Monday, January 27, 2014

// A D V E N T U R E S I N B R E A S T F E E D I N G - M A R I S S A ' S S T O R Y //

I'm so thrilled that all these Mamas want to share their breastfeeding stories.  Their story is important, no matter what it looks like.  Let's seriously give a virtual round of applause for these women who are so willing to share what breastfeeding looked like for them.  Today, Marissa shares her story.  I just "met" her through another IG mama friend and I'm so happy she sent her story over. She blogs at Like You Imagined. <3

Every momma in the age of the Internet knows what EBF means.  For those of you who don't, it means "Exclusively Breastfeeding" This is a term I learned quickly after I became pregnant, because I planned on doing it.  There was never really any other plan in place. There were many things I wasn’t sure about but breastfeeding was one thing I was completely decided upon. Then life happened.  

EP?  I had never seen that anywhere.  Little did I know, I would be EP.  Exclusively pumping.

Breastfeeding seems to be one of those things, not unlike most aspects of parenting, which either comes very easily or is an incredible challenge for mamas.  I was on the challenged end of this spectrum.  When Mila was placed on my chest/tummy after her birth, she bobbed her little head until she found my breast, just as babies do naturally, when given the chance, and it happened just how I had hoped.  She went right for it and I was bawling out of sheer amazement that this tiny human was able to maneuver her body, which she just became aware of three second earlier, to the part of my body which would provide her nourishment for the next...well, however long she wanted!  She latched on as a nurse watched.  Evidently the latch wasn't good enough for the nurse, because she got both of her hands involved and it became a very confusing thing for both Mila and I.  Finally, we got it down and things were good.

Fast forward a month and Mila is at the breast 24/7 and falling asleep often.  After two trips to see lactation consultants, renting a hospital grade pump, and a stay in the hospital for Mila because she was losing weight (was lower than her birth weight, at this point) the conclusion was that Mila was a “lazy eater.” Since Mila was below her birth weight, doctors wanted to measure the milk she was drinking, and this meant we would have to bottle feed her. Initially, they wanted to resort completely to formula. I began pumping and insisted that we feed her my breast milk first, and supplement with formula until I could get my supply caught up with her demand. I was not producing much at all at the time, maybe 15 ml per pumping session, so I pumped and nursed 'round the clock to increase my supply.  I tried fenugreek, blessed thistle, lactation cookies... you name it, I’ve tried it.  Nothing seemed to work except pumping more often and drinking copious amounts of water.  Finally, I was able to increase my supply to keep up with her demand and take her off of formula... but, at this point, she was not interested in nursing anymore... she would only take the bottle.

This was absolutely devastating for me.  First, I felt like a complete failure, because at the hospital when we learned that Mila had lost weight because she wasn't getting enough milk, I felt like an inadequate mother.  I cried and cried.  I was such a new momma and to think I was getting this most elemental aspect “wrong,” was heartbreaking.  But, with Josh and our families’ support, I was able to suck it up in order to focus on getting Mila where she needed to be.    We continued skin-to-skin time to keep that closeness that breastfeeding provides.  We got into a groove with our new plan.

Two months later we ended up back in the hospital because Mila had bloody stools.  This was when we found that Mila was allergic to milk protein.  This meant we had two choices:

1.  Feed her a milk protein free formula (of which the first two ingredients are corn syrup (54%) and vegetable oil)
2.  Manage the allergy through my diet (avoid all dairy and soy) and continue to give her breast milk.  

I chose the latter.  This allergy was an even bigger push for me to continue pumping. This diet is extremely restrictive, and felt nearly impossible, at first. With the help of a dietician and some major time spent on Google, I was able to manage my diet and find plenty of foods to eat.

So, here we are, at month seven.  Pumping for 20-30 mins every 2-3 hours is worth it in my opinion, because Mila is still getting all of the benefits of breast milk, but when you break that time down and really think about how difficult it is to devote time to doing so, it's admittedly exhausting.  There have been days where I spend about 4 hours pumping in total.  When nursing, you don't have to worry about preparing bottles, cleaning them, warming them... when pumping, you must keep your schedule because breast milk is a complete supply-demand scenario.  In other words, if you aren't expressing the milk, your body believes your baby does not need it, and begins to make less.  Add to all of this, the allergy and a very restricted diet, and it’s a whole lot of work that I had never imagined I’d be doing.

It's incredibly trying at times.  It's always on my mind; I have to plan my days around it.  I try to manage the stress by thinking of my pumping time as "me" time.  I try to kick back, check up on social media, write BLOG posts (I may or may not be pumping as week speak) or do other things that I enjoy during that time.  When all is said and done, I'm able to supply Mila with breast milk and I am so grateful for that.  Despite the stress and rigidity it adds to our routine, we are happy and healthy.  It's total worth it, I mean... she's absolutely smart, has not yet had so much as a cold (knock on wood!) and I like to think that breast milk has something to do with that.

I suppose that my breastfeeding adventure was my dramatic induction to the mommy club. If we should be so lucky as to bring another child into this world, I’ll happily try this whole breast-feeding thing all over again. I’ll spend the rest of my life adapting, changing plans, and working hard to provide for my child (ren?). And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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  1. I love this story. This determination is so encouraging <3

  2. Dear mama(s),
    I loved reading your post. I am currently battling the similar problem. My 6 week old baby is now formula and breast fed due to health issues early on and weight loss. I'm trying my hardest to increase my milk with pumping and nursing, but am no where near what my son needs. He's already weaning himself off the breast. Do you or anyone else have any tips for increasing milk? I so desperately want to ebf my baby.

    1. Hi! <3. I have heard of tons of things to increase milk supply- such as nursing tea, oatmeal, eating more (seriously!) and drinking tons of water! But, I'm no expert. I know the Facebook page "The Leaky Boob" has tons of great resources! You should check it out. good luck to you and wishing you well! Your desire to keep going will help so much! <3 <3



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