Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Breastfeeding: The Stresses, The Joys

Breastfeeding is such an emotionally issue for me. You carry this child in your body for nine months and almost everything that makes it comes from you. You support it, you feed it, you keep it warm, and protected. Then you birth your child and it is once again up to you to support you child, to protect it, and to most importantly feed it. Breastfeeding is a natural thing; humans have engaged in the practice since the beginning of our species. It is something with share with all the other mammals on earth. For thousands of years it has been an integral part of our species propagation and yet it does not always come naturally.

With big E, it took 72 hours for my milk to come in. Those three days were torture. My baby was hungry and was crying for food almost constantly. He was jaundiced and had lost a pound since his birth. I knew he needed food and I wanted to give it to him, but nothing was coming from my breast. My hungry baby had sucked my nipples into scabs and still nothing. Finally after 72 hours the milk came in. I can remember that euphoric moment. I was sleep deprived, had sore breast, and could barely sit without wincing but when little E choked on that first mouthful of milk I wanted to jump up and scream for joy. I won't say that I totally loved breastfeeding, but for the first year of my son's life it was the way I feed him. He loved it and it was no surprise that he was quickly in the 90% percentile in weight. I didn't mind and all in all it went pretty well.

When G-bear was born my milk came in a whole day earlier. Unlike her brother though, G-bear was a horrible nurser. From birth she was a finicky eater. She would eat just enough to get my milk to let down and then she would fall asleep or pull away to play. When she was ten months old my appendix burst and after three horrible days of trying to deal at home with a "swollen lymph node" (the diagnosis of the idiot emergency room doc). When my family doctor finally figured it out, I was sent to the hospital to have an emergency appendectomy. A family friend at the ER gave me a blessing and took my kids home. That night my daughter was weened. I guess it was a blessing she was never that into nursing. Still I will always love Liz the sweet woman who took my kids that night.

When Peach was born I thought that breastfeeding would be cake. I figured my milk would come in even sooner than it did with G-Bear. I was wrong. Peach was a vigorous nurser, and I nursed her every two hours, and anytime she cried. At the hospital the only thing that got us was scabby nipples. When we came home my milk still was not in and Peach was quickly losing weight. At three days old the pediatrician had her come in, and then because of her massive weight loss requested I come in the next day. I nursed her all that day, and still my milk did not come in. We had actually passed the 72 hour mark of my milk coming in and there was nothing. In desperation that night I gave her a little formula after she has nursed twenty minutes on each side. I repeated this regiment after each feeding that night and again in the morning. Finally when I went in to the doctor her weight loss had stabilized but I still had no milk. There was no let down and I could see her getting no milk. At this point I was in tears. After having a baby your hormones are crazy, you are not getting any sleep, and not being able to feed your own child puts you over the edge. I would sit on the couch or on my bed crying while Peach frantically tried to get milk to come. I spent quit a bit of time at the breastfeeding clinic at our local hospital. They were amazing! These women are so calm, and they are such good advocates for mom and baby, a calming force in a sea of hormones. They watched me feed her, weighed her, and gave out lots of advice. Finally at a week she was able to get a little milk out. It wasn't much but she was finally getting enough to measure on a pre feeding/post feeding weigh in. I kept at it, nursing every two hours, and at two weeks she hit close to her birth weight and had a three ounce feeding. After that I was able to relax a little. Since that time Peach has become a champion nurser, and has quickly gained in height and weight. She is far from obesse but has the look of health. My milk supply is different then it was with my other children. I don't spend lots of time engorged and for the most part have no need for breast pads, but the milk is there when I needed it, and Peach has been able to get enough to sleep through the night since she was a month and a half. I'm happy for her. I'm grateful to my body for finally pulling through for me.


Nancy said...

This is comforting to hear...kind of. I had a horrible time with Rachel, not with having not enough milk, but with having too much.

So maybe things will be different this time around...

I hope my milk still comes easily, just not as easily.

With Rachel I'd be wearing more than one breast pad and STILL be DRIPPING milk through my shirt. I slept with towels underneath me and would wake up soaking with milk. Drenched.

I would get so engorged between feedings it was ridiculous.

So maybe this time will go smoother?

I'm glad that you and Peach got it down, though. Breastfeeding isn't easy--even with all that milk it took me and Rachel three months to get latching right. Ugh...so many things to work through. But I think it's worth it in the end.

Bridget said...

This was interesting to read. I agree that breastfeeding is different with every child. With Miriam, I had the same problem Nancy did - WAAAAAAY too much milk. Mastitis every other month because I was always getting engorged. It was terrible, but I was glad to be able to nurse her.

With Magdalena, my milk was a little on the low side. It was perfect at first - no more mastitis or engorgement - but when she was 10 months I almost lost my milk when I got sick. That would have never happened with Miriam. So it's different every time. Good for you for working through the difficulties on each one!

jennybhill said...

After Spencer was born and nursing was so much harder than I expected, I remember thinking that I would have preferred to have a bad labor experience than to have to deal with breastfeeding problems (although, never ask me that DURING labor). I also remember thinking that they should offer more breastfeeding classes instead of all those labor classes when labor only lasts so long, but nursing is for months! Good for you for staying with it, I am glad it is going so much better now.

Nancy said...

Ahhh, mastitis! Yeah, I got that soooo often. Everyone told me it was cockroaches (though not in those terms). What they said was it was because I wasn't cleaning myself well enough. I was like, "What the?!"

Glad to know I'm not the only one there.

Also, Andrew read this post and got really nervous. He was so worried Rachel wasn't eating enough, even though I could basically stand over a bottle and fill it, and so now he's even more nervous to see what our milk supply is with Miriam...