Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Journey

This came up when I posted that I had made it a year nursing Kevin on Facebook, so I thought I'd do a blog entry on my nursing journey and what I went through while breastfeeding both kids. I hope it inspires or helps any new (or experienced) moms that may be going through something similar!

Amanda was born after an induction. I went in at 6am and had her at 1:20am the next morning. Mike called her "movie baby" because she came out pink, crying and ready to take on the world! She latched on immediately and had no problem learning the ways of breastfeeding. Apparently I did though, because the hospital's lactation consultant came to see me the next day and told me my nipples were small and I was holding her in all the wrong positions. She pinched me and told me to wear nipple shields to help pull my nipples out. Then she proceeded to tell me I should get the most expensive pump available and exclusively pump because I most likely wouldn't be able to breastfeed. I cried after she left. Maybe it was hormones, maybe it was me, but she crushed me and made me think I was a bad mother.

But, if anyone knows me, you know I saw that as a challenge. I was going to show her! I could breastfeed just fine! And I did. Amanda lost only a few oz. in the hospital, and by our 2 week appointment she had gained back and surpassed her birth weight of 6 lbs, 8 oz. And she continued to thrive. At each appointment the doctor would look at me incredulously and ask if I was really ONLY breastfeeding her?

This did not come without a price. I was a new mom getting used to something completely out of my usual realm of comfortable-ness. My nipples were *so* sore those first 3 weeks, I thought they were going to fall off! It helped that I had a sister & 2 sister-in-laws that told me the same had happened to them. And after those initial 3 weeks, it became much easier. I also have a very modest husband who convinced me I should breastfeed no where else but in my own home. And if we had guests over, I could NOT breastfeed in front of them. No exceptions. This stressed me out big-time. Amanda was ravenous and often ate every 1-2 hours (on the plus side she was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks). I would rush out of the house to get an errand done and rush home so as to not be caught out of the house with a screaming, hungry baby. I became isolated. I longed to go back to work. So I did. I took a 10 week maternity leave and came back to work.

Only going back to work wasn't much easier because then you deal with the guilt of leaving your child in someone else's hands for most of the day. Bygones. Meanwhile, I had increased Amanda's bottle nipple sizes based on the package recommendations. So at 1 month she started on a size 2 and at 3 months a size 3 and at 5 months a size 4. This lead to her having bottle preference and she refused to nurse. I would get home and fruitlessly try to get her to latch on to my engorged boob to no avail. I would end up feeding her a pumped bottle and pumping at the same time. This got old. fast. I also found that I wasn't pumping enough for her at work and ended up supplementing several times with formula, which she took no problem.

So by 6 months when we started rice cereal and baby food, I had had enough. I was done with the stress, done with the exclusive pumping all the time, done. So I weaned. Everyone I knew with babies at the time weaned at 6 months or less as well, so I felt like I had accomplished my goal. Amanda smoothly transitioned over to formula and then again to whole milk at 1 year, no problem.

2 years later I was pregnant with Kevin. During my pregnancy I trolled the baby boards and learned of my mistake in increasing Amanda's nipple size. I decided I would try and breastfeed Kevin longer, though 6 months was still my short-term goal with a year being my long-term. I also decided to deliver at a different hospital so I wouldn't have to face the same mean lactation consultant!

Kevin arrived 10 days early, rather quickly. He was also born in the middle of the night at 1:40am, though you couldn't call him "movie baby". He came out purple and silent and there was that initial "Oh my God" moment, which was quickly followed by a shrill cry and excited happiness. Kevin was almost the complete opposite of Amanda the first day. He was sleepy, lethargic and not at all interested in breastfeeding. I got him to latch a total of 3 times I think, and every time he would almost immediately fall asleep. The nurses at the hospital kept squeezing me to make sure I was making colostrum, and telling me not to worry, that some babies are so traumatized by birth they need a day or two to perk up and figure it out. By day 2 Kevin was doing much better, but still wasn't ravenous like Amanda was. And I avoided the lactation consultant like the plague. Every time they asked if I wanted one, I would vehemently answer "no!"

My milk came in by the time we left the hospital, and I thought for sure Kevin would start eating like Amanda did. But no. He is a very laid back baby and he will only eat when he's ready to! Since this was baby #2 I started a bedtime routine the day he came home, and implemented other things I knew worked with Amanda. This resulted in having to wake him every 3 hours those first 2 weeks until we went to the doctor. He also grew well, surpassing his birth weight of 6 lbs, 2 oz. by his first appt. The doc gave the 'ok' to let him sleep, and that night he slept 5 straight hours! I was in heaven! And to make matters better, my nipples weren't nearly as sore.

But, I still struggled with some of the same issues. Kevin also liked to eat every 2-3 hours and I found myself rushing out and rushing back from errands to make sure I was home in time for the next feeding. After a couple of weeks of this and gaining confidence in myself, I began to seek out nursing rooms, often known as family rooms. I discovered every Babies/Toys 'R Us has them. As well as most malls. I also found myself in several situations where there was none of this, and I had to nurse in public. I even had a situation with Mike yelling at me in front of total strangers for 'showing too much boob'. But I took it all in stride this time and decided f-you all, I am giving Kevin what is best for him!

I also knew my supply would take a dip when I went back to work, so I pumped. I pumped like a madwoman. I built up such a supply in the freezer that I decided to donate a good portion of it. I can now say I helped another infant thrive on my breastmilk! I took a full 17 weeks of maternity leave, and enjoyed every minute of it. I was actually a little sad when I went back to work this time.

At 5 months Kevin started picking up how much he ate. He went from 3-4 oz. per feeding to 5. I was only pumping 4 oz. per session because that's what he had been eating. I nearly panicked. Good thing I had freezer supply to back it up! I also started taking Fenugreek supplements and mother's milk tea. It gave just the little amount of boost I needed to continue to exclusively breastfeed him.

At 6 months we started solids. Again, complete opposite of Amanda. Kevin was not interested at all. Especially from me. I struggled to get him to open his mouth for any food. I purchased the book "Baby Led Weaning" and attempted to give him finger foods. He would have none of it. He would play with it, but nothing went in his mouth. At 7-8 months I was starting to get desperate. He started waking up at night and crying until he was fed. I attempted formula before bed, thinking maybe breastmilk was digesting too fast in his growing body and formula would help him sleep longer. Nope. He wouldn't take it. I mixed the two, but that didn't work either.

Finally at 10 months he suddenly "got" it. He started picking up food and putting it in his mouth. He started eating full meals. Whatever I put in front of him, he ate. He stopped taking any baby food from me at all (he will eat it at daycare though), and I stopped giving it to him. My supply also took a dip around this time (most likely due to lack of sleep & stress about producing enough), AND we had our freezer fail, so I lost the freezer stash I had left. I almost gave up. I almost threw in the towel and said oh well, I made it this far. But for some reason I didn't. I figured we had come this far, why not finish it out!?

So I added another pumping session on my way home from work. This, and the increased solid foods actually allowed me to re-add to my freezer stash. I was able to drop it about 3 weeks later when Kevin finally started sleeping through the night and my supply increased during the day.

I really feel like we cruised through the last 2 months, and it finally got "easy". I still had guilt about taking breaks at work to pump, but I have been very lucky with an understanding boss who never pressured me or made me feel bad for it.

And now I feel like I accomplished a lot, and it was so worth it. We're now at 12 months and I have officially dropped the pumping at work. Kevin still nurses in the morning and when we get home from daycare. I also pump once more before bed, which he gets before bed the next night. I'm still deciding if I want to keep this up for a little bit longer. Kevin seems to really enjoy nursing and sometimes claws at my shirt when we get home until I let him have some, even if he just ate an hour earlier. He took to cow's milk just fine (thank GOD), and our new problem is just getting him to take a sippy cup. The boy refuses any sippy and will only drink from a bottle! But that's another story for another day...


Susanne said...

This is a wonderful story Tricia. i wish I'd read something like that when i was just starting out with Jaron. It all sounds so similar. Except I didn't have a witch of a lactation consultant! I had none, which might have been worse. Congratulations. I'm very proud of you. I have other things to say... but I think I'll refrain or this comment will be a novel. You are a wonderful mother.

Tricia said...

Thanks Susanne! I have no problem with novels in my comments, so feel free :)