Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First-Time Mom Lesson: Nursing is hard!

Before my baby was born, I studied up on breastfeeding, bought a Medela pump, made DIY nursing pads, and made sure to purchase Breastflow bottles to avoid dreaded nipple confusion. I even took a class on breastfeeding. I was an expert!

And then my little one came into the world via C-section. I lost quite a bit of blood during surgery, and I did not get to nurse within the "golden hour." I did nurse my child during the following hour, though, and I called the lactation consultants to my room quite frequently during my recuperation in the hospital. My child had latching issues, but I had faith that everything would soon resolve itself.

Four days after my child was born, I brought the little one home. Before we left the hospital, I found out that my child had lost more than 10% of body weight from birth and was bordering on being jaundiced. Potentially because of the C-section, my milk had not yet come in, and since we were not supplementing with formula at that point, my child was suffering. I was asked to return the next day with my child for a weight check and to supplement breast milk with formula in the meantime--and to feed the formula using a syringe.

I did what I was told. Only after I reached my home did I realize that my baby was not only jaundiced but also dehydrated. Fortunately, the formula we gave via syringes helped rehydrate my child and push the meconium out of our baby's system. Wet and dirty diapers became routine.

My milk took a few more days to come in. When my milk finally did come in, I had very poor milk production, even while I drank Mother's Milk tea and took fenugreek. My baby was frustrated with the situation. I was frustrated with the situation. (Even my husband was frustrated with the situation.) Because of my baby's poor latch--even with a shield--I started exclusively pumping rather than nursing. Frazzled because of my perceived failure to nurse my child, I pumped fewer times with each passing day. And then I started having gallbladder attacks, was hospitalized, and had surgery again for the second time in about a month. While in the hospital preparing for gallbladder surgery, I was pumping regularly and successfully. But after my gallbladder was removed, I was no longer able to pump anything. I grew more and more depressed.

My body had been through a lot. But I felt as though the window of opportunity to nurse was quickly closing. So I talked to my ob/gyn. She prescribed Reglan for me. I had taken Reglan for about a week during my pregnancy and was very skeptical at doing so again because of the anxiety and depression it previously caused me. I also read online about some of the risks and was worried about those. But I took Reglan anyway, ultimately taking three Reglan pills and six fenugreek capsules each day. I also rented a hospital-grade double pump. And shortly thereafter, my milk production increased significantly. I increased my pumping sessions with each passing day.

I am pumping more these days, and my child is actually nursing again. I feel better that my child is receiving some breast milk instead of solely or mainly formula. But I learned some lessons through my struggles. Nursing is hard. It does not come naturally to everyone--mothers or babies--and some mothers truly do NOT produce enough milk despite what some lactation consultants would have everyone think. And no reason exists to make mothers feel bad for using formula, whether they are merely supplementing, whether they do not produce enough milk or are encountering other nursing difficulties, or whether they decide that nursing is not for them. New mothers have enough to stress about! Why do we try to make their lives more difficult by making them feel inferior if they do not or cannot nurse?

I was raised on formula, and so were millions of other healthy and intelligent adults. While breast may be best for some mothers, it is not the only option and is NOT the best for others. If a mother loses her sanity and harms her bond with her child to breast feed, was the process worth the result? No.

Erin

1 comment:

  1. I had similar struggles with Avery. Thankfully I avoided the surgeries, but because of my complications after her birth I didn't have the opportunity to hold or nurse her for over an hour after her birth either. When I could finally try, it was a rough go. Despite labor and her nearly arriving nearly two weeks after her third revised (and thus third latest) due date, my milk still hadn't come in. The lactation specialists all said she was fine. She was a very big baby, and it wouldn't hurt her to wait. But she screamed. And screamed. There was nothing I could do to comfort her, and it was the worst possible feeling. I still wasn't allowed to get out of bed yet, there was no nursery in the hospital to help with her, and Chris was already back in the field for gunnery. I was desperate and exhausted and felt like such a failure. Some new friends from church (we moved to ft hood less than four months before her birth) came to visit in the middle of one of my meltdowns, and, though nursing moms themselves, they talked me into giving her a bottle. And it was the best decision I possibly could have made. Avery was a completely different baby after that. I continued to supplement for the duration of the time I nursed her because I never seemed to have enough milk to satisfy her. Was it the absolute best for her? I suppose it's relative. It was the best for me, and it kept me sane through Chris's constant pre-deployment training exercises. And, I'm sure you know by now, a sane mama makes for a much happier baby. Anyone who is judgmental over another mother doing the best they can under the circumstances is providing worse than some formula: they are giving a bad example for their child. Best of luck, mama!

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