Gasp!!! Did she just type that in her title?? No!! There is absolutely no way a mama who lives naturally and toxin free, grows a garden, cloth diapers, and composts for God’s sake, would have the nerve to talk negatively about breastfeeding!!
Well blog world, that is definitely what I’m going to do. No I’m not some lady who tried to breastfeed for a day and decided it was to hard or hurt and moved on to formula. I fought the hardest fight I’ve ever fought in my life and made it 18 months with Mr. Precious. I hope to make it as far with Mr. Blue Eyes as well. However I never set my plans in stone. Because like life and childbirth, breastfeeding hardly ever goes as planned.
And for all of you Mamas that naturally produced gallons of liquid gold and your babies miraculously latched on perfectly the first time, that is awesome!! I am so happy for you. But unfortunately it doesn’t always go that way.
Since this is such an important topic for me and has been such an important part of my life, I will be breaking this up into a couple posts. I hope I can keep your attention that long :).
Breastfeeding experience #1 (Mr. Precious)
Well we have to start out with a little of his birth story to give you an idea of what kind of little person we are dealing with here. He put me through 30 hours of labor, and almost a c-section before finally flipping around from sunny side up and allowing me to dialate 4 cm all in about an hour!!
To say we were exhausted after the birth is an understatement. There are things I don’t even remember happening the day after he was born because I was so delirious.
The entire day after he was born seemed to go ok. He was your typical sleepy newborn and I was your typical first time mama, constantly worried that I needed to do this and that right and if my sweet little bundle was ok.
Then night fell……..and the screaming began. I’m not talking about the usual newborn fussy cries or the witching hour shrieks that are typical. I’m talking about non-stop, top of his lungs until he needed to gasp for breath, screaming for hours. Even the amazing nurses were concerned but could only come to the conclusion that he was just so unsatisfied with anything and wanted more than just the colostrum that I was producing.
So we waited it out. Pacing the floor all night. Swaddling and re-swaddling. Trying to nurse as much as I could to get my milk to come in.
The next day we would get little breaks here and there when he would finally pass out but in between that we went back to hearing non stop ANGRY screams. He would latch on and nurse great and then when the little bit of yellow colostrum goodness ran out, it was back to sheer terror again.
Even when the nurses would change shift, the new nurse would come in and say “oh you’re the intense little guy I heard about”. Yes my child was known on the mother/baby floor!!
The next night was following suit to the first and I was really starting to worry. I had kept a level head up to this point because I know babies cry, I know it takes a while for milk to come in, and I knew “this too shall pass” (fyi-please don’t use this line on new mamas. It really makes me want to gag and then punch someone in the face when I hear it. Even if it’s being said to someone other than myself and even if it is true).
But this had been going on so long. I was already feeling the inadequacy that would begin to flow over me in the weeks to come.
Then in walked Janet. The night shift nurse. She had been with us the night before so she knew what we were going through.
She finally suggested we give him some donor milk. YES!!! I was up for anything that could make him feel better. So I nursed him and then we gave him a tiny amount of donor milk (Thank heavens for any Mama who donates Her liquid gold. You truly are life savers!!). And then………..silence………..peace………..calm!!
We all got a couple of hours of much-needed sleep. When baby woke up he was hungry but had a calm about him. I was so happy. A few hours into the next day I started feeling the newest sensation that goes along with the post natal experience. My boobs were starting to swell and even feel a little dense. Not much but it was a hopeful start to my milk coming in. My OB came in and checked me out and was excited to say we could take our new bundle home.
I can’t even tell you what a blessing our OB and hospital was. They are very progressive with breastfeeding and sometimes I wonder if I would have even made it the first night if I had them offering me formula right away. Instead they took every other avenue first.
So back to my long-winded story……….we got to go home!!!
The first night was everything to be expected with a first time Mama and Daddy. We laid him in his pack and play that was next to our bed and just stared at him. Daddy Bear said “he looks so small, can’t he just sleep next to us for one night?” So we both swooped in and laid him beside me (Yes, with all the pillows and blankets out of the way. Please don’t send me hate mail about how unsafe we are for letting our baby sleep with us or statistics on infant fatalities).
Of course we were up every couple of hours with feedings and diaper changes but it was everything I expected. I didn’t feel like I needed any help at all. We had it under control.
The next morning was another kick in the stomach. We woke up to the same screechy cries that we had in the hospital. Again for hours and then he would sleep for a bit and then be at it again.
This went on for days. All while I was still waiting for my milk to “officially” come in. I had always heard my mom talk about how her little “B’s” turned into “DD’s” when her milk came in. Nothing like that was happening. All I would feel was a little bit swollen and then it would go away after he ate.
Then we had his first well check. I told the Dr. Everything that was going on and she said it really sounded like he had some reflux and to cut dairy out of my diet (Well shit!! There went all my freezer meals that I made!! Of course they were all filled with dairy!!). I was willing to do anything. At this point my nipples were so bad off that I didn’t know what to do with them either. I literally had to nurse him as much as I could and then pump to keep stimulation up so they never got a break. They were cracked, bleeding, and growing these horribly painful puss pimples (sorry for the TMI but I’m laying it all out there).
The pediatrician wanted to see us back in a few days for a weight check And to see if he was still showing signs of reflux.
So the next few days only escalated. More screaming, back arching, constantly nursing. The day of our next appointment was a nightmarish day.
First we had his follow-up pediatrician appointment and then a lactation consultant appointment.
The ped appointment was awful. He hadn’t gained any weight and actually lost a couple more ounces. She confirmed that he had silent reflux (I will do a full post on this. It needs much more description than I can fit into this post). She also told us that I needed to start supplementing with formula. I left the appointment very disappointed. I felt like we were at the beginning of the end of breastfeeding and I was devastated. I told my husband I was not giving any formula until the lactation consultant said it was needed. Now I love and trust our pediatrician but it’s well-known that the easiest thing to do would have been to put him on formula. That is something that she is an expert on. The lactation consultant is an expert on breastfeeding and doing everything in your power to continue. That is why I was waiting for her consent.
When we got to the office I was greeted by a quirky little lady with an incredible maternal way about her. She sat us down and looked me straight in the eye and said “I know this question is going to sound weird but I ask every fist time patient this – Do You Want To Breastfeed Your Baby?”
Now I am not a person who ever got hormonal or weepy during either of my pregnancies. I never had melt downs over dealing with crying babies or no sleep or being overwhelmed. But in that very minute, that question resonated with me. I lost it. It was all I could do to not sob in her chest about how truly, madly, deeply I wanted to breastfeed my baby. Hell I didn’t even realize how bad I wanted it until that moment. Ask my best friend, when I was pregnant I constantly told her how worried I was that I wouldn’t like it or want to do it. And yet here I was, lost in emotions that I didn’t even realize that I had. I had so many love emotions for my baby mixed with so many hate emotions for my body and its lack of being capable of doing what it was “meant” to do!!
So with her motherly touch, the Lactation Consultant did an exam. Mr. Precious had a “beautiful latch”. She had come to the conclusion that his silent reflux, my lack of production and his “intense” demeanor were the perfect storm that was creating my breastfeeding tornado.
She also addressed the white little bumps that were growing on my nipples. “Oh those are blebs!! Totally normal. All I have to do is take a needle and lance them and they will go away” she explained as if it was an everyday occurrence and no big deal.
Now I’m sure as most fellow mamas remember, the first week or two post pardum is full of being poked, prodded, fondled, felt up, seen naked, and violated sometimes all at once. I literally didn’t even bat an eye at her suggestion. In fact I just wanted her to get it over with because I was in so much pain. My husband on the other hand, almost had to leave the room.
Now for those of you that don’t know Daddy Bear, he is Italian. So he has pretty tanned skin. For the first time in my life I saw his face turn white as he asked “so wait……your going to take a needle to her nipple?” He looked at me in horror, almost begging me with his eyes to not let her do this barbaric task.
I looked over at her and said “just get it done”. Surprisingly it didn’t really hurt that bad. I had 3-4 on each nipple so it did bleed quite a bit. She had me nurse right away and when we were done I laid his belly over my hand and gently burped him.
What happened next should literally have been put on a funniest home video…..or maybe not……..maybe I’m the only one that can laugh about it now. Mr. Precious burped a gigantic burp and then we hear a SPLAT. I looked down and saw my worst nightmare. My tiny little baby had just threw up something that looked like a chicken liver. I was terrified and shrieked “what the FUCK is that??” (I know!! Pretty awful words to come out of a new mommy’s mouth. What can I say, I’m my mothers daughter!! Love ya mom).
The lactation consultant runs over screaming “nonono!!!Honey it’s ok!! It’s just the blood that coagulated with the milk!!! It’s ok!! I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you that would happen”.
I literally just sat there staring at it about ready to lose my shit. Now I’m not one that likes or needs to be consoled by others but she actually had to come sit by me and rub my back to get my crap together.
Then she explained to me that she thought it was in the baby’s best interest of we did supplement a little and that she didn’t take that lightly. She promised she was going to do everything in her power to keep us breastfeeding as long as possible.
And with that we headed home with a S n’ S feeder thing a ma jig and 3 days worth of organic baby formula.
WHAT A NIGHTMARE. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure (insert sarcasm) of using an S&S feed, let me explain. You take a syringe and fill it with formula or pumped breast milk, attach a long tiny little tube to it, attach the other end of that tiny little tube down your boob to your nipple. Why not just give the baby the syringe? Because you still need your breasts to be stimulated for milk production.
So every feeding I would have to strap this damn thing to my boob (which constantly fell off and was a huge pain in my ass…….literally and figuratively……did I mention I had horrific hemmroids that hurt so bad every time I sat????).
Then in between feeding I would have to pump so that we could try to replace the formula with breast milk in the S&S and keep stimulating??
I. Literally. Never. Slept.
Because of his reflux he had to eat more often so his tummy could (attempt) to tolerate it. So at night I was up every hour and a half to feed him (again with the pain in the ass contraption that I had to strap to myself every time) and then head out to the couch to pump for 20 minutes!! All to only get an ounce or two out of both boobs.
The odd thing was that during all of this misery I never once thought of doing something else. It just never was an option that came into my head.
After a week of the S&S feeding I had it. I ripped the stupid thing off my body, grabbed my baby and headed to my bedroom. I had heard of things called “nursing vacations” and decided to google it. It wasnt anything fancy. All you do is stay in bed with your baby the first couple weeks after birth and nurse as much as you can. No stress, no errands, no guests. Just you and the babes healing, resting, and getting your bodies in sync.
And that is just what I did.
In the end there was light at the end of the tunnel. After 3 months of tireless work it all paid off. I was producing JUST enough milk to keep him fed. I never could make enough to have a freezer stash. I always look with envy and awe at those pinterest pictures of freezers full of cream-colored bags. Freezers full of gold!!
The pain, bruising, and nipple blebs continued until around 9 months. I still have no idea why and neither did any lactation consultant. I just toughed it out the best I could. I eventually learned how to lance the blebs myself so i didn’t have to keep going in. Hey, after 2 months post partum my hemmroids went away so at least I was rid of that pain right?
I look back on those days now and realize what I went through to breastfeed my son for 18 months. It was really big. It was incredibly hard. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
I’ve never been the most motivated person. I have no desire to run a marathon (well who am I kidding, I have no desire to run at all), never was excited about trophies or awards. But my breastfeeding accomplishment was my Pulitzer, my Nobel Peace Prize, my marathon medal.
So special to me that I will never forget the date that my breastfeeding relationship ended with Mr. Precious. December 16th, I was 6 weeks pregnant with his little brother and had no milk left. I knew it was time. I laid him down for his nap and let him fall asleep nursing. I took every second in of those last moments together. His precious cheeks and lips, his fluttery long eye lashes, and of course his sweet little hand on my chest. I will never forget those moments. Moments that make every second of excruciating pain, of thinking “why me?”, of feeling like a failure as a mother, as a woman, so incredibly worth it.
I am currently nursing his 7 month old brother now and am incredibly grateful that I have every ounce of knowledge that I do. Mr. Blue eyes has been a little easier on me than his big brother but we’ve still had our fair share of troubles. I will talk about breastfeeding baby #2 in the next post.
So why did I write this long ass breastfeeding post? I don’t know. Maybe because every other blog mommy has one? Probably because I’ve heard the same story so many times. Yet in these stories the mamas never had help. They never had cheerleaders in theirs court. They had nothing but negative comments and reactions. It’s for them that I write this. I hope I can show them that IT CAN BE DONE!! You can get through this. 90% of the time there is a way. Ask for help. Breastfeeding is beautiful. But guess what? Breastfeeding is also ugly. It’s painful, exhausting, and the hardest thing you will probably do. But your body was made for this. Your body isn’t failing you. Your body was made for this. You are a beautiful, capable woman. And last but not least, your body was made for this.