Friday, March 18, 2011

breastfeeding: the boobs and the baby

I knew I wanted to breastfeed my new baby. with its nutritent and immune benefits, there was no question I was going to try it at least. first off, i was lucky i was able to (some mammas can't due to supply issues, latching, etc). second, i feel lucky i was able to nurse Scarlett for seven months, even though i had high aspirations of nursing her for one year. i know there are a few mammas out there who say from the very beginning that they do not want to breastfeed and choose formula first, but i think for most mammas it is not really a choice of to nurse or not to nurse or when wean or when to start formula. the boobs and the baby dictate nursing no matter what your original and best intentions may be.

when i first met Scarlett in the recovery room 2 hours post birth, (yes, woe is me, i didn't get to meet my baby right away because i was put completely under for the c-section. perhaps i will write about that one day...) anyway, the L&D nurse called it right away, "oh, you're gonna have trouble with that," she said as Scarlett tried to latch to the right side. what? i could barely comprehend let alone keep my anesthetized eyes open but i heard the word small. it couldn't be my boob as i was recently very proud of my d-cup status. it was the nipple, apparently. "let's try the left." success.

it was clear from the beginning that Scarlett favored the left. (just like her father. what? tmi?) the nurses and lactation consultants tried all sorts of medeival tricks to help "draw the right nipple out," which were partially successful. she would eventually latch on but it was questionable if she was getting anything from old righty. the pediatrician was concerned though because the day we were supposed to leave the hospital, Scarlett had lost 10% of her body weight, which is the cut off for more than normal. apparently my mothers old rule of "never wake a sleeping baby" only applies to older babies, not two day old neonates who need to be woken to feed every 3 hours minimum. scene of david and i in the hospital smiling: our baby is perfect sleeping all the time, babies are easy!

the doc reluctantly let us go home with the promise of coming in the next day to have Scarlett weighed. i was producing milk and Scarlett was getting some to eat, but i could not say with confidence that "my milk had come in." it was only the day after that (6 days post birth) did i know that my milk had come in. and boy, did it come in! engorged! sidenote: you hear that word, engorged, when you are pregnant but you think naively that it means kinda swollen like when you are about to get your period like. this is not engorged. no, engorged means rock hard boobs, like seriously, rock hard. coupled with bright red chapped nips and continuous leaking like a dripping faucet equals nobody come near me or look at me because i'm going to not wear a shirt for a week because it hurts so much even organic cotton nursing pads still freaking kill and i'm probably going to mouth out swear words for the first 15 seconds of Scarlett latching on and wonder how in the world did the human race survive if this is what is necessary...

exhale. it got better. thankfully, after the first two weeks, nursing became a lot easier and pretty painless. Scarlett was gaining weight so the pediatrician was no longer worried. we had a routine with a rocking chair, the boppy pillow, foot rest, burp cloths, hooter hider, nipple cream, the whole nine yards. alright, i thought, i can do this. this is good.

but still there was a problem with the right side. it is normally recommended that you alternate the side you start on with each feeding. if i started on the left, Scarlett would not take from the right later on, so i always started on the right. this way she was she was most hungry and most likely to latch on that side. This worked for a little but i couldn't fool her for long. i'm not kidding you, she could tell before the nursing bra was unhooked that she didn't like the right side. oh, she would scream at the right. before even trying to latch on. how did she know? her lying position? a different smell? the right was sending off radio waves signaling that milk wouldn't come out as fast? its awful watching your baby scream at your breast in frustration and hunger. luckily, i had an easy fix. i could switch her over to the left and peace was immediately achieved. for some mammas though, this happens on both sides, or they don't produce enough and the baby screams when the breast is empty. ugh! its no wonder they start formula. at around two and a half months i quit trying to force feed her from the right. i would feed her from the left and then pump on the right. she was full from lefty alone so i used what i pumped to build up a store for when i returned to work.

i've already written about how pumping sucks. literally. pumping hurts whereas after the first two weeks, nursing doesn't. it's kind of a hassle. there is the equipment. the time it takes. someone needing to hold the baby while you do it. the washing of the equipment. so you can imagine that i wasn't stellar about pumping the right each time i fed Scarlett. and we all know about supply and demand, so obvs my supply went way down on the right. it got to the point where i was only pumping once a day and producing about 1-2 ounces. so not worth it...

at about five months i was down to the left lone ranger. the size difference was ridiculous. i searched high and low for a nursing bra that would help my situation. three different specialty maternity stores were no help. i believe the lady at victoria's secret said it best, "oh thank god its just from nursing, i thought you had a deformity." true story. i ended up buying a chicken cutlet looking thing to help even things out.  

i had resisted giving Scarlett formula until one day it happened out of necessity. we were at a wedding in upstate new york and a babysitter was staying with Scarlett at the hotel. i was trying to pump enough to be out all night, but the boob was just not cooperating. out of desperation and fear that baby S would scream all night, we bought formula and told the babysitter to use it as a last resort. the babysitter reported that Scarlett sucked down six ounces like a hungry starving bird and then miraculously slept eight hours straight that night! when we got home after this experience, we continued giving Scarlett one formula bottle before bed. so the starting of formula was kind of unplanned, but since it was helping us her sleep more, we kept using it.

then i went back to work. after a couple weeks of pumping it was clear that i couldn't keep up with her demand by only pumping three times a day at work. those stores i built up over three months before returning to the hospital: gone in days! she would drink whatever i had pumped the day before and then get formula for the rest of the day when that ran out. pretty soon, even on the days i was home, it was clear she was still hungry after nursing so i'd end up giving her formula bottles in addition. from here on out, it becomes a slippery slope. you give a bottle and don't pump and then you don't produce enough for the next feed and have to give a bottle to get the baby full for that feed and on and on and on.

in january, work was extremely busy so i would miss pumping time pretty frequently. supply decreased exponentially. then even when i had the time to pump i wouldn't because nothing was coming out. i tried to rebuild supply. really, i did. i drank some tea. i pumped extra times during the day and before going to sleep. but it was gone. i'm getting bored with myself, is anyone still reading? basically, it got to the point where i was only feeding Scarlett if she woke up in the night and for the first feed of the day. and then that wasn't enough so she'd get a bottle anyway. and then she slept more and more through the night, so nursing became pretty nil. weaning wasn't an issue because it just decreased naturally.

sometimes i miss it and am a little sad that i'm not still nursing. i miss the cuddle time and her skin against mine, her falling asleep completely satiated in a milk coma. its a biological love response when you are nursing your baby. it's pretty powerful and amazing to produce sustenance for another human being. think about it, you make food! but then again, i think i made it pretty far along despite the one boob challenges. and really, returning to work was the final nail in the nursing coffin. so i guess it's the boobs, the baby and the bringing home the bacon that dictated my nursing experience.

what about you and your baby? was nursing easy-peasy? or did you have some struggles along the way? please share so us mammas can all learn from each other!


Emily said...

I feel your strange sense of sorrow! My little guy sell-weaned at 9 months... Partly because I started on a new unit and was forced to rotate shifts (which confuses the milk production) but mostly because he was probably ready. I cried about it, but found out they grow just as effectively on formula. Go figure!

My neighbor is having a baby next month and I was giving her the real low-down on breastfeeding (eg. Hurts like hell at first but then *poof* the pain goes away, have frozen peas and good nipple cream handy, etc). I became "misty" when I talked about how awesome breastfeeding really is. It is worth the pain, the countless hours pumping, the $80 nursing bras... I miss it, too, Maggie.

mamma mags said...

thanks for your comment emily! hope you and the little man are doing well :)

VivianS said...

I share your sentiments about breastfedding maggie! When i carry my son and feel how much he's gaining weight, i feel so proud of myself! To think that what nourishes him is from me makes every ounce that he gains like a trophy to me. I also love the look in his eyes when he's looking at me while feeding. Melts my heart everytime! I also share your "one-sided problem". It's the left one for me. There's a little bit of nipple issue on that side too so at the start it was easier for him to latch on the right and it kinda became a favorite side for him (and for me because latching on was always a sucess). Supply became an issue on that left side. So i don't know if it was the nipple that's why he didn't like it or the low supply since it didn't get stimulated enough right at the start.
So far i'm producing a little more than enough milk to build a stock for when I go back to work. With the help of some tea (it seems to be working for me) and a little bit more motivation to pump more often ( your right on saying it's a big hassle to pump!) i hope i will have enough milk for him.
And oh, Scarlett is beautiful!

mamma mags said...

thanks for your commemt vivian :)

yes, it's pretty amazing what we can produce and provide for our babes! even before breastfeeding, think about the baby YOU made. when the baby is born, every single hair on their head, bone, tissue, protien, dna building blocks, etc in his or her amazing body came from YOU. (except one tiny cell from papa, of course). but everything else, all from the mammas. your body made another body. incredible!

yay for mammas!

Anonymous said...

Awesome article! Your blog is very fun to read :o)
I just had to comment since you asked how breastfeeding went for us. I just weaned my girl at 10 1/2 months, but from 0 to 6 months I struggled with too much milk on my left (right was perfect, thank heaven!), clogged milk ducts (OMG how much that hurts!!!), pumping (oh, how I hate pumping) and the works. At 7 months we went on a trip and I started gradually weaning her, and somehow it just all worked out after that. By the time 10 months rolled around it was so easy I kind of miss it now...