Thursday, October 10, 2013

//Adventures in Breastfeeding- Courtney's Story//

Today's story is from Courtney and it's a powerful one!  I know we can all relate to things not going the way we planned, at least in some aspect.  I mean, I definitely do!  Read the inspiring story of this beautiful mama's experience with breastfeeding.  <3

Before Miles was born I was certain that we would exclusively breastfeed from the beginning. I had a vision of his birth: he would be born screaming, be placed on my chest all naked and gooey, I would tell him "Happy Birthday" through happy tears, and he would nurse like a pro, the way babies have for thousands of years. None of this happened.

He was born after a very long labor, with several complications. He didn't cry for what seemed like ages, though I'm sure it was less than a minute. And instead of being placed on my chest, he was taken to be examined. By the time I got to hold him, he was sleepy and I was exhausted. We tried to nurse, but he was too tired to latch. 

Over the next 2 days I saw several lactation consultants. Not a one of them very helpful. He wasn't latching properly but I didn't know how to tell. No one seemed concerned. They all said, “Don't worry, it'll happen. Just keep trying.” When we saw the pediatrician at 4 days old, he had lost almost a full pound had had only a couple wet diapers and no soiled diapers since leaving the hospital. The doctor was concerned. He said we needed to supplement until my milk came in and to come back in 2 days. 

In those 2 days, with supplementation, he had gained a little weight, but my milk still hadn't come in. We were given a pamphlet on foods to eat, herbs to take, and given instructions on using the pump to build supply. I ate bowl after bowl of oatmeal, piles of lactation cookies, drank cup after cup of Mother’s Milk tea, took handfuls of fenugreek supplements, and pumped around the clock getting only drops each time.

We kept going to the doctor every few days to check his weight. Every time we cut out the supplementation, his weight would drop. I obsessively tracked every feeding, every dirty diaper.  After 3 weeks my emotions and my nipples were raw, cracked, and bleeding. I thought I must have thrush, because it hurt so badly. My doctor said it was a just bad latch, gave me a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment, and recommended I see a lactation consultant.

At the LC, when she asked me to tell her what was going on, I started crying before I could even get a word out. She weighed him pre and post feeding: less than half an ounce total. I had felt like I was failing before and this confirmed it. She asked me, “When did you feel your milk come in?” I didn't. "Did your breasts grow during pregnancy?" Yes. "Have you always had those stretch marks?" Some are old, some are new. "Have you ever been hit in the breasts, such as with a baseball bat?" No. Does that happen often?

She had no idea why my supply was low. She helped me correct his latch, gave me the same info from the pamphlet to increase supply and wished me luck.

I spent the next 5 weeks reading everything I could about breastfeeding, crying, mixing bottles, crying, and letting go of my dream of him being exclusively breastfed. I kept telling myself that he was being fed and that’s what mattered. But we were miserable. I got defensive whenever anyone would ask about how breastfeeding was going, and got territorial when anyone else offered to give him a bottle. I quit breastfeeding every single day. Everyday I said I couldn't take it anymore.

The morning of his 2 month check up I read a blog post where a mother said how happy it made her that her baby was comforted by breastfeeding, and broke down sobbing. Miles wasn't comforted. He was miserable. There were times he would cry as soon as I put him in a position to breastfeed. And it broke my heart. 

At the doctor’s office we told him we were thinking of switching to full formula. He was supportive, said it was up to us. But he also said that any breast milk I could give him was better than none. My husband and I talked afterward and decided it was right for us to stop breastfeeding. I immediately felt relieved. But I kept thinking about what the doctor had said: some was better than none.

That night before bed, I said that I would try one more week. That week I stopped keeping track of his feedings, and stopped feeling bad about the bottles. It was hard. I still wanted to quit at times. But slowly it got better, easier. I found his rhythm of when he wanted a bottle, and he stopped wanting one so much.

He's 4 months old now and this past week he's had more days of only having one bottle (in the evening before bed), than he's had since he was born. And he's growing. I'm feeding him with my body and he's growing. It’s amazing. I never thought we'd be here.

I don't know how long this will last. He could start refusing my breasts again tomorrow. But we've had this time. And I'm forever grateful for it.

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