Thursday, March 22, 2012

Confessions of a "sorta" breastfeeder: Part 1

As I am closing in on the first year of motherhood I have been reflecting a lot on my pregnancy, my birth story and my experience with breastfeeding.  This post will be dedicated to the breastfeeding portion of my journey.  So fasten your seat belts, It's gonna be a bumpy ride!

The birth of Baby Boy was creeping closer and I began to get those anxious butterflies.  Not knowing when or how labor was going to go for me was pretty tough being that I am a planner by nature.  What was even harder for me was the idea of breastfeeding.

My husband and I took a Bradley Method class (more on that another time) and the last few sessions were dedicated to breastfeeding.  I would sit in our class listening to the teacher talk about it and my palms would get sweaty, I could feel my face get flushed and I'm sure I was looking at her with the deer-in-headlights stare. 

I had decided right away after learning about all of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding that I would be 100% committed to going through with it for the health of my baby.  However, just because I was committed to it didn't mean that I wasn't terrified about it.  I was honestly more anxious and nervous about breastfeeding than I was for labor.  I couldn't wrap my brain around having a tiny human attached to my boob and finding any kind of joy from it.  After all, I have VERY sensitive nipples.  Just ask my husband!  Or don't... that would be weird.  They are so sensitive that I don't even like the feeling of my clothes brushing up against them so how will I be able to stand someone SUCKING from them?!?!  It made my skin crawl just thinking about it.

I confided in my girlfriends and I was shocked by their reactions.  Two out of the three I shared my feelings with confessed that they too were a bit nervous for the experience.  The third was an experienced breastfeeder who has also made her career working in the industry of motherhood and babies.  She laughed at me and said I had nothing to be afraid of.  Once my son was in my arms I would see how wonderful and NOT scary it is.  I still had my doubts...

Fast forward to the arrival of my amazing baby boy.  As soon as he was born (au naturale, thank you very much) I immediately held him close and we shared our first skin-to-skin contact.  He immediately put his thumb in his mouth and I asked if that meant he was hungry... and so it began.

From the beginning my fears did in fact wash away and I immediately went into "mom mode" doing what needed to be done for my baby.  I didn't think twice about my nipples I even remember thinking to myself, "this isn't so bad!" 

I valued my time spent in the hospital.  The nurses and the lactation consultants were great.  They helped me get Baby Boy latched on and they helped me make corrections when I would try to get him latched on by myself.  They shared with me a ton of knowledge and they told me it was alright and held my hands when I would get frustrated and cry.  Then they sent me off into the real world and I was left to my own devices.

I thought things were going great until we went to one of our pediatrician visits and Baby Boy's weight wasn't where they wanted it to be.  The next day I went to a free clinic sponsored by the hospital I delivered at so I could find out how much milk Baby Boy was actually getting.  Turns out he wasn't even getting a full ounce after nursing for 20 minutes... ON EACH SIDE!!!!  How could this be?!?  The lactation consultant that worked the clinic said he wasn't sucking hard enough to get out what he needed.  She gave me some tips and tricks to strengthen his sucking and also encouraged me to start pumping to keep my supply up.  A few days later we went back to the pediatrician for a follow up.  Still no improvement.  They suggested supplementing with formula.  They are doctors.  They know what they are talking about and if they say start using formula than by golly, that's what we'll do!  {d'oh!! Hindsight is a real bitch}

Once the formula-filled bottle touched Baby Boy's lips, he guzzled that thing as if his life depended on it.  Then he threw it all up, of course.  Now that he had experienced the glorious ease at which milk comes out of a bottle he wanted nothing to do with me.  I tried and tried.  Some days we did great and some days were terrible.  He would resist my offerings and he would cry, I would tense up and then we would both end frustrated and tired.  I kept going to the free clinic every week and he never showed much improvement. 

The final straw was when the lady weighing Baby Boy did the calculation and said (loud enough for the whole room to hear, by the way), "he barely took half an ounce."  I replied, "I know.  That's just the way it's been going for us and I'm beginning to think I need to stick to pumping.  He is super frustrated every time I try and I am super frustrated that it isn't going well."  She smugly said, "Hmmm.  I see.  You know, it's just very important that you be there for him."  Ex-CUSE ME?!?!?  Please explain to me how:
  1. Shoving my boob in his face until he is screaming at the top of his lungs, because breastfeeding is best for him or,
  2. Coming to this clinic every single week since the second week of his life just to feel helpless that he hasn't shown improvement and wishing so badly that it was something I wasn't doing right so that I could blame myself then figure out how to fix it.  Or how about,
  3. Pumping in between feedings to keep my precious supply up no matter the hour of the day or night.
How is anything that I am attempting to do "not being there for him?!?!"  Maybe it was just her tone and she didn't really mean it the way it came out.  Maybe it was that I was exhausted, or the hormones, or it was just that I was so frustrated this whole breastfeeding thing wasn't quite going the way I wanted it to.  Regardless of the reasons, I decided that day that I was done nursing.  From then on I would exclusively pump.

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