Monday, September 12, 2011

In which I relax about the boob juice

Thanks for all your supportive comments on my last post.

I know I'm doing the best I can. Both Brian and I are. It's just hard when I feel like neither my pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding experience has been the way I envisioned. Breastfeeding was the one biological thing I felt I could 'control' or 'work on'. I couldn't control that my water broke WAY too early. I couldn't control the endless leaking of amniotic fluid. I couldn't control that Kaia was breech and thus I needed a C-section. I couldn't control that she was premature and needed to be in the NICU for 50 days. I can't control that Kaia has hip dysplasia and will be her in harness for months, and may need surgery and casting at some point. I thought breastfeeding was one of those things I could 'decide' on: ie "I've 'decided' to breastfeed". I didn't know Kaia would have a say in it!

On Monday we went back to the lactation consultant. She basically reiterated what we discussed last week: Kaia's latch is fine. She sucks well. She should be able to breastfeed. We should quit finger feeding her. End of story.

However, I continue to feel that Kaia does not get enough milk breastfeeding alone. My evidence is that her diapers aren't as heavy. She doesn't gain weight as well. She doesn't go 3 hours between feeds. She's just irritable from one feed to the next and doesn't sleep well. She doesn't look like her perky self. I'm her mom. I know her.

We were a bit upset and frustrated when we got home from the LC appointment. Lactation consultants are so militant! They are SO gung-ho about breastfeeding that they forget to be practical. While I'm completely on board about breastfeeding and the benefits of breast milk, I couldn't help feel a bit pissed off when I was reading a sign in the LC's office that RANKS the 'best ways' to feed your baby, with exclusively breastfeeding at the top, breast milk in a bottle as second, donated breast milk as third (and where the heck does one get this? Certainly can't pick it up at the corner store!), cow's milk formula as 4th and soy based formulas a distant 5th. How shitty would that make you feel if couldn't (or didn't want to?!) breastfeed and your kid was allergic to cow's milk. Sorry are being fed in the 'worst' way possible. Nice.

The basic truth is that I can't feed Kaia 24-7. Kaia can't breastfeed 24-7. I can't do supplemental feeding at with a tube taped to my boob she doesn't latch well with the tube in the way. Finger feeding is not practical for use on the go (and we have to be on the go a lot as Kaia has a lot of doctor's appointments the next little while). We shouldn't be made to feel like we're failing for feeding our child in a way that makes her happy!

We got home from the lactation consultant appointment and decided that while we are committed to Kaia getting breast milk, we are NOT going to sacrifice her happiness, our sleep, and my stress levels anymore.

So we went and bought a bunch of bottles, a bottle warmer and a microwave steam sterilizer.

I continue to pump, so Kaia continues to get nothing but breast milk, and at each feed that is practical (which is any that are at home) I attempt to breastfeed her first, before giving her a bottle. She seems to suck on the boob for about 15-20 minutes before getting tired and then she gets a bottle of however much she wants afterwards.

And you know what? I'm okay with this. In fact, it's been working quite well. It helped that I checked out the preemie page on babycenter and many moms found that their preemie took a lot longer to learn to breastfeed (if ever), and needed a bottle for longer because they got too tired breastfeeding (exactly what I feel is happening for Kaia!) Because Kaia is now full term baby size (almost 7 lbs!) and is over 'term', it's easy to assume that she should act and be able to do the same things that a full term baby can do. What I have to keep reminding myself is that in gestational weeks 32-40, when normally babies are just relaxing in the womb, chillin' and not having to do much of anything, Kaia had to learn to breathe, learn to eat, keep herself warm, was separated from us, and has had to deal with being in a harness to fix her dislocated hip! That's a lot for one baby. It's amazing that she's doing as well with breastfeeding as she is.

The last two weeks I've felt like such a failure as a mom, and frustrated with Kaia that she won't act like a 'normal' baby. I kept comparing myself to my friend who breastfed her daughter exclusively, and have listened to endless stories from my mother and mother-in-law about the wonderful time they remember having breastfed both their kids. But you know what? None of them are Kaia's mom. They fed full term babies. I have to do what is best for us and for Kaia. As much as it's a lot having to feed her twice (once with the boob, once with the bottle) AND pump, it's worth it to ensure she's A) getting breast milk and all the benefits that entails, and B) that's she happy, healthy and growing well.

We've also started to enjoy one of the perks of non-exclusive breastfeeding. Which is that we BOTH get to feed her. I knew before Aidan or Kaia was born that Brian would be a great dad, but even I'm impressed at how helpful he's been and how great he's been through all our feeding challenges. I don't know that any of the women I'm comparing myself to had the support that I've had. Because they exclusively breastfed they HAD to be the one to feed the baby, and because their babies fed well, they only needed one person. Since Kaia's presented a little more of a challenge, she has involved BOTH her parents in her care, and I refuse to see that as a bad thing. It will be more difficult in a week and a half when Brian goes back to work, but I'll deal with that as it comes. I'm off work for a year, so really...what else to I have to do but feed my kid!

So that's that folks. We're back to Kaia's pediatrician on Friday for a weigh in and I'm actually looking forward to it! My baby's thriving and it's no one's business but ours how that happens.

So there.

Did your breastfeeding experience go the way you planned it? If it didn't how did it make you feel? How did you resolve the issue?



    Glad to hear you have made a decision to just go with Kaia's flow...remember YOU guys are her parents and YOU know what is best and what works for her and for your family.

    Take care :)

  2. I was in the hospital with Eli for close to two weeks because of complications I had afterwards. I was so stressed and sore and everything was going wrong, I ended up having a cat scan to rule out dvt and therefore had to have contrast fluid. I was not allowed to nurse Eli for 48 hours and he had to be fed with formula. About the 5th day into my hospital stay he went on a nursing strike. I mean full on screaming fit any time I tried to feed him. I remember one night in particular I just lost it. It was about 2 in the morning, I still had a horrible fever and was dripping sweat, I hurt so bad from trying to recover from the 50 hour labor and c-section, and they had me sitting in the rocking chair because I was supposed to magically feel better by moving from the bed to the chair. They placed Eli with me to feed, so here I was with this less than a week old baby who refused to eat, screaming and kicking on my stomach. I just started sobbing, I felt like such a failure. The nurse came in and asked me what was wrong and if I was okay. I just wanted to scream NO, I'M NOT OKAY, NOTHING IS OKAY! He finally decided to nurse when we were discharged and he was just under two weeks old. He just weaned himself at about a year and we've had a pretty good bfing relationship. A few blips along the way, but overall it was a great experience. We did end up supplementing when he was about 7 months old, but he still got breastmilk. And honestly, if you do end up supplementing, it's not the end of the world. Any breastmilk is better than none. You guys are doing great and doing everything you need to for Kaia to be happy and healthy.

  3. it is a learning curve for both of you! 15-20 minutes sounds like a pretty good time for nursing with a little one. There is no way a newborn would go three hours between a feeding and especially while breastfeeding so you are NOT a failure there. never were a failure so stop telling yourself that it just does more harm than good. Think of yourself as a warrior and you are currently going through battle boobie. I have a feeling you will win! :)
    Do you have a ring sling? I would highly highly recommend just wearing her and nursing. Arms free! It can really seal the bond. Now that you don't have to worry about feeding since bottles seem to work you can focus on a solid bond which is more important than a bottle or boob. In my opinion at least!

    I'll berate you with my boob stories another time!

  4. I'm glad you're moving forward with a system that's working for you and it's great that you're finding you can do that and keep Kaia on 100% breastmilk. I think I already answered your question and it didn't involve 100% breastmilk in my case.

    Part of my answer to the other part of your questions is I just did what worked (really, what choice did I have? I wasn't going to feed my son less than he needed). Another part is that before he was born (a good bit before) I had read a book called Mother Nature by an evolutionary psychologist (?) by the name of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy who looks at the ways evolutionary pressures have affected women and our children. It's a tough read in places as it describes contexts (such as famine) in which, e.g. abandoning a baby can be a mother's best bet of making sure she can survive and reproduce again (and thus "succeed" in an evolutionary sense) so I don't recommend it for anyone not up for some heavy reading. But one wonderful point Hrdy makes is what a blessing formula is -- how for most of human history and in much of the world even today, women had such limited options (basically our own breastmilk or perhaps another nursing woman who is part of "our" group, and nothing else) and how difficult that has made it to raise healthy babies in contexts (most of the world most of the time) where nutrition is poor, where mothers may well not survive childbirth, where -- nowadays -- maternal-child transmission of HIV via breastmilk is a real problem, and so on). That is not to say I don't think there are problems with formula or am unaware of the ways in which it has caused problems by being marketed in places where safe water is unavailable, but truthfully, it is amazing and wonderful that we have finally developed a food that is a safe (not better, but safe) alternative (for most babies, where clean water is available) to breastmilk.

  5. Hooray for finding a feeding approach that's working for all involved. And who cares what those not involved think anyway? As long as Kaia is eating and growing then all is well!

  6. I've written about our BFing issues before, and it honestly amazes me every day that I'm still doing it. But if I wasn't? It'd be okay. I went to a La Leche League meeting and she said something that really stuck with me: "There are two important things about feeding your baby: 1. Baby is happy and healthy and 2. Mom is happy and healthy." If you can achieve those with BFing, great. If not, do what you need to do in order to meet those two goals. If that means formula, so be it. If it means exclusively pumping, so be it. If it means a mix of nursing and pumping and formula, then do it!

    My number one recommendation, though, is to get a second or third or fourth opinion. Over the course of our issues, we met with multiple lactation consultants. I was told over and over her latch was was the fourth or so LC we met with (actually a La Leche League person) who finally said, "No, you're right, it's really shallow - it just looks good superficially." All LCs are NOT created equal!

  7. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I so hear you on this - that transition to bottle feeding, to accepting that it's best, that baby is still getting your milk and that's what's really important - is so, so, so difficult. I am so behind on blogs, but I have been thinking about you and Kaia.

  8. Your experience with a LC seems so much like mine was... not very helpful. And I saw 4 of them! My little guy wouldn't latch. And OMG, we tried everything in the book to make it happen. For weeks. It was awful.

    I think there are a lot of LC who are so militant, they really do a disservice. And I am just not comfortable using donated breastmilk. Sorry - not comfortable with that at all. So I exclusively pumped - and it was hard work! You know about that already, but I think some people who don't exclusively pump have no idea how hard it really is. Kudos to you!

    Anyways - I am glad you and your husband are using common sense and doing what is best for your daughter!

  9. I just don't get why LC's who approach things in a militant fashion don't understand that they are alienating the people who need them. I had a fan-fricken-tastic LC when my older daughter and I couldn't seem to work out nursing on our own. Eventually I had to supplement. My LC is the one who first held me while I cried and told me that a fed baby is a happy baby. I would loan her out if I could.


  10. breastfeeding was a huge issue for us even though my wee one was born 2 1/2 weeks late (so had no excuses lol!)

    the thing I realised? Just like in the end I couldn't control what happened with her birth, I also couldn't control the breastfeeding. Unfortunately it's not always as easy as deciding to do it.

    It felt to me like my body was letting me down about yet another thing: then I realised my body created this little human and brought her out alive!!!

    Resolving the issue was deeper than just getting my baby back on the breast (but we did have a really great lactation consultant- have you thought about trying with another one that's more practical?) It also involved realising that my own sleep and stress levels mattered and so, ironically, by accepting that she needed to be half fed at the breast and half by a bottle, the stress melted away and all of a sudden it wasn't as much of an issue.
    -It just became what worked for US :-)

    Keep up the great work, you are doing amazing!

    (Breastfed, with expressed milk in bottles and a few formula top-ups to finish feeds, for just under 8 months)

  11. I wanted to breastfeed for the exact same reasons you have stated. I got everything else so horribly wrong when it came to getting the baby out alive/bringing her home from hospital, this was one thing I wanted to do RIGHT. I just had no idea how hard it would be. And it was so hard. I don't need to go over all the problems we had (though I will say, they weren't nearly as bad as the problems you are having and Angus was a big full term bub) but it was hard. We got there in the end though, mostly through my pig-headed stubbornness and sheer perseverance.
    Thankfully this time around, it has been a lot easier and I don't for one second take that for granted. You are also so right in saying that Kaia had a much tougher start than most. I think all this considered, you are both doing remarkably well.
    I really am in awe of you.

  12. I did breastfeed but due to surgery I didn't make enough milk to fully nourish my babies so I always had to supplement with bottles.(using a soy formula as milk allergies run in our family as well) I would breastfeed first at a feed and then right after offer a bottle and the babies did well with that and gained weight.There is no one "right" way; each situation is different and you have to do what's best for yours.

  13. Sounds like you are in a good mental place right now, and that what you are doing will be best for your whole family. If there is one thing I've learned thus far it is that motherhood is never what you expect.

    I agree with previous comments - you might want to try a different lactation consultant if you are still interested in getting help in that area.

    I also second the comment made that most breastfed newborns will want to eat much more often than the once every three hours that the NICU schedule dictates. 24/7 feeding isn't unusual, though not super practical.

    I think I mentioned it before, but I had a 31 week preemie who spent 6 weeks in the NICU. He never had a great latch, and my milk supply was great at first, but by the time we brought him home it had dwindled and we had to supplement. I would nurse my baby as long as he would stand it (he is a bit impatient with my slow flow), then my husband would finish with a bottle of milk/formula. We never got to the point of exclusive breastfeeding, and at 6 months old my husband was too busy with work to continue to give him bottles. Giving my son a bottle for the first time was heartbreaking at first, but then I realized that I would be able to be much more mobile with him and tried to look at the bright side.

    Now at 8 months old my son rarely wants to nurse and gets way more formula than I would like. Is this what I wanted or had planned for - nope, but it is what happened, and I can't change it. My son is happy, healthy and has caught up with his peers despite being a preemie. I am thankful for what we have.

  14. Good for you. I was lucky to get a non-militant LC, who stressed that while breastmilk and nursing are lovely & important things, the most important thing is that baby gets enough nutrition to thrive. And you're right - you know your baby and what she needs.

    It sounds like bottles are making life easier for you and for Kaia, who is still getting her breastmilk but also now has a more relaxed Mom (and Dad, I'm guessing). And this is important, too.

    Love to you and your growing baby!

  15. I don't have any breastfeeding experience, but wanted to let you know that I was a preemie (born 6.5 weeks early) and was a terrible breastfeeder. My mom switched to bottles and she'll be the first to tell you how great I turned out :)

  16. I think you are doing a great job, first off. And as long as Kaia thrives, that is the main thing! When I had Daniel, we thought we would bf exclusively too, but for the first month or so we supplemented, and once I had enough milk I pumped enough to keep on hand so DH could feed too. After a few months you'd never know we had trouble at the beginning, D was a little piggy! Kaia may not ever come around to exclusive BFing, but having loving people feed her is what it's all about.

  17. Wonderful! You are doing fantastic, Mama!

    The militancy out there about breastfeeding makes me want to find an AK47 and the nearest rooftop. I caught hell a number of times for bottledfeeding my kids, even when it was breastmilk (I pumped and did formula, because we had trouble latching and my supply wasn't great). Women need to TRUST and SUPPORT each other, that we are each doing the right thing for our kids, instead of smugly thinking of ourselves as having it all together and looking with suspicion on those who do it differently.

    You are doing a great job and I applaud you!

  18. First off, I haven't been following your blog for a while, Congratulations on the birth of Kaia!

    Sorry to hear that you're having/had some issue with breastfeeding. I hope that my comments help.

    1. Did your breastfeeding experience go the way you planned it?

    NO! Before I found out that I was having triplets, I was going to breastfeed until the cows came home. Then, I realized that I had a little problem; not enough nipples. Then my babies were born at 30 weeks. Then we lost Alexander. Then all I could think about was getting my babies home so I focussed on feedings, not breastfeeding (I was pumping). Then I had a shitty LC. Then I had another shitty LC. Then I had tons of "knowledgeable" people telling me how they could help me tandom feed my two.

    2. If it didn't how did it make you feel?

    LIKE A FAILURE. Even though I was pumping, taking Domperidone (for milk supply), making 2L of milk a day, and had happy and healthy kids, I felt like I should have been doing more.

    3. How did you resolve the issue?

    MADE THE DECISION TO EXCLUSIVELY PUMP. The moment I made the decision to stop fighting with and putting myself down I had the biggest weight lifted from my shoulders. My supply increased, I got into a routine and ended up exclusively "breastfeeding" two babies for 17 months.

    All the best with your journey. Let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of any support.


  19. I've been trying to breastfeed still, but I'm pretty much exclusively pumping. My son is 7 weeks tomorrow and wasn't preemie (born at 38+3), but he still has never really breastfed. This morning we had his tongue tie snipped, but so I'm soing to try upping times I try to breastfeed (lately for our sanity I rarely try), but if it doesn't work I'm just going to resign myself to excluselively pumping - my supply isn't great, but if we can just concentrate on one thing and get a routine life will be better! It's so easy to feel like the worse mum in the world when you 'fail' to breastfeed, but so many women have problems - and so many whose bubs haven't had nearly the number of complications you and K have! - that I'm trying to get over it!!!