Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

This week is when we celebrate the beautiful & amazing gift of breastfeeding. Back in April, I believe it was my 3rd or 4th post, I shared my story about breastfeeding my children. Reposting it today in honor of WBFW. Three cheers for boobies! 🙂 
Weapons of Mass Lactation
During my first pregnancy, I read up on breastfeeding because it was a chapter in one of my pregnancy books, but I didn’t realize just how much WORK was involved until I gave birth. WOW. I was overwhelmed. I had been in labor for 60 hrs, pushed for 3 hrs, the last 30 min with a vacuum attached to my baby’s head & ended up with a c-section; my baby was nearly 10 lbs. I could barely sit up, let alone walk, and now these vicious nurses (we later dubbed the breastfeeding Nazis) were pulling & tugging at my sore, engorged boobs, forcing it into my new baby’s mouth every 30 min. If I had visitors, OH WELL, they were getting a show. Baby sleeping? Too bad! The days I spent in the hospital were painful and I felt like I was in some sort of evil prison. I couldn’t WAIT to go home so I didn’t have to deal with the torture! I did talk to a lactation consultant right before I was discharged, but she wasn’t very supportive either. She watched her latch, and she did pretty well for the lactation consultant. Told me to keep doing what I was doing. Whatever that was…

Five weeks later, I wasn’t enjoying nursing because it was still painful. My daughter wasn’t enjoying it either. In fact, when she would latch, she would nurse for a few minutes, then scream bloody murder. I noticed her tongue was white, so we looked it up in the books to discover it was thrush. We called our pediatrician and talked to a nurse who wasn’t helpful, saying thrush shouldn’t cause any pain at all. And if we wanted to be sure it was thrush, we should scrape some of the white off, and if her tongue bleeds, it’s thrush. WTF? Yeah, I really wanted to scrape my newborn’s tongue and make it bleed. And why were her & I in so much pain during our nursing sessions? (note: when thrush is severe, it does cause pain in some women & infants) They told me to pick up a cream to put on my nipples to make the infection go away and to give her sterilized bottles of expressed breastmilk for a few days until the infection went away. Ugh. I felt like a massive failure. I cried watching my baby take a bottle. Several days passed, and it looked like the infection had gone away; we tried nursing again for a few days, and the thrush came back. This went on for a few weeks. I got so sick of the pain and constantly having to pump, the mental anguish was taking a toll and my milk supply seemed to be dwindling so I gave up. I didn’t have much support. My husband was supportive of ME and my decisions, but not necessarily the breastfeeding. I love him, but I needed one trusted person to encourage me to give it another month; he was really the ONLY form of breastfeeding support I had at that point. My first nursing experience, not a positive one, lasted 8 weeks.

I don’t have many regrets in my life, but this is one of them. Formula was expensive, could not duplicate breastmilk, and the guilt I felt was awful. I felt jealous seeing other mothers enjoying a nursing session with their babies over the next few years. My determination to breastfeed my next baby for a minimum of 6 months was strong.

Before I gave birth to baby #2, I sought out support from my cousin who was now a la leche league leader. We lived about 2 hrs away, but between email & phone calls, I was able to get feedback, support & answers to all the questions I had. She was amazing. Not only did she give me excellent advice, she helped me to finally get past the guilt I felt for not being able to breastfeed my 1st born longer. First of all, I did try. Any breastmilk you give your baby is better than none. She also told me that thrush is an extremely difficult thing to overcome. The only thing I could’ve done was take an extended break, pump daily for a few weeks and see what happened from there. I don’t know if I would’ve had the patience for that.

With the advice I took from my cousin, I made some changes. I used washable breast-pads. They breathed better & were less prone to causing infections because they didn’t have a plastic backing like the disposable pads I used with my 1st, and were better for the environment. I made sure to keep artificial nipples away from my baby. No bottles or pacifiers for the first 6 weeks, until breastfeeding was established. Yes, it can take that long for you & your baby to get comfortable. I made sure that my no bottle/no formula/no pacifier rule was specified in writing for the hospital before she was born too. This was especially important because my 2nd was born with wet lung and spent the first 24 hrs in the NICU. I also had a breast-pump delivered to my hospital room immediately after she was born. Breastmilk can take several days to come in, and pumping does speed up the process. Babies do not need much the first several days because they can survive on stored body-fat, so what you do produce is plenty. Since mine wouldn’t be latching on immediately, I really did need to use a pump. When the NICU nurses fed her the small amount of liquid gold I did get out, they used a tiny feeding tube attached to a finger instead of a bottle. One final small, but important change: always wearing a nursing bra. I didn’t when I was in the hospital the first time, because I was in bed, and never wore a bra in bed before I had children. Well, the support you need from people is as important as the physical support you need for your boobies, it helps the baby properly latch.

The small changes had a very positive effect. When they finally brought me my newborn, 1 day & a couple hours old, I grabbed my boppy, took her in my arms and she latched on like a pro; our 1st nursing session lasted at least an hr. I was amazed, relieved and ecstatic! I met with a lactation consultant, mainly because I had set it up before she even got out of the NICU, but it was unnecessary. The LC came in, gave me a pat on the back and her phone number in case I did have questions, but told me that the way she was nursing, she didn’t anticipate issues.

Did issues arise? Of course; every baby is unique. My oldest had no problems going from breast to bottle, but my youngest loved nursing so much, she rejected a bottle when we tried at 6 weeks… and never took a bottle until she was about 8 mos old (and believe me, everyone but me TRIED). It made it challenging to go anywhere without her, but I dealt with it. She started sleeping through the night at 2 mos (formula-fed babies sleeping better is a myth, my 1st born didn’t sleep through the night until she was 14 mos). Even when I would do a night-feeding, it was so much easier than having to get up to warm a bottle. The hubs would change her, then pass her to me in bed, I would nurse her, she would eat while falling back to sleep within 10-15 min; rarely had a night where we had to walk the floors with her like we did with our oldest. I never got out of bed unless I had to use the bathroom. I thought it would be challenging to deal with my oldest while I nursed my youngest, but it really wasn’t. She understood that Mommy had to feed her sister. The other advantage to this was that it forced me to sit down, relax and enjoy my baby several times a day. No cleaning up, doing laundry, dishes, etc while daddy fed her a bottle. It really helped the hubs & I to balance the responsibilities and helped us to focus on what was truly important. Let’s face it, once you have 2 kids, you don’t give a shit if the house is clean, because it never is.

Because things came pretty easy the 2nd time around, I didn’t experience much pain at all. Yes, the first couple of weeks my nipples did go through an adjustment period. That is NORMAL. If you are still experiencing pain at 4-5 weeks, this is NOT normal and you should seek help from a nurse or lactation consultant. You also need to trust your body. You just created life; creating milk is a natural, vital stage for any mammal. The human race would not have survived if we gave up on nursing days after giving birth because we believed our milk supply was low. There are ways to increase your supply if you believe it is low, but the best way to increase the milk flow is to nurse nurse nurse! If the baby won’t latch as often as you feel is necessary, you can pump to increase your supply.

I am not in the position to judge anyone who doesn’t feel nursing is right for them. I do feel that many women lack the positive support they need. It is so crucial for every mom to get the facts, and I do believe that unless you or your baby have health issues preventing you from nursing (baby losing too much weight, mom having surgery that affected the milk ducts, etc) every woman should try for at least 6 weeks, for many reasons. I had such a positive experience the 2nd time around. I avoided post-partum depression and lost most of the baby weight within 6 weeks; my baby slept better, and we were both generally happier and more laid back. She didn’t avoid ear infections, but that was really the only major health issue we had to deal with, and that could’ve been genetic & unavoidable. I did start to lose support from my loved ones around her 1st birthday, but since we were both still enjoying nursing, I didn’t see any reason to stop, until we had a trip to Disney scheduled for my oldest – without our youngest. So, between 18-20 mos, she was gradually weaned, which was bittersweet.

I could go on about nursing in public, pumping at work, extended nursing, how great it is for the environment, etc., but I think I’ve rambled on long enough. I understand breastfeeding being a very personal issue for many. In the end, you need to do what’s right for you. Trust your instincts. Trust your body. Seek out people that DO support you; ignore, or hell, just screw anyone who isn’t supporting you or your decisions. Who has time for people like that?! 

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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