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!

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