
Right after my little guy (I say that loosely because my little guy was 9 lbs 2 oz at birth), I did everything the classes, books, etc. recommended. My husband and I held tight to the golden hour (our’s was a bit longer because I experienced a lot of bleeding that needed to be handled before visitors came in). My little boy was put directly to my chest for skin to skin contact and within that hour we made our first attempt at breastfeeding.
Prior to the feed, the hospital staff were informed that I did not want him to be fed any formula unless absolutely medically necessary. I also did not want them to ever utilize a pacifier. Right after I was moved into post-partum recovery, I indicated that I wanted to see a lactation specialist. While everything had been going just fine (to the best of my knowledge), I wanted to hear from a specialist that everything was going well for peace of mind. When the lactation specialist came in, everything seemed to be going well. I was producing the magical substance that is colostrum, baby appeared to be latching relatively well, and he was producing an adequate number of wet and poopy diapers.
By the time I left the hospital our little guy, Deacon, had lost some weight, but our pediatrician at discharge was not concerned with the amount lost. She said we were at a point where continuing to breastfeed without supplementation was fine. At his 3-day check-up, he had lost some more weight and we talked about the possible need for supplementation, if the decline continued. Then fear and worry set in, as did very painful feedings.
At that point in my very new life as a mother I was going through the every 2 hour feedings, no sleep, fussy baby, raging hormones, unimaginable body changes, and so much more. I was also experiencing a spinal headache due to my epidural (for those of you amazing women who can endure an epidural free birth…I commend you…I did not). At the hospital I thought I was experiencing a spinal headache, but staff the indicated that if I could get around and care for my baby, it probably wasn’t one. My thought, “NOTHING would keep me from doing those things!”). Five days after being home, I called my OB to tell him about the headache and he recommended I go to the emergency room because I probably needed a Blood Patch. It turns out, I did need a Blood Patch, and I was stuck in an emergency room for 9 hours sans my 5-day old baby.
This situation is what also contributed to breastfeeding issues. You see, at 5-days old, I had yet to pump any milk for storage. I didn’t know it was necessary at that point. Because I was stuck in the emergency room, and they did not want my 5-day old baby back there with all those very adult germs, my husband was left with Deacon and I was forced to frantically pump at the hospital after a teary-eyed plea that they find me a pump. In that time, though, my husband was forced to feed him a formula bottle (GASP!). He then came and we successfully completed a “milk drop” in the parking lot. My mother came to be with me, while my husband was with the baby, and she picked up a Ninja Turtle Easter pail and some ice to keep the milk cool. My husband came to the parking lot to grab the milk before it was needed for another feeding. Remember when I said “adventures in motherhood,” that was certainly not a stretch. After the long day in the emergency room, I finally got my blood patch and was almost immediately better (please keep this in mind if any of you have a severe headache following an epidural…make SURE they treat it before you leave the hospital)!
Because Deacon was still not gaining back his birth weight as quickly as we wanted, we left the formula feedings he had while I was getting my blood patch in his schedule of feedings because we knew at least what he was eating those times. I then, once again, scheduled a meeting with a lactation consultant.
I showed up at the meeting eager to solve our breastfeeding problems and ready to get rid of the terrible bleeding sores on my nipples. The lactation consultant weighed Deacon before and after I fed and determined that he really wasn’t getting quite enough at each feeding to support his weight. We also worked on a more proper latch. The plan following the meeting was feed every two hours, then right after the feeding pump for twenty minutes (to increase milk supply) and feed Deacon that, as well. Repeat every 2 hours. Then follow-up after a week. This plan meant that I literally fed or pumped ALL DAY! The good news is, Deacon was back to his birth weight at his two week follow-up, the bad news is, my sore and bleeding nipples were worse! By day four, I sat holding my beautiful baby boy, crying while I nursed him, and dreading every feed. The breaking point for me was when my crying and frustration lead him to begin crying during a feeding. At that point I told my husband, “I need a break…I will just pump until my sores heal). They never did…at least not for weeks!
After weeks of pain and a lot of research, I finally called my pediatrician and said, “I have these sores that WILL NOT go away, I am pretty sure Deacon and I may have Thrush“. The pediatrician treated both of us for Thrush, and after about 15 days, we both were in A LOT better shape!
During that time, Deacon had begun eating such big bottles, that I knew he was not going to get that much nursing, so we continued with a couple formula bottles and the rest remained pumped breastmilk. I also worked in nursing sessions for the physical and emotional benefits. At this point, this is what we continue to do. Our BIG little guy is growing rapidly and he is now a very happy and healthy boy. Looking back, I think that we may have developed Thrush at the hospital or soon after and I really wish it would have been caught sooner. But such is life. I share this long breastfeeding story with you because it was such a hard learning experience for me. I hope that if you are struggling with the process you are gentle and kind to yourself (because “Mom guilt” is ROUGH). At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you and your baby emotionally and physically. What works for one, does not always work for all.
With all that said, here are some final things I recommend or wish I did:
- Buy a breast pump that works for you.
- Check with your insurance provider because all or some of the pump may be covered!
- I use the Madela Pump in Style Backpack-My body responds well to this one and I have literally walked around pumping with it on my back. The battery pack is also nice and has allowed me to pump in the car many times.
- Utilize a hospital grade pump if you are having supply issues-I DID. I really feel like it helped. It is my understanding that some insurances may cover some or all of this expense, as well.
- If you are incorporating bottle feeding, utilize a bottle that eases the breast to bottle transition. We utilize Munchkin Latch bottles. We tried others, but we like these the best. They feel very natural and they are comfortable to hold. Deacon transitions from breast to bottle at night, every night. We have not had any issue (since we cleared up the Thrush).
- Get a feed/sleep timer. I tried a few, but personally, what worked best for me was an app on my phone. My favorite app has been the iBaby Feed Timer app. It gives you the option to record when you stop/start nursing, bottle feeds, and when you pump/”express.” It also allows you to record growth, sleep patterns, diaper changes, and more. I have used it for all those things, and in the worst of times with nursing and pumping, being able to log the amount of ounces I pumped and how long I nursed reinforced what I felt like was a taxing accomplishment!
- Consider the use of a simple vinegar and water solution after each feed to prevent Thrush. The pediatrician recommended this when we went in with the issue. I also came across some neat wipes for after nursing. Check them out if you would like.
- Because we feed a combination of breast milk and formula, we had to find one that worked well for Deacon’s stomach. He first ate Enfamil Newborn. Now we feed Enfamil Enspire (this is hard to find because it is new-but we utilize the subscribe and save option on Amazon…this also cuts down on the price…and you can indicate how often you need it).
- Pumping at work (I had to return to work after 6 weeks, so I had to pump 3 times at work), at first, is new and scary. Talk to the person in charge of where you will be pumping. Come up with a schedule and try to stick with it (for your supply’s sake). Put out a DO NOT DISTURB sign when pumping. It is awkward to have someone knock while pumping and you certainly do not want anyone to walk in on you.
- If you are freezing your breastmilk, keep it frozen in an amount that is convenient for you. My son gets 5 oz bottles, so we freeze it in 10 oz bags (two bottles each bag). We utilize the Lasinoh breastmilk storage bags because they are a bit larger than other bags. But do what works for you!
- BE PROUD OF YOUR EFFORTS!!!!! Being a mother is hard and breastfeeding can certainly be hard. It is still a struggle for me both emotionally and physically and I have to remind myself of this everyday. At the end of the day, what matters most, is you are nurturing your baby to the best of your ability, in whatever way that may be!!
*Simple Disclaimer: all of the products and information I provided was provided solely because I looked into that information or used the products. I am not receiving anything for mentioning those products, I am simply sharing the information for anyone who may be interested. 🙂