Monday, November 16, 2009

Breast is Best

We have all heard that "Breast is Best". So when Elaina was born this mantra would run through my mind as I frantically tried to nurse her. Nursing was a nightmare with Elaina (we're talking open sores and bleeding). I got home from the hospital and bawled my eyes out for days because we'd try nursing and then I'd end up giving her a bottle because she would just scream and not latch on. She had no problems with the bottle. She preferred her bottle to me which tore my heart out.

I felt a ton of Mommy Guilt. My hormones finally calmed down. Then I realized how much more pleasant our feeding sessions were when she was calm with her bottle. That I could actually gaze at her and she could take her time and get nourishment. And yet I still heard that motto in my head: "Breast is Best". And I still felt this pang of guilt and remorse as I watched her eat from a bottle.

When I became pregnant with Abigail I was determined to make breastfeeding work! Unfortunately I didn't do enough homework. We've all heard, "If it hurts, they're not latched on properly!" Well, it really hurt when I tried feeding Abigail. I gave birth to her on the weekend and no lactation consultant was available. I ended up giving Abigail a bottle in the hospital thinking I was doing something wrong.

Turns out I was doing everything right and her latch was perfect. It can be very tender after birth, especially for fair-skinned women, when baby latches on. It is once the milk has letdown that you should not feel pain anymore in order to know if the latch is correct or not. The latch-on pain goes away by the time baby is a few weeks old.

But by the time I finally got the L.C. in my room I had to use a shield and it was just a big old mess. Abigail never wanted to wean off the shield but really loved nursing and breastmilk. I stuck with it, using shields, for three months before I couldn't take it anymore. We switched to formula. More Mommy Guilt.

It was hard not to hear "Breast is Best" in the back of my mind while cleaning bottles and changing stinky formula diapers or packing half of my diaper bag full of bottle-feeding supplies. It was hard not to hear it when I gazed at them as they drank from a bottle. It was hard not to feel that special connection that comes with nursing and to know I wasn't providing them with the very best, something that was actually a part of me made for them!

So please know that I've been on both sides of the fence as you read on.

Breastfeeding is going so amazingly well with this baby. I remembered the things I learned in the past, especially from my own mistakes. I stuck with it when the latch-on pain was excruciating (does not hurt at all now). I stuck with it when one position wouldn't work with Zoƫ until we found a position that did work without leaving me raw and aching. And I stuck with it without resorting to a pump or a shield. No outside help this time.

It's still in the learning stage for us but it's getting to the point that she knows when I grab the Boppy that it is feeding time and she starts doing her little newborn grunts and snorts in excitement. She is also to the point that she'll have her mouth open and ready, too.

We co-sleep and so I'll often wake to her furiously attacking my chest with her face, sometimes even in her sleep! And she has latched on to me in a place other than where she should and left me with some lovely hickeys too. I'm sure to use that as blackmail when she's a teenager...

I pumped a bottle the other day for her because she wasn't eating as frequently and I could tell my supply was starting to dwindle. I was just going to throw it out but then told Daniel he should give it to her. He was freaking out. He thought me pumping this one bottle meant failure because, as you read above, it didn't go so well with our other daughters.

Finally he gave it to her, mostly because she woke up to eat right after I finished pumping and the well was dry, so to speak! Her initial reaction was a look of utter disgust in having a synthetic nip.ple placed in her mouth. She kept spitting it out and smacking her gums with this look of horror on her face. Classic! After she downed the bottle in under 10 minutes she wanted to nurse. I gave Daniel a look of triumph and said, "I win!"

Needless to say he was relieved one bottle didn't ruin her nursing streak and I had the satisfaction of knowing that my baby preferred me, not something else!

Making an icky face!

Staring at Daddy!


*~Chelsea~* said...

I've heard breastfeeding can be painful so I've always been scared, haha! I want to do that when I have a baby though so I hope it'll work out. She's SO cute! Wow, she digs at you in your/her sleep? Hahaha!! Cute.

Sarah said...

Glad things are going so well! :)

Ashley said...

Glad it's going well!! I hope I can do it:)

Nancy said...

Cute photos of dad feeding baby. I had some of the same struggles early on with nursing, but now, it's great.

The Mommy said...

She's so sweet and I'm so happy for you...but jealous. I didn't stick with nursing and felt guilty with both, but my midwives reminded me when I felt like a failure that a happy, healthy Mommy was important too.

Tasha Via said...

I am so glad that it's going well for you this time around. I don't think there is enough accurate information out there for struggling breastfeeders...I'm so glad that you get to have this positive experience=)

Leah said...

Such a cute story. I'm so happy it's going well for you this time around. :-D

Kaye said...

I am so glad that it is going well this time around. Neither of my children nursed well. Patrick could latch on fine, but wasn't a good "sucker" as he would feed for over 45 minutes on ONE SIDE and still want more. I had to stop it because I would have otherwise been constantly nursing. I pumped every meal for him until he was 8 months old and my supply could not keep up with his hunger.

Abigail could not latch on right. The LC at the hospital told me that she was doing it right and I chalked the pain up to the initial you noted. That is until I was broken and bleeding. Hmmm...maybe she wasn't doing it so right. So now I pump every meal for her. She has only had one bottle of formula and I hope to keep it that way.

I understand the mommy guilt you speak of. I was in tears when I couldn't naturally nurse. Chip finally convinced me that I was still getting them the "good stuff". WHen I had to stop pumping for Patrick I once again felt like a failure...and I'm sure I'll go through it again with Abigail if I don't make it a year with her.

I absolutely know what's best in my mind, but I think it is awful that we, as women and moms, hassle each other over EITHER decision to feed. It's really not worth any of us feeling like failures. That makes me sad. And it's not like we already are scared and uncertain and hormonal to begin with!

Congrats on keeping it up. I love that Zoe is looking at Daniel like, "What are YOU doing there?" =)

Kimberly @ Raising Olives said...

Congrats on successful nursing this time around. We LOVE co-sleeping in our house too. Lots of sleep for baby and lots of sleep for mommy. Win-win.

Jewels said...

I'm glad it's working out this time! You've always done your best, and that's all any mom can do.

Susan Sene said...

I'm so glad breastfeeding is going well for you. I struggled for seven LONG weeks but I FINALLY don't dread when it's time to nurse her now and it's awesome! I love our time together. Now I wanna be the biggest cheerleader for anyone else trying to nurse because it really does get better (I never believed people when they told me that).

I think what finally helped me is before each feeding, I would let her suck on my finger and gently bring her tongue forward with my finger and say "Tongue out". I would repeat that to her while nursing and she eventually began to correct herself (she was gumming me - owie!). It's amazing what little babies can learn in such a short amount of time! said...

imagine the guilt I felt when, as a L&D nurse, things went poorly with breastfeeding.

I had an overactive let down and would almost drown my babies. They learned to hate breastfeeding. They would push away from my breast gagging, sputtering, trying to breath, then turning red and becoming hysterical.

I wish I had good support for problems back then. we were good at getting them started, but the follow-up was horrible.

Now we have LCs, CLEs, and a breastfeeding clinic...I am so happy for the ladies now.

I am glad things are going well for you this time :)

Andrea said...

I love this post. I'm so sorry you had problems breast feeding, but it helps so many of us to hear about your experience.

I'm glad that breast feeding is getting positive attention now, but I also hate that it makes moms who don't breast feed feel guilty. I almost gave up with Evan, and the main reason I didn't was because I knew I'd always feel bad. It really shouldn't be that way though, as long as you and the baby are healthy and happy, that's what matters. Nursing times were torture for a couple of weeks there, I'm glad I stuck with it, but those first couple of weeks will also be associated with pain and misery and that wouldn't be the case if I had decided not to breast feed. It's a touch subject!

And can I just say, I LOVE the pictures!? Her face in the first one is so funny (that's what Evan did the first time we gave him a bottle) and the second picture is just priceless. So sweet!