Friday, August 14, 2009

My Breastfeeding Story, or What I Did for World Breastfeeding Awareness Month

This post took a few days to write. I keep starting and then feel I need to check Em to see how she's doing. She's always fine. Sometimes she needs something: food, fresh diaper, a bath, some snuggles. Sometimes she is just fussy and the only thing she wants is to be hooked up with me for a bit, in my arms, snoozing at my breast. It's a magical power I have, to put her to sleep and get her so relaxed just by picking her up.

It's not perfect yet and breastfeeding has been challenging for us both since we started, a little over two weeks ago. She was born after a forty-eight hour labour, which by the end included most of the interventions I hadn't wanted, including artificial membrane rupture, Pitocin and an epidural. Most importantly, we didn't have a c-section and she is in very good health. She got APGAR scores of 8 and 9 as well. Little Em rocks my world!

Right after I gave birth to her, I put her near or on my breast (can't quite remember if she got to the nipple on her own or not, birth story yet to come) and she did suckle a little bit. I didn't think the latch was particularly good but she did hook on, and the fabulous lactation consultant I've been seeing assures me that's what is important, that early imprint of suckling, more than any particular latch.

We were kept in hospital for another almost forty-eight hours as the pediatrician wanted Em observed for possible problems related to the long labour and me testing Group B Strep positive. We chilled, got to know each other, used the free wifi (where they block Flickr as an adult site - glad to have access to a VPN to dodge things like that), and it seemed like we were breastfeeding. I saw on our release paperwork that her weight had dropped since birth: she was born at 9 lbs 4 oz, but it didn't worry me as I've read over and over that it's normal to lose some weight right after birth.

She was born on a Thursday and the hospital ped wanted me to see our own ped first thing Monday due to the GBS infection. We took her home Saturday, and chilled as much as we could. I felt like she was getting enough food as she was having regular bowel movements and she would nurse a bit and fall asleep and seemed happy. She was also wetting lots of diapers, so that seemed like a good sign. We were having a great time. Then she had her last BM Sunday afternoon and didn't have another until Tuesday morning...

Needless to say, we got ourselves in to see the ped Monday morning bright and early when I realized she'd not had any BMs for so long. Her weight had fallen below 8 pounds - remember she had been born over 9 pounds only four days earlier!

The ped diagnosed not enough food and a bit of jaundice - and thankfully gave me some constructive advice on breastfeeding rather than suggesting I should start giving her formula. Yay! What the ped suggested was begin pumping to feed her using a syringe or spoon or cup, try using a nipple shield to give her a bigger, easier surface onto which to latch, and also suggested a few ways to improve our latching, with different ways to hold my breast for her and whatnot. They also had to draw more blood to check for the GBS infection - this came back negative very quickly thankfully.

We were asked to feed her as much as possible and bring her back Wednesday. This was the 48 hours where I used the nasty cheap breast pump whose brand I won't mention. Let's just say you get what you pay for! I shredded my nipples using that pump - thank goodness I had the samples of Lansinoh products, about which I'll be writing a review for the Breastfeeding Moms Unite site shortly. Their lanolin nipple cream saved the day.

I then visited our friendly neighbourhood Breastfeeding Center to rent a real breast pump and wow - what a difference that makes! (Note: I recognize there are some serious concerns about Medela and unfortunately I'd already invested quite a bit in their equipment by the time I found out about them. Glad to know the limits of what I've purchased though)

Once I got a decent breast pump, it became easier - that is, less painful - to get food out of me, into Em. She started gaining enough weight to make the ped and thus me happy, but she still wasn't latching well. I've started pumping to reduce engorgement, feeding her something to make her less frantic for food, and then getting her to nurse a bit using the nipple shield. If she stays awake and is in a calm mood, I'll take the shield off and try to get her latched on again. Sometimes that works, sometimes she howls at me.

After a week of pumping and having little success feeding her directly, I returned to the Breastfeeding Center for a one on one consultation with one of the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants). She was very helpful and encouraging, but I left feeling a bit overwhelmed with many different suggestions - I was worried my fuzzy mommy brain wouldn't be able to remember them all. Fortunately, she is available for follow up questions by phone!

Em and I are progressing - she has a good suck reflex and I have a good supply of milk. I hope we can get feeding more directly happening sooner or later. In the meantime, I am spending some quality time with the pump, and DH gets to feed her too!

So, for World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I started, and continued, breastfeeding. And so it goes... Hoping it gets easier, as that's what everyone promises me.


Whozat said...

I'm sorry to hear that it's been a challenging start for you, but it sounds like you're getting things worked out.


I'm sure it gets frustrating at times, but keep at it. You're well ahead of where I was at 2 weeks (see link) and we made it through!

Best of luck!

CaroLyn said...

@Whozat - thank you so much for reminding me to read your story (I'd seen a link to it somewhere - phdinparenting's site perhaps - and had been meaning to read it...). You're quite an inspiration! Thanks for stopping by my site too.