Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding...

WARNING: this post discusses breast feeding and mentions words like "breast" and "nipple" so if you don't want to read about it, don't read this post.

No one prepared me for what would happen when I had the baby. No one really could have. But I still feel like after reading blog after blog and book after book, someone could have mentioned a few of the things that come with having a baby that I wasn't prepared for.

I'm going to start with Breastfeeding. All the blogs and friends and books mentioned that breastfeeding was difficult, and that it wouldn't necessarily be easy, and I rolled my eyes and thought to myself that since it's a natural thing, we are biologically designed to breastfeed, how could it possibly be hard? Well, I was stupid and here's what I wish someone had told me...

Breastfeeding is Hard. Here are some of the things that might happen to you:

- Blood Blisters
- Calluses on your Nipples
- Cracked and Bleeding Nipples
- Lots of pain
- Crying
- Frustration
- It may take longer to get your milk to come in than your baby can handle
- Find a GOOD lactation specialist and seek her immediately, don't wait.. I wish I had had one for the initial feeding

When I came out of my C-Section I was determined to breastfeed immediately. I latched that baby right on. Unfortunately, I couldn't feel my breasts, thanks to that amazing epidural. So while I had no clue what was happening to me, my baby was sucking so hard, and had only latched to the tips of my nipples, to the point that I ended up with blood blisters, and cracked and bleeding nipples. By the time I got my feeling back I was in severe pain but had to continue to feed her every 2 hours. You want to talk about will power... it took all of mine to keep going. Yet I did.

By the time Sonja was 3 days old, my milk was still not in, and I spent that night with the most upset baby in the world. She cried, I couldn't soothe her, she refused to latch. The nurse told me I might have to supplement with formula until my milk came in. I was so frustrated and felt like a total failure. I wasn't able to give my baby the nourishment she needed. The next morning the pediatrician came in, told me she'd lost 10% of her birth weight and was down to 6 lbs 5 oz. I relented and we fed her a half ounce to and ounce (I can't remember because Jeff fed it to her) of formula. As sleep deprived and in pain as I was at the time, I was reaching the end of my tolerance. I felt like a failure and a bad mother, but relieved that as soon as she ate, she was instantly my happy, easy to put to sleep newborn again.

I asked for the lactation consultant to come. She came and said she thought my milk had come in over that horrible night, but that Sonja may have some aversion to feeding because she wasn't getting anything out of it before, so she had me pump to see what I could get. Sure enough pumping helped a lot, it helped open up some of those ducts that she hadn't been able to since she wasn't latching right. We then took the milk, put it in a syringe attached to a tube and then the lactation consultant taught me a proper latch and snuck the tube in when the baby latched. So we were able to ensure that Sonja was getting milk, because she was sucking it out of the tube. This allowed me to supplement her with my own breast milk instead of formula, and got rid of her aversion to breast feeding. I also learned the proper way to latch her and hold her for latching. It wasn't nearly as easy as I had originally believed it would be, but after only 2 days of supplementing and pumping, my milk was in full blast, and the poor girl no longer needed supplementation as I was practically fire hosing it down her throat. In 8 days she went from 6 lbs 5 oz to 7 lbs 10 oz! I am so proud of that double chin she's starting to grow... because I know it means I am doing my job as her mother, and getting her the nourishment she needs.

I never thought my nipples would heal but they have, and for the most part, breast feeding is no longer painful. It isn't always comfortable, but it is a lot better than the excruciating pain it was in the beginning.

I write this story out not to complain or even to vent, but in the hopes that my story may help another new mother, who may go through something similar, or need to hear that it gets better.. so here's my advice to new moms breastfeeding their babies:

- Make sure you get a good latch the FIRST TIME, and if you don't... get help. My favorite trick to getting the baby to open her mouth wide enough to get enough breast tissue in her mouth is to actually put my nipple at her nose and make her reach up for it, so her mouth opens wider.. it works really well

- If you are feeling pain, or your nipples are getting cracked or blood blisters, immediately seek help from the lactation consultant... and no matter what you believe they will heal, even if you keep breastfeeding, as long as you correct the latch.

- Do not give up. Seriously. The first week I wanted to quit... I was so tired, and those every 2-3 hour feedings totally SUCK at first, but now that I'm 2.5 weeks in, I am getting used to waking up, she sleeps slightly longer, and it's not nearly as depressing as it is the first week when you suddenly realize this is your new life and you have no way to escape being a vending machine every 2-3 hours whether you want to or not.

- Don't use a bottle if you can help it. As it was explained to me, babies learn to eat slowly and regulate their appetite by breast feeding. When they have a bottle it is a lot easier to get the milk, they eat a lot faster, and they don't learn to regulate their appetite. It will benefit them in the long run as far as obesity and weight control are concerned. That being said, if you can't get the baby to latch or you have problems, a low-flow bottle is the next best option and I had a friend who couldn't get her baby to latch who pumped religiously and bottle fed and there is NOTHING wrong with that.

- Pacifiers can be your friend, if you are smart about when to use them. I was told not to give Sonja a pacifier until she was at least 1 month old, but she has a great latch now and it hasn't effected her ability to nurse AT ALL, and when she has that pacifier in, she doesn't cry.. ever. We use it during diaper changes and when she's got bad gas pains that make her cry out. I ended up using it by accident after a nurse gave her one for her blood tests. She didn't cry at all because of it, and I decided if it made her that happy, she deserved to have it, even if she was only a few days old. I stopped using it when we had all those latching issues, and gave it back once she was breast feeding like a champion.

- I PROMISE it gets better. I actually enjoy breastfeeding my baby now, and it only took me 2 weeks to get there. At first I dreaded it, then I felt mildly depressed about it... and then suddenly when the nipples healed and the pain subsided, I realized that I was actually enjoying feeding my baby. I am able to soothe her when no one else can. I love her little milk drunk face when she's had enough, and the flood of Oxytocin that I get from feeding her is an added benefit. It really is a beautiful thing to be able to provide for your baby in such an important way. It's also nice to feel like I know what I'm doing, I have the hang of things, and no longer feel like a retard.

- Breastfeeding really does help you bond. I think it's one of the easiest ways to ensure your bond with your little one. The minute I hold her, she instantly relaxes. To be able to be a comfort to your baby makes you feel like a good mother, and makes you feel closer to your baby.

- Disposable breast pads are way better than reusable, unless you want to be environmentally friendly... I used reusable pads first.. they suck. They get soaked so much easier and keep your nipples all wet and uncomfortable and I had like 4 pair but you go through those in 1 day, so really.. make life a little easier on yourself and get disposable ones. I love mine, I use Lansinoh breast pads that stay dryer longer and adhere to your clothing/bra. And don't kid yourself, you will need breast pads.

- Invest in a good nursing bra.. make that at least 2 good nursing bras. The ones I originally bought barely fit once I got to the end of my pregnancy. My boobs are huge now. I wasn't a large chested woman before I got pregnant. During my pregnancy, they grew quite a bit, and now that they have milk in them... they are massive. Luckily I predicted their growth, and bought a decent bra, but I only had one.. and then I had a few crappy bras that sort of worked but were just not large enough to contain the monsters on my chest. So I just bought another bra, same brand (Bravado) in large (seriously I was a small before I got pregnant). You need at least two because if you are like me, you will get milk all over your bra at some point... the pad will slip or you'll soak through it. Just have another so that when you're washing one, you still have a backup. Otherwise you'll smell like breast milk constantly.. which I kind of do anyway.

- Use a Boppy! If it's the last thing you do, purchase a Boppy pillow. Holy Crap. I love mine. I can't sing it's praises enough. It just makes feeding time so much easier.

- Team work. My husband is amazing. No seriously, I have seen other men suck at life, and comparing Jeff to most men and stories I hear, I really hit the jack pot in so many ways. He helps me so much with feedings, and we now have it down to an art. He changes 99% of her diapers, and helps me out with burping her after she eats, and positioning her for feedings... he was there supporting me all the way, and especially when we had to use the tube and syringe, he was my hero... threading that stupid tube into her mouth like a pro. He gets up with me every time she cries at night and it makes life so much easier for me, mostly just because I don't feel so alone.

- Get a good breastfeeding cover. I wish I had done this sooner. At home, I just feed her without shame, I didn't even care when my mom was here. But then my dad came, and it wasn't the same.. so I ended up feeding her in a different room because throwing a blanket over our heads was too hot and uncomfortable... plus I had this huge fear the blanket would fly off. So I ordered a great cover that actually allows you to see the baby as you feed her but keep your head uncovered.. the neck bows out.

- It really does help you lose weight. In the first 2 weeks I lost 20 lbs. If you eat even marginally well, don't restrict your calories too much (millions of articles will tell you why so I won't lecture), the weight will come off quite nicely. It isn't the fastest process in the world, I still have 30-40 lbs I'd like to lose but... so happy to have already seen the initial 20 gone.

I hope this post can help someone.. not that anyone actually reads my blog.. but you never know. Either way I am so glad that I stuck to my guns, and kept breastfeeding my baby. I truly believe you have to have a strong will to stick to it past that first week, especially if you end up in as bad shape as I was. I have a new found respect for those moms out there who have made it through breastfeeding, and never complained. Here's to you!


CIrvine said...

Thanks for the realistic look into breast feeding, and great pics of your baby she s precious, good luck with mommyhood and keep powering through those sleepless nights :)

Elizabeth said...

I'm so glad for you guys! I've been a little (okay, a lot) depressed about my crappy phone reception and not being able to keep in contact with you on the phone and hear about all your triumphs and frustrations.

It really makes me happier than I can even describe to see you and Jeff as parents. You are an amazing mommy. Jeff is an amazing daddy. I can't wait to see how your family turns out. It makes me giddy to think about our kids being cousins and all the things we have in our future. =]

Aubrey Jane said...

I read your blog! This is a great post and will really help some new Mommas, I'm sure of it! So glad it's going well and that you are both healthy.