Thursday, November 4, 2010

What I wish someone would've told me

A friend posted this on Facebook. Interesting title. I had to check it out. What caught my attention was the word "success" in the same line as "breastfeeding". I'll be the first to tell you that I didn't feel very successful at all the first 6 weeks. This post is dedicated to all the soon-to-be moms who plan on breastfeeding, and moms that are scared of it, or even people who think it's strange. It's also dedicated to those who think it's completely natural (which it is), so it should come naturally and with ease.

Before I had Mirabel, I belonged to that last category. I figured it had to be easy. If kangaroos could do it without any problem, why couldn't I? But no one told me about the pain! And how it would make me jump off the couch like a kangaroo! The similarities end there; I certainly couldn't breastfeed as easily as one! For some it isn't so bad, for me it was horrendous. I think that's an understatement. I didn't post the entire experience on here, because I didn't want to just focus on how bad it was. But now that I'm over that hump, I'll explain all the obstacles. I honestly feel like I can do anything now!

If you're not a fan of TMI, then don't read on. You can't say I didn't warn you! But I have no problem discussing this openly. In fact, I wish more people had discussed it with me this openly beforehand, so I'd know what to expect... Books just weren't enough.

Chapter I: Oh, Colostrum!
I remember it. Thick and almost syrupy, but more opaque. It can cure any ailment, right?! ;) I remember only pumping 2 ounces and being oh-so proud! I was shocked that my body could even produce anything. I made sure none of it went to waste; I worked hard for every single drop!

And that massive breastpump. I have to be honest, it intimidated me. The plastic from the shileds irritated me so much that I had to lather them in lanolin and wrap tissues around myself before using it! I can look back and laugh now. I still pronounce Medela wrong, probably from the trauma ;).

Now on to the story...

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to feed Mirabel right after she was born because they whisked her away to the NICU. I was sad, but I figured I'd be able to feed her later that day. I was wrong. Because she wasn't breathing very well on her own, they said I wouldn't be allowed to feed her at all that day :*(. Poor little 6 pound tiny baby wasn't allowed to eat, and my body wasn't making very much anyway. So from the beginning, it was a struggle.

Finally the second day I was allowed to feed her. But the nurses had already given her formula. I was bothered at first, then I was told she had jaundice so they had to push fluids. At that point I thought she would inevitably be a formula fed baby, because I still wasn't producing milk and the baby needed fluids and food. She was so tiny and looked so helpless, I just wanted her to eat. Again, I felt like a failure.

Let me just pause here to say this: If you formula fed/formula feed your baby, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. Your baby will still be a genius! I know many grown adults who were formula fed and scored much higher on the SAT than I did, and I was breastfed until age 2 ;).

Also, a lot of breastfeeding moms use formula at one point or another. I supplemented quite a bit in the beginning, because I would literally cry from the pain of breastfeeding. The only reason why I didn't give up was for personal reasons. The pain was an obstacle I was determined to overcome. Anyhow, everyone has their reasons, so please don't see this as a condescending post from another breastfeeding warrior. I understand. Been there, done that. And yes, I did take home the free formula from the hospital, and I even happily accepted the formula that the doctor gave me later on. Not ashamed.

One thing I've learned is that pain thresholds differ from person to person. For instance, I thought I was going to have a drug-free labor/delivery. I didn't. AT ALL. And guess what? I don't regret that in the least bit. After 21 hours of labor and 2 tears, I'm glad I got that dang needle in my back. In fact, I plan on asking for it as soon as possible, when the second one comes around. Mirabel is fine and so am I.

Then again, some women are able to birth their children without an epidural. I'm very happy for them. My mom did it with me and she was in labor for days. I don't know how she did it; I've come to conclude that it's possible my mom can tolerate pain better than I can. That doesn't make any of us inferior, it makes us individuals.

And for the record, I did try. I bought a $150 Hypnobabies CD, for Pete's sake. Every.Single.Day I practiced my hypnosis techniques. I devoted an hour to it on a daily basis, no lie. But when the time came for this baby to come out, self-hypnosis just wasn't enough. I didn't even feel the needle go into my back at all. The epidural only worked on half of my body and they didn't give it to me until the last 45 minutes (because my doctor was terrible), but I'm still glad I got it. I actually got to enjoy pushing Mirabel out. Maybe enjoy isn't the word, since I felt like puking pretty badly, but at least I wasn't in pain!

Chapter II: I wish they made epidural for THIS kind of pain...
I have to agree with one of the doctors I met with after I had Mirabel when she said that next to childbirth, breastfeeding can cause some of the worst physical pain a woman will experience. I went back to see that doctor 3 times. Each time for a different prescription for the pain. No, not pain meds, let me explain. Because Mirabel and I had to be on 2 doses of antibiotics before leaving the hospital, I was convinced yeast was the culprit. Who knew you could get a yeast infection up there? You can. After taking a dose of diflucan and still experiencing quite a bit of pain, I knew that wasn't it. Then the doc told me that I might have an infection, maybe mastitis, but I didn't have a fever. Then she said it could be MRSA and a yeast infection. Goodie. I made an appointment with an infectious diseases doctor, and later canceled because I decided that the doc was as clueless as I was.

I then spoke with 3 different lactation consultants. They all were convinced it was a latching issue, until I showed them my skillz :D. Then they thought Mirabel was tongue-tied, but that wasn't it. Then they thought I had raynauds! I knew it wasn't that, so I returned the $250 breast pump I purchased and bought another one, because I thought maybe the suction was too strong. Gosh, folks, the list really goes on from there. That list grew and grew for six weeks, until one day I happened to notice that I was no longer cringing during Mirabel's feeds! One of the best days of my life!

Chapter III: What does THIS little (or not so little) GIRL EAT?!!
I said goodbye to the formula. Eventually the breastpump found a home under my bed, and it's covered in dust now because I don't use it much these days. And that lovely nurse from a certain breastfeeding league who rudely chided me, then told me that my supply would go down because I was supplementing with formula? To her I say this: My daughter is in the 95th percentile for height and weight. She is bigger than all the babies her age that I've met so far. People actually ask me what I feed her. I smile, knowing the long story behind my breastfeeding experience, and I just say...MILK. My MILK. I feel like a superhero, people. I feel so good that my body can produce enough milk to feed my gentle giant of a baby! :) I call her Cuddles for a reason. I'm so glad I stuck to it!

Stick to it if you can! If you can't, don't feel bad. Breastfeeding, next to childbirth, is the hardest thing I've ever done. Even though I gave my daughter formula and took home the stash that they gave me at the hospital, I still consider our story a successful one--even if others don't.


Sarah said...

Gosh, it sounds like you were fighting a terribly long battle that I would have given up way before you. I did with my first, but I was much to prideful to go to a consultant the first time. But he would breast feed (painful) and take a bottle and was just fine. When I stopped breast feeding I did feel defeated but realized he needed a mom that was sane, and I was quickly losing it from lack of sleep and so much pain. I never felt a wince of pain from the second (until she bit me with her tiny teeth). It was wonderful.

The third I needed serious help and was fortunate to find a lactation consultant that was encouraging, amazing, and most of all not at all condescending when it came to giving him formula. She knew I was determined, but also knew that a couple bottles of formula weren't the end of the world.

I'm so glad you stayed true to what you thought your baby needed, not what someone told you she needed. You will hear so much advice throughout her growing up that your head will spin. But your heart knows.

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