Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Mission to Breastfeed.

Originally dated May 24, 2012. I am sharing this for any mother struggling to nurse their baby, know that you are not alone.

From the moment I realized I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby until his or her first birthday. It wasn't because I was exclusively breastfed (in fact, I don't personally know anyone that was) but because it's what's best for the baby and I want what's best.

 As much as I read up on natural birthing and laboring, I didn't focus as much attention on researching what happens after the birth. As a result, I had to rely on advice from a hospital system that pushes formula, and the women in my family, none of whom breastfed their children past 3 months of age. The baby was given formula against my express, written wishes while we were in the hospital because I had to have an emergency c-section after 46 hours in labor and he had to eat before I was awake. I requested that the baby be brought to me when he needed to eat after that. I nursed him at the hospital and was taught about proper latch, etc. but I was also given formula bottles and told that because of my difficult labor and the baby being on antibiotics (a whole other story), that I should monitor how much he eats, which I obviously couldn't do if I was just nursing.

When we got home and for the next couple of months, I would nurse the baby constantly. Literally. I felt like he was always hungry, so I must be doing something wrong. He gave me a hard time latching for a while because he would come at me so voraciously and impatiently (we called it "snarf face" because he looked like he was going to "snarf snarf snarf" once he got to the boob) that I had to convince him to slow down enough to properly get on. I am impatient by nature, and I think this latch business was the beginning of parenting changing me into a more gracious person ;) I was also so overwhelmed with being the only person feeding the baby, on top of recovering from infection after infection from the c-section and piles of antibiotics, that I started handing him over to whoever was around to give him a bottle of formula after only a few minutes at a time of nursing. I really just felt then like I couldn't cope with everything I was going through, and I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it would eventually get much easier.

By the time Bu was 2 months old, I was coming out of my fog and realizing that I could possibly do this mothering thing on my own. I was finally healthy and able to establish a routine. I tried exclusively breastfeeding for a long time. I would even set my alarm for 2 am every single day, regardless of whether the baby would wake up for a feeding, so I could pump and build up my supply. Whenever I'd exclusively breastfeed for any length of time, the baby would lose weight. I simply was not making enough milk. In hindsight, and now especially as I'm writing this, I'm sure everything from the method of delivery leading up to his second month had A LOT, if not everything, to do with my under-supply.

Since the baby was born, I've had cocktails of fenugreek tablets, organic mothers milk tea, and of course my prenatal vitamins every. single. day. I eat oatmeal, stay away from parsley....basically anything I can to pump my supply up, but nothing really does too much. In April, I got really sick and had bronchitis for 3 weeks, on top of severe ear infections. I was on several antibiotics, which heavily impacted my supply. We also took the baby to the doctor around that same time, and we were told that while he's in the 98% for height, he was in the 5-10% for weight. Granted, he's being compared to exclusively formula-fed babies, but regardless, he was starting to look sickly. The doctor insisted we supplement his diet because I just was not producing enough for him to thrive.

That was the last straw. With my supply already dwindling from the illness and antibiotics, the baby got very accustomed to bottles and the instant gratification that came with ounces at a time at his disposal. He started napping without needing to nurse too, which was always his routine. Even when the baby was losing weight, I was able to pump about 3-5 oz total in a 10 minute pumping session. Now, I can get an ounce out of the left side, if I'm lucky, and barely an 1/8 of an oz out of my right in the same time frame. I'm continuing to pump daily, but it takes me a week of daily pumping to get the 4 oz I used to get out of one session.

I continue to pump and freeze so even if I stop producing completely, I can still give the baby breast milk for as long as possible. As it is now, he only nurses once, maybe twice a day, and more for comfort than sustenance. I used to cry at the very notion of not having that breastfeeding relationship with my son. I literally spent hours everyday researching and looking at feeding logs and my own food journals to see if anything I ate was affecting my supply, etc. My life was about breastfeeding.

Now, it's sinking in that the relationship is nearing its end. All I can do is try to forgive myself for not completing my goal of a year, and know that when I have a second child, I will be armed with the knowledge that I didn't have with my first so that hopefully, I can do just as well, if not better, for him or her. I had a lot in my way, and I have to be proud of all I persevered in order to make it this far. My son is happy, thriving, and we have an incredible bond and relationship. These are the things I have to focus on. I will continue to nurse my Bu as long as he'll allow, and I will no doubt mourn and cry the day he decides he's done. But I am proud to nurse as long as I am able to, and I would go through all of it all over again for this little man.

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