The Grasshopper and I did not have an easy start to our breastfeeding relationship.
My milk was slow to come in (thanks pitocin). She struggled with latch due to flat nipples. I got engorged. Then I got mastitis because she wasn’t able to latch to remove the milk. I didn’t know enough about pumping and thought that the milk I was pumping was “not real milk” because of the whole not-coming-in thing so I dumped what little I did pump. She got dehydrated (no poops, no wets over a couple of days) so we supplemented with formula through a bottle and then through a supplemental nursing system via finger-feeding.
Then, right as she was starting to latch, I got thrush, which took forever to figure out because the Grasshopper never showed signs. It was all in me. By then, my milk supply was almost gone, so I essentially had to relactate. The Boppy nursing pillow that I got was sliding all over God’s creation, so I was trying to hold the pillow in place, hold the baby, deal with the stupid nipple shield, get the baby latched, keep the baby latched, ignore the agony in my back (thanks epidural), and just fight fight fight fight fight.
Meanwhile, the “help” I was getting from hospital “lactation consultants” was vague and not helpful. We could manage to nurse in the office, but not once we got home. And when I would call for help they wouldn’t call me back.
It was a really difficult time.
Finally, we managed to turn the corner at around six weeks. I ditched the Boppy for the My Breast Friend pillow (they’re WHO code compliant and the BEST nursing pillow on the market!), I threw the nipple shield across the room, I found the kellymom.com forums where I could get some real help, and suddenly the Grasshopper was alert enough and started latching and nursing. I also dropped in to a local baby shop that had an IBCLC on staff, and she proved to me that I actually had milk by doing pre- and post-feed weighs. Having this confidence is what ultimately saved our nursing relationship.
The Grasshopper’s latch was never great. I think the nipple shield had a lot to do with why. But we managed. She was exclusively breastfed from 4 and a half weeks until she was a little over 8 months old. As she grew older, her perpetual bad latch became worse, but she got enough. I’m so proud of the fact that I managed to nurse her for 3 and a half years, and I’m so grateful that those resources (seriously! the pillow ruled!) all came together at the same time.
I was so lucky.
This time, I don’t intend to leave things up to luck.
What am I doing differently this time?
Unlike last time, I have developed a network of support. I co-founded a Lactation Support Group at my workplace, and I know that I can reach out to my co-leaders for help if I need it. I’ve also become an active member of the Kellymom.com forum community. I cannot say enough good things about this community. If you’re interested in nursing or plan to nurse or are thinking about it, join this group. This–and the Kellymom.com website of course–is hands down one of the best resources out there. The information, compiled by Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC,is accurate, carefully vetted and moderated, and evidence based. It is truly second to none.
I’m also planning an unmedicated birth. The IV fluids and pitocin were both, I believe based on several years of reading up on it, at least partly responsible for my severe engorgement and the delay of my milk coming in. The terrible back pain I suffered was, in large part, from the epidural.
I know now, having observed the way my body reacts to these interventions, that they are harmful to my ability to breastfeed. To promote the gentlest and least invasive birth possible, I’m using the Hypnobabies childbirth method and birthing at a birth center with the help of midwives and the support of an experienced doula. Based on my experience and research, I believe that these and other birth choices I’m making will help our breastfeeding relationship to have the best possible start.
In addition to surrounding myself with accurate information and having a natural birth, I will have personal support from my midwives. They’ve got extensive experience helping moms and babies get off to a good start with nursing, and I will not be cut adrift once I go home. They will visit me in my home the day after the baby is born to check on both of us. Following that, they will call daily and be available for me to call if I need help.
I’ve also found a local La Leche League group and I will begin attending meetings starting this month!
I know so much more now than when I was pregnant with the Grasshopper. Now I don’t say, “I hope to breastfeed.” This time I know that I can. It is simply what we do in our family. I know that if I run into difficulties that help is a phone call or keystroke away. Whatever we may stumble upon, we will overcome. Just like the Grasshopper and I did.
I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!
You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.
(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)