World Breastfeeding Week – What am I doing to prepare to breastfeed the new baby?

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.

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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.

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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.)

Doula Update

Due to some scheduling issues, both doula meetings got pushed to this week.  We met with Doula 2 on Tuesday evening (that was the night I ended up puking in case you forgot) and Doula 1 yesterday at lunch.

Both meetings went very well.  Both offered pretty much the same services.  Doula 1 has attended a lot more births than Doula 2, but Doula 2 seemed pretty competent as well and is in the process of completing her DONA training.  All she’s got left is the paperwork.

I think it’s just going to come down to a simple, subjective decision.  Who did we like better?

We committed to both of them that we would let them know early next week, so Mr. Grasshopper and I have the weekend to talk about it.

Below are some things I picked up on from both Doulas.

Doula 1:

  • Has what seems like a little more authoritative personality, which I appreciate.  No guilt about running over her with my own balls to the wall personality.  She seems perfectly capable of pushing me when I might need it the most.
  • Has attended over 40 births
  • Teaches a childbirth education class and can speak with authority on risks/benefits of interventions and various birth situations that arise
  • Former Bradley instructor
  • Is willing to listen to my hypnobabies tracks and read the book to learn more about this
Doula 2:
  • Soft and gentle personality
  • Very kind to the Grasshopper, wants to make sure she’s comfortable in her presence, but since the Grasshopper won’t be joining us for the birth is this completely critical?
  • Almost half the price of Doula 1 due to not completing her DONA certification
  • Didn’t take the lead as much in the conversation, so I worry a little that she may not be able to push me the way I might need to be pushed
  • Also highly recommended by the midwives
  • Also very willing to learn about hypnobabies
Hm.  You know, getting my impressions out on the page really helps me think about things.
We have a lot to talk about this weekend.

Finding a Doula

We have reached the point in this pregnancy where it is time to start looking for a doula.  A doula is a person (usually a woman) who is present throughout the birth to provide emotional and physical support to the mother during her birthing time and post-partum.

We didn’t have a doula last time with the Grasshopper.  We took Bradley Birth classes last time, and our teacher at the time discouraged us from hiring a doula.  In Bradley, there is much emphasis placed on the husband/father as coach, so I think this is why she advised against doulas.  In retrospect, I see that this was not the best advice for us.

This time I am doing Hypnobabies, so I fully expect the dynamic to be completely different.  In fact, this is my intent.  My experience with the Grasshopper was good.  But I want something different for this birth.  I’ve learned some lessons, and I prefer to take that knowledge and move forward.

One of the things I learned is that, yeah, I really do need someone else there to help out.  This is not a knock on my husband.  He absolutely did a great job last time, especially considering that he was thrown into an unfamiliar situation that was loaded with stress and pressure from all sides.  I look forward to childbirth.  He dreads it.

At first when I started talking to him about hiring a doula, he was worried.  He thought that the doula would replace him and take over his role.  This should not be the case at all.  A lot of the experiences of the birth felt strange and uncomfortable to him, and having someone there to navigate that processs with him, I hope, will give him more comfort with the entire process.

In poking around, trying to find some resources for him, I stumbled across this article from Doula.com:  Dads and Doulas: Working Together.

A doula is there to help the father, as much as she helps the mother. The fact of the matter is, our society places a great deal of pressure and responsibility on the father-to-be during labor. A childbirth class isn’t enough to prepare a new, nervous dad to support his wife through what may be one of the most difficult and challenging moments in her life. Is it fair to expect the father to remain 100% focused and calm, when his wife is struggling?

Emphasis mine.  I appreciate the perspective here.  This article really helps us understand how the doula will fit in to our own situation.

I asked my midwives (gosh I love saying that!) for some recommendations on some doulas they work with, and they gave me a few business cards.  I’ve been able to reach two of them, and we have meetings set up for this week.  Tomorrow, we’ll be having lunch with Doula 1, and then next Tuesday Doula 2 is coming to our house to meet us.

Doula 2 said that she prefers for her clients to meet with her in their homes so that they can see how she interacts with them in their own comfort zone and especially how she interacts with other children.  I like this notion.  My sister-in-law will be with us and will help care for the Grasshopper, but I love that Doula 2 considered the Grasshopper and her feelings as well as my husband’s and my feelings.  This impresses me.

I spent this weekend trying to figure out what kinds of questions to ask these doulas during the interview.  DONA International, one of the organizations that certifies and trains doulas, has an article with some questions to ask in their How to Hire a Doula section, but there were some more specific questions we had as well.

Here is the list of questions we came up with for us to ask the doulas (some of these come straight from the DONA page):

  • What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)
  • Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet her/them?
  • What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?
  • Tell me about your experience as a birth doula.
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • What is your familiarity and comfort level with Hypnobabies?  Will you be willing to do some reading and study to prepare for providing support for me during hypnosis?
  • Will you assist in writing a birth plan?
  • Can you give some examples of some of the ways you provide comfort during the birthing time? Massage? Aromatherapy? Do you proactively suggest position changes and movements?
  • In what ways will you help Mr. Grasshopper during the labor?
  • How will you fit in to the birth team since we are birthing with midwives at a birth center as opposed to a hospital?  Are you familiar with waterbirth?
  • At what point during my birthing time will you come?  Will you come to the house?  The birth center?
  • Do you take pictures?  Keep track of details to help me write out the birth story later?
  • What kind of support do you provide after the birth?

I’m sure there are plenty of more questions that will come up during our meetings with the doulas.  I am excited to see where the conversation will take us.

I feel like this really puts us one step closer to bringing this baby into the world, and it’s so exciting!