“I’ll just breastfeed my baby.”
That is what I would tell people when they asked how I planned on nourishing my baby who was due to arrive October 10, 2014 (you can read her birth story here). She came right on her due date and the two of us set about getting established with breastfeeding… and life… because it was so very different than I’d imagined it be after giving birth.
**There are pictures of breastfeeding in this post. If you’re offended by breastfeeding, please stop reading now.**
Let’s get some things straight right from the beginning: I know that not all women are able to breastfeed. There are some rare cases where women’s bodies rebel against the act of breastfeeding. Also, the word is spelled correctly whether one chooses to hyphenate it or squish it together (I choose to squish). The intent of this post is NOT to put mothers down (or make mamas feel “bad”) for choosing to feed their babies formula (for whatever reason they choose that route) this is my story and it’s not up for debate.
After a very long birth that culminated with an emergency c-section, the odds of breastfeeding actually weren’t in my favor. I didn’t know this at the time but since I had a c-section, my milk came in later than “usual” and since the baby needed to go to NICU and I wasn’t able to put my girl to my breast right after she was born (like within 4-6 hours) it made breastfeeding more difficult right from the start. Not to mention the fact that she was given a pacifier in the NICU without my consent (it is common knowledge– I think- that babies should not be given pacifiers until mama and baby’s breastfeeding relationship has been established… typically when baby about 4 weeks old).
I haven’t really talked about this whole topic with many people but I was determined to breastfeed Laila Grace because I felt that it was the least I could do…especially since I didn’t have the unicorn and rainbows birth that I so desperately wanted. I wanted to do this. I needed to do this.
And then, four days after Elle was born, things weren’t going as planned. On October 14, 2014, I wrote,
“Feedings are touch and go. Today, it seems as though Laila has forgotten how to nurse but she will go crazy on her pacifier. I’m not going to let her use her pacifier anymore and am on my way to purchase nipple shields that have the same shape as the pacifier in hopes that that will help her nurse. Also, I’m fairly certain my milk has come in (since my boobs are kind of hard now) and it’s making the positioning for feeding baby really, really awkward. I think this is contributing to our feeding woes.”
I was so confused. Something that was supposed to be easy and “natural” was anything but those things for me. Dawn was here with us during that time and, together, we did quite a bit of research to figure out what to do. Things only got worse. The day that I wrote that, Laila Grace hadn’t eaten for almost a whole day. It made me worried. How was she supposed to live if she was too tired to eat? But, she was too tired to eat because she was too tired to eat. I’m all teary just thinking about it.
October 14, 2014:
“I decided to go with the Medela nipple shield. I had no choice about Laila being exposed to the use of a pacifier so early so I’ve just got to work with the situation we’re in. My main goal is to have my baby girl getting all of her nourishment from me via breast milk. Nipple shield or no nipple shield.”
So, off we went nursing using the nipple shield. It made me so happy to know she was being nourished! She started having wet and poopy diapers again (a sign that she was getting nutrition). But we were not out of the woods yet.
October 21, 2014:
“When we went for Laila Grace’s three day well-baby check, Laila was down 10 oz from her birthweight. I wasn’t super concerned about that because we had only begun using the nipple shield the night before the appointment. So they gave us instructions to feed baby every 1-2 hours during the day and every 2-3 hours during the night and told us come back in three days to check her progress. When we went back, Laila had gained 1 oz.! This was good but not quite good enough so they scheduled us to come back to the doctor for a weight check today. Well, I am happy to report that Baby Girl gained 8 oz. since this past Saturday! Praise God!”
In order to be successful at breastfeeding, it is important to have a team.
- Support from family (for me, it was/is my husband and two of my sisters- Dawn and Dee),
- Le Leche League groups or another breastfeeding support group (My support group was/is via Facebook. It’s called Badass Breastfeeding Tucson Moms and, let me tell you, they have been invaluable to me.),
- You may even need even a specialist.
Without support, it is hard to succeed at breastfeeding.
I wrote these updates (in this blog post) to my FB support group:
“We’re out celebrating with sushi but instead of eating right away, I wanted to update you guys: an integral part of my support team. Thanks for being here for me and my baby.”
It was the ladies in the breastfeeding group who recommended that I see a lactation consultant. I was reluctant. I mean, I could do this on my own. This “natural” thing. I could do this. But when Laila Grace’s weight went down again the pediatrician wanted me to supplement breastfeeding with formula. They even sent me home with a can of formula to “top her off” after each feeding. I cried. I cried at the pediatrician’s office. I cried when I got home and told Wes was the pediatrician wanted me to do. I was so sad. I felt so defeated. How could I not be able to do this? Why was it so hard?
Wes suggested that I call the birth center and see what they had to say. Kind of like getting a second opinion. They, too, recommended that I see a lactation consultant. They gave Wes the numbers of two or three companies. We called them all. But I really wanted to go with Milk and Honey because they came highly recommended by the women in the breastfeeding group. It turned out that they were the only ones to answer their phone!
I was able to get an appointment for the next day but BEFORE that, I had a nice long talk with Nina. She wanted to hear the birth story and what was going on. Nina automatically made me feel comfortable. I felt like I had another ally even though I had never met her face to face. It was super cool.
…to be continued…
Nina and Crissi of Milk and Honey are raising money to fund a new breastfeeding support center in Tucson. If you feel so led, please consider donating to the cause that other families like mine will be able to get the help they need in order to become successful at breastfeeding. I wouldn’t have made it without them.