Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Breastfeeding is Trying to Kick My Butt

I had always thought that breastfeeding was the most natural thing in the world.  Mothers for thousands of years had breastfed their babies, since bottles are a fairly recent invention.  I naively thought that Kylie would be born and within a half an hour she would be nursing like a champ.  I'd be able to keep her exclusively on breast milk for the entire first year because not only was it the best nutrition for her and allowed special bonding between us, it was a whole hell of a lot cheaper than formula.

Insert foot in mouth.  Or possibly all the way down my esophagus.

I think breastfeeding has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my whole entire life.  Graduation speech in front of hundreds of people, psh.  Winning the state championship with my horse, easy peasy.  Giving birth, piece of cake.  Breastfeeding?  Kicking my butt big time.

I had dutifully read all the handouts and booklets my doctor had given me about breastfeeding.  I'd read the section in What to Expect While You're Expecting and What to Expect The First Year.  I knew the difference between the cradle and cross cradle hold.  I knew the importance of a good latch. 

Fast forward to the hospital.  I'd just gone through 13 hours of labor.  I had a brand spanking new baby, a tired cranky husband, and I was exhausted.  Both Rex and I were scared shit less of this tiny little person we had created.  The nurses get both Kylie and me cleaned up and into our recovery room where we would spend the next day and a half.  Then the fateful words, "You can breastfeed your baby now," and I look at the nurse, my boobs, and then Kylie like, "How in the world am I supposed to do this?"  She takes pity on me and shows me how to properly hold Kylie and how to get her to latch on, except that Kylie doesn't latch on.  And doesn't latch on.  And doesn't latch on.  I'm starting to freak out a little now.  The nurse tells me not to worry, this is normal since a lot of babies are pooped after birth since it was a strenuous time for them as well.  Ok.  So an hour later they have me try again.  She latches on, but with her tongue on top and is frustrated that when she nurses no milk is coming out.  We finally get her to latch on properly, but then she won't nurse.  She just lays there, my boob in her mouth, not even attempting to nurse.  So I try to get her to latch on again to see if that will work.  No dice.  Nothing. 

This continues for the first 10 hours of Kylie's life.  We can't get her to nurse.  If she latches on improperly she tries to nurse but can't get milk because of her latch, and then if she latches on properly we can't get her to nurse at all.  No amount of cheek stroking and back rubbing can get her to do it.  They say nothing is wrong with my boobs or with Kylie that would prevent her from nursing.  One nurse even gets a bottle nipple to see if Kylie will latch on to do that, and she does with no problem.  So the nurse immediately takes it out, since there is obviously nothing wrong with Kylie's little mouth.   We try nursing after that, but still nothing.  The nurses now are trying not to worry me, but they do when they have to test her blood sugar to make sure it's not dipping down to low because she hasn't eaten anything. 

Two more hours go by and Kylie still hasn't nursed.  So the nurses say now we have to give her formula since she hasn't gotten any nutrition since she was born.  She helps us choose what type we want to give her, and then lets me feed her with a syringe so we can still keep trying to breastfeed without any nipple confusion.  We go through the whole night like this, every two hours attempting to breastfeed, and every two hours Kylie refusing.  The next day the nurses have a lactation consultant come in.  She lets us know she can't release us from the hospital with Kylie eating formula out of a syringe.  She introduces me to the SNS or Supplemental Nutrition System.  It's like an upside down bottle I clip to my shirt that has a tiny little tube that runs from it into the babies mouth.  The consultant has me put it on my finger to let Kylie nurse off of that so we can teach her how to latch properly.  We finally get released from the hospital and head home, stressed and exhausted.

That first night I'm too paranoid to put Kylie down in her crib to sleep, so I hold her and feed her and try not to doze off.  In the wee hours of the morning, Rex notices this and takes her from me and gives me a couple hours to sleep.  In the morning we head back down to the doctor's to meet with a lactation consultant.  She sees if we can get Kylie to nurse using the SNS, but it's still a no go.  She then has me try to nurse Kylie with a nipple shield.  Kylie immediately latches on and starts nursing.  And I'm in tears because I'm so happy about this.  They send us home with instructions to use the nipple shield and SNS while nursing and with another appointment the next week to make sure Kylie's gaining weight properly. 

We're not out of the woods yet, however.  I can't keep Kylie awake to nurse.  I try everything.  Rubbing her cheeks and back, moving her arms and legs, undressing her, cool washcloths on her forehead.  Nothing works.  Sometimes I resort to finger feeding her with the SNS because she will actually get a full feeding that way.  We go to our appointment the next week and Kylie didn't gain as much as she should.  The consultant asks some questions and determines that my milk hasn't come in.  I haven't had any engorgement, can't feel any let down, and Kylie often cries right after her feedings.  She tells me to start taking Fenugreek and Milk Thistle to help boost my supply and sets up for a breast pump to be delivered to my house so I can pump after each feeding.  The problem is that I'm so exhausted that I don"t always pump after each feeding, and often times Rex didn't want to hold her because she was cranky and irritable.

So long story short, my milk supply never fully came in.  So Kylie's been on about a 50/50 mixture of breast milk and formula since she was born.  There were many times that I was ready to give up on breastfeeding, I was so miserable and I was often in tears.  I am so glad that I stuck with it because it's so much better for Kylie and allows bonding between us that bottle feeding can't provide.  I'm going to do my best to make it to a year, and even though it's a lot harder work than I thought it was going to be, it's totally worth it.  I just have to look at her and how wonderful she is to remind myself of that.

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