Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Breastfeeding Story

Early morning snuggles

Before I became pregnant, I was pretty much anti-breastfeeding. I know, GASP, right? How could I actually admit those sentiments in a public forum?  But if we are being completely honest, I didn't get the whole breastfeeding equates bonding like some women talk about. In fact, before pregnancy, the whole idea just grossed me out. Plus, my mom did not breastfeed me and we can't be closer or have a tighter bond. So honestly I really didn't see the point...with the exception of the social pressure. No one wants to admit you don't want to breastfeed because you are immediately given a scarlett letter identifying you as an awful mother.

That social pressure even made me imagine long before I was even in a relationship with my husband, that whenever I did have a baby I would pretend in the hospital that I was going to breastfeed to not be judged. However, I imagined that I would switch immediately to formula upon returning home. Things changed after I became pregnant and did research upon research about how to be the best mommy possible. Slowly I was convinced that I at least wanted to attempt breastfeeding. At first, if I am going to be completely honest again, it was for selfish reasons like weight loss but then it moved into true maternal motivations such as the reduction of SIDS risk and the great nutrients that breastmilk provides.

We went to the classes and listened to how natural the process is for mother and child. By the way natural does not in any way mean without the potential for difficulties but they don't tell you that in those classes or a lot of literature. I had also heard the stories of women that desperately wanted to breastfeed but for whatever reason (e.g. low milk supply, infections, latching problems, etc.) could not. These women were so hard on themselves about supposedly failing to achieve at what a lot of outspoken moms claim to be the badge of motherhood. This supposed failure left them depressed in those precious sweet months following birth. I decided that while I was going to try breastfeeding that I did not want to set myself up with that much pressure.

I am normally the queen of expecting perfection from myself. With high expectations for myself, comes a lot of pressure but I managed to somehow have the attitude that I was going to give it my best shot and if it worked out great but if it didn't I would still be able to provide ample nutrition for my baby boy while bonding with him just like my mother did for me. So my husband and I carefully crafted our plans with Ed agreeing to be the support I would need to make this happen for our son. We were positive about the process because I had heard that a good attitude would be the thing that carried me the furthest in this venture.

The First Sweet Moments
The moments after Buckner was born were beautiful. Our sweet little baby lying skin to skin on my chest began to root around to start nursing just like the class video had shown. It was working!  It was so natural! And Ed and I were so proud. During the hospital stay, I attempted nursing just like I should on the time table that I should and had a successful visit with our lactation consultant. I didn't worry like a lot of moms do about him not getting enough because I understood that in the first couple of days that a teaspoon of colostrum is all they need to sustain them until your milk comes in.

In the first few days, the latching hurt but we pushed through knowing that this was just me learning and getting adjusted. We were quite proud of how successful we were at breastfeeding. We almost were arrogant in our success that breastfeeding had come so easy to us.  In those days, my earlier attitude toward nursing disappeared and I refused to even think supplements. I was going to be an EBF (exclusively breastfeeding mom).

Latching Issues, Weight Loss and Illness
Then the problems started to roll in. Buckner was losing weight quickly and was jaundice in the first week. We were assured to not be alarmed because this is typical in breastfed babies. We just needed to take him out in the sun and visit our lactation consultant. I broke down right outside the hospital after that visit, thinking our baby was going to die. Of course, I understand the problems were normal but my reaction was that of a first time mommy who had just delivered days before and was functioning on a few hours of sleep. 

Days later the jaundice was gone and after a successful visit showing me how to make sure Buckner was getting a proper latch and eating, he started to put on weight. In the meantime, I was exhausted and always cold. I was never hungry even though I heard breastfeeding makes you ravenous. I contributed the exhaustion to being a new mom and the chills to adjusting hormones. I didn't question the loss of appetite because I was just happy to be losing weight. 

We were still struggling with latching. No matter how hard I tried to help Buckner latch properly it became a constant struggle. I tried all the positions and the tricks. I tried to detach him and ended up screaming in pain because all the detaching tricks and tips did not work. They only did the opposite by turning my sweet baby into a snapping turtle refusing to let go. I read articles and watched you tube videos but nothing was working. The pain became so bad that I would sadly hope that Buckner did not want to eat because it hurt so much. At this point, the pain was interfering with any bonding during the nursing. So we rented a hospital grade pump to assist me until the pain subsided.

After almost fainting while holding Buckner and not being able to put on enough clothes to take away the chills, I finally took my temperature...103 degrees. Something was wrong. The first doctor on call said that most likely I had not emptied my breasts which is common so I tried to pump longer and nurse more. A few days passed and my fever stayed. I was getting so sick and I was in so much pain, that I could barely hold Buckner to my chest yet I stayed persistent in my nursing attempts. I nursed or pumped every three hours (with the clock starting at the beginning of the nursing session). But something remained wrong.

After talking to the next doctor on call, I was told to go to the ER. Buckner at this time also had a strange looking pimple on his nose. The diagnosis? We both had staph and I also had mastitis. Back at home, I read all the tips to overcome mastistis and was determined to overcome it. I pumped more. I nursed more. I started to feel better with my antibiotics. Buckner started to get better on his antibiotics. The results came back and it was the scary diagnosis of MRSA. I was petrified. Where did we get it? Most likely from the hospital but were we going to be okay? The doctors assured me we were going to be fine.

Restored Health and Bonding
After several days of feeling better, Ed and I were going to go on our first date night but I relapsed. I was so sick. I again felt like I had the flu. I had an OBGYN appointment the next day to check on my mastitis but I was running a 103 fever again. I was so scared and depressed about being sick. It had been about three weeks of ongoing illness at this point. Instead of date night, we spent the evening in the Urgent Care Clinic. The doctor on call was an angel of a man. He told me that they had three children. Out of the three, two nursed without problems but no matter how hard his wife tried with the third it just never worked. He said all children were different. He asked me if I was planning on continuing to nurse. I said no, I tried and I was ready to be well enough to take care of my baby. I was then given the antibiotics that finally took care of me and ended my breastfeeding since the medicine was not safe for nursing even weeks after completing them.  However, I had to still pump to remove the milk until I weaned myself from nursing. It was hard to see the milk available but not be able to give it to Buckner.

During this process, I spoke to nurses who told me they had tried and could not do it. I talked to other friends who said the same. I looked at my happy baby who was thriving so much better on formula than he ever did with breast milk. I bonded even more with Buckner. I take bottle nursing very seriously. I am never on my phone or distracted when I feed my baby. I talk to him, cuddle him and  focus solely on him. I know a few breastfeeding mothers who catch up on tv shows during their nursing time. Not to say that in judgment but just to point out that you can bond just as much or more with a bottle if you make the time special.

The Best for Our Babies
I feel judged by a few. I can tell they think I did not do it right or that I did not have the right attitude or try hard enough. I can tell other moms who did not successfully breastfeed feel judged as well as they tell their stories in hushed tones. My husband reminds me when I feel upset by the judgemental ones that they have no idea what we went through and what it feels like in those first few weeks when you find your baby and yourself in the ER. He reminds me that they don't know how hard we tried. And then he lightens the mood by pointing to our smiling, healthy and perfect weight baby and says jokingly, "Yeah, he is sooo suffering." Baby Buckner responds with a coo, smile or a babble.

As the days turn into months with our son, I look forward to every time I feed him but the bonding goes beyond the feeding. We bond while I change him and give him lots of tickles which he in turn gives me a ton of giggles. We bond while I carry him in a sling doing all types of household activities. We bond while we play after the end of the day of having to be a part at work and daycare. We bond while I read to him, sing to him, bathe him, rock him to sleep, get up in the middle of the night with him, and cuddle him.  Our bond is growing every day and it is a beautiful, unconditional love. Our bond did not start nor stop with breastfeeding.

We fight all the time for choices as women but we then in turn are so hard on other women who make choices different from our own. We shouldn't have the social pressure to do something that isn't working for our babies and we shouldn't have to feel ashamed of our choices. As parents, we should educate ourselves on all the best options available and then move forward for what works with our families. We should be applauded for our efforts to give the best to our babies because good parents all want one thing...the best for their babies.
Bonding more every day! Love my little man!
We finally got our date night! Here is me finally healthy with my supportive and amazing husband.
Our healthy, thriving little man.

When ya gotta eat ya gotta eat...even in Walmart!


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