Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Adventures in Breastfeeding

written in June, 2012

I feel like I need to put a super warning on this post. But I think the title should indicate to you whether you want to read this post or not. It's about babies and boobs, namely mine.

Whether or not I wanted to breastfeed was never a question to me. To me, breastfeeding just seemed like a natural thing that I would want and that would happen. I knew the typical challenges of breastfeeding before ever having a baby. Bad latch. Milk shortage. Inverted nipples. and the list goes on (and on).

When I arrived at the hospital to induce my labor, my first nurse asked whether she should mark me down for breastfeeding or not. I told her I wanted to nurse. She said that was a good decision, and that those first few moments with my baby would be precious and a good time to bond. I kind of felt like rolling my eyes and saying, "Girl, you're preaching to the choir. That is of course what I want."

14 hours later I had my precious new baby girl in my arms. The nurse helped me strip down so Liana and I could do skin-to-skin and nurse. After a few different positions, the nurse said Liana probably wasn't going to latch now and that I should just enjoy her instead of trying to nurse. I was a little deflated because I knew that that first feeding was so important. But I did want to enjoy my baby and didn't want my first memory of her to be frustration.

During the course of my hospital stay I had multiple nurses and lactation consultants try and help me to get Liana to nurse. But no luck. She loved the time close to me, but she would just fall asleep or just play. She didn't seem interested in eating at all. I pumped a tiny bit of colostrum and fed it to Liana with a syringe, so as to eliminate nipple confusion. My hospital stay was coming to an end, and I felt desperate to have Liana nurse just once before we left.

Over the next week I spent hours every day doing skin-to-skin with Liana and trying different holds. I started pumping and feeding her with a syringe. I spent hours crying and mourning the fact that my baby did not want me. She just seemed to refuse my body. It was something that I could never imagine before, and is so hard to describe. It was hard. I was so grateful to have a beautiful, healthy baby. I was so happy, but it wasn't what I imagined.

A week after Liana was born I went to another lactation consultant. Liana had lost one pound. The consultant informed me I was starving my baby. My stubbornness to not give Liana a bottle was just making the problem worse. Liana was so tired from having no food that she did not have the energy to nurse. No amount of different positions, supplemental tubes, or nipple shields was going to cox my baby into breastfeeding. I just needed to get some food in her. The consultant suggested I rent a hospital grade pump to keep my supply up, and to start feeding Liana with a bottle.

The next few weeks went like this: attempt to feed Liana at the breast, pump, feed Liana with a bottle, sleep, do it again. It was exhausting emotionally and physically. And although Jerry was helpful in feeding Liana with a bottle, there essentially was not much else he could really do.

On my birthday Liana finally nursed. Well, kind of. She sucked and had a really shallow latch, but she was able to get out some milk. I was so excited. But it KILLED. After a day of pain, letting her feed like that and still supplementing some with the bottle, Liana started to again refuse me. I was devastated. I went to the lactation consultant again. She told me I was doing everything right--I just had to keep trying until my baby caught on. She told me it might take months, but that it would be worth it. I went home and had a meltdown. Months?!?? I just didn't think I could do it. It was too much for me to handle. I had this perfect little girl who I loved so much and I wanted to give her the best. But she didn't want it, or me. Jerry suggested that I take a break from trying for a little bit. So I started to only try to nurse a few times a day. And then only once a day. Not being rejected every 2 hours started to lighten my spirits, and I could feel the cloud of despair start to lift. I finally decided that I was going to exclusively pump and bottle-feed. Once I made the decision and decided it was okay, I felt elated. I was so grateful to have modern technology that made expressing milk so easy, and I was still able to give my baby the best. Since pumping became just another part of my daily routine, I was happy to do it. Unfortunately, it wasn't perfect and happy all the time. I was pumping enough milk for twins (and then some) and was frequently having clogged milk ducts.

When Liana hit 6 weeks, I started to try and nurse her again, but only every few days. When she didn't take to my breast, it didn't bother me all. I had a new reality. I was happy to pump. I found that it was pretty convenient.

When Liana hit 10 weeks, I had a slightly mortifying experience. Once when I was pumping, I looked down to see that one of the bottles was full of blood. It totally revolted me. I gagged and dry heaved a little. After a lengthy google search I felt confident that blood in breastmilk is normal.  But still disturbing. I went to pump again and it happened, again. This time it was was in the middle of the night, so my reaction was even worse. I was tired and emotional. After more internet searches that confirmed it was normal I went to sleep with reassurance that I was going to live, but I wasn't quite sure I could get the image out of my head. The next morning when it was time to pump I was scared and shaking. During the course of my hours of internet reading it frequently said that blood was normal, and it probably happens to most mothers, but they aren't aware because the baby just drinks it, and it is fine for the baby. So while Jerry was in the shower, I woke Liana up. I told her I was sorry if she drank any blood. And after weeks of not trying, I put Liana to the culprit breast. And.. she nursed! For real! The funny thing was, I wasn't even surprised or even that happy about her nursing, I was just so relieved that if there was blood, I didn't have to see it (selfish, I know).

So now Liana is just a few days shy of 4 months. She nurses like a pro! Just within the past few days I have been able to get my milk supple under control. Until then, I had still been pumping extra.

Right around the time she started nursing.

Update: Liana is still a very good nurser. In fact, now I am trying to wean her, which feels so bizarre after all the prayers and effort that went into her starting to nurse.

After only a few weeks of nursing, Liana gained around 4 lbs.


amanda said...

I'm sorry about all the hard thing you had to go through with nursing! I'm glad you both found something that worked and that she did figure it out!! And oh my! Blood...who knew??

Double D said...

What an ordeal! But I had to laugh when you mentioned producing enough milk for twins...because yes, you totally did...just ask cora! Also, those pictures of liana are not just cute. They are like magazine cute.