Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Learned from NOT Being Able to Breastfeed

Hi there! I originally wrote this as a guest post for a friends blog, but she has since deleted her blog and started a new photography venture (yay Jenna!). When Jenna first asked me to share my breastfeeding experience, I thought “She remembers my experience was terrible right?” I wanted to share this here because I was recently talking about my hopes for my next breastfeeding experience (no, I’m not pregnant) with my friend whose been able to successfully breastfeed her daughter for going on a year now and as I was talking to her, I felt defeated and scared about breastfeeding; I wanted to remind myself what I wrote here. I wish I had something like this to read before Logan’s arrival, so I hope whatever your experience may be.. if you’re pregnant or a new mom or even not a parent but are thinking about starting a family somewhere down the line, I hope my experience can open your eyes to that fact that breastfeeding does not come easy to everyone.

Before pregnancy, the thought of breastfeeding really terrified me. I was uncomfortable with the thought of someone other than my husband being near my breasts. In hindsight, it’s silly to have felt that way, but I think its human nature to be scared of something we know nothing about. All I knew of breastfeeding before and even during pregnancy was that my sister did it, people in commercials did it, ladies I saw breastfeeding in public did it; I was exposed to one side of a woman’s breastfeeding experience;  the positive one. I figured it was something women just do. You have a baby, you breastfeed, right? It makes total sense because that’s what your boobs are there for anyway!

During my pregnancy, my eyes and heart opened up to breastfeeding my daughter. I read about the benefits and reassured myself it wouldn’t be weird once I was doing it. I sewed myself a nursing cover, I bought a few more covers, I bought the nursing tanks and the breast pads; I was totally prepared to breastfeed my daughter and I was happy that I had ultimately made that decision. It would be beneficial to my daughter’s health, it would help my postpartum body, it was cost effective, and I was ready.
I wasn’t ready for what actually happened.

My delivery was great.. it was quick. I pushed for twenty eight minutes and there she was, my gorgeous girl. As the hours went by I started to feel what had happened during my pushing and I was miserable to say the least. The tearing wasn’t too bad, but the hemorrhoids I managed to give myself in my intense warrior mama pushing were a sight to be seen (sorry for the graphics). I wasn’t able to sit up which made breastfeeding very difficult as I am a AA bra size, the smallest they come.  So I could not breastfeed on my side; not enough boob! I also was in a lot of pain and on lots of painkillers that I didn’t think to wake Logan up and feed her every ninety minutes and unfortunately neither did any of the nurses on staff. I did call a nurse at one point to help me; Logan latched on fine and I thought we were good to go.

Once we got home, the pain got worse, and the latching got worse. There was a lot of crying, from me and Logan. We took Logan to the doctor for a wellness check at three days old and because she had already lost a little more than a pound, her doctor wanted to supplement  some of her feedings with formula. He reassured me that my milk would come in and not to worry.. just breastfeed than bottle feed. It sounded very simple.  As the days went on, Logan started to refuse the breast. I got a nipple shield, saw a lactation consultant, went to breastfeeding support groups, started pumping after each feeding with a hospital grade pump, supplemented at the breast (that’s having your baby latch on to your breast like she’s breastfeeding, but a tube has been inserted in her mouth that has a syringe full of formula at the end.. just in case you didn’t know), took Mother Milk Plus pills, massaged, took warm baths, you name it.. I did it.

At five weeks old, Logan was hospitalized and diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux. I was relieved at the diagnosis because we had been told repeatedly that she was colicky (though her symptoms did not fit that particular diagnosis). I realized that every time I was laying her down to feed, she was having reflux and was in pain. I realized that because of the stress of my recovery, I was not producing enough milk and she was starving (hence the weight loss and the nonstop crying). I tried breastfeeding, supplementing at the breast, and pumping for a week after Logan’s diagnosis and one night as I was looking at the eighth of an ounce I pumped (both breasts combined), I decided to stop killing myself and just allow Logan to be bottle and formula fed.

Logan was taking an antacid at the time that was easy to administer through bottle feeding, she ate like a champ with a bottle, and she was finally doing well after five formula changes and six bottle changes. I needed to let her thrive and unfortunately, it just wasn’t by breastfeeding. I felt guilty for a long time, until recently really. I’d look at Logan and not be able to see how healthy and wonderful and charismatic she is; I’d see my failure. Each time she got sick, I wondered if it was my fault for not being able to produce the nourishment she needed.  I was heartsick every time I saw another woman breastfeeding her child; I even cried at the Luv’s commercial where a mother is breastfeeding her second child at a restaurant table. I was sick over it for a long time.

Logan is seventeen months now. I see her thriving, I see how smart she is, I appreciate her health (because it could always be worse), and I am happy. I feel like I have learned a lot from my breastfeeding experience; not only that I shouldn’t beat myself up over not being able to do it, but I am prepared for next time. I plan on having a C-section for my next child to avoid the trauma I went through with my vaginal delivery. I am hoping that by eliminating that major factor, I will be able to successfully breastfeed my next child (and the next and the next). I also am prepared for not being able to breastfeed next time. One lactation consultant I spoke to suggested that my “lactation hormones just aren’t present”. She did tell me that was odd because I got pregnant so quickly, but we’ll see next time around. I really do feel like the physical trauma and the stress of the pain and not knowing about Logan’s reflux for weeks played the most significant role in my lack of milk production. I’ve learned that all I can do is appreciate the fact that I tried my hardest and I stopped when I felt like it wasn’t emotionally healthy for me, for my daughter or for my husband.

All anyone can ever do with any experience is learn from it, and move on. I spent a lot of time dwelling on my “failure” and there was so much to be appreciative of. I am happy I am able to see the positive in it now and to be able to have grown from it. If breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for you, stop. Don’t let a doctor, lactation consultant, family member, friend or even yourself push you into continuing to try something that just doesn’t work with your body. Same goes with someone who tries their hardest to have a vaginal birth but needs an emergency C-section; not being able to do something natural doesn’t make you any less of a woman or a mother. It took me a while to realize that so I hope by reading this, you can save yourself the emotional turmoil and just be strong and move on. If your child is healthy and happy, you’re doing a great job!

xo
-Ali

2 comments :

  1. Lovely post. Mothers can be so hard on others and themselves. You are wonderful mother to be able to step back, look at the big picture, and do what is best for you and your daughter.

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