I have a feeling I may have quite a few posts dedicated to breastfeeding in the next year. The passion I have acquired for this over the past couple of months is amazing.
Let me preface this with a quick statement. I know (though I don't necessarily understand why) breastfeeding can be a controversial topic on the internet. It is not my intention to make anyone mad. In fact, I'll be one of the first to give thanks to whoever invented modern day formula. There are absolutely situations in which breastfeeding doesn't work and I thank God everyday for the ability to feed our babies - because that is what it all boils down to, feeding our babies. Without formula, I'm not sure my precious nephew would be here today. Oh, and I was formula fed. I feel no animosity toward my mother for it. Love you, mom!
However, there is absolutely no denying that "breast is best." So, just like every other decision I have made in the realm of raising my daughter, I am giving her what God meant for her to eat - breast milk. This is just a record of my journey. Something for me to remember it by. Also, I'm writing this in hopes that my troubles may help someone who is experiencing the same situations as I have.
So, where to begin? Let's start by saying that most anxiety I have felt in regards to becoming a mother has been on the subject of successfully nursing Evelyn. I was adamant that when she was born (no matter how) she would be given the opportunity to nurse. Even if that meant someone had to hold her to my breast for me. I didn't want to miss that initial bond. I know that babies successfully nurse without this, but it was important to me. Thankfully, I had an awesome birth and she was able to be skin-to-skin with me immediately after birth and I was able to try nursing. Except she wouldn't latch on. It terrified me, but my doula reassured me that it was okay. To just hold her close and try later. And, I did. And she latched right on.
The first night was scary as well. She pretty much slept the whole night. Of course, she was tired. Being born is hard work! Again, I was anxious. Was it okay? The nurse reassured me that we should try again later. And we did, and she latched on great.
Then, came the questioning. How long should she eat? Is it okay that she didn't take both sides? Is she getting enough? And, the pain. I'm a total perfectionist, type-A personality. I'm a math teacher, what did you expect? I needed things to be black and white. But, with breastfeeding, they just aren't. This must be my first lesson in motherhood. It's not black and white. There is no definite right or wrong. I think all of this anxiety is part of what led me to the eye-opening situation I needed.
About a week after Evelyn was born, I ended up in the ER. I was having what felt like heart arrhythmia's. And I was very close to feeling panic attacks. I called my OB and she told me to go to the ER to get checked out. This would begin the day that made up for the lack of crying I've done over my lifetime. If you know me, you know I don't cry. I don't wear my emotions on my sleeve. However, sitting in the ER with my week old baby being monitored for a heart issue was not what I wanted to be doing. I started crying. I cried because I wanted to go home. I cried because I didn't want my baby to be in the ER with me. I cried because I didn't know if something was wrong. Poor Rob, he didn't know what to do with me. So, they monitored me and couldn't find anything. The EKG was clear. The last thing to check for was a blood clot. This required a CT scan with a contrast dye. Then the world stopped turning. They informed me that I would not be able to nurse Evelyn for 24 hours. I shut down. I refused to think about it. And, I sobbed. I mean, sobbed. I've never sobbed in my life. I didn't really know what was happening. The emotional breakdown I was experiencing was nothing I'd ever faced before. And, I wanted my mom. She would know what to do, right? I mean, deep down I knew I had to get this scan, but the what-if's were awful. What if something happened and breastfeeding was over?
Of course my mom knew what to do. She marched right upstairs to the OB floor and brought down the lactation consultant I had actually seen that morning in regards to a painful latch along with a hospital pump. I will be forever grateful to the LC because she was my saving grace. She spent a solid two hours with me explaining how I could best go about the next 24 hours. How to bottle feed her. How to pump. When I could bring her back to the breast and what to do if there was an issue. All the while, she brought supplies for me to pump as much milk as I could. It turned out that this was what led to my discovery of my oversupply and why Evelyn's latch was so painful. I was much more engorged than I thought. I pumped 18 oz of milk for her - almost enough to last the full 24 hours! I had my test done (which was all clear) and we went home.
The next 24 hours was hard. To hear her cry and not be able to feed her was the worst. Granted, Rob loved to opportunity to feed her. But I wanted my baby at my breast. It was like someone was denying that instinct. Thankfully, after our 24 hours was up, she latched right back on and we've been going strong since.
That's not to say we haven't had our hiccups. She had caused some nipple trauma and I had some bleeding. It was super scary when she vomited most of what she had eaten up and it was bloody. It took me a panicked moment to realize what was going on, but once I did I felt better. Though, I did have some of the terrible mommy guilt about making her sick with my blood-tainted milk... :(
My biggest hurdle has been my oversupply.
This is where I get on my soapbox.
Yes, I have an oversupply. This can cause just as many issues as an undersupply. They may not be the same issues, but they are issues nonetheless. Yes, I am lucky to have a freezer stash. However, dealing with engorgement throughout the day sucks. Balancing pumping enough to keep from getting clogged ducts/mastitis and not so much to cause me to make even more is hard. I pump about 20 oz a day. I often have to pump before Evelyn can eat, because she can't latch on well. In addition, my engorgement leads to a forceful letdown which causes Evelyn to choke and cough at the breast and gives her a lot of gas. I don't get to experience peaceful nursing sessions. They are often 10 minutes of struggling to get her to latch on correctly and eat comfortably only to be followed by 20 minutes of burping and spitting up. So, I understand the hardships of an undersupply, but don't minimize my situation because I happen to produce a lot of milk.
This is where I get off my soapbox. :)
Like I said, the biggest hurdle is my oversupply. It has been such a struggle at times. I am so grateful to have my freezer stash (which is close to 800 oz right now). In fact, I hope to one day be able to donate what I don't use or won't need. Evelyn has struggled to keep up with my fast flow and she's getting better by the day. It has been a learning experience for us both, but I wouldn't trade this for anything.
I guess, as of right now, my advice would be to stick it out. When they say the first few weeks are the hardest, they are right. You can do it. Don't be afraid to seek help even though it may be hard to find. There was a time when nursing was so painful (toe-curling) that I had to call someone but I didn't know who to call. There are people out there who want to help you. They want you to succeed so don't be afraid to ask for help! And, it's okay to vent. Breastfeeding is not always enjoyable. Sometimes it's frustrating. I cried many times. But, it's so worth it for those few moments when your baby is content because of something only you can give her. I love watching Evelyn when she eats and places her little hand on my breast. Or when she is at peace after finishing. It is so amazing.
I have so much more I'm going to add to this, but I feel like it's gotten long enough. Feel free to ask any questions! I know I was rambling a little bit... :)