Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My breastfeeding journey

I always knew I would breastfeed my child.  I just didn't know that it would truly be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life to date.  I wanted to throw in the towel and bust out the formula daily for the first six weeks.  It was painful and I had problem after problem.  But I will be the first to tell you today that I am not ready to wean 14 months in.  The closeness and bond that breastfeeding provides between me and my son is something truly special.  As I once read somewhere, my son will never in his life be breastfed again.

My breastfeeding journey started when I went into labor with Destructo.  I was in labor for 74 hours, 70 of which were completely unmedicated, and awake for 92 straight hours.  By the time he was finally here, I was so exhausted I couldn't think about anything but eating a meal and sleeping.  The family all wanted to see Kai and this was to be expected as they had been at the hospital 12+ hours at this point (and my mom had been there the entire day before on our first trip to the hospital.)  Oh and side note, I will do a blog post at some point on my entire labor.

Mistake number one took place right now.  I let all the family in to meet Destructo instead of nursing him while he was somewhat alert immediately after birth. Next time, I will nurse him/her before anyone is allowed in. But I was a first time mom who gave birth at 11:52 PM when no lactation consultants were on duty.  I had no idea how to get a baby to latch on.

Once all the family left, I tried with my husband's help to get Kai to latch on to no avail.  We finally crashed for the night to get some sleep, but it was very restless because of course Kai was noisy and had a strong sucking reflex. We didn't want to send him to the nursery and kept him with us.   Mistake number two was letting him suck on his hands instead of trying to get him to latch because I was so exhausted I just wanted some rest.

The next morning we immediately summoned the lactation consultants.  But by this point, the long labor and delivery had caught up with Destructo and he was impossible to wake.  The few times he expressed interest in nursing, we would get him up to me and he would just pass out cold.  No cold wash cloths, stripping him to a diaper, pumping his arms and legs, tickling his feet could keep him awake.  We were told to just do lots of kangaroo care and I did, but not to the point that I should have since I had a steady stream of visitors.  This was mistake number three.  Next time, I will probably just let immediate family visit the hospital and tell friends to wait until we get home to visit. 

We discharged from the hospital a day and  a half later even though we could have stayed an extra day since I delivered so late.  This was mistake number four.  I should have stayed that extra day and had Kai go to the nursery so I could get a little sleep before I went home.  But at the time I was ready to get home and thought it would be easier to sleep there.

We got home and the baby that was a good sleeper in the hospital immediately got his days and nights mixed up and didn't sleep for the next three nights.  Kai still wasn't latching well 24 hours after discharge and by Friday (we left on Wednesday) had stopped having wet diapers for over 12 hours.  We rushed him to the pedi and found he had dropped 12% of his birth weight.  The pedi wanted me to supplement with formula, but I argued and she agreed that if I was able to pump enough breast milk to bottle feed this would be fine.  This was mistake number 5.  While it was good that I pumped obviously to enable me to get a good supply going, bottle feeding was a mistake.  Hopefully this won't happen next time, but if it did I would get a supplemental feeder instead of using bottles from the get go.

I met with the lactation consultant when Kai was a week old and she got him to latch like a pro.  I thought this was the turning point, but once I got home I couldn't get him to latch once again.  So back to pumping I went.  I met with the lactation consultant again a week later and she showed me some new tips and tricks and things finally started looking up.  By 2 1/2 weeks, I had Kai nursing 50% of the time and it was getting easier every day.  And then, it all went south.

I got mastitis on both sides and spiked a 103-104 fever for three days.  I couldn't even care for my newborn baby.  I had to go stay with my parents for 48 hours so my mom could take care of Kai while my husband worked.  I had to go on antibiotics for this and they worked well and I started feeling better.  But this (while not really a mistake because I had no choice) was not-mistake number 6. I ended up getting a systemic yeast infection that got into my milk ducts.  For awhile, I didn't realize that this was why nursing felt like I was nursing a child with razor blade teeth.  When I did, I had to take diflucan pills for 2 weeks to get it to clear up.

The mastitis also caused my supply to completely tank.  I had to formula feed for a few feedings for two weeks and it broke my heart.  I was sobbing when he had to have that first bottle.  Let me issue a statement here that I do not think there is anything wrong with formula feeding if that is what you so choose.  But it wasn't what I chose.  It devastated me that I couldn't make something so natural work.  I had nearly decided to just pump because I couldn't take the pain of nursing anymore.  I had cracked, bleeding nipples.  I dreaded hearing Kai crying to eat because I knew it would be more toe curling pain.  I would sob throughout the entire feeding and be so glad it was over.
I made a deal with myself that if it didn't get better once the diflucan was done, I would quit.  But it luckily got so much better once the yeast was finally gone.  By two months he was nursing 90% of the time.  I was still pumping at night because he was quite a slow nurser and I could pump and bottle feed him in half the time.  By three months, (right before I went back to work) he was completely nursing except for the occasional bottle just to make sure he didn't start refusing bottles.  I got my supply back up by taking fenugreek and blessed thistle.  Oh and sometime around this time, I discovered that I had vasospasms and this makes nursing more painful as well.  But I quickly remedied that with a hot compress before nursing.

And then I went back to work and had to pump twice a day and this was such a challenge.  I had a lot of trouble making enough milk each day and thought many a times I would have to supplement with formula.  But I didn't and he turned 6 months and started solids and his milk demands went way down very quickly as he was a great eater.

And the rest truly is history.  We made it to my original goal of 3 months, then hit my next goal of six months, and then on May 9th, we hit my ultimate goal of nursing for an entire year ( minus the 19.75 oz of formula he had when I had mastitis.)  My new goal is to nurse until he decides to wean.   Destructo is still nursing three times a day at nearly 14 months.  I never thought I would nurse him past a year, but I just don't see a reason to quit just yet.  He still gets antibodies from the milk, some nutrition, and a whole lot of emotional comfort.  I am hoping that he will self wean within the next year as I would like to be done by two, especially if we decide to have another child.

It has been the hardest journey I have ever taken in my life.  But it truly was the most rewarding one all at the same time.  I will forever look back at the days I spent nursing my son as some of the best days of my life.  For the first six months of his life, I provided all of his nutritional needs.  I provided his favorite comfort source.  I taught him patience, gentleness, and kept him healthy all by nursing.

The health benefits of breastfeeding him will last a lifetime.   Studies have shown that breastfed kids are less likely to have allergies and asthma and since I have both, this was important to me.  In his first year of life, I only had to take Kai to the pediatrician twice once for gunky eyes because of blocked tear ducts and once for a cold that had this first time mom worried.  He had a handful of very minor colds and the only time he was very sick and running a fever was after his shots.  The doctor said he had a great immune system and that was why he ran such high fevers.  This made me feel great and like I was getting a reward for all my breastfeeding struggles.

 I know our nursing days are coming to a close.  In fact, just tonight he refused to nurse before bed.  I will be sad when it is done, but be glad that I have raised my baby to a little boy.  I just hope that I will know when the end is beckoning before hand so I can treasure those last few nursing sessions with my still a baby (if only in this mama's eye. ) Even when I am an old woman, I know I will look back on all those nights spent nursing my son in the rocking chair in his room and know that those were some of the best moments of my life even if they flew by in the blink of an eye.

How did he go from this to that big boy in a year's time?

This post is part of the weekly breastfeeding blog hop, hosted by The Slacker Mom, and co-hosted by The Gnome’s Mom and Happiness Redefined. This week’s topic is “Check-In.”


  1. great story, thanks for sharing! I am not glad you struggled, but its nice to hear stories about others who've struggled with breastfeeding. I wish for anything I had made enough milk for my little girl and it still kills me to give her formula and donated breastmilk. Good for you for making it so far!

    1. Hearing stories of other breastfeeding moms struggles really helped me out when I was in the thick of all my problems. I used to enjoy going to my breastfeeding group because it made me feel like I wasn't the only person in the world who was struggling so much.

      I am sorry you have had problems with breastfeeding, but you are doing the best you can for your baby and yay for getting donated breastmilk. I kind of wish I had pumped a bit longer just to be able to donate to someone that needs it for awhile. But it was just too hard with work.

  2. Thanks for sharing, you are so strong to have made it through all the breastfeeding obstacles you faced! This is absolutely one of the hardest things I've ever done, but like you I am so glad that I am doing it because it really is the best thing for my baby.

    1. Thanks. It is so rewarding, especially as you hit the goals you set for yourself.

  3. Your struggles were greatly rewarded! I hope that my supply can increase. I am happy that my Little is getting what she is, but wish there was more. She is almost five months old now, so she has gotten "boobie milk" for three months longer then the others.

    I feel horrible that your labor was SO long! It made me cringe. Good luck for a shorter one next time!

    all follows are returned

    1. I truly hope I have a shorter one next time too. I don't think going natural is so important that I will go that long again next time (even though I really want to go naturally.) The six weeks of non bonding isn't worth it.

      I hope your milk supply increases. I don't know which you have tried, but fenugreek, blessed thistle, tons of water, and oatmeal helped me.

  4. Oh, how I know the struggles with breastfeeding. Both of my boys were tongue-tied, and it wasn't until the second one that I figured it out... I quit with my first after a couple weeks (the pain and the bleeding were so bad). I pushed and pushed with the second through mastitis, thrush, pain, nipple shields, bleeding and scarring. When I figured out what the problem was (after repeated help from multiple sources not working), we had his tongue-tie clipped at 10 weeks. I've been breastfeeding for the last 7 months, and I plan on continuing for a while longer. Good for you pushing through it, too!

    1. I never thought I would still be breastfeeding at 16 months old when I was having all my problems in those first six weeks. But yay for us pushing through and making it work.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am glad I'm not alone! I am still nursing my daughter at 11 months. We are trying to conceive, but I'm not ready to wean, though my daughter only nurses in the morning when she wakes up and at bedtime. She will nurse before afternoon naps when I'm home during the day on the weekends, but it's more of a comfort for sleep than nutrional. She has never been solely breastfed, but I have learned a lot, as you have, for my next baby.

    1. Good for you for nursing for so long! And good luck trying to conceive. Hopefully it is a quick journey for you. I kind of miss having a squishy little baby, but not enough just yet to have another. LOL


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