Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My journey with breasfeeding

Ty is now four years old, and I can still remember the frustration and fear, like it was yesterday.  I had always known that I wanted to breastfeed my children.  My mom was a Lactation Consultant for the health department, when I was young, and it was not news to me that boobies were made for feeding babies.  I grew up chanting "Breast milk is best, put yo mama to the test!", as a joke...and also riding around in a vehicle with the bumper sticker that read "Eat at moms!".  So, if anyone was going to come out a breastfeeding mama, it was going to be me.

What nobody - and I mean nobody - told me was how hard it was going to be.  I  heard about women who quit nursing after only a day or two (I secretly called them very rude names, in my pride), but I thought that these women just didn't have what it took to stick with it.  Wow!  How little of me.  Ty latched on as soon as I got back from recovery.  We were apart for over an hour, after birth.  He was taken to the NICU for simple tests, as a result of muconium in the water, and I was in recovery from a very traumatic section.  I was so excited, because at least that part of birth was as it should be.  Fast forward to the next day.  Ty began to have some issues getting latched back on.  I began to freak out.  It was just a terrible blur of emotion and hormone induced crying.  I was frustrated and angry at my body.  First, because I couldn't have my baby the way I wanted and now, because I was told I was going to have to supliment him with formula.  The dreaded "F" word.  Was I not woman enough to provide nutrition for my child?  What was I doing wrong.

Despite a really wonderful lactation counselor, I still ended up going home to feed my son formula through a tiny medicine dropper.  He cried.  A lot.  I cried...even more.  Every feeding was a challenge.  I remember still trying to breastfeed him, and telling my husband, "I just wish I could feed him one time, without him crying".  He was tongue tied (we didn't know...) and he couldn't latch well.  It was so frustrating and scary.  But somehow we made it through and Ty was able to get 6 months of "ninny pie", before my supply drastically dropped after I returned to school.

Levi, I thought, would be different.   He was also a section baby, but the circumstances surrounding his arrival couldn't be more different.  We had a wonderful experience and he roomed in with us the entire time we were in the hospital.  But, somehow, those same old fears crept in.  He began to fuss at feeding.  He wouldn't latch properly.  I thought he was literally going to tear my nipples OFF.  I met with a precious LC several times.  We tried the "football" hold.  We tried the "cradle" hold.  We tried the "stand on one foot and balance a plate on your head while holding baby...hold"  and nothing worked.  He just wouldn't cooperate.  Or maybe we just couldn't find our groove.  At any rate, here I went, home again...with a child that I didn't feel capable of nourishing.

Nursing hurt.  It hurt, so badly, that I remember curling my toes into the carpet and biting my lip, when he latched on.  I would pry him off and try again.  Over and over.  I just can't explain the frustration I felt.  And moreover, the feeling that I was a failure.  Levi never slept well (and at 9 months, still woke every three hours to nurse).  He grunted throughout the night and spat up way more than Ty ever did.  And as the first week turned into two, we were getting nowhere with the pain and agony of nursing.  I remember visiting the LC at our pediatrician's office.  When she came in to the room, Levi was latched and feeding like it was his job.  "um, he looks great to me!", she said.  That little devil NEVER latched right, but there, he seemed to want to show off...when we returned home, we once again fell into the same old painful feeding routine.  I kept a journal of feedings and times.  (By the way, I do NOT recommend you do that.)  It is frustrating and caused me to second guess every single feeding."Is he getting enough?".

We discovered through a stool sample test that he couldn't process dairy - which I intend to write about soon, but that didn't really explain any nursing issue we were struggling with...

And then, it happened. After weeks and weeks of frustration, bitterness at my body (and sometimes my baby), pain, and exhaustion, Levi latched. He latched well and the healing began.  Slowly, there were feedings with no more bleeding, cracked nipples.  No more tears.  No more doubt or confusion. One day, he simply got it right and kept it!  I tell you this, dear mama, to remind you that YOU can do anything. 

You can nurse your baby. I do know that some women have supply and health issues that keep them from being able to nurse. And some babies struggle due to ties and other situations.  But if that's not you, and the pain or discomfort is what is keeping you in fear, please know it can get better. Find a lactation consultant or counselor in your area (most hospitals will provide this to you!). Stick with it!!!!  Keep trying. Make up your mind that no matter how many times someone says, "you should just give him formula!  He's probably starving!", you're going to stand your ground. Trust that mama instinct. Explain to your pediatrician and anyone else who asks, that this is something you're determined to do! I'm rooting for you, mama!  And IF it comes down to it and you just can't go on trying, forgive yourself. You aren't a failure!  You are a strong woman who birthed a human and is loving and caring, nourishing in whatever way you are able. 😘

By the way, we are still going strong with Levi at 23 months.  (Did I mention he LOVES his "ninny"?). 😉

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