Monday, March 12, 2012

A Walking Milk Factory

As you guys can probably imagine, I did a lot of research on breastfeeding before Bates was born.  Some of it was by default (that is, most books on childbirth or the different stages of your pregnancy end with a chapter on BFing).  I also rented some DVDs and a textbook from the library at the hospital.  And one of our childbirth classes devoted a session to it.  I felt pretty prepared.

Here is what I've noticed, though.  In all of those DVDs and books, certain aspects of the whole experience are left out.

1) In no video do you see a woman trying to breastfeed a crying baby.  In theory you should feed the baby before he cries, in actuality, that doesn't happen.  (And as you can imagine, no video shows a woman trying to breastfeed an inconsolable, wailing baby either.)

2) In no video do you see anything other than a passive, calm baby.  There are no hands flailing around, no legs kicking with all their strength, no head jerking back and forth.  You never see a baby latch on and then jerk his head back with all his might (while still latched on).  Or see a baby latch on and then, because he's so squirmy, rip at the breast (while still latched on) with his hands.  There's never a wrestling match between mother and baby in the videos.

3) In the videos, the baby latches on once and is done.  It doesn't take 10 tries (all of which feel like good latches) before the baby is happy enough to finally start feeding.

4) In the videos, breastfeeding takes an appropriate amount of time.  The baby latches, eats, disconnects from the breast, and is satisfied and ready for a burp.  It doesn't take an hour and a half.  The baby doesn't fall asleep every 10 minutes and need to be woken up (thus re-starting the cycle of trying to find the perfect latch).

5) This might be TMI, but in no video do you see open wounds on a woman's nipple that scab over, but get the scab ripped off at the next feeding.

So yeah, even though I was "prepared" to breastfeed, I had no idea what I was in for.  The whole experience was taking a toll on me.  I found myself anxious before feedings, anticipating the wrestling match that was about to take place.  At night, I was unable to eat a lot of dinner because my stomach sort of hurt (which I think was my anxiety about the night ahead of trying to feed).  During the actual event, I became really frustrated and often cried as much as the inconsolable baby.  There was one night that was just over the top and made me scream for Jonathan to take the baby because I didn't think I could handle being around him anymore.  Not exactly the idyllic bonding experience I was going for when I decided to breastfeed.

I met with 2 lactation consultants while we were still in the hospital, then I had a phone consultation with one and a follow up, in-person meeting with her a couple days later.  I would come off of those talks feeling good, and we'd have maybe one good feed, then it would all go downhill again.

And so on Friday last week, I made a decision.  Nipple confusion or not, I was going to pump and give Bates bottles of breastmilk instead of nursing him.

And you guys, oh my gosh.  This has seriously (not to be dramatic) changed my relationship with my son.  I am able to pump milk and feed it to him in a loving, bonding experience.  We still get to have lots of snuggle time, but there's none of the frustration for either of us.  My open wounds are healing.  I'm not in serious pain when I pump.  I don't have to be aggressive and pin down his arms and legs while trying to get him to latch.  And, daddy can be a part of feedings, too.

Thankfully, it seems I have an abundant milk supply, which makes the exclusive pumping do-able.  This is our solution at the moment.  I think once I'm completely healed I'll try to take him to breast again to see how it goes (since we had the bottom of his tongue slightly clipped at the doctor on Friday).  But I'm pretty happy with where things are right now.  I sort of feel like a slave to the pump.  But at the same time, if my options are slave away with the machine or give him formula, I'll take the machine for now.  I don't like that we won't have the ease of feeding if we're out and about, but at the same time, given the way our feedings were going, I wouldn't have been able to nurse him in public.  Actually, I tried to nurse him at the doctor's office on Friday and instead we had to cancel our post-doctor errand so I could drive home and feed him because we just couldn't do it away from all the pillows and such we needed.  (Not to mention the doctor probably wouldn't have wanted a room tied up for an hour and a half while he took his sweet time to eat.)

His weight wasn't back up where it should've been at the doctor either, so we're hoping with some monitoring of ounces per day he'll get back up to birth weight.

I'll keep you posted!


Sarah said...

Hang in there! Not TMI for me, actually very similar to what my friends Laura and Jen experienced this fall. Glad you found a work around for now. Thinking of you.

Jonathan said...

From a dad's perspective, seeing a frustrated baby and wife sobbing in frustration and pain was not depicted in any of the videos. I know there is a big push for breast feeding, and I agree with it, but I think they need to be more realistic with what is depicted. I imagine it gets easier as the child gets older, but many woman have probably given up for good by then.

LB said...

Oh gosh, so sorry to hear this has been such a struggle! As long as you're getting the emotional connection and he's getting the physical nourishment, this definitely sounds like the way to go. Thanks at least for helping manage other people's expectations about breastfeeding by sharing your experience!

Claire said...

I'm sorry to hear that it's been a struggle. I believe my mother had the same thing happen to her with my older sister (scabbing and such). I'm glad the pumping is working out for you both. As Sarah says, hang in there!

Emily said...

Jackie, sorry to hear it has been so rough on you both! It sounds really hard! I have read some on tongue tied babies and the difficulties it can cause with breastfeeding. Maybe getting his toungue cliped will help if you try to go back to the breast. Good luck! He's a lucky little baby to have such a dedicated mom!

katie said...

ugh! i'm so sorry this has been so difficult, but really glad things are on the upswing!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jackie! I have been reading your blog for a few months now. I have loved following your pregnancy, and now Bates!

I am so sorry you are having a hard time! It sounds like you have a great plan though! Breastfeeding and pumping or just pumping is a definite time commitment and is hard. I exclusively breastfed, breastfed and pumped together and then moved to pumping exclusively to go back to work full time. I don't claim to know it all, but feel free to message me if you have any questions. I'm happy to share any advice of what worked and didn't work for me!

Bates is precious. You are doing an amazing job! =)

Mary Jane