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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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Bottle to Breast! February 9, 2013

At eight months old Naomi began losing weight again and her latch and suck at the breast declined. I offered her more and more bottles of formula and she began actively refusing the breast. By 10 months Naomi was latching every few days, and only for a few seconds. I was pumping and only getting about 1-1.5oz each time.

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Naomi had her posterior tongue tie revised for the 3rd time, and upper lip tie revised for the second time when she was 10.5 months old. She latched deeply and nursed for several minutes immediately after the procedure.

Two days after the revision I tried the Medela SNS, but, Naomi felt the tube and threw her head back refusing to latch. I tried several more times with the same result. I then tried a periodontal syringe with a 5FR tube attached and she still refused. Finally, on the third morning post revision she latched on in her sleep and I snuck the syringe in (without the tube) and squeezed some milk into her mouth.

On the fourth day I hid all artificial nipples and promised myself they would stay hidden for a minimum of 3 days, and up to a week before I reassessed.

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By the fifth day she was consistently taking the syringe, with the tube and I switched to the fastest SNS tube . . . and she took it!

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Within 2 weeks my supply increased, and within 2 months we weaned off the SNS. Naomi has since gained weight faster than she has ever consistently gained. Her transfer is still low for her age, but, we nurse all the time and we both enjoy it!

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Things that helped me get her to latch during the two months she was refusing:

Lots of skin to skin time

Bed sharing (and nursing while sleepy)

Bathing and showering together, and allowing her access to the breast during that time.

Babywearing

Allowing her access to the breast while moving (rocking chair, walking etc.)

Most importantly, providing access as much as possible, and encouraging, but, never pushing her.

 

Mama and Papa See Me Through (PTT through Baby’s eyes) November 2, 2012

Squeezed and pushed I tried so hard to rotate through. It took some time, but, finally the shape of my passage changed and I slid through into warm, expectant, hands. These hands belonged to my Grandma, who was gazing lovingly into my eyes.

I heard familiar voices, and smelled my Mama and heard her heartbeat as I was laid on her chest. I felt safe, and laid there for a long time. After a while my Mama put me near something soft and round, it smelled sweet and I tried to suckle on it . . . I did not know why, but, it seemed so natural.

After a while my stomach started to bother me – I had never felt hungry before. Inside my Mama’s womb I was constantly fed. I kept trying to suck on my mother’s warm, round, breasts, but, it was so much work for so little reward. Over the next few days I decided I preferred to sleep –  to conserve my energy.

Soon I realized if I sucked a few times milk would flood my mouth briefly. I liked that feeling and it tasted so good. I cried and cried when my Mama gave me a rubber nipple without milk instead of breastfeeding me, but, it relaxed me, and I drifted off to sleep.

My skin began to hurt, itch, and flake off . . . this had never happened before. I felt so hungry, but, I was too sleepy to cry for milk – it was too hard and painful to suck for it anyway.

One day Mama gave me a different type of rubber nipple; this one had milk in it. It was scary to drink from the bottle – I kept choking, and it was still a lot of work to suck the milk out, but, after a few days my belly felt full, and my skin felt comfortable, but, something else happened. My throat started to burn as the milk came back up, I did not want to lose that milk so I would swallow it back down and it burned again.

One day a man looked in my mouth, and then he put something hot under my tongue. It made my tongue feel funny, and Mama stopped offering so many bottles. I was happy that I could get more milk from her breasts . . . but I still felt hungry all the time, and my throat still burned. We saw another man who did something similar to my lip; I felt I could drink really well for a few days before things got worse and worse.

One day Mama started giving me bottles again after I breastfed, I felt less hungry, but some of the bottles tasted so bad, I think I heard someone call them “formula,” it made my tummy hurt, and sometimes all of it came back up my throat. One time so much came out Mama screamed!

Some time passed, Mama and Papa fought a lot and I sensed so much tension in my house. They kept using my name, and I felt it was my fault.

One day I had to stay in my car seat the whole day, we stayed at my Titi’s house far away. The next morning we had another long car ride to another doctor’s office. I had seen so many. I could not understand why.

The doctor looked in my mouth and then took me away, once again I felt something hot under my tongue. When the doctor brought me back I drank milk from Mama’s breasts. It felt easier, and did not hurt so much, though I still found it hard to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing. I often would forget to breathe and have to gasp for air. Feeding was still stressful.

Mama took me to a sweet lady who rubbed my head and did funny things with my body. Sometimes I did not like it, but, I felt better afterwards. It seemed like the more times she brought me there the easier it was to drink milk from Mama’s breasts and before long I was not drinking from many bottles at all.

I felt the tension in my home release, and even my tummy and throat stopped hurting for a while.

After more time passed I began feeling hungry again; my ears, tummy and throat began hurting too. I would cry for hours. I could tell something was bothering Mama, but, I did not hear her say much until she told Papa, “he thinks more frenum came forward from craniosacral therapy,” whatever that means. Mama started giving me bottles again. The bottles made my tummy feel full; I did not want to suck on Mama’s breasts anymore. It was too hard to get milk.

One day I had to ride in my car seat for a long time and went back to the doctor again. This time he put the hot thing under my tongue and my lip. When he brought me back to Mama I decided to try to suck on her breast. I found I could open my mouth wider and somehow that gave me more milk. I decided I would keep trying to suck on her breasts.

Mama would stretch and rub her fingers under my tongue and lip. I did not like the feeling of being held down and it hurt a little bit; but, I let her, because she always told me so calmly that she had to do this so I could drink easier. I trusted her.

We went to another kind woman who rubbed my head and neck and moved my body around. She talked a lot while she was doing this, and Mama asked questions. I did not understand what they were talking about, but, I think it made Mama feel happier, and I felt better too.

Another lady kept watching me eat. She talked to Mama a lot too, than she kept trying to put a tube in my mouth while I sucked on Mama’s breasts. I felt Mama was stressed and the tube felt funny so I decided not to breastfeed anymore. I was really hungry for a few days because Mama stopped giving me bottles. One day I decided I would try the tube. The tube had milk in it! After that, I decided I liked drinking from Mama’s breasts again. I liked it so much I drank from them constantly for a few days. It seemed the more I drank from them the more milk there was – this was new to me and I loved it.

Now I drink from Mama’s breasts all the time. My ears, throat, and tummy have started feeling better. I have even learned to say some words – I love the reaction I get! The tension in my house has relaxed and I can see how much Mama and Papa love each other – and love me. Things have been hard for me since the moment I tried to exit Mama’s womb, but, they are getting easier . . . and I know my Mama and Papa are loving enough to see me through whatever lies ahead.