Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Breast Feeding.... and an Interesting Article.

As a mama of 3, soon to be 4, who is VERY pro breast feeding.... I found this article very interesting: Kara Ananda Blog - Viva La Boobies

Now I can't speak for how scientifically accurate this info is... as I didn't cross reference or research her points - but I still find it a very interesting read. Seriously... how amazing are our breasts? I think in today's world they're simply passed off as a sexual body part - it's been ingrained into most us. But they are so much more than that.... providing sustenance for our babies is just the tip of the iceberg so it seems.

My breast feeding story started off very rocky. My daughter and I didn't have a good start. The nurses at the hospital (Lakeridge Health Oshawa) continuously pushed the bottle at us and told me that if I didn't start supplementing with formula that I would be putting her at a huge risk. Granted she was also jaundiced, and it was more severe because it was "ABO" jaundice. BUT, the nurses really were not supportive of breast feeding. This was six years ago - I'm happy to report that most of them have come a long way! Anyway, we got off to a rocky start, but I continued to try. I don't think she every really got the right latch, and some of that was probably something I wasn't doing quite right too.

There is a lot to remember as a first time parent, and breastfeeding can be stressful!

My daughter wasn't patient, she went from zero to starving in seconds, and I had nicknamed her the piranha. She was vicious! Feeding her was so painful. I had milk blisters, and blood blisters. I was cracked and in MAJOR pain each time she latched to eat.

I ended up throwing in the towel and giving up after one particularly bad day. BIGGEST REGRET OF MY LIFE - looking back I would have done things differently. But hindsight is 20/20 right? That fateful day my breasts were in bad shape, and while she nursed I continued to bleed. I sat there with giant tears rolling down my face in pain. A pain like I had never felt before, and that's saying a lot because I had a completely natural birth with no meds. I would have gladly done it all again instead of having to deal with the pain of nursing her. Once finished nursing, she then proceeded to cry for 45 minutes and spit up MY blood that she had ingested.

I was a wreck. I cried the whole time. This was precise moment when I decided I couldn't do this anymore. My daughter was 8 weeks old. 

There were many things that led to or had a hand in our - okay, MY - failure. Our poor start and support in the hospital, the lack of knowledge on my part, and perhaps the biggest contributing factor... the lack of support from those around me. My husband was great.... but in the end he wanted what was best for both of us and it was killing him to see me sit there silently crying while our daughter nursed. My family and friends just kept saying "why don't you just do formula? it's much easier" and "you had formula and you turned out okay". All valid opinions.... but not helpful, supportive opinions for a first time mom struggling to breastfeed.

My second time around was a MUCH different experience. To start with, I was bound and determined that it would work out this time. I was carrying around a lot of guilt about "giving up" with my daughter, and I was adamant that that wouldn't happen again. 

I had a lactation consultant lined up for right after my son was born - sadly I didn't have a good experience with her - but that's a whole other story. As a second time mom I had more confidence. I wasn't shy or reserved when the nurse made "suggestions" - and I wasn't shy about having a few words with one nurse who tried to shove a bottle into my son's mouth after he had just finished nursing and clearly wasn't hungry. I was no longer the unsure first time mom who second guessed her gut or her knowledge of what her child needed (at least food wise!). 

My breastfeeding experience was amazing the second time around. I knew what to expect and I was much better prepared.

Whomever thinks that telling a first time mom that breastfeeding is so natural and wonderful, and all rainbows and smiles..... WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! 

Okay, that may seem harsh. But really, I think women need to be prepared for things to be hard. They need to know the realities of breastfeeding. Yes it can be amazing, wonderful, bonding.... and more. But lets be realistic, in the beginning it's HARD! It's painful, trying, exhausting, and long hours with very little sleep between feedings. But with the right support, you can get to the amazing side of things. Not everyone has difficulties in the beginning, but in my experience most mom's do have trouble. But I digress....

What was I saying?.... oh right... I was better prepared. And more determined. I went to the lactation consultants (better ones - who actually informed me about the damage that was done to my nipples with my daughter that was still very apparent and still a problem), when I started to have pain again they suggested an all purpose nipple ointment (AMAZING STUFF, you can find out more about it here: Dr. Newman Clinic). I made it through those trying first days, weeks, months. I found that 4 months was the magic mark for us. By then my son had the hang of things and so did I. I got brave and began nursing in public instead of running back to my car to nurse him there. This was our turning point... the point where breastfeeding was less work and more convenience. I realized that this was what some of the other mom's were talking about.... THIS was the rainbows and smiles... THIS was the natural, wonderful bonding experience. THIS IS WHAT I HAD BEEN WAITING FOR. It was all of that. Now I could understand where others were coming from. It was a long road, but it was a huge achievement for me. One of my proudest achievements as a parent.

We had bumpy patches.... growth spurts, teething, a nursing strike at 9 months old. But we persevered. Even without the support of some of my closest family and friends. I was stronger this time, so their comments and reasons for me to stop nursing didn't phase me. I had answers ready for them. I wasn't ready to give this up. It was one of the few "good" times I remember with my son. He was VERY colicy and I barely slept for his first year of life. When I say barely, I mean I often counted the minutes of sleep I got. I was severely sleep deprived. I often refer to those days as "The Dark Days". The light in my dark days was our success with breastfeeding. But I'll leave the colic and it's challenges for another post.

My son self weened at 17 months old. I was a little sad that our days were done, but happy and proud that it was done on his terms. 

My third child, my second son... we had a great experience until 9 months. Our hospital experience was great, but only because the nurses didn't bother with me at all. Literally. They took my vitals and that was it. Nothing else. As a third time mom though, this suited me just fine. I wanted out... I wanted to go home to my other two little ones.

Everything went great until he went on strike at 9 months. Having gone through this with my older son I wasn't too worried and I hand expressed and finger fed, then syringe fed. A month went by. He still flat out refused to nurse. I started to pump full time and had to boost my supple with Domperidone and my son took to drinking from a straw sippy cup. I still offered the breast at every feeding, but he always just flat out refused. So we continued this way until he refused my milk - 5 days before he turned 1. 

Again, the weening was on his terms, but I was heartbroken that it went the way that it did. I was expecting something more like my other son. But this is was his terms. And so it was what was right for him. I had harder time with the adjustment... I just wasn't ready for it... and was surprised by the sudden turn of events. I was at peace knowing that I did everything in my power though. 

I'm looking forward to my next experience though and the challenges and triumphs that it will present. Perhaps I will update on how this one goes.

So, Mama's out there.... if you find things hard, YOU'RE NOT ALONE! Breastfeeding is a lot of work, and there is a learning curve. But if you put in the time you WILL NOT regret it. It is an experience that is worth working for. Not just for wonderful bonding experience, but for the benefits for your child... and for the benefits for you. 

p.s. While I am pro breastfeeding, I'm also not against formula feeding - as you have read, my daughter was mostly formula fed. I am pro doing what is best for you, your child, and your family. Different things work for different people. I do know those who have a condition that prevents them from producing enough milk to sustain and nourish their children. We all have challenges.

What kind of challenges have you had with breastfeeding?  

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