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Friday, June 14, 2013

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Hi there and thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts! My main goal for this blog is to be transparent (thanks Alex :) and to encourage other first time moms. I had so much anxiety going into this stage in life and knowing that other women out there were going through the same struggles (and victories) was so helpful.

{As I'm writing this I'm getting lots of encouragement from my "what do I do when my kid doesn't like to nap" post on Facebook. Sometimes we just need to hear that what we are going through is normal and we are not failing miserably.}

Like I had said in a previous post, I had a feeling that breastfeeding was going to be a struggle for us the first time we tried to get him to latch. Part of me didn't expect to have problems before hand as my pregnancy and labor were all textbook and "easy". Like so many others have said, I thought the principle of breastfeeding was simple: baby meet boob, done! I had read lots of information about latching and position but it's one of those things that you just have to do to fully figure out.

The lactation consultant at the hospital was nice... and apparently her advice must work for some moms otherwise I don't think she would still have a job, but it didn't work for me. She had one hand on the back of Eli's neck and the other hand with a firm grasp on my boob and mashed them together. He was NOT interested in opening his mouth very wide and when he did latch on he didn't suck very well. She seemed a little confused about what to do next which is when I should have promptly called an outside lactation consultant. During our hospital stay we had just about every nurse on duty handling my milk makers to get him on. It took at least 10 minutes to latch and he fell asleep almost every time. Aaron was so great and helped any way he could. The Lactation consultant's parting words were to feed him as much and as long as he wanted.

At our first pediatrition appointment his weight was down 7%. I knew that was normal but the doctor was concerned. He was already an 8 pound baby so I wasn't terribly worried. He said that if it dropped any more we were going to need to supplement. We were not interested in doing that so I stepped up the nursing as much as I could. I was exhausted. The first week home was very difficult. He was still struggling to latch but was starting to nurse longer. 40 minutes a side longer... It wasnt until he was 8 weeks old that he would pull off by himself. I couldn't really tell at the beginning when he was sucking and swallowing or just sucking. We had a second doctors appointment and he was back to his birth weight after a week. I felt better knowing that he was getting enough to eat, even if I was struggling.

After 10 days my nipples were cracked, bleeding, and SORE! Lanolin didn't help much. I tried airing them out, ice packs before and after (engorgement on top of that was not fun) and ibuprofen. I was dreading nursing each time. We use the Baby Connect app to keep track of things and looking at one of the charts showed that I was nursing 8 + hours a day. Thats a full time job! Finally we decided to call a different lactation consultant. I was very skeptical and honestly thought there was nothing more I could learn or do differently. I think she could tell how frazzled I was and spent some time talking to us to get me to relax. She inspected his mouth and weighed him. She thought his tongue was "thick" and he wasn't moving it around very well. She gave us an exercise to do with him before nursing. We were supposed to put our finger in the corner of his mouth, the center, and then the other corner to get him to stretch it. Then she took away my breastfeeding pillow. She said that the pillows tend to put the baby too high. She used smaller pillows to support my arms. The first thing she told me to do was to relax! I was super tense and hunched over him because I was anticipating the excruciating pain that was coming. She then worked on getting me to bring him up to me and almost latching himself. He still wasn't opening his mouth very wide though. She decided to get a nipple shield to help with that. The shield helped him latch quicker and with less pain. After 10 minutes he started to fall asleep so she took him off and weighed him again. He had taken in 2 ounces in 10 minutes! She told me to use the shield for a while to help my nipples heal and then work on weaning him. His latch problems had a little to do with his lower lip not staying out and she thought he may not be sticking his tongue out enough.

With the nipple shield we were slowly improving and I was no longer in horrible pain. I knew I should be trying to wean him off of it but really didn't want to go back to where we had started. After a couple of weeks I tried to get him on without it. He would either not want to latch at all, or would latch and then come off after five minutes and cry. I was really starting to worry that we were never going to be nursing on our own without pain. Aaron was very supportive and told me not to worry about it. Eli was getting fed and that was the number one priority. After a month I decided to go back to the lactation consultant. She weighed him again before and after and he was still getting 2-3 ounces in five minutes. She was very happy with his latch too. The only change she made was to have him lower and to have his head not so close to my elbow. She had me just get him close and then have him latch himself. I was really excited and thought we were home free.

A few days later I was getting really sore again. I was so so discouraged. Aaron told me not to be stubborn and to use the shield again. Luckily after about a week we were able to be off the shield completely. FINALLY. Eli was about 9 weeks at this point. I also noticed that he had started to stick his tongue out on his own so I think the stretches helped.

I felt such accomplishment to have pushed through and succeeded. I was so committed to making this work and that was a huge part of getting through it.

I had one scare about a month later when I thought it was all coming back. Out of no where my right breast was very sore. I used the shield for a day and then discovered there was a white spot on it... I googled "white spot on nipple" (thank you and found that it was called a milk blister. I also had a sore red spot on my breast and was very engorged on that side, so probably had a blocked duct as well. The website said that it could take weeks to heal. The morning that it was the worst I tried a tip online that said to pump with heat. Thank goodness with a heating pad and good long pump session it felt much better. The milk blister was still sore but not nearly as bad as it was. I was able to go without the shield for the rest of the week and the blister is now gone.

All that's left now is thrush and mastitis and I will have had it all!

My hope for this post is to encourage those struggling with breastfeeding to push through! For those that are pregnant: most don't have it quite this bad so don't be discouraged. There are lots of resources out there and you will find those that are able to breastfeed are very willing to help others succeed as well.
Meghan Hill Photography