Friday, February 10, 2012

a short novel on breastfeeding

 before i had azalea, i knew that breast feeding was hard work and doesn't always come easy for moms and their babies. but i have a confession: when i would hear moms say things like "it didn't work out for us", i judgmentally thought to myself "well, they must not have really wanted to do it...or didn't really try." and then...i became one of those moms. talk about humbling! i only nursed azalea for 2 weeks. it was the most difficult 2 weeks of my life, physically and emotionally. i can confidently say i have never cried as much as i did in those 2 weeks. i still feel guilty and sad on occasion about the way things turned outeven 10 months later. but i shouldn't. i did the best i could considering the circumstances, and all that matters is that azalea is a happy, healthy, loved baby. here's a little a lot of background on our experience.

latching trouble and weight loss: 

azalea never had a good latch. nurses, doctors, and a lactation consultant all helped, but she was very stubborn. she also had a really strong suck reflex, which was excruciatingly painful for me. i realize these things are very common and i was not deterred solely because of them. in fact, i felt like nursing was going fine until we discovered a few days in that she wasn't gaining any weight (rather, she was losing a lot of weight). ok, not a big deal, i thought. i'll just feed her more. i fed her at least every 2 hours around the clock (the doctor recommended setting an alarm every 2 hours at night and waking her to eat). i know people have varying opinions about that, but she needed to gain weight, so i wasn't going to argue. unfortunately, it didn't help. she kept losing weight. and losing. and losing. we went to quite a few weight check appointments over those 2 weeks and it was discouraging news every. single. time. cue lots of crying (from me) in front of the pediatrician.


when azalea was 9 days old, i developed mastitis. it was by far worse than giving birth. i had horrible flu-like symptoms and i hardly had the strength to hold her. on top of that, she refused to nurse. after only being able to pump 1 oz of milk, which i gave to her, i felt so guilty that she had hardly gotten anything and made her a bottle of formula. she gobbled it up! the mastitis went away after i got antibiotics and we went back to nursing. it was rocky, but we kept going. i tried a few recommendations to increase my production, but nothing really seemed to make a difference.

here comes the bottle:
the pediatrician didn't recommend supplementing at all for the first 2 weeks because if you give a baby a bottle when you are trying to develop a nursing relationship, many times they will prefer the bottle and refuse to nurse. but after 2 weeks of continuous weight-loss, we knew something had to change. we needed to test what would happen if she got more food. the doctor advised me to nurse, then pump anything left and give it to azalea in a bottle. if it was less than 2 ounces (which it always was!), i should give her formula too. we did that for a couple days and it quickly became clear that azalea wanted nothing to do with nursing and she only wanted the bottle. so, what's a weary mom to do? i desperately wanted to breastfeed her, but my body wasn't producing as it should, my baby was withering away (ok not really, but that's what it felt like at the time) and i was emotionally exhausted from her constant rejection. 

 so, i decided to start pumping all of my milk and supplement with formula. it was upsetting to make that decision, but at the same time, i felt a huge sense of relief knowing how much food she was actually getting. in almost no time, i was feeling like a better mom. azalea was happier, i was happier, i wasn't crying all the time, thatcher and i were both getting to feed her and when we went back to the doctor a few days later, we found out she had gained 10 ounces! I was so happy! 

for the last 10 months, i pumped and bottle fed her breast milk and formula. and it worked great for us. i never was able to pump more than 2 ounces in one session, which some people probably think is a waste of time and energy, but to me it wasn't. emotionally, i could not let go of that last tie that i had to feeding her. she has continued to gain weight at a normal rate ever since then and i'm thankful for that. thatcher was so supportive during those first 2 weeks. i don't know how he did it. i was such a mess. i stopped pumping last week after a period of self-weaning. i'm proud of how long i did it!

so, what's the point of this post? it's not for me to whine that i had the worst nursing experience ever known to mom and you should feel bad for me (because I didn't. i've heard way worse). it's that nursing doesn't always work out despite your best intentions and that's ok. could i have done more to make it work? probably. but i was on the fast track to post-partum depression and i realized it and had to do something about it. i still feel jealous of moms who are able to easily breast feed. but i have to remind myself that no mom gets a perfect experience with everything. i had an easy birth, and got a great sleeper. on the other hand, there are moms who may have a flawless nursing relationship from the start, but are disappointed because they ended up having an emergency c-section, or their baby never sleeps through the night. i've learned a little perspective goes a long way. and if you're wondering, i'm planning to breast feed my next baby (not anytime soon!). maybe i will have the same experience again, maybe not. but i'm at least going to try. thanks for reading :)


Paige said...

Great post! I wanted it so badly to work as well - and it did only for a few short months and I had to supplement with formula. I think I was lucky that my baby took so well to the formula, and still to this day (knock wood) eats well with no issues. We are mommies and we do what is best for our child/children - no matter what! Even if that means buying formula!

ajs {of MN} said...

i had similar body let down in the BF dept as well- it REALLY messed with me emotionally and i still get sad about it not working for me and my baby, BUT i was on a fast track to coo-coo world b/c i was having such a hard time about it. once i got over it {well kind of, enough to move on} i was a WHOLE new person! great post, thanks for sharing!

Missy said...

This was my experience as well. Although I opted to not continuing to pump the 2 oz that I was able to get at each session. I gave up after 4 weeks. Although I think I might have continued with it if Cameron hadn't have been so colicy. He would scream anytime I put him down to pump and it was too hard to listen to. By the time we figured out he had a milk protein intolerance and got him on the right formula so he was no longer screaming all the time I had dried up. Oh well. The biggest thing I found was that so many websites, message boards and even the Dr. and nurses at times make you feel like a failure if you don't breastfeed. "Breast is best." Which I don't doubt, but the constant push makes us moms who struggle feel more like failures. My son is a happy and healthy 1 1/2 year old and that's all that matters in my book. Someone told me that when children are 5 their teachers aren't going to be able to tell the difference between kids who were breastfed and those who weren't, but they will be able to tell the difference between kids who are loved and well cared for and those that are resented and neglected.

Happiness Is... said...

Great post - Thatcher also lost weight, and we had to add formula as well. I was sad we didn't make it longer with exclusive nursing, but at the end of the day mom's sanity (and mental health) and baby's physical health and development have to come first. It's great that you don't beat yourself up over it because you shouldn't. You're a rockstar mom and Azalea is gorgeous!

Lisa said...

This was a very honest, informative, and inspired post! I really enjoyed reading it, and I think you did such a wonderful job and showed so much dedication through pumping for 10 months. I'd be proud of myself, if I were you! You go girl! :) Many Moms would probably just "give up" and not pump at all, so you deserve many MANY kudos! Breastfeeding was super difficult for us at first, too. I was devastated at first and one night after a failed pumping attempt I told Drew that Rosemary was just going to be 100% formula fed and I gave up. Ha! I didn't produce a single drop of milk uncle she was a week old, so we formula supplemented, too. Many tears during that time! Hopefully it is easier for us both next time!

Jackie said...

So glad you wrote about your experience! It's so important for mamas to know you can only do the best you can and you did!

Sarah said...

I had to click through from Google Reader to tell you that you. are. amazing.


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