Friday, January 4, 2013

Eight Months of Breastfeeding (So Far)

This will be a post about, you guessed it, breastfeeding.  If you don't want to hear about it, move along...

So I've been meaning to write this post practically since my son was born.  I want to describe the journey we went through because not only do I forget some of the difficulties of the start, I want to show some people that have the same problems I had that I overcame them.  Breastfeeding is so easy to me now and I wouldn't do it any other way!  Warning, this is a long, semi- graphic post.

My son was born at 9:45 pm on a Monday and probably due to being vacuum- assisted he screamed bloody murder for a while after birth.  Definitely not what I had anticipated!  I tried putting him to the breast in the cradle hold but he would rather scream so I let him do his thing and would try again soon.  I knew it was important to try within the hour so he didn't get too sleepy.  Soon enough, when we were moved to our postpartum room, I laid him next to me in the side lying position and he went to town.  I could tell his latch was somewhat shallow and he wasn't swallowing but I felt that if he was hungry, he would suck harder and get some milk.  When he fell asleep, we put him in the hospital bassinet but he woke soon.  I tried to nurse him again but it didn't seem to help so I asked the nurse for help.  She swaddled him and helped me latch him on, side lying, the way I preferred.  I didn't put him back in the bassinet for the rest of the hospital stay, shhhhh.   I continued to nurse him this way into the next day and when the lactation consultant came in and asked how everything was going, I said great!  His latch was a bit shallow and he doesn't seem to be swallowing but he was practically latched 24/7, which I knew was normal.  I figured he was full of amniotic fluid and would get milk when he was ready.  I was very confident in breastfeeding.
Tuesday passed and Wednesday morning we prepared to go home.  The lactation consultant came in to make sure everything was going well and to make sure I felt comfortable nursing at home without professional help.  I said I felt great about it and my mother-in-law would be there to support me if I needed it.  She asked to see him nurse and as I showed her, she practically gasped and said he's not swallowing anything!  He probably hasn't eaten since he was born!  Well, he's been at the breast for days and is happy as can be.  I then asked her, since she was there, can she help me get him to latch more deeply?  She said she was going to get a nipple shield and a breast pump because we needed the shield to get him to latch and the pump to stimulate my supply.
Um, why?  I started crying because I didn't want to use either of them, I just want to nurse my baby naturally, plus he's been stimulating my supply for days!
When she came back (after ignoring my tears,) I nursed him with the nipple shield.  You need like 5 hands to nurse a newborn baby with one of those things!  You need to put the contraption on (really hard to begin with), cradle the baby, then manage to put it in his mouth without poking his eye out, plus in my case, pull his lower jaw down to get him to latch deeper.  He nursed fine and then she said I needed to pump both sides for 15 minutes with the hospital grade pump.  She also said I can feed him the bottle after a feed "as dessert."  Wow!  Great advice for a first time breastfeeding mom!  Not.  After five minutes on each side, I filled the little 2- ounce bottles.  I asked my nurse Lindsay if I had to pump for the remaining 10 minutes and she said, wow!  Don't tell the other moms here you already have that much milk!
We finished packing up our stuff (that we brought WAY too much of) and I wanted to nurse him one more time with help before we left.  I sat down with the "Breast Friend" pillow, the nipple shield and my son and cried again.  I asked Lindsay to help me and when she saw my tears, she asked why I was crying.  I said I hated the nipple shield and pumping.  She asked why I was doing it then.  I said I needed help getting a deeper latch and she told me to get scrunch up my nipple like a sandwich and put it in there!  And wouldn't you know it, it worked!  While I continued to nurse him (in the football hold), Lindsay must have told the lactation consultant I was upset because the LC came back in and said she "consulted with another IBCLC" and they discussed how much I pumped and how the baby must really have stimulated my supply so I didn't need to pump anymore.  Soooo, I was right the whole time?  And my nurse who is not an IBCLC helped me more than anyone?  Great!  All that heartbreak for nothing!
Once we got home, nursing went great... for a couple days.  When he wasn't sleeping, he was nursing and when he wasn't nursing, he was sleeping.  But I didn't care, I was a mommy now and it was boosting my supply.  But between the constant nursing and the hospital grade pumping, on Thursday night when I woke up to use the restroom, wowza, those weren't there when I went to sleep!  I had SO much milk for weeks.  It may not seem like such a bad thing, especially to those who had supply issues, but it is really not as good as it seems.  It is painful and makes it hard for the baby to latch when they're so hard.  Plus, with an oversupply you are more likely to get plugged ducts or even mastitis.  Before each feeding I would try to pump with a manual pump the smallest amount possible in order for my son to be able to latch.  Or pump just a bit to be able to sleep.  I ended up with maybe 50 ounces in the first week just barely pumping to get the edge off of the fullness.  That is not normal!  In addition to the oversupply, I have (yes, present tense) an overactive letdown that caused my son to choke on the flow when I had a letdown.  He has gotten used to it and it doesn't faze him now but for the first six weeks, he would pull off every single time I had a letdown, soaking him and me in milk.  To this day I will leak through my shirt if I have a letdown and don't put pressure on my nipples.
I also depended on my Boppy pillow while nursing if we were not laying down.  I would only do the football hold because it was the only way he would latch well, and that wasn't even guaranteed.  The only guaranteed position was side lying and I wasn't going to lay down at Target.  This caused stress when I went anywhere because I was so nervous wondering if he would latch.  When I had my pillow it was usually fine but if I forgot my pillow or he was being particular, I would almost cry.  I don't remember at what point I was able to nurse him in the cradle hold, but it wasn't any longer than six weeks.  I remember hearing that before or at six weeks, breastfeeding became easy so look to then for the light at the end of the tunnel.  And one day before my son was six weeks old, I realized breastfeeding was easy.  I no longer had to pump.  He didn't unlatch at a letdown.  I could nurse him in the cradle hold, which meant easier nursing in public.  No sore nipples (that only lasted a few days and was manageable.)  I do still leak or would and I wear nursing pads to work still.

I negotiated with my employer to give me an extra half hour for my break so I can go home and nurse my son, instead of pumping (employers are legally obligated to provide a mother time to pump up to 12 months in California, and many other states.)  I left milk (from pumping in the early days) just in case but he only took a few bottles in the early days of me going back to work.  He began to wait for me to come home on my break at about three and a half months, a couple weeks after I went back to work.  Now he waits for me and might eat some other foods while I work.  Interestingly, although he would nurse for comfort of all kinds, when I went back to work, he cannot be soothed just by nursing.  He actually wouldn't take a bottle for a while when I went out a few times for more than a couple hours.  Thankfully he ate some food and stayed in a good mood until I came home to nurse him. 
A couple weeks after I went back to work, coincidentally I think, I got a plugged duct.  I was so worried it was going to cause a bigger problem like mastitis.  It developed on my day off so I paid a lot of attention to it.  I nursed the baby on that side a lot, the best way to unplug it, I pumped but not too much to increase my supply, I massaged the spot, ran a wide toothed comb down the area and took a hot bath and soaked it.  I went to sleep that night with it still there, nervous it would get infected, but sometime during the night it disappeared, thank goodness.
Besides that plugged duct, I had some random soreness on my right side a couple weeks ago that HURT.  It lasted about a week but I would curl my toes while he nursed but just dealt with it like I had in the early days, continuing to nurse and applying lanolin.
Even with those two incidents, nursing is a breeze.  There is no end in sight and my supply is right where it needs to be.  When he has rough nights, nursing will put him back to sleep (knock on wood).  I don't have to make bottles in the middle of the night, or ever.  Since we cosleep I can be lazy and just roll over to switch sides.  I don't have to pack bottles and formula when we go out but I do try to find a quiet room.  I am (for the most part) completely comfortable nursing in public but I have a very curious child that pulls off to look at everything.  Even though he's working on teeth #5 and 6, that's rarely a problem and I have a finger ready to save myself.  Side lying is still his favorite position and mine, since he is SO distractable.  The vast majority of the times he nurses, he is nursing to sleep side lying.
I love it and it makes us both happy.  I love when he pulls off to smile at me or when I make him feel better by nursing.  Since we are both enjoying it, we'll continue until who knows how long.
Sorry for the long post!  It's for my reference too and I hope it helps someone someday!

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