Friday, April 23, 2010

Every Mom has a Story

{this photo has NOTHING to do with the post!}

I'm posting over here today. So I'm interrupting our usual Fab Friday, to offer a little companion tale to that post. I don't get on my soap box very often around here and I realize that this post may seem a little soap-boxy, I hope we can still be friends!

My post over there is about breastfeeding, I know, a bit of a hot button issues lately.

The part of the story that seems to be missing the most is the personal stories. I get it, I really do. Breastfeeding stirs a lot of emotional responses because it's so directly tied to the mother and her body. However just like childbirth, every women has her own story about why they did or didn't. We may not like their reasons, but we need to respect them. This is my story.

I was not enthusiastic to breastfeed my first. I was in health care, I knew how it important it was and how much better it was. No one around me breastfeed. Not the only friend I knew with a child, not my mother, no one. I had heard all the negatives. The pain, the difficulty, the lack of sleep. How your husband couldn't help feed it was all your responsibility and you were tied tot he baby. My husband on the other hand was very encouraging and really wanted to me to do it and give it a try. I had agreed to 6 weeks. Originally I only wanted 6 days so that he would get the colostrum and we would move on. My very supportive husband said I had to give it a chance, "try it for 6 weeks, you may be surprised, you may like it".

The frugal, part of me that was balancing life with one paycheck liked the thought of not spending the money on formula. But I was scared of breast feeding and unsure how it would all work. The closer we got to his birth, I', pretty sure I was as scared to try breastfeeding as I was to go through the actual birth! I talked about my birth here, it was not exactly a walk in the park. However as soon as I made it to recovery the nurse asked if I wanted to nurse and helped me get him latched.

It was the weirdest and most amazing feeling in the world. It was not comfortable at first, it just felt right. I couldn't believe all that my body, the body I had spent so many years disparaging, could do. I was amazed at the how comfortable and calming the act of nursing was.

It didn't stay that way long. I suffered with engorgement when my milk came in, forceful let down that almost drowned him, exhaustion, sore nipples, bottle refusal. I was hooked though and determine to make it work. I was alone though, only my husband for support. I was told more then once that I should just "give the baby a bottle" and I would frequently bring pumped milk with me on outings "just in case". I believed my son was bad t public nursing because he was too distracted, never like being covered. It was however probably my nerves and worries about what people would say or think that made it hard.

We lasted 10mo. Barely. I started solids at 4 and always gave them first, which hurt our nursing relationship. By 9 months he was walking and it was hard to get him to nurse other than before bed or nap. At 10months he was done, he had self weaned and was not interested in nursing anymore. I pumped for a little while longer but my supply had dived and it was hard. He had formula for the last two months before his first birthday.

With my daughter I was determined to nurse for a full year. I had plenty of friends and support this time, everyone around me was or had nursed. I was experienced and knew what to expect. I thought.

She had problems latching, she would fall asleep all the time. She had lost so much weight from birth and was jaundice (which my son was too) that the nurses kept telling me she would not be able to go home. I had a nurse say "If you want to take her home with you, you really need to be supplementing because this isn't working." I was so grateful she was not my first and I stuck my ground. I knew,KNEW my milk would come in the day before I left the hospital and I would be engorged and having forceful letdown issues. I demanded a lactation consultant. She was amazing and I am sure I could not have been discharged with my baby without her.

We worked on latch, we tried everything to keep her awake and nursing. To prove to the nurses she was eating (which to this day irks me that I had to "prove" to someone who is a L&D nurse that my baby was eating) I would pump off a little before she nursed, nurse her and then give her a bottle of the pumped milk. At first she wouldn't take the bottle for me, she would either try to nurse or nuzzle in and fall asleep. The same nurse that told me to give formula would practically throw a temper tantrum when I would ask her to help. Through her huffing (about being t00 for this one night) she says to me "what are you going to do when you get home, your going to have to figure out how to feed her on your own!"

I kept up the pump, nurse, bottle for 6 weeks. My daughter did get to come home with me, I had to weigh her before and after nursing the last day and I loved seeing that nurses eyes as the scale went up. We went home and I was certain this as going to be a much better and longer nursing experience. Than I got mastitis. I would not wish that on my enemy, it was horrible. We did get through and were dong fairly well. I was exhausted, she liked to nurse and at 9mo was still nursing several times a night.

Then her teeth came in. She bit me. OUCH! I was half asleep and not expecting it. I yelped. She recoiled and cried and never came back to the breast again, she was 10 months. I tried everything, that multiple lactation consultants and everyone on Kelly Mom could suggest. Nothing worked. She went from 10 nursing a day to none, cold turkey. I pumped, and pumped, and pumped and my supply kept diving. I took supplements, I h ad my thyroid checked. I could not keep up with her demand. I was devastated. I pumped for 8 weeks and she ended up getting formula for only 1 month.

But I still feel like a failure.

So I get it, I really get how emotional the issue is. I was not passionate about nursing until I tried it. I tried it and I still don't feel I did it good enough. But I can say I tried. I don't feel guilty or defensive about giving formula, I gave it my 100%. Do I wish I things had turned out different? Yes. Hopefully I'll get a chance to try again.

So that's my story, what's yours?


Shell said...

I did nurse all three of mine for past a year, but I always said that if it had been hard or if I'd had to pump, I never would have made it.

I had mastisis with one of mine and OMG, the PAIN.

Logical Libby said...

I really wanted to breast feed my daughter. I took supplements and pumped for weeks before we brought her home, but it just didn't happen. She has been on formula since day one. Occasionally I feel bad about it, but then I look at the fact she is healthy, and loved, and give myself a break.

I think all Moms give themselves a break too.

Ginny Marie said...

Thank you for sharing your story...breastfeeding is very emotional, and I think nursing both your children until they were 10 months old is AWESOME! You shouldn't feel bad about that at all!

I nursed both my daughters until they were 20 months, but I had breast cancer before I had children. I had to supplement with formula in the first couple of months because I couldn't make enough milk with just one breast... however, after I nursed and pumped, my milk supply was built up and I could breastfeed exclusively. One nurse compared nursing with one breast to nursing twins...each twin only gets one breast. That helped me feel better about my decision to breastfeed.

Becky said...

Breast feeding is so personal and emotional. I didn't because I was single, young and knew I'd need feeding especially since I was going back to work in 6 weeks. Not to mention I then had an emergency c-section and that just made the decision that much more solid to formula feed. Oh but the guilt! I still have some 10 years later. And my son is the healthiest, happiest, smartest kid I know.

Maegan Beishline said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Melissa! And you're right, every woman has a different story. I have a differeent story for all three of my children. And I've done it all: all bottle, combo, & all breast. I wish that more people could be supportive of breastfeeding...and I wish nurses could be more well informed on the topic and quit pushing bottles left and right. I actually just wrote a post which talked about that:

Anyway, big hugs to you! Thanks again for're one awesome mama!

LutherLiz said...

My son was born early at 33 weeks due to preeclampsia and spent the first 46 days of his life in the NICU. At first he was being tube fed as his suck reflex hadn't come in and I was pumping around the clock to provide for him. Even with my c-section and being really sick with preeclampsia he wasn't given formula, just breastmilk.

Trouble began as he learned to eat. His prematurity and lack of a reflex caused his suck to be vertical rather than horizontal (more like chewing and sucking) as a result he could stay at the nipple for a half hour and get nothing vs drain a 2 oz bottle in 5 min flat.

We tried in the NICU as often as we could but he'd get frustrated and we'd go back to pumped milk in a bottle. We saw lactation consultants and PT folks and still we couldn't make it work. He'd get maybe an ounce by breast after fighting for a long time.

But I had milk in droves. So I pumped and he got the expressed milk instead. When we came home we still tried but by then the bottle was his go to for food. So I pumped some more.

I pumped for 13 months and recently just stopped after he made the transition to cow's milk. I don't regret it though it was more time consuming and difficult than I had ever imagined.

I hope to have another some day and really breast feed this time. I feel I got all the difficulties and none of the rewards for breastfeeding...though my son did reap the rewards of breast milk.

Dumb Mom said...

I was/am very passionate about nursing my kids. It's just what I do. #1 was hard, #2 was a breeze, and #3 was pain from day 1 until he weaned himself 11 months later (I had severe milk duct spasms which I'd never even heard of before they made me want to rip my boobs clean off). I actually wrote about this a bit recently. Not sure if you saw it (or if you want to) so hear it is:

In other news, I'm liking your new look. It seems like everyone is getting one these days!

Corinne Cunningham said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Both of my kids were challenging in different ways... Fynn was tough to start, and then ended up being a boobaholic until he just stopped one day at 11 1/2 months. Paige would have kept going, but I nudged her to cut back and she stopped altogether... which still makes me sad because I nudged her for the wrong reasons....
It's an amazing thing, not to be taken for granted :)

Gretchen said...

OMG girl are you trying to open a can of worms??? No, just kidding. Actually it's good that you have a healthy attitude about breastfeeding - that it is each woman's personal choice. I've had varied success with each of my 5 kids for different reasons. I've done guilt, I've done pain, I've done pumping and lactation consultants and lactivists. I've done it all. And know what? I think in each situation I made the right decision of what was best at that time. Hindsight is 20/20 and I'd love to do some things differently, but at the time I did what I thought was best and that's all my kids are ever gonna get from me. That is, until I get the awesome power of clairvoyance. Should be coming in any day now.