Thursday, June 27, 2013

Postpartum: Reality: Breastfeeding is Hard


Maybe someone told you breastfeeding was hard. Maybe someone told you it was easy.  Maybe you thought it was natural and would just come to you. Maybe you read a dozen books.  Who knows... But here is my reality: Breastfeeding is hard!

Fair warning - This post will contain the words boobs, breasts, nipples and the sort.  It is a intimate post about my experience breastfeeding my son.  It is by no means the only way or the way it is for everyone, and if any of this sharing makes you uncomfortable... just skip this post. Much love!

My son and I have had quite a journey in the last eight weeks.  It's crazy how much you can learn about a person in such a short amount of time.  And you do have to... have to learn so much.  Let's start at the beginning of the path for us. Shortly after Moose was born, a kind nurse unsnapped the top of my hospital gown and placed my son on my chest.  At that point everything was still pretty surreal.  I had read books and online articles, so that when this momentous occasion arrived I would have so clue about how to latch my son.  I had heard horror stories of newborns destroying their mothers nipples on day on, and it becoming excruciating to nurse.

So there we were in Labor and Delivery, in a post birth haze.  My beautiful big eyed son nuzzled up to my breast and latched. No pain. No problems. Just victory! I thought I had it in the bag! I had so much to learn.

The immediate days after delivery were filled with quite a bit of pain for me, but not in the breastfeeding sense just in the healing process.  I thought we were doing a pretty good job at the hospital, but I was beginning to have a hard time getting Moose to latch and stay latched.  A well meaning Lactation Consultant suggested that we use a nipple shield to help us out and to be sure the baby was getting enough, so entered the nipple shield into our lives. My milk had come in just 24 hours after delivery (unheard of), and I was feeding him every 2 hours.

We used the Medela contact nipple shield everytime I nursed, but even still it wasn't the most comfortable thing in the world.  At the hospital a shield is easy. You are in one room, in one bed. There's very few places it can go... But once you're home, chaos! 

Week one, we lost the shield while Moose was hungry- cue catastrophe!!! Immediately, Sam went out and got us two more shields. I was exclusively breastfeeding and terrified he wasn't eating enough. I woke him every 3 hours to eat, even throughout the night. At Moose's two week appointment, the doctor said I could start letting him sleep more at night as he had gained back his weight and put on more. 

Those first two weeks are a hormonal haze at this point, and then came weeks three through five... 

Things really began to get hard when I was alone with the baby for the first time. I was trying to hold off any pumping until at least four weeks, but each feeding began to be more and more painful. I realized my sweet little boy was latching really shallow even with the shield. This is when a milk bleb (or blister) showed up on the right nipple. It was a tough little white spot that made each latch and feeding feel like ground up glass being sucked out of me. I cried a lot. I finally called the lactation consultants at the hospital and decided to give myself a little break. I began to pump. 

I was only pumping so that Sam could do the nighttime feed and give me a break to heal up. During the day, I was nursing through the pain more and more. I was hoping that having him nurse more on that side would pull out the clog.  Somewhere in the midst of this I created the perfect storm. 

Stress. Tears. Frustration. Pain. Exhaustion. Hello Mastitis!

In hindsight, it was a short lived sickness only lasting a few days, but at the time it was awful, scary, and in some ways terrifying.  The feeling came on quickly.  I had a fever and felt like a Mack truck had run me over.  It was awful.  I had a terrible pain in my left breast (not even the side that had a dang clog...which is probably because I wasn't draining the left all the way because I was too busy fussing with the right).  As I tried to get up for the day and get moving, I just kept feeling worse.  I finally texted Nurse Emily who promptly told me to call my doctor's office.  I did and after talking to the on call nurse, they called in a prescription for antibiotics.

I pumped mostly because I felt miserable, so Sam let me sleep a lot. I set an alarm to pump every three hours around the clock.  I got severely dehydrated during this whole ordeal and at one point thought I might have to go to the hospital.  We made it through, and I resolved to ask Moose's doctor about giving up breastfeeding at his one month appointment.  I was ready to bring on the formula. 

At that one month appointment, the doctor encouraged me to make it until 8 weeks.  He said after that we could reevaluate the situation.  He explained the same thing that I read a million times It gets easier.I just couldn't see how, but I wanted to do the very best for Moose.  With all that in mind, I vowed to make it until 8 weeks.  I relied heavily on my pump as we began to get out of the house more and more.  It also saved me from tons of pain while Moose figured out how to latch.

I can say now only days away from week 9. I made it! And it's cliche, but IT GETS EASIER!

I pump much more often than I feed, but he is getting breast milk and that is what matters to me.  I have zero judgement for anyone who has gone less or more or heck even just used formula, but for me it's awesome to know I've made it even this long.  I read a statistic somewhere that over 60% of American women who start out breastfeeding aren't breastfeeding anymore at 6 weeks.  I totally get it! Without the support of my husband, mother, friends, and pediatrician I wouldn't still be at it.

Latching is much, much better now (not that it doesn't hurt sometimes), and just last week he even did it all by himself in the middle of the night.  He was flailing at me like a ravenous bird, and womp I felt him grab me and slurp that boobie right into his mouth.  I started pumping to get rid of my troubles and now the vicious cycle is that I really can't stop the pumping or I hurt and begin to feel those clogged ducts again.  I have a bit of an oversupply now, and we have about 450 ounces in the freezer.  (Remember, though, we do primarily bottle feed, so we use about 30 each day).

I am now planning out how I will pump in the fall once school starts, and my new breastfeeding goal is 6 months.  Who knows if we will make it or not, but I am so incredilby thankful for this awesome gift that God has given me.  Who knew that feeding your baby and feeling like a cow, could also make you feel so good?

So here is my reality... Breastfeeding is Hard, but it gets easier! 

Lots of Love!


No comments:

Post a Comment