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Friday, April 03, 2009

Breast Intentions

I always knew that I was going to breastfed my children; I just never realized how hard it was going to be.
My mother breastfed all 4 of her children. My siblings were nursed until 2, so I had no qualms about nursing. When we were given a video tape of common Breastfeeding problems in my Birthing From Within Prenatal class, I watched it, only because it was home work. I seriously thought, “How hard can it possibly be? Put the baby on your breast and nurse, babies are born to be breastfed.”
I had a very fast labour. My son was born at home (not our first choice) in 1hr30mins. I think that because we were both in a little shock started the downward spiral to what would later become the most emotional, physical journey that I was yet to face.
My son was born with Jaundice, which is not uncommon for newborns in Alberta, and my midwives were not overly concerned. As long as he was feeding well, we would be able to flush out the jaundice.
He was a great nurser right out of the womb, (albeit a little lazy because of the jaundice), and for the first 3 days he would nurse really well. Day 4 is when it all started to go downhill.
I have a D cup chest and when waiting for my milk to come in, I was wearing very restrictive tank tops with shelf bras in them. This sent my body the message that I didn’t want to lactate (as women often bind their breasts when discouraging their milk to come in.) I completely misunderstood when my midwife told me that my breast should resemble a wedge or a triangle (which shows that the baby has the whole breast in his mouth and not just the nipple). I took it to understand that he should only be nursing off the nipple, and that the nipple itself was to be a triangle shape. (bad latch).
I am often asked how I continued to nurse in so much pain, with a bad latch. I honestly thought that breastfeeding was supposed to hurt. Also, because I have a much higher pain tolerance than most, I would just curl my toes and meditate through the pain.
Day 4 was also the last day the midwives would come to my house, and we would see them again for our 6 week appointment. But because the bad latch started on Day 4, they did not know that anything was wrong. This is my second mistake, as the midwives were available day or night (with the help of a pager) for any and all questions/concerns to do with breastfeeding and the newborn, and I did not take advantage of that.
By 6 weeks, my sons jaundice had not gone away. He was losing weight and would cry incessantly, or sleep all the time. When he was placed on the breast he would fall asleep immediately. When I went to the midwives discharge appointment, they alerted me that something was not right with the breastfeeding, and asked me what my plan was. I had made an appointment with a breastfeeding clinic that day. Feeling that I had everything under control, I was discharged.
So began my 6 month journey through the trails and tribulations of breastfeeding.
It started easy enough, fix the latch. My lactation consultant/doctor was surprised that I had made it as far as I had, with the state my nipples were in. After she showed me the correct way to latch, and I practiced for a week, we noticed that I had no supply. This was from weeks of improper nursing.
Out came the pump. And the supplementation with pumped milk (little that I could produce.) That was gaining his weight either, so I was put on motilium. (Over the months I was placed on the highest dose that they could give me safely. Which were just over 12 pills a day).
Nothing seemed to work. The lactation consultant/doctor made me feel like I was a bad mother because I did not want to supplement with formula. She actually said to me that I was causing my son brain damage, because I was so stubborn.
I went out that day and bought formula.
I felt defeated. I felt like I had not tried hard enough. I felt like a failure of a mother. My whole concept of motherhood was wrapped up in the birth and being able to nourish my child from my body.
I cried every time I fed him with the bottle. Family and friends tried to console me. Telling me that it wasn’t the end of the world, telling me that lots of baby’s are formula fed, telling me that they were formula fed and they turned out fine, telling me that I would have to wean eventually, and what really was the big deal? This is not what I needed to hear. This is my mistake number 3. Not surrounding my self with people that felt the same way that I did.
I was so depressed. I became obsessed with weighing him as much as I could. I would hide the bottles whenever I went out because I felt like breastfeeding moms were judging me. They didn’t know how I felt deflated. They didn’t know how I envied their leaking breasts, and how I wished that I had the oversupply problem that some moms had. I dreamed about having full breasts. Hoping that I would wake up one day and that I would have enough milk to feed my baby.
I started solids early for my son. 4 ½ months. I felt that if I had to supplement him it would be better to supplement him with solid food than formula.
Enter my salvation. The Le Leche League. I started going to share my story so that other new mothers would catch the bad latch before I had. I was given two pieces of advice/information that finally turned the tides for me. #1. You don’t need to nurse for nutrition. You can still nurse for comfort, and any milk that he gets from you is extra. #2. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand. By using the bottles (and inadvertently the motilium) you are telling your body that it doesn’t need to make milk.
These were light bulb moments for me. I weaned my self off of the motlium over the next 3 weeks. Thinking that if I lost any of the supply that it was providing, that it wouldn’t matter, as I was nursing for comfort and not nourishment. Then I would nurse him first before I gave him his bottles/food. I started noticing that he was taking less and less formula.
We stopped the bottle at 6 months old; my milk had finally come in. I could hear him gulping. I was ecstatic!
I felt vindicated. I nursed him until his 2nd birthday, for comfort, for nutrition, for whatever. Supply and demand.
I would never expect any other mom to fight for breastfeeding like I did. I would encourage her to try, and if she feels okay with supplementing, then she should be proud of the fact that she even tried.
In North America we definitely lack the education and support that a mother needs to establish that good nursing relationship. (As we are even given formula before our babies are born, to show us that it is good to have “just in case”).
I wanted to share my story, so that all those moms who feel bad when using a bottle in public know that they are not the only ones that feel that way, and that we all must choose the path that gives us piece of mind.
You never know what is in the bottle, or why she is choosing to use one. Don’t be quick to judge.

Top Breastfeeding Tip: Find likeminded support. Mother to mother support is paramount when establishing a breastfeeding relationship, seek out other nursing mothers.

2 comments:

Stinx' Mom said...

Wonderful post Alisha!

Kelsey Fiona said...

Thanks for posting this, I had a nightmare my last week in Vancouver about Laching!!

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