Desire to Breastfeed
It seems so simple – put infant face to breast and allow to suck. Voila! You’ve officially fed your child. Except nature is not all that natural for many women.
When I became pregnant, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish with my baby! I was full of the confidence of the untried and hopeful! Coming into the world premature via c-section, I drank formula. But I wished to experience something different for my child. I was going to breastfeed for at least a year, as The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. I wanted to be “naturally” happy, so “naturally” it should work. Right?
Fall 2012, I tested goals against reality after my 42 week, naturally birthed, 10 lb daughter arrived. Within minutes of birth, she had her first sip. Seemed an easy enough start. While we bonded and nursed more, the flesh was starting to give me warning signs. All attending nurses but one thought there was nothing to worry about. I thought perhaps I needed more time to adjust to repetitive sensation as my daughter practiced feeding. But a newborn should not continuously feed for an hour, break for 15 minutes, and start again.
Something was wrong.
Within days, I was missing skin the size of a dime from one nipple. The scales showed that my daughter was consuming as expected. With each new feeding, fire-lightning-stabbing mounted to new levels of excruciating pain. Nothing compared to this agony; the worst of the delivery room was not even on the radar. I endeavored to will myself to go on, mind over matter, anything for the baby! With unbidden shaking, my body already knew what my heart and pride was fearful of: this wasn’t going to work. The startling sight of my sweet daughter drinking blood instead of milk told me enough was enough. Tearfully in the middle of one night feeding, I broke open a premixed bottle of formula that we had been given. With both great relief and shame, I stopped breastfeeding. I had lasted five days.
There are two dominating cultures concerning breast-feeding. One will tell you that “breast is best,” and that you are a horrid parent if you choose anything else. The other will hail the liberation that comes with formula, and condemn breastfeeders as a “chained, backwards, unreasonable cult.” Over the years, I have had friends and associates be zealous in both camps, making equally valid points. Breastmilk is best, providing nutrition, mommy’s immunity, effective protection against many illnesses from ear infections to asthma, reduction of SIDS by a third, promotion of bonding, and allowing for significant savings financially. These are fantastic reasons! Formula, though costly like diapers, gives a chance for other caretakers to step in and take care of baby, better distributing the load of care. Formula can be created on the go, baby can quickly learn to manage a bottle alone, and the formula itself is stored easily in bulk. You don’t even have to battle public modesty issues!
Although the natural way had proved too painful and unfeasible, I was not content with the formula experience either. Formula meant more precious sleep robbed than before, as it had to be prepared and then administered. Pumping had been too tiring and painful for precious little return. While I cherished the sight of husband and grandparents feeding my daughter and was glad for their bonding experiences with her, I felt increasingly “off.” My daughter did too. Like ours, her sleep was becoming more limited. She wanted four times the amount of formula than a baby her size should have had space for. The more formula she drank, the greater the spit-up and intensity of gas-bubble pains.
We were still wrong.
A month after giving birth, I was raced to the E.R. with fever of 103 and rising. Double mastitis, a placenta lobe, and multiple deep tissue infections were discovered, requiring a d&c. While I recovered in the hospital, my husband and mother took our daughter to her wellness check. After listening to the story of feeding woes, our pediatrician took a look at her mouth. There was a problem for our daughter too: a tongue-tie that had to be clipped. This insignificant piece of membrane had restrained her ability to nurse well, causing her fervent suckling and damage to my breasts. There was no doubt now why breastfeeding had not worked – there were just too many variables barring the way.
Visiting my hospital room, my mother, husband, and I shared our discoveries. Curious, I held my daughter to me. After a dry month without feeding, I expected I would be little more than a pacifier to her. She latched on and began suckling…
It was everything I had hoped to feel!
Excited by possibility and finally recovering, I started seeing an incredible lactation consultant, who revolutionized everything I thought I knew about babies, nutrition, and breasts. While my daughter gladly learned to nurse again, I needed to up my milk supply pronto. Herbal recommendations were like a prescription from a medieval sorceress, for every few hours, I had a galactogogue cocktail of pills: fenugreek, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, mother’s milk tea, antibiotics, eating oatmeal, and painting on gentian violet to keep down infections that kept trying to come back. A pumping regiment was added to normal feedings to encourage body response to “need.” This was entirely new territory for us all, with plenty of voodoo-like moments.
The result: after a month of being dry, I was a high-producing milk factory, bonding happily with my baby. Her own spit-up and tummy-troubles were eliminated. Our sleep routines were restored. Everything was natural, easy, and back on track. The struggle to get started was well worth it. We are going into 18 months of contented breastfeeding. Lack of information or sufficient medical guidance can cut breastfeeding efforts short. With patience and persistence for your developing baby and yourself, challenges can be overcome and ideals realized.
Facing Breastfeeding Challenges? Here are some things to consider:
- Some highly recommended web resources for answering breastfeeding questions are kellymom.com and www.healthychildren.org.
- Check out your local WIC and La Leche League.
- Do take breastfeeding classes if a hospital offers them or look into training from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
- Check your hold. The baby should be lying on the side or back in such a way that allows the head to be tilted back, which makes the throat more open and mouth receptive. If the baby’s head is tipped forward toward his/her chest, the suck will be poor.
- Check the quality of the baby’s latch. The baby’s mouth needs to cover all or most of the areola. It may seem like too big a mouthful, but this is required to pump out the milk. Only a small amount will come if only the tip is covered, which will also quickly lead to irritation and cracking of the nipple. If you hear a clicking sound, the baby is swallowing air and needs to be reattached. • Proper drinking is deep long gulps. Quick “sprinting” is shallow, tiring and can cause a baby to stop too soon.
- Defend yourself from mastitis. Feel a blocked milk duct? Massage it out, apply heat, and pump or nurse even more. Keep yourself clean and moisturized. Bacteria that naturally lives on your skin can enter the breast tissue and milk ducts where they don’t belong through cracks and abrasions from nursing, little finger nails, and baby’s teeth. Lanolin cream, gel pads, and moist black tea bags can be helpful for repair. If the nipple is starting to change colors, it can be indicative of infection. Treat before it spreads.
- A baby crying during nursing may indicate s/he is getting too much or too little food.
- The alternative explanation for crying from nursing is pain from too much sugary milk in her tummy, which causes irritation. The first milk that is let down has a high sugar content. The rich, nourishing, fatty cream comes in later. A baby has to suck out the early milk before the satisfying, creamy milk comes in, and stick with it.
- If not adequate in milk supply or dry, this can be turned around with taking/eating galactagogues in high amounts. If still not sufficient, ask your doctor about prescription medications that increase the secretion of prolactin. This should be the last effort for assisting milk supply. However it can be effective, as seen in cases of adopting mothers who have never been pregnant but become successful in nursing.