Friday, March 2, 2012

Baby Talk: Feeding Babies (part 2)

This is a new series called Baby Talk to share our experiences with Baby Girl. I know this could get us into some dicey territory because babies and child rearing bring up all sorts of hot button issues. But this non-confrontational mama is not trying to start an argument, just share our experiences and observations. Please join us for a discussion of alternatives.

Baby Girl the day she turned one month old

Feeding Babies (part 1)

Do you have a baby at home? If yes, congratulations! Were you able to breastfeed your baby for a few days? a few weeks? a few months? Congratulations! No matter how long you were able to breastfeed, your baby reaped some great rewards.

I had heard while I was pregnant that breastfeeding can be tough. I didn't listen to these gentle warnings. I thought it would be easy for me.  I guess I was pretty full of myself  because I felt like I was doing everything "right" and it would pay off. I walked for at least 40 minutes per day, I took prenatal yoga once per week, I ate well, and had natural child birth. That confidence came back to bite me. I had the hardest time breastfeeding! When I was struggling, I looked on the internet to find accounts of people with similar experiences and I couldn't find one. So I thought I would share my experiences with you. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, you are not alone. If you decided to give it up, I understand. No judgement.

When pregnant women tell me that they are nervous about labor, I jump right in to give them a pep talk. I tell them that I had 34 hours of labor, and delivered a 9.5 pound baby without any drugs. They can do it! It hurts, but the pain is manageable. I highly endorse staying active, taking a birthing class and prenatal yoga class. If you stay calm, work on breathing, and doing your pain coping techniques - you can do it!

If a pregnant woman tells me that she is nervous about breastfeeding (this is much more rare), I hem and haw and try to decide what to say. Usually I land on something like - it was really hard for me, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

Baby Girl had a strong personality from the start. When she was only 12 hours old, I could look ahead and see the battles we would have when she became a teenager. She woke up starving, screaming and upset, but she wouldn't open her mouth wide enough to latch on and she locked her arms to keep her distance from me. By the time I got home from the hospital, both of my nipples were infected and I dreaded each time I had to feed her. When she was four days old, we called in an expert. Freda Rosenfeld is famous in Brooklyn. (I discovered later that she had even been written up in the NY Times.) I told Freda that she was really strong willed and described all of our issues.  Freda didn't like the term strong willed, but she did admit that Baby Girl was stubborn. Freda said that she was one of the most stubborn babies she had ever seen, but reassured me that "stubborn people get things done." (that phrase has become a joke in our family) I was both reassured and disappointed by this. I was glad that it wasn't my imagination, but I was hoping Freda would be able to instantly make things better.

There was no quick fix (like so many things in life). My body took its mission of making food for Baby Girl very seriously - it seemed to think it needed to produce milk for a whole village. My nipples took a long time to heal, I developed mastitis, had blocked ducts, and was engorged from over milk production.  Luckily through  it all Baby Girl was healthy and growing like a weed.

The biggest problem of all for me was that it hurt each time she latched on. Really hurt! I had to do the breathing exercises I used in labor to help me work through the pain! I think it was partly due to the engorgement and partly due to me being very sensitive. I read that it would get better somewhere between 3 and 12 weeks. My pain and engorgement started to subside after 13 weeks. Right when things started getting better thrush set in (read about our saga with thrush here). By six months it was finally easy and problem free. Am I glad I stuck with it? Yes. I think it is best for her health. But it was hard! For me it was worse than 34 hours of labor.

What about you? Did you breastfeed your baby? How did it go? Did your baby latch right on? Was it smooth sailing right from the start? or was it worse than labor for you too?

This post is part of Fight Back FridayMonday Mania., Gratituesday, and Real Food Wednesday.


JDaniel4's Mom said...

I had trouble with latching too. JDaniel had a tight tongue that later required surgery. We had some painful moments.

Rebecca Subbiah said...

good for you I am breast feeding my second child

Martianne said...

All three of my children had latching issues and required much patience, help and prayer before learning to nurse "normally" Mastitis and other issues also occurred. But, like you, I am glad I stuck with it and offered my children this natural start, however unnatural it seemed at the start.

Marishannon said...

My first son had a horrible latch and I had a low supply. There were times that I was in tears because it was just not going well. But I stuck with it and am still nursing at 34 months. I am also currently nursing my 9 month old and had no problems from the start (of which I am truly grateful!).

Dottie said...

Oh bless your heart! I'm so glad you stuck with it though. Although its been 18 years since I last breastfed my baby. I remember it well. My first child didn't latch on well at first and as he cried, I was in tears too, thinking my baby hated me! (I was such a drama queen, and dealing with post partum depression). Once I calmed down and he figured it out, it went well after that. Stopped by through heavenly homemakers gratituesday linkup.

Emily said...

I fully intended to BF but the best laid plans... My oldest daughter was born seven weeks early after my water broke for unknown reasons. Despite the fact that the NICU staff was very supportive we really struggled. I pumped for months but never was able to produce enough milk for her. The lactation consultants think this was probably due to the stress of her hospital stay and all of her health issues. We eventually made the decision to just use formula when we hit the point where I couldn't produce even half of what she needed to eat each day. It was a guilt-filled agonizing decision, but now my daughter is 2 1/2 and is perfectly happy and healthy.
Now I'm pregnant with number 2 and again I'm fully intending to BF. I keep thinking that it has to be easier if I can have a full-term baby, but I'm trying really hard to keep my expectations realistic.

City Share said...

I'm so happy that your daughter is healthy and happy now. Best of luck with pregnancy #2.

Anonymous said...

I've nursed 2 sons. Thankfully nursing went pretty well for me. I joined a Nursing support group at the hospital where I delivered my son. The ladies there were so helpful. Plus I made great friends who were breast feeding too. I nursed my first son until he was 18 months and I was 4 months pregnant. I'm still nursing my 1 year old. I always joked that I have enough milk for a village. I only had a hand pump but could pump 10 ounces per side in only a few minutes when I was "full"
The down side was I had difficult(but healthy) pregnancys. Both my boys were really low the whole time and did some damage on me. I spent months in pelvic floor physical therapy and switched to a plant based diet and I'm now much better.

suzyhomemaker said...

This is a great article. I am currently breastfeeding part time. My daughter was in the NICU for 2 weeks and so I never really transitioned to full time breastfeeding. Now I do not make enough.

I had the same thoughts as you. Everyone says it is hard but it will be easy for me I am sure.
It is the hardest thing ever and there were so many times where I thought, ok one more week, that's it. But I kept going and although I don't make enough for a feeding, I do feel like the whole thing is easier now after 4 months. Maybe because I just decided to be ok with giving formula and I told myself to do my best breastfeeding. So I took the pressure off myself.

I am trying to put her on my breast before each bottle, hopefully to increase supply, but even today I was so sore that I had to skip BF for the morning feed.

My SIL went to a BF class and ended up only doing it for 4 days. My sister couldn't. I have another cousin who managed only 2 months. I think everyone thinks it will come easy then reality sets in and unless you go to support groups, it is so easy to give up.

Wendi and Matt said...

Boy can I somewhat relate!! My son is almost done nursing(he's 2 this month) He's down to 1 nursing. I'm so proud of myself and what we have accomplished! The road was much like your but a bit different; refusal to nurse due to allergies, tongue tie, clogged duct, over supply, under supply(GAH!!!), gas and more gas. Oh I hated nursing but after 4-5 months the waves cleared and it was much better! Nursing is work but its so rewarding and SO beneficial for both mama and the babe.

Congrats on your survival :)

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