Wednesday, April 6, 2011

breastfeeding is harder than giving birth

...at least in my opinion. this will probably turn into another tmi post (you've been warned), but i want to remember what i'm going through. i've mentioned before i'm a huge believer in breastfeeding. there's nothing i want more than to be able to provide nourishment for azalea for many months to come or even up to a year. i'm glad i went into this hearing from friends that breastfeeding is not easy, so it was no surprise. but i never understood the emotional and physical toll it takes on you until it was my turn. 

we started breastfeeding in the hospital shortly after she was born. if you don't know, you don't actually have breast milk at that point. you have what's called, colostrum, that is enough to nourish the baby until your breast milk comes in 2-4 days later. the nurses helped me teach her how to latch on properly. she was really sleepy every time we tried, but she did pretty well when she'd actually wake up. the first couple nights in the hospital we would set an alarm for every 2-3 hours to nurse her. it was a battle to get her to wake each time. 

my milk came in when azalea was 3 days old and despite the pain, i was happy because i know of other moms who's milk never came in properly. it was a whole new (messy) world feeding her with actual milk. even with a proper latch, breastfeeding is excruciatingly painful (at least it was for me). but i just kept telling myself through my tears that it will get better. 

2 days ago i started coming down with flu-like symptoms. i had horrible chills and aches and could hardly get out of bed. to add insult to injury, azalea started refusing to nurse on either side. she would flail around, arch her back, and scream. it was so. frustrating. i cried and cried and cried. i had a feeling that i had mastitis, which is a common breast infection. i called the 24 hour nurses line to see what they had to say. the on call doctor said it sounded like mastitis and i should make an appt for the morning. it ended up being a miserable night over here. with her refusing to nurse, i got out the electric pump and tried to pump some to put in a bottle for her. the non-infected breast had a decent supply, but i got almost nothing out of the infected breast. it broke my heart to give her so little food, so i dug out a formula sample i had gotten in the mail and gave that to her too. luckily she has no problems taking a bottle. i cannot tell you how many times i cried that night. it felt like the whole night. thatcher was so supportive and stayed up with me despite the fact that he had to get up for work in the morning. 

yesterday i saw my ob nurse practioner and she confirmed that it was mastitis and wrote me a prescription. she said i needed to pump every couple hours and give it to azalea in a bottle, so that's what i did for the next few hours. in the afternoon, azalea had an appt. for a weight check with a different pediatrician than her first visit and we found out she has lost 3 oz. since friday (cue the crying in front of the dr.) luckily the dr. was extremely sweet and told me i was the second new mom she had cry that day. haha. it was so discouraging to find out she was losing weight when i feel like i am constantly feeding her. but the pediatrician gave me invaluable advice. she told me i have to make her nurse (especially on the infected side, because it helps clear it up). she said to try not to give her a bottle with breast milk (or formula) unless she absolutely refuses to feed and it goes on too long. she said the trouble with the bottle is they start to prefer it and will refuse to go back to the breast. she even observed azalea breastfeeding (the first time she had done it in over 12 hours) and we both agreed that the girl loves to latch on in her own way. it's so important that she does it the correct way though, so we can make sure she's getting the most milk and so it's not as painful for me. 

i had yet another meltdown in the evening yesterday from the excruciating pain of nursing and her unwillingness to latch on correctly (or latch on at all). i honestly don't think i've ever cried so hard in my life. i kept having all these feelings like i could be a better mom if i just formula fed because my time with her would not be filled with crying and frustration. thatcher was so incredibly good at consoling me. but he told me i was not allowed to make a decision like that when i was so upset. i finally pulled myself together, went to sleep, and luckily her night time feedings went fairly smoothly. so have her feedings today. i've noticed that she is less likely to get angry about the latching on process if i'm more casual about it (like taking her off her changing table and having her latch on while i'm standing there). for some reason when we go through the "formal" process of getting out the boppy, sitting down, trying to position her, etc she gets all stressed out. hey, whatever works! i'm hoping we are over the hump, but i'm going to try my hardest to not freak out if we're not. 

ok, so this has turned into a novel, but i just wanted to write out my feelings on day 11 of breastfeeding bootcamp :) i hope this is helpful for other new mamas out there to know that they are not alone in this crazy world of breastfeeding.

7 comments:

Becky said...

I'm so sorry to hear you've had a hard time, Melissa! I hope it continues to go better. Although I don't have first hand experience myself (yet), I have heard from many other moms that breastfeeding is a huge challenge. You are definitely not alone.
I'm sure Jackie would be willing to talk with you about feeding/mastitis. She had a really hard time with it as you may know, and said she has learned a lot from the experience. She might be a good resource for you!

jss said...

I never had trouble with mastisis, but I did have a hard time getting Mac to latch. Rather than make myself crazy trying to teach a non-communicative baby how to do something I barely understood myself, I chose to use a nipple shield. That thing changed. my. life. It taught Mac how to latch the right way all while saving my boobs. And a month or two later (i don't remember anymore) I worked with Mac a little bit to get him to latch straight on to my boob and after about 2 days, he figured it out and he's been nursing just fine ever since.

Also, I have several friends who, for one reason or another (including frequent mastisis) chose to exclusively pump instead of breast feed. It burns the same calories and provides the same nutrition, so if you have to pump and give azalea bottles of breastmilk, don't sweat it - you're still giving her the best.

In other news, lets wait a month and let the weather get even nicer and let your hormones balance out and then we'll get together for yummy ice cream :-) I didn't want to see anyone other than my own parents for about the first month so I totally understand.

Karen said...

Poor dear. If you can make it through this, I promise it will become enjoyable.

I had some of these same experiences initially, but after a few years, the pain and worry has faded, and mostly I just remember the gratitude I felt to my own mother for breast feeding me. (I bet Azalea will thank you some day too.)

Carol said...

My experiences of course are ancient history, but it does get better, easier, and the pain will disappear. Isn't it funny how even such young babies have a mind of their own? I hope that it continues to go a little more smoothly---good luck! I admire you for being so persistent!

The Raymonds said...

We have been having some breastfeeding issues, too. Luckily things are getting much better now and she is latching, and I think it has something to do with that casual attitude, too. I feel like the more relaxed I am, the better she does. But the first few days of her life were very hard and she lost 12 ounces within her first 2 days. It was heartbreaking for a Mom to hear that she lost so much weight. I felt like a failure. I know how you feel!
Remain strong- this breastfeeding stuff is not as easy as people make it seem! And we are definitely NOT failures- we want what's best for our daughters!

Kristi said...

Mind if I weigh in?!

I second the nipple shield! You won't need it forever, but it may be just the thing to help get you through this rough patch.

I also HIGHLY recommend seeing a lactation consultant. Check with your hospital. Often times, insurance will cover a portion of the visit. An LC can do wonders for you! She can help show you little adjustments you can make to baby's latch, positioning, etc, as well as help keep an eye on her weight gain (which I am sure will be putting the ounces and pounds on very soon!).

Hang in there! You can do it!
Good luck and please keep us posted.

Jackie Getchius said...

I'm SO sorry things are rough right now. I would be really happy to talk with you about mastitis/problems with breastfeeding. I had mastitis 3 times and just terrible problems getting Gavin to latch. I had many a night of crying my eyes out too and being in terrible pain. Feel free to let me know ANY questions I could help you with. For me, I felt really alone not knowing anyone who'd gone through it and so I'd be glad to help in any way I can. I ended up getting hooked up with a lactation consultant I talked on the phone weekly with and went to the Breastfeeding Center at Methodist Hospital face to face which was REALLY helpful. The lactation consultant I saw there showed me one little thing to try different to get Gavin to latch right and it made a HUGE difference, he latched on correctly instantly. I also tried the nipple shield but didn't like it as Gavin would refuse to nurse without it and it can (I found out later) increase your chances of getting mastitis again because it can harbor bacteria. I'll be praying for you and hope things get better quickly for you!

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