Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm Going to Talk About Breastfeeding. I Warned You.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Until a few years ago, I had no idea that such a week existed. Breastfeeding is always a hot topic, particularly amongst, well, moms...the people that do the breastfeeding. I used to not really think much of it, until it was my turn to be a mom. With Noel, I decided early on that I wasn't going to breastfeed him, but bottle feed him breast milk. When he was born 4 1/2 weeks early, I became more comfortable with this decision, as he was so sleepy and small that he never really caught on to latching. Since he never spent time in the NICU, he wasn't treated as a preemie while we were in the hospital, and we never got the hang of "real" breastfeeding. In retrospect, had we tried a little more, we probably could have done it...but that's neither here nor there. I gave him pumped milk, and that was that. I produced LOTS and LOTS of milk from the very beginning, and he had plenty to eat. That little baby that weighed only 4 lbs. 9 oz. at birth, quickly turned into Babyzilla and fattened up with all that creamy stuff. The only problem was, I could not stave off the dreaded breast infections. I got mastitis 6 times in the 7 months that I pumped.

I went to the doctor to see if there was ANYTHING I could do to avoid more infections...in a word, she told me "no". She said that women that have had mastitis more than once usually continue to get it. She thought it was hormone induced. I started my period about 6 weeks after Noel was born, and that's when the infections began. Subsequently, every time I started again, I got another infection. LUCKY ME. As I sat there crying, she quietly told me, "It's ok for you to stop." That was all the encouragement I needed. That day, I started weaning off the pump, and by the time Noel was 8 months old, he was drinking formula. I struggled mightily with this decision, but I also could not deal with one more infection. If you've ever had mastitis, you know why I couldn't take it anymore. If you haven't, consider yourself lucky. It's no fun.

When I got pregnant with Lennon, I was determined that we were going to breastfeed. Really, actually nurse. And we did...for a little over a year. The first 3ish months of breastfeeding him were torture. Yes, TORTURE. The child came out of the womb sucking on his hands. He had a mighty latch, and my sensitive skin got pretty abused the first few days of his life. It got to the point where I would cringe when he'd cry, because I knew what was coming: PAIN. I perservered, and continued to nurse him through the agony. I was determined to do this. After the wounds healed (yes, wounds, as in open sores), things got much easier, and I actually enjoyed nursing. I even got brave and did it discreetly in public and in front of people a few times! It was very liberating for me, as I'm pretty private about my body. Nursing just felt different. I never felt like I was being scandalous. I was feeding my baby...using my breasts the way God intended for them to be used. For the first time ever in my life, I was comfortable with my body.

I still pumped, but I didn't have to do it day and night. It was much easier this time around, save the first 12 weeks of his life. Right around the time he turned 13 months, I could tell that he just wasn't into it anymore...screaming and crying are pretty indicititve of "just not that into it". Truthfully, I didn't think that it would end so abruptly, but it did, and that was that.

If you are breastfeeding, or want to breastfeed, and you are struggling, reach out for support. I am so thankful for my husband who was 100% behind my decision. Call friends, find breastfeeding moms on Twitter & through blogs. Locally, look for a La Leche Leauge in your area, or area hospitals that have lacation consultants, and there are resources like KellyMom.com and La Leche Leauge on the web.

You want to know the truth? I am really proud of myself for giving both of my kids breastmilk. Breastfeeding is not easy for everyone. I was one of those people that struggled. I am stubborn, and it's the only reason that I continued to do it. I has set out with a goal, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to accomplish it. Both of my children have been so healthy, and I attribute it first and foremost to them drinking exactly what they needed: the milk that only I could give them.

9 comments:

Jenn said...

Yay for boobs! Samantha and I really struggled for several weeks, and the nurses at the hospital were no help. They were full of shitty advice. In the end the nipple shield saved my open wounds and allowed them to heal, taught Sam to open big enough to latch well, and allowed me to stop crying every time we nursed. One of the best things I've ever done.

Scudder said...

Perhaps that was more info than I thought I could bear.But I decided to read on and what the heck!

Oh and....THANK GOD I was born a man.

I really admire your perseverance and strength. You can do anything! I think I learned something.

Glad we're friends.

Amy M. said...

I love this post. Yet another topic that bonds us as friends. I started my bfing post tonight and didn't quite know how to continue it and you just gave me inspiration.

Im stubborn too, hopefully stubborn enough to continue breastfeeding as long as you did.

Laura Seymour said...

jenn-were was sam born? i really liked the lactation consultant that i had at harris, but they're all different. when i had noel, the lady that came to our room was super agressive and really turned me off. when i had lennon, the 2 that helped me there were great. i guess it's all in who you get "stuck" with. i'm glad we both weathered the hard stuff!

charlie-i'm glad you read, despite your fears...and i'm VERY glad we're friends too!

amy-we're friends 'till we croak. i mean, we'll be related by marriage one day. :)

Sarah Viola said...

It wasn't easy for me either, Laura. Far, far from it. I feel like since I lost control of the way we had planned the birth, this was the last thing I could control for him. You've inspired me, maybe I'll post my story too.

Kristin said...

You are inspiring. Nothing is easy I love this story!!

icancarryallthebagsandthebabiestoo said...

Okay, so I am going to share a bit of my story and hope that no one comes down on me too hard.

I am a big advocate of breastfeeding, however...

I breastfed my daughter Bunny for around 16 months. I loved it. I am proud of it. I see the rewards and benefits of it.

When I had Lila I planned on tandem breastfeeding and did this successfully for about a month. At around the end of Lila's first month I was struck by a horrible migraine that lasted several days and sent me to the hospital. They treated me... I left... and then migraine after migraine happened. This was actually a very scary time in my life... because it seemed as though something was VERY wrong with me. I went to a neurologist who suggested I take Topamax. Nothing else had worked. Topamax is not safe during breastfeeding.

I took this path. Topamax did help me... but it also had loads of awful side effects.

Now, I was not able to parent either of my children well in the state I was in. My choice to take a medication that would not allow me to breastfeed was based in total love. I needed to be able to mother my new baby... not lay around in a dark room while someone else cared for her or hold my newborn in the waiting room of hospitals and dr's office where germs are all around.

I am proud of my choice to do that. I think it was brave... I worried about it. I stressed about it... and I feel terrible that Lila wasn't able to deeply benefit from her breastfeeding experience because it was brief... but I made the best choice I could based on what was happening.

Laura Seymour said...

wow! i don't know what to do with all these comments!

sarah-i look forward to reading your story.

kristen-you're right, nothing in life is ever easy...this was probably up there in my top 10 list of hardest, yet most rewarding things i have done.

anna-you absolutely did the right thing. Your choices sucked, and your options were limited. As someone who has suffered from migraines, i don't blame you for making the choice to be able to care for lila. as i said in my post on mumsthewurd.com, we are LUCKY that we have the choice and option to give formula when/if we have to. if anyone comes down on you for this, they better be prepared for me to unleash a major can of whoop-ass. :)

icancarryallthebagsandthebabiestoo said...

ha!

Thanks Laura.

I think that it's hard for people who haven't been afflicted by migraine to understand that they are more than a really bad headache. Before I had this experience I would have been the first person to say, "it's a headache. stop complaining and latch on." But the hardship changed me...

My choices, indeed, DID suck. I did what I could and I am proud of my parenting. I love my children and even in the hardest of times, my actions reflect my love.

But... I do see a health difference between Bunny and Lila. When Bunny gets a cold she tends to fight it off immediately. She'll be tired and groggy for a day or two and she'll need some rest... but she is able to recover. When Lila gets a cold it tends to linger. More often than not it has turned into an infection. I have had to give her antibiotics a handfull of times in her nearly four years... whereas I have only had to give them to Bunny a couple of times in her five and half years.