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Why I am Still Breastfeeding February 3, 2014

Naomi recently had her 24 month check-up. I mentioned that she was still breastfeeding and the pediatrician laughed – I did not get the feeling it was in mockery, more in shock.

 

Some know it has been incredibly challenging for us – much more so than the struggles most endure those first few weeks or months (read “Sleepless Nights” or other blog entries for some background). But, I did not stick it out to be a martyr, in fact, I am not even sure why I kept at it. It was simply putting one foot in front of the other, one feeding after the next. It was knowing that she would benefit greatly from the nutrition, bond and oral development. I thought about quitting every feeding, but, I knew it would be harder to stop than to go. It is like driving half way to your destination before you realize you left your wallet at home . . . you may as well keep going.

 

I did not enjoy breastfeeding much, in fact my baby has probably had more formula than breastmilk in her life. Every solution offered ended in disappointment. Sure, there was some improvement with the various suggestions, but, there was no magic bullet for us – no instant fix.

 

I have been so angry some days I have literally shook from head to toe for hours. It is not fair. I researched and educated myself and as many people told me along the way, “did all the right things.” I see a thin baby and my heart stops beating and my blood drains to my feet. Nothing is worse than finding out after several weeks that your child was starving – thinking about that hurts.

 

However, I am not writing this to rant and complain. I am writing to encourage. Any breastfeeding relationship is beautiful. Ours is not perfect, never was and probably never will be…but, it is ours…and we love it. Sure we have hated feedings and even now there are feedings I dread the idea of her latching onto me, but, when I step back and look at the big picture it is so worth it.

 

I also want to encourage those struggling with poor  milk transfer and/or low supply that even if it does not improve at all…ever, that it can be very worth sticking with it. I have found it so much less stressful since my daughter turned one and I did not feel I had to be her primary source of nutrition any longer. We breastfeed with a cup of water next to us, she happily suckles at the breast, taking water breaks. It is not conventional, certainly looks different than most, but, it works for us.

 

So to all of you mothers out there who are struggling for that perfect breastfeeding relationship, it is okay to keep trying to improve things, but, please recognize that you are doing an amazing job. You may be breastfeeding exclusively, pumping exclusively, breastfeeding with bottle top ups, breastfeeding with an SNS, any combination of the above or something else…and it may even change from day to day or feeding to feeding and that is OKAY! It is YOUR breastfeeding relationship…so beautiful and amazing.

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Sleepless Nights May 11, 2013

Eleven months of sleepless nights . . . that’s what it took for me to realize the dark pit I was really in. Nobody really understands until they have been through it, and for that, I will never fault them.

Thousands of tears shed, and hundreds of hurtful words shouted at the ones I love the most. Hour upon hour of research because everyone else had long since given up on us, my mind, body, and soul were consumed . . . but, I pushed through because somebody had to and my baby was too little.

Too little . . . failure to thrive. I felt I had failed my child by starving her and that my milk was not good enough or maybe they were right and I wasn’t feeding her often enough. Because nursing for 30 minutes, bottle feeding for 45 and pumping for 30, every 3 hours is not enough.

It shook me and broke me and I swore I was crazy as I took her from one healthcare provider to the next pleading for answers . . . to which they had none. My intuition told me that something was wrong, very wrong, but, nobody would listen. “Just add more calories,” was the answer over and over again . . . but, nobody took the time to consider why she needed so many.

Everyone says it is a “simple clip,” for tongue ties, but, there is nothing simple about it . . . at least not for us. Many refuse to revise, and others do so incorrectly. Nothing is worse than realizing the doctor you trusted performed a procedure incorrectly  . . . it feels even worse when deep down inside you knew you should have gone to someone more experienced.

It was not easy when we reduced our grocery budget and postponed the rent because we had to travel through several states and pay out of pocket to get to a healthcare provider who was experienced enough to help our child . . . at least I hoped.

Most parents think they lack sleep . . . but, very few have spent the better part of every night for 11 months in a rocking chair with a screaming baby, listening to the wicked air trapped inside of her little body.

People do not realize how much it hurts a parent who gave everything she had to breastfeed to hear another parent say, “I tried so hard and I just couldn’t.” I just cannot be empathetic to that after pumping around the clock for months, latching with cracked and bleeding nipples, screaming in a pillow while someone else held the baby to my breasts for fear my pain would cause me to hurt her, attempting over and over to latch my baby, fighting with supplemental nursers and eating galactogogs like candy. I am pretty sure everyone can breastfeed if they try hard enough, though I certainly understand those who choose not to . . . especially now.

11 months, a bruised hand from punching a wall in frustration . . . and that night my baby slept . . . and I slept. It was about 5 weeks after her 4th frenectomy (it certainly was not a “simple clip” for us). Suddenly my world began to change . . . to brighten. Within a few months I was finally able to enjoy and care for my family instead of spending every waking moment simply trying to survive.

Naomi is 17 months, she has come so far . . . and has some left to go. We have both recently let out a cry . . . a deep and heartfelt release of all of tension from her first year of life. It was the most stressful of mine thus far; I can only imagine what it must have been like to her as her very introduction to the world.

Now people’s eyes glaze over as soon as I mention “tongue tie,” because until one has survived it and lived to tell the story, they just have no idea the impact it really has. A tiny little defect of the mouth . . . that can easily turn life upside down. But, we survived and lived, and for that reason I tell me story and I know the ones that listen and understand are the only ones who need to hear it.

407912_10150510171353105_1837601309_n 7 weeks old, crossing her birth weight the day of her first frenectomy (which was incomplete), two months later she was labeled “failure to thrive” dropping from approximately the 75% to the 5% and then below the charts. If only it were a “simple clip” that anyone could do and do correctly.

75040_10151270709653105_2003651271_n She cried so much, and was so often sick with ear infections etc that first year, so painful to watch your baby suffer . . . thankfully she is quite healthy now.

417946_10151438877233105_769283572_n Taken a few days ago . . . 17 months. She’s still tiny, but, so healthy and loves her mommy milk. Even though we still are working on some suck training among other things, it is amazing that her reflux and aerophagia are almost non existent and she is such a happy little toddler! This is the reason I seem so obsessed . . . I want everyone to survive . . . and live to tell the story. The more of us who do, the greater chance people will take notice and hopefully more healthcare providers will become aware and babies will be treated sooner and correctly.

 

Pumping Tips September 24, 2012

Pumping can be so challenging and not fun! I have pumped for 3 children; I have changed a few techniques and most importantly changed my attitude. My milk can literally letdown at the sight of my pump now – with my first child I could never letdown. In addition to this I have found that my body responds differently to different types/brands of pumps, so I needed to find what worked for me. I hope a few of the tips I have learned can help others!

-Comfie chair and relaxing atmosphere

-Coconut oil on nipples for lubrication

-Hands free pumping bra

-Embracing the experience and becoming one with the pump

-Massaging/compressing breasts and tilting flanges in all directions while pumping

-Once the milk stops flowing:

-Massage/compress breasts all the way back to my armpits

-Shake breasts while leaning forward

-Manually or hand express for a few minutes

-Pump again until a few minutes after the milk stops flowing (tells you body to make more milk)

-Then take your time sitting there with your breasts hanging out…take your time putting your pump parts back away and the milk you pumped. Smell it and look at it and imagine your baby drinking it. Keep your pump where you can see throughout the day, even when not pumping. Look at it and think how amazing it is that it enables you to provide your human milk to your baby. A lot of pumping is attitude . . . relaxing and getting good letdowns and growing to love and appreciate the experience helps so much.

 My 3 year old has seen me pump so many times he can put the flanges etc. together by himself!