Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adventures in Breastfeeding

When you’re pregnant often times you are asked if you plan to breastfeed after the baby is born. My answer was always OF COURSE! I couldn’t imagine not. While I don’t have any real qualms against bottle feeding, I personally can’t understand why you would want to do something that is proven to be the best possible food source for your child.

I can now say that while I still feel strongly that everyone should at least try to breastfeed because some breast milk is better than no breast milk, it is a very challenging task. Through this process I have often thought how did women do this thousands of years ago? 

I have unfortunately come across many road blocks when it comes to breast feeding my precious baby boy but I am proud that I have stuck it out. Also I must say that I’m so grateful that we live in a large city where there are many support groups around for nursing mothers.

My troubles unfortunately began right after he was born. WARNING might be TMI. During the first few days Lincoln was a very sleepy baby. I personally think that this is because my labor was so long that he was just worn out. I know that babies are really made so that once they are born they really don’t need nourishment for a few days because often times it takes 4-5 days for a mother’s milk to come in. Well Lincoln was just so sleepy that he really was just not interested in nursing at all. I was having to wake him and try to get him to latch. But the problem was that my nipples are apparently really shallow so they weren’t big enough to get him to suck down on I guess. This is when the lactation consultant had me use a nipple shield.It’s a little plastic nipple that I have to put on before feeding him. It wasn't too bad, it was really just one more obstacle to try and overcome while also trying to tackle learning to feed a newborn. I don't recommend it. 

The next hurdle was that because he was so sleepy and wouldn’t really nurse they had to check his glucose level. Well the passing level was 45 and wouldn’t you know it he was 44. This meant that he had to have his glucose checked before every feeding and he had to be above 50 for 4 times. He was great for the first 3 then on the last one his foot was really cold and they checked it and he was 38. I about burst into tears. See they had to prick is poor little foot each time! The nurse I think felt sorry for me, so she said she would try a trick and warm his foot with a wash cloth and try again. This time he was 58!!! Halleluiah!!

The next hurdle was that Lincoln was a little jaundiced. Since my milk wasn’t in yet he wasn’t getting enough “bulk” to be able to have enough dirty diapers to get rid of the billirubin. The part that I don’t get is that he was having double the amount of dirty diapers than recommended but apparently that wasn’t enough. So we were “forced” to supplement with formula. This about broke my heart because I felt that I was a bad mom for not being able to give my baby everything he needed. 

They check the bilirubin levels first by a little device that reads it on their forehead, when that was high they had to check a serum level which is done by pricking his foot and getting 1-2 mls of blood! Since they were battling his levels this was done every 6 hours for about 24 hours. It broke this new mom's heart!

Luckily by the time we were about to leave his levels were low enough for us to go home, but we still had to come back to have his serum level checked a day later. But at least we were able to take our baby home.

Once we were home the trouble didn’t stop there. During the first week he nursed well, about every 2-3 hours. I had an abundance of milk once it came in. In fact he was back up to his birth weight by 5 days and we no longer had to supplement…YAY.

The trouble came around week 2 when my mother in law was here to help with Lincoln. Her and I went for a walk. As we came home I started to get a pounding headache. Within a few hours my skin was like pins and needles, it turned out I had mastitis! You can read all about that HERE.

After the mastitis it hurt to nurse for a little while but it wasn’t too bad. I made sure to continue to nurse Lincoln on the affected side like normal. Then around week 3 Lincoln began to grow extremely fussy especially in the evenings. Now I know that with breastfeeding your “supply” diminishes in the evenings, the trouble I had is that the mastitis left my supply already really low.  So consequently Lincoln was hungry all the time I think, this truly is just speculation since I don’t really know why he was so fussy in the evenings. I didn’t want to supplement because he needed to nurse to get my supply back up and if I fed him with a bottle that would only further help to diminish it. The reason I felt ok with this was because I knew he was gaining weight so he was getting enough milk to gain weight but not enough to truly satisfy him, or so I thought. The pediatrician told me I was doing a great job breastfeeding and not to worry that he was probably just a fussier baby, but looking back I truly think he was just hungrier in the evenings.

Well during the weeks that followed the mastitis I truly know my supply was less because I when I would pump I would barely get ½ an ounce when before I was getting nearly 3. Also I never felt full on that side anymore, and he would nurse for probably 35 minutes on the side and STILL be hungry and need to nurse on the other side. But If I nursed on the unaffected side first he would always be 10 minutes and done.

Needless to say around when Lincoln was 4 weeks old was a really frustrating time. With all the road blocks I was seeming to encounter I was getting really frustrated with constantly having to feed Lincoln because he was obviously growing and my supply was struggling. What I did to help overcome this was attend breastfeeding support groups. I am truly grateful for living in such a big city where the breastfeeding support groups are abundant. I have been to SEVERAL. One week in fact I went to 4.

The hospital groups I think are the most helpful. The lactation consultants will help and answer any questions you will have, but what they do is allow you to weigh the baby, nurse, then weigh the baby again to see how much he is getting when they nurse. They also are right there next to you looking to see if the baby is latching correctly and offering tips on everything on how to get them to latch, or tips on pumping when you return to work. 

I’ve also been to La Leche League meetings. These are really helpful just to have support from other women. It’s nice to hear their struggles to know you aren’t alone and also to able find out helpful hints on different parts of parenting and breastfeeding.

Through all of these meetings I learned a lot and really gained confidence in my abilities to provide my child nourishment.  Nursing is a lot about supply and demand. When your child goes through a growth spurt they will require more and will ultimately nurse longer to have your body produce more milk. The same can be true when your supply is lower in one side versus another due to something like mastitis. I was able to bring my supply back up but it still isn’t where the unaffected one is.

I know that my supply is getting back up really because he is happier in the evening, and I can feel my breast filling. But I really know because around week 4 when I went to the breast feeding support group meetings he was barely getting .02 oz on the affected side while he would get 3 in the unaffected side. And today when I went to the meeting he got 3 oz!!! YAY!!! 

I have actually ended up taking an herbal supplement called fenugreek to help even further. I take it in the evenings and it really helps my supply in the evenings to allow him to eat more and has in turn let him start to sleep through the night!!!

All in all my struggle with breastfeeding will probably continue but for the time being we seem to have overcome a hurdle…just in time for me to go back to work…eek! Due to me going back to work my next hurdle I'm sure is going to be whether or not I have enough milk stored for when I'm at work. Since I'm going to be working mainly nights this may make things a little easier since he will only really eat max 3 times while I'm gone, and eventually end up being less than that. But we shall see.

For the time being my biggest struggle is that I am trying to ween him from the nipple shield. So far it's going ok, my nipples are just really sore. So we will see. Hopefully it will be a smooth transition!

I also do have to say that although it has been a huge struggle to be breastfeeding. I’m really glad I stuck with it and am extremely grateful for everyone who has helped me through this struggle and offered support and been just simply amazing to me.  My efforts, struggles, tears and frustrations have paid off. I have a happy healthy and growing baby on my hands and for that I’m truly blessed!

1 comment:

  1. Hang in there! Hopefully things will continue to improve for you and breastfeeding. I just love the bond that it builds with your child. Avonlea is at that age where she is starting to grab and hold on to my shirt, or rub my chest. I just love it. She looks up at me and smiles and it just melts my heart! After 3 kids, its still just as special as with the first! :)