Friday, December 9, 2011

Follow Up Friday: My Breastfeeding Journey

After Monday's post about RI hospitals no longer handing out free formula I got a lot of comments about the women who NEED this formula.  I want to quickly address these comments with two points:

1.The hospitals WILL still provide formula to those who need it because of medical reasons (whether the mother's or the baby's).
2.  Remember, breastfeeding babies don't even get milk until several days after they are born (before that the mother only produces colostrum).  This gives mom and baby a few days to "practice" before any real supplementation should be needed. So, when a hospital hands women formula right away it gives the impression that the baby needs milk and if they don't get it the mother has failed, and as a result many women will give up trying much too early. 

None of this is meant as a judgement on those who formula feed, but I do believe that ALL women should try to breastfeed.  I tried and some women would say that I failed, but despite the fact that I never quite got the hang of breastfeeding my baby is now 9 months old and has NEVER had formula. 

This is my breastfeeding story:
When my baby boy was born I KNEW I was going to breastfeed.  I mean, it comes naturally, right? Unfortunately, I quickly learned that breastfeeding is NOT that easy for everybody.  This is something that many women struggle with, but don't often talk about.  As a result, there are now two camps, those who breastfeed and those who bottle-feed.  The two rarely come together and, unfortunately, often  pass A LOT of judgement onto one another.  This is why I wanted to share my story, to let women know that they are not alone in their struggle. 

Immediately, after my baby was born he was placed on my chest and we attempted to get him to latch... he didn't.  I was so disappointed, but the nurses assured me that not all babies latch right away and he would figure it out the next time.  Later on, while still in the birth center, the lactation consultant and nurses worked with me to get my baby to latch.  Nothing...  Again, I was assured that this was fine and we would figure it out. 

Finally, I was able to get him to latch, but it was very painful and I knew something wasn't right.  The nurses checked the latch, decided it looked fine and said that it just may take me some getting used to.  That's fine, I would definitely continue to try. 

When we brought my baby in for his 2 day check-up he was weighed and we were informed that he had lost too much weight.  That is when I heard the dreaded word "supplement".  Because my baby lost so much weight the doctor said we should supplement him with a bottle after he nursed.  So, I pumped extra milk after each feeding and gave him a small bottle. Of course, as a result of this my baby began to suffer from nipple confusion (which I can tell you first hand is a very real thing, don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you it's made up!).  He fought nursing and preferred the bottle because it was so much easier to use.  Despite these problems we continued doing half breast/half bottle.  

Meanwhile, we continued to have latch issue so I worked a lot one on one with a lactation specialist.  After a few weeks I was able to get my baby to latch without pain.  I was so happy and thought this would be the end of our struggles. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

He was a very fast nurser and spit up a lot because of this.  I was concerned about the possibility of reflux because he would spit up very large amounts, but was assured that it wasn't reflux.  I wasn't so sure (and I'm still not) so I basically started treating my baby as though he had reflux.  I decided to nurse more, changed positions so he was more elevated, and made sure his head was elevated for at least a half an hour after he ate in hopes that he would spit up less , but the problem continued. His doctor -who also happened to be my lactation consultant- continued trying to help us find a way to fix the problem, but it seemed there wasn't a good solution.  Much to everyone's surprise he seemed to be better when he bottle-fed than nursed, but I was not ready to give up on nursing yet. So, we continued for another two months this way.

After two months of  nursing (with an occasional bottle thrown in)  I realised that my baby was still getting my milk and contact when I gave him a bottle.  I wasn't really doing him any favors continuing to nurse when it made him so uncomfortable.  That's when I decided that I would be an Exclusive Pumper.

Exclusively pumping is not a solution that will work for everyone.  You are essentially doing twice the work, pumping and then feeding.  In my mind though, I really felt I had now excuses.  I had never had any issues with supply and I am a stay at home mom, so I have the time. The fact is there are things in breastmilk that just aren't in formula and I didn't want to deprive my child of that. Just because he isn't getting it directly from my breast doesn't mean those benefits are wiped out. 

Although I may have failed at breastfeeding I feel like I found a very successful solution to work around it and I am so happy be able to provide for my baby despite these struggles.

I apologize that this was such a long post today. This is one the few personal posts you will see on this site, but I wanted other women to see my story and know that they are not alone.


My hope is that women will start to support eachother more. Instead of judging women who aren't able to breastfeed, show them love and understanding.  If you know someone is struggling with nursing, reach out to them.  If more women reacted this way I TRULY believe that more women would have success because we would be more comfortable talking to eachother about it. 


Michelle said...

We never had a problem with latch, but we did have to supplement. It wasn't fun. I don't think pumping would have worked for me. But, it's great that it worked out so well for you! My pump broke with my second daughter within the first week and I never bought another one. I nursed my son for 9 months and my daughter for 14. and you're right! Nursing is not actually a "natural" thing for everyone. My hubby kept trying to say that. But, it can be very,very difficult!

CJA said...

found your blog on blog hop!
would love a follow back :)

Mommy LaDy Club said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I really can't imagine that it is easy for anyone actually, and whatever you can do to make things work is all you can do. It's nice that pumping is an option now, because yes, the benefit of the breast milk is scientifically proven for both of you. You making it, and your baby receiving it are the most important, regardless of how it comes out and in. There will always be this divide with breastfeeders and non-breastfeeders. You can only address your own situation. I have a friend with a blog only for breastfeeding stories if you're interested...

I'm stopping by from Getting to know you...cheers!

lisa from insignificant at best said...

I wanted to breastfeed for the first year of my daughter's life....I made it 3 months. :(

I never really felt 100% comfortable nursing my daughter even though I worked with a consultant a few times. I was pretty good at nursing on my left side, but the right I never could get comfortable. It didn't help that within the first few weeks I developed a yeast infection on my right side. The pain was so intense that I stopped nursing her on that side and just pumped. This made the production on that side less and once the problem was cleared up she was never really happy on that breast. So I just pumped from it and fed from the other. I had a decent amount stored for when I was going back to work when a fridge repair guy turned off the freezer to fix it and never turned it back on. By the time I figured it out I had all this breastmilk that was going to go bad. (I was furious) So I started giving her that and pumping when she'd feed trying to build up the stash. Sadly I wasn't able to build up that much. Then when I returned to work I pumped twice a day. I started to notice that my supply was slowly starting to recede. It finally got to the point where I had to stop and move over to formula. I hated it.

I still feel a little guilty about it, but I figure at least I got 3 months in. It's better than nothing!

P.S. Thanks for lining up to the GTKY Blog Hop!

P.P.S. Thanks for changing your commenting system! I'm so glad I can finally comment! :)

Sarah said...

Wonderful post. But you certainly shouldn't say you failed at breastfeeding! You succeeded by finding a way to make it work. That actually took more effort than BFing alone. Kudos for you for giving a gift to you child that is def anything but easy!

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