Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thoughts on nursing...

What's funny is that I never really intended to breastfeed.

When I was pregnant, I had heard about all of the benefits of breastfeeding from many well-meaning friends and family.  I had done the research and knew that it would be great for both Grace and I if I nursed her.

But honestly?  There was a part of me that just couldn't get over the ick factor.  The whole idea of using my body to feed my baby just seemed strange, and I knew that it would be too weird for me to get over.  So my plan was to "try" and breastfeed while in the hospital to appease the nurses (I had been warned that they'd be pretty pushy about it) and then transition to formula and bottles once we got home.

I never imagined that I'd become so attached to it.

From the first time I held Grace skin to skin, that oxytocin started flowing, and the nursing experience bonded me to her in a completely unexpected way.  It didn't feel strange at all.  In fact, it felt so, so natural and right.  As the days went on, I became convinced that I really wanted to give nursing a legitimate try.  No one was more shocked than I was, but I'm nothing if not flexible.  

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(Lest you all think I'm breaking my rule against showing you inappropriate pictures, we were definitely not nursing here.  I'm just showing a lot of cleavage - ha. :))

I'd be lying if I told you that it wasn't incredibly painful.  My nipples were cracked and bleeding (even though I slathered on the lanolin like nobody's business), and the first minute or so of each nursing session kept my toes curled and usually drew a cry of pain.  But it was definitely bearable, and I knew that it would get easier.  So I met with three different lactation consultants at the hospital and one at Grace's pediatrician's office in attempt to learn how to feed her effectively.  We mastered the latch and the hold, and Grace was eating like a champ.

Well, that is, she was trying to eat like a champ. 

My milk didn't come in for six long days.  Before that, there was very little, if any, colostrum getting to her.  (I tried hand-expressing multiple times and got a whole lot of nothing.)  She dropped from 9 pounds to 7 pounds and 10 ounces in a matter of days, and I was panicked.  I knew that a certain amount of weight loss was normal, but she had lost over 15% of her birth weight, and her pediatrician was concerned enough to recommend that we offer her a 1-ounce bottle after each feeding. 

So we did so without hesitation.  As much as I had fallen in love with nursing and knew that offering a bottle so soon might compromise my ability to breastfeed, the mama bear in me took over, and I happily watched as she got full and happy after each bottle.  We had bought both Dr. Brown's and Tommee Tippee bottles, and she ate well from both, but the Dr. Brown's are supposed to help prevent fussiness and colic, so we mostly used them. 

After two days of supplementing (and still before my milk had come in), she stopped latching.  Girlfriend was smart enough to realize that bottles were way easier than nursing, and she had no interest in nursing.  I cried uncontrollably (yay, hormones!) at the thought that I had failed her.  It's silly, I know, but I was juar so disappointed.  (Which was pretty ironic considered how uninterested in nursing I had been before Grace was born.)

Micah's parents were over for dinner after almost a full day of Grace refusing to latch.  I was frustrated beyond belief and was THISCLOSE to giving up.  It was time for her to eat again, and I told Micah that I would try nursing one more time before we'd just switch over to bottles.  Lo and behold, the girl latched like a champ, and it appeared that my milk had finally come in!  From that point on, I stuck to Tommee Tippee bottles (which are supposed to be best for breastfed babies), and she went back and forth perfectly.

She begain gaining weight again, but my doctor recommended that we continued to supplement until she got back to her birth weight.  I agreed (again... the instinct to help her thrive overcame my concern that the bottles might compromise nursing) and did so until she got back up to 9 pounds.

After that, I was thrilled to put the bottles away and nurse exclusively.  We bought a nursing cover and another nursing bra and looked forward to providing breastmilk at least until I went back to work at 12 weeks. 

But my body had other plans.

From the moment I stopped giving her bottles, she went from being a happy and content baby to a fussy demon child.  I wasn't sure if she was just extra hungry because my body wasn't used to producing all of the milk she was demanding or if there was something I was eating that was upsetting her stomach.  Either way, we were both miserable.  I was feeding on demand around the clock and even throwing in extra pumping sessions to try and teach my body to make more milk but was consistently only getting 2 ounces per session.  And she was still crying all the time. 

After three days of constant fussing (and constant pumping!), I decided to try an experiment.  I picked up a can of Similac Sensitive formula (we had been using Enfamil's Gentlease for the supplements) and a bottle of gas drops and to feed her only formula for 24 hours (while continuing to pump to keep up my supply) to see if there was any change in her demeanor.  My experiment was flawed in that we were changing multiple variables (the substance of her food, the amount of food, and the addition of the gas drops), but I was desperate. 

The change was immediate.  Her crying essentially disappeared, and she slept better and longer than she ever had.  I cried tears of relief because she was back to being our sweet, happy baby.  But I was incredibly disappointed at the realization that nursing probably wasn't going to work for us.

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Because as much as I had grown to enjoy nursing, I knew that the effort it would take to teach my body to create enough milk to satisfy my hungry girl would drive both of us crazy.  And since I had planned on switching to formula at three months anyway, it didn't seem worth it to put us both through days and days of misery to satisfy my desire to breastfeed, particularly given how much Miss Priss loves her bottles.

So after almost a month, we're throwing in the towel and switching to formula.  I'm totally at peace with our decision, as I know that formula has worked wonderfully for many bottle-fed babies that I know.  And, truth be told, I'm excited for the newfound flexibility - finally other people can help me feed her! (My dad, in particular, loves feeding bottles to babies, and it was awesome to watch him give Grace a bottle on Sunday.)  I will definitely miss nursing (which still feels strange to admit - I swear... that oxytocin is some powerful stuff!) but I'm glad to have gotten to nurse her for as long as I did, and I'll cherish those sweet moments forever.

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14 comments:

Christina said...

Congratulations to you for sticking it through for a month. It is the most amazing bonding experience for mom and baby. My first would scream whenever I consumed dairy. I had to restrict my dairy intake for a couple of months until his little body could handle the milk proteins. My second (who is 4 weeks old) doesn't seem to be affected by it, but to be safe I still limit my dairy and wheat intake b/c those little tummies can be very sensitive to what we mommies eat. Either way kudos to you for trying. I'm glad you have found what works for you guys...

Laurie @ The Rookie Wife said...

Don't feel bad! Nursing isn't for everyone and it doesn't WORK for everyone. My sister Breastfed her first 2 but the last 2 just wouldn't take it and she switched to bottles. It ended up being better for her when she went back to work. I'm not nursing, even though I'm a Stay at home mom and get glares when I tell me that. It's just not something I personally want to do. Good job for trying:)

Established: 2008 said...

I've said this before but I really think that people should do a better job of warning first time moms how difficult breast feeding is. It was SO painful during the first few weeks. It led to a lot of tears and a lot of guilt that I wasn't LOVING feeding my baby. I'm so glad you're sharing this story because there are a lot of people that need to know that it is ok to have a hard time!

Laura said...

Those hormones are pretty powerful aren't they?? I cried when I breastfed Phillip for the last time!! I think the really great thing is that ANY amount of breast is so good for their immune systems so you really gave her a great start. And PS I'm jealous of your flexibility... my babies nursed quite successfully and neither would drink from a bottle!!!

Jennjilla said...

Same thing happened to me with my first! He's now a super tall 6 year old, so formula is ok. ;) my second I nursed for 5 months - and supplemented at times. I just don't make a to ln of milk. I'm jealous of my friends that do, but then again - I could take a break when they couldn't hhaha all works out!

Erica said...

I love reading all your posts!! I am due with my first baby...a girl too...in July and you are helping me get prepared, even though you probably didn't know it!! Thank you so much for sharing all your insight, and sounds to be like you are a fabulous momma already!

Jessica K said...

Wow! Well you tried! I had the same problem, except I didn't want to use formula, so I had to look at my diet and figure out what it was that bothered her. For the next 6-7 months I had A CRAZY diet. No gassy vegetables, nothing with tomotos or tomato sauce, no dairy. It was frustrating! You did a great job Momma! 1 month is awesome! :)

Colleen said...

I think it's impressive you got to where you did with all those issues! that's awesome. I did not bf but did attempt it. I admittedly threw in the towel rather fast.

Camille said...

Don't feel bad, it can't work for everyone! I could never make enough milk with my first. Breastmilk upset her belly, formula upset her belly, she was always having a belly ache no matter what I did! I think it's wonderful that you found something that works for your baby. As long as she's happy and healthy, that's what matters! But just as a note, I do recommend trying breastfeeding again when and if you have a second baby. I did with my second and miraculously had none of the problems I had with my first. I'm so glad I decided to give it another go.

Emily said...

I missed this post earlier this week so I am just getting caught up now! I say bravo to you for lasting a whole month! No matter how we feed our babies, we are feeding them and that's what they need! Lilly is a formula baby and it's working well for us! :) I am glad that by switching to formula you guys have an easier schedule and you can get some longer stretches of sleep, it's nice huh!?

Sasha Savy said...

Congrats to you for trying!!!! I'm glad you enjoyed the experience. My 11 week old is EBF and I've just learned that she has a milk protein allergy. I'm so attached to nursing that I'm trying to restrict my diet to keep feeding her. Like you said, it's a bond that is formed. It's amazing! I'm happy you kept trying and that y'all got to experience it! :)

Jana said...

Our stories are very similar. Thanks for linking up at the Thirty-One:10 link up and stopping by my post at Coffee & Giggles as well.

Tasha @ Thirty-one:10 said...

Thanks for linking up on the site! I was fortunate to find a great lactation consultant to help me navigate the difficult decisions us breastfeeding moms have to make, like whether or not to supplement and how, and help me diagnose and fix painful latch and let down. Hopefully, if there is a second one, you will have a better experience knowing what you know now! :) Your story helps soon-to-be breastfeeding moms more than you could know.

Angela Bickford said...

Thanks for linking up to the Thirty-One:10 breastfeeding link-up! Great story here - you tried, and that is what matters. You figured out that it wasn't best for you or your daughter, and that's ok! Be proud of yourself, momma! :)

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