Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Personal Journey through Breastfeeding, Part 2

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!  Now back to my story... (and in case you missed the first part, here's the link.)

You'd think there'd be no issues the second time around because I knew what I was doing, but my baby #2 needed to learn how to latch too.  In came the sugar water.  I'm telling you, it's nearly a miracle cure in those first days. 

My milk came in when she was four days old, the same day we decided to go home to see my grandfather before he passed away.  That was physically and emotionally painful, but very much worth the effort.  I was able to tell my grandfather goodbye in person. 

Once my milk came in, I faced hyperlactation.  Most every time I went to nurse my daughter, I sprayed her in the face, and she'd choke and gag.  I learned to lay flat on my back, allowing her to nurse from above, before going to a regular nursing position.  It enabled "Bug" to control the milk flow.  It took a couple of months to get my supply adjusted.  The problem with hyperlactation is that there's an imbalance of foremilk and hindmilk (the fattier portion).

Well worth all the work, we were also very mutally happy with breastfeeding.  Again, I was pregnant before weaning my second daughter.  I nursed for another five months before weaning her at twelve months.  This was a more sad occasion for me because once I began the weaning process, Bug just up and decided she wouldn't nurse anymore once I had her down to just one feeding a day.  This was unlike my first, who allowed us to have a picture of the final feeding.  I can't even remember the final feeding with my second because she decided she didn't need it if I was only going to offer it once a day.

With my third child, something was up from the very beginning.  She wouldn't latch well at the hospital, but I didn't stress because I knew it takes time.  She seemed to prefer to lay on one side of her body, but I didn't know that meant anything in particular. 

We were in the midst of packing to move when I brought her home from the hospital.  My husband and I struggled at every feeding.  Little Minute was such a wonderful baby, but she cried at every feeding.  I took her to a lactation consultant pretty quickly, as there wasn't one at the hospital where she was born.  I was so angry because the LC immediately put a bottle in her mouth!  I had been working too hard for that!  She gave me a nipple shield, which seemed to help for a couple of weeks.

Once we moved (my daughter was three weeks old), things were getting pretty hard.  My daughter cried a good bit, but seemed pretty satisfied during meal times.  I took her to a lactation consultant because she still wouldn't latch without the nipple shield.  This LC weighed her, and my heart sunk to see that she weighed what she did at birth.  The nipple shield doesn't allow enough stimulation of the nipple, so my milk supply was diminishing, and my baby wasn't thriving.  It took a couple of visits, but the LC was able to determine that Little Minute had a slight case of torticolis, meaning one side of her neck had underdeveloped muscles.  She couldn't pull the nipple enough to draw milk, and it also took her a very long time to take a bottle.  I was able to take her to a physical therapist just once to learn the exercises she needed to correct her condition, but I always had to supplement this daughter with formula.  My heart broke, but I was glad to live in a world where I could care for my daughter.  If this had been a few hundred years ago, I imagine she could've died.

Oddly enough, even though this child had to be supplemented, my menstrual cycle didn't return until after she was weaned completely, so I actually made it an entire year without getting pregnant again!

Baby #4 is my only boy thus far, and he is also the only one who seemed to be born to nurse!  There was never a need for sugar water because he always latched correctly from the beginning!  I had prayed for this after my Little Minute had such difficulty.  All during my pregnancy, I prayed God would make my boy a good eater, and He answered above and beyond what I ever expected.  Had my son been my first child, I would've thought breastfeeding is so easy and not been able to understand why women give up before their babies have time to learn what they're doing.

That's not to say there weren't issues.  I experienced thrush for the first time with my boy.  Thrush is a very painful yeast infection that affects the nipples and usually, the inside of a baby's mouth.  It's a pain to treat, but I can laugh about it a little now.  Here's a pic of my purple-faced baby while we dealt with it. 

Just as it was with all my babies, the hurdles were worth jumping as we nursed our way to a year.

I love breastfeeding, and I encourage it for the health of mom and baby.  Breastmilk is exactly what God designed for human baby consumption.  It is living with active cultures that contain healing properties.  I've put it on cuts rather than putting on topical ointments.  With my three children that were exclusively nursed, I've always lost more weight than I've put on during pregnancy because of the 500 calories a day that can be burnt through nursing.  My breast cancer risk is greatly reduced.  My children are bright and appropriately attached to me.  I'm thankful God gave this gift of bonding between mother and child.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Personal Journey through Breastfeeding, Part 1

Finally, it seems I have time to write once again!  A few weeks ago, I mentioned I'd like to share my breastfeeding experiences for those of you that it may benefit.  Again, if this is a touchy subject for you, and it may hurt our fellowship, don't read the rest of this post, but do tune in another day!

I'll also start by throwing out the disclaimer that this truly is just my personal journey, and I am no professional medically trained person.  I have studied tons of articles and books both for my personal understanding and for work, but I'm only a support person to breastfeeding moms, not a lactation consultant.  If you face any difficulties in breastfeeding, I would highly recommend that you talk to friends that have been there, but if you continue to face problems, please seek the help of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  Whatever you do, don't give up!

My personal journey through breastfeeding begins at my birth!  If I understand correctly, my mother nursed me for the first week to ten days of my life.  After that, my grandmother went home, and my mom felt like she probably didn't eat well enough to make "good" milk.  Knowing what I do now, even malnourished moms can make good milk for their babies, though our bodies will rob us to take care of the babies we feed.  Still, this was excellent for my mom to give me the best for the first days of my life.  Even colostrum, the first milk, is filled with tons of antibodies!  After that, I saw my mom nurse my brother five years later, again for a few weeks.

I thought nothing of breastfeeding again until I was pregnant with my first child.  At the time, the American Academy of Pediatrics was saying exclusive breastfeeding was best for babies through the first six months of life, and that it was still the best with the addition of solids up through twelve months.  I think even "or as long as is mutually desired" was part of their position.  For me, my decision to breastfeed was then a no-brainer.  Why wouldn't I do what was determined to be the best for my child?

Such an easy decision to make, but I had no idea I would have some snags along the way, and that it would be difficult at times to reach my goal of one year.  Praise God, I had friends pregnant before me.  I watched as one of my friends learned to nurse her first child.  She encountered hyperlactation (over production of milk) and thrush in her son's early weeks.  It made me realize I had a lot to learn, so to a class at Babies-r-Us I went, and I got several videos from the library. 

Here's a funny confession: The women and babies in the videos grossed me out.  To be such an advocate for breastfeeding now, at one point it did bother me!  Seeing my friends nurse, however, didn't bother me in the least.  I could see very clearly how God had created women so perfectly for nurturing young life. Another odd thing about those videos: all of the babies latch perfectly every. single. time.

Along comes baby #1 on July 1, 2005.  If you've already read her birth story, you know she latched perfectly the first time within half an hour of her birth.  Her second feeding "had" to be a bottle of formula because I was in surgery.   Truly, if a breastfeeding advocate had been watching out in the middle of the night, she would've made sure Princess M had received that feeding through a tube or a syringe.

All of the next few days, we spent our time trying to get my baby to latch.  She actually did fairly well, and of course, perfectly every time the lactation consultant in the hospital was around.  I was taught by her that I could put a little sugar water on my nipples to give Princess M some instant gratification because colostrum, being so thick, is often difficult to drain from the breasts.  Sometimes, babies will try to latch, then get aggrivated that something's not there fast enough.  I've done this with my friends many times, and it totally does the trick!

It took a solid week for my milk to come in due to the spinal I had for surgery.  Diapers were good and weight gain was up at the week mark despite the long wait for milk.

Princess M was a sleepy baby at times, and it seemed to take a circus to keep her awake for a full feeding.  At night time, this was a challenge.  If I fell asleep, I'd have no idea how long she'd eaten.  I'd decide to go ahead and lay her back down, only to be back up in thirty minutes because she didn't get a full feeding after all.  I learned to stay awake by reading.  In the daytime, I'd read out loud to my daughter.  At night, I'd read silently.  I devoured every magazine and book I could get my hands on.  My husband was in seminary at the time, and I read his textbooks.  I've often wondered if my oldest daughter is so smart because of this and obviously, she was getting breastmilk for brain development!

I tried to pump with two manual pumps, one I'd bought, and the other came from the health department.  They both seemed to be duds, and I was getting really frustrated that once my daughter was four weeks old, we were going out of town, and I felt she needed some bottles expressed for her.  I couldn't get anything from a manual pump!  My husband saw my tears, and he decided we'd buy something for the first time with a credit card: an electric breast pump!  That $250 was worth it!  I've used it with all four of my babies.

The day before we were set to take our daughter home to South Carolina, I began to run a fever, feel achy, and have red streaks on my breasts: mastitis.  My doctor was good to me, not forcing me to come in to see him, but going with my description of my symptoms, he called an antibiotic in for me.

Despite every hurdle, my daughter and I kept the nursing going, and by six or seven weeks, were really mutually happy with the whole deal.  She was always in the 75th-85th percentile for height and weight. She was always very healthy, never running a fever until after she was weaned! 

When my oldest daughter was seven months old, I became pregnant with my second daughter.  I continued to nurse my first child for five more months.  Weaning was a little sad, but knowing I had another one coming made it easier for me...

Part 2 tomorrow - all three of the other babies in one more blog entry!