Sunday, March 11, 2007

Good Advice: This is Not a Test

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding Readers!

After preparing for a natural delivery, I had a cesarean due to my baby’s breech position. By the time of my surgery, I had accepted it (mostly), but I became more determined than ever to breastfeed. I felt that the baby’s position wasn’t under my control, but breastfeeding was a choice I could make. And it’s natural, so it should be easy, right?

During my pregnancy, I met many people who tried and failed to breastfeed. I chalked it up to lack of support, but I had a doula, lactation consultants, and two breastfeeding reference books. After my childbirth classes (both of which covered breastfeeding) and reading, I felt educated. I knew that pain could usually be corrected by adjusting the latch or positioning. I notified the lactation consultants of my cesarean date to ensure that I would be seen as soon as possible on the first day. I was prepared, just as I had been for the birth. I had my books, My Brest Friend pillow, nursing bras, nursing pads, nipple cream, cute nursing pajamas, the schedule for the hospital's breastfeeding support group, the contact information for the local La Leche League meeting, and even a sign for the hospital bassinet that read,"No Bottles, Please, I'm Learning to Breastfeed". Not only was I prepared, I was confident.

The cesarean went smoothly and a lactation consultant came to see me right after recovery as planned. An LC visited us at least once a day for the 4 days we were in the hospital. Ian was a great eater, but I had a lot of pain. I wasn't too concerned, I figured that I had the resources to work it out. Between my doula, my childbirth educator and the lactation consultants, I received only good advice, but nothing quite seemed to work. At 6 weeks, I was still just white-knuckling it, hoping the pain would end before the next feeding. I really dreaded feeding him because the pain had switched from just sore nipples to shooting internal breast pain. I was frustrated that with all the help and knowledge, we just couldn't get it right. Ian clamped down hard and fast and I just couldn't get him on far enough. I glared at the television as I re-watched “Follow Me Mum” where Rebecca Glover says,” Breastfeeding should be 100% pleasant and comfortable”. I went to the see the LC several times, but I felt guilty for not "succeeding". I didn't think she could help me anymore and I didn't want her to feel like she had failed. All the breastfeeding resources claimed breastfeeding was easier than bottlefeeding, I started to think that was a lie. I started to wonder why I putting myself through all the pain, but I didn't want to quit, or more accurately, I didn't want to fail. Something had to change or I knew I wouldn't make it.

After 6 weeks of pain and frustration, it was my mother’s suggestion to give him a bottle once a day that saved my breastfeeding.

I have to give my mother credit for supporting me. I was a formula baby. My mother gave birth to me, her first child, in an American military hospital in Germany by cesarean. She was completely out during the procedure. One of the last things she heard was,” Should we do a spinal or general?”

The answer came back,” Knock her out. The shipment didn’t come in”.

I’ve seen pictures and she was really out of it after my birth. Needless to say, there was no lactation consultant at that hospital. The nurses said to her, “Cesarean? You’ll bottle feed.” So she did.

I lived with my parents for most of my pregnancy and until almost three months after the birth. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive mother. She didn’t always understand my choices at first, like having a doula, but she was open-minded and came to see the value. I’m not sure she understood my insistence on breastfeeding, especially since she never did it, but she didn’t try to talk me out of it. She talked me out of my perfectionism instead (at least on this issue).

Supplementing is often presented as a slippery slope to bottlefeeding, but if you are committed to breastfeeding and supplement sparingly, it can get you through the rough patches. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Breastfeeding and childbirth shouldn't be viewed in terms off success and failure because doing so takes your focus off of your baby and puts it onto yourself. When I realized this and started allowing myself one bottle break a day, my attitude towards the learning process improved. I had a mental and physical break from the pain. Some days I would just rest, other days, I experimented with my breast pump to build up a frozen supply. I thought it was a matter of coordination and it would work itself out if I could hang in long enough. Taking that little break, gave me hope that I would see the other side.

A week into my "bottle break" day-by-day plan, my LC called to check on me. I felt guilty, but I told her I was still having pain. She pressed me for details and after I described my pain she suggested it might be Raynaud’s. My symptoms didn’t match completely, so she told me to come in to see her. In the meantime, she suggested using a heating pad to see if it made a difference in the pain. If we determined that it was Raynaud's, there was medication I could take. Fortunately, I did have improvement with the heating pad and decided not to take the medication. By 10 weeks there was dramatic improvement and I was able to give up the heating pad. By 12 weeks, I was pain-free. I ditched the nipple ointment and the daily bottle.

Today my son is 6 months old and we are still breastfeeding. In fact, I've breastfed in four countries and can honestly say that breastfeeding IS easier, especially during travel, once you get the hang of it. I do give my son a bottle occassionally (about once a month), but his primary source of nutrition is me. Based on my experience, here is the advice I would give to new mothers:

1. Get help early and often. Be descriptive about your pain/problems and keep going for help, until your problem is resolved.
2. If you need to take a bottle break, don’t feel guilty. Try to wait until 6 weeks to allow breastfeeding to get established and avoid nipple confusion. If you do it sparingly, it will help you through the rough period and increase your chances of reaching the rewards stage.

Check out the other bloggers in the Motherwear Carnival of Breastfeeding: Good Advice/Bad Advice:

*Tanya, at Motherwear gives you resources to find good breastfeeding advice.
*Breastfeeding 1-2-3: "How to get good medical advice on breastfeeding."
*Black Breastfeeding Blog: "The best breastfeeding advice I ever got."
*The Baby Gravy Train: "Best breastfeeding advice."
*Mocha Milk: "Welcome to the March Carnival of Breastfeeding!"
*Breastfeeding Mums: "Good Advice/Bad Advice."
*Stacie at the Twinkies writes,"If Only I Had Known..."
Andi at Mama Knows Breast writes about establishing your milk supply.
Jennifer at The Lactivist talks about Exclusively Pumping
Steph at Random Wonderings on "A Lot Learned from Bad Advice"


Andi said...

Howdy! My post is up and if you could link to it too that would be great! Thanks, Andi

nova147 said...

Thanks for your wonderful post. I, too, struggled to get starting with nursing and supplemented for a period of time before getting the hang of it. I appreciate you sharing your experience and giving hope to other new moms who fear that giving a bottle is the end of breastfeeding! Thanks again.

Becky Miller said...

I am so glad to know I'm not the only one who got angry watching Follow Me Mum! I had a lot of pain at first and COULD NOT get my daughter to latch properly, in spite of the instructions. So frustrating. I just stuck with it, and eventually Katherine figured out on her own how to latch right.

Matia Bryson said...

Great breast feeding tip! So many of us get caught up in the all-or-nothing, perfectionist mentality, which can be our undoing, especially as mothers. I will be featuring this blog post as an item in my RSS feed I call the Breastfeeding Daily Tip and News. today.

Cairo Mama said...

Thanks! I'll be sure to check it out!

Crystal said...

Thanks for guiding me to this post. It seems like the people I talk to who had latch problems were able to fix it but the people who had supply issues had more trouble correcting it or couldn't correct it.

I found one person on the board who thought they had supply issues and corrected it through medication. However I found a lot more who were unsuccessful.

Btw, would u mind sharing what amount u supplemented with?

I am really irritated with myself because I enjoy breastfeeding and so does my baby. He can attach himself sometimes when I'm passed out on my side in bed.

I really hope I can get this medication and up my supply. As it is now, I think if I didnt supplement, he would survivie but he would be very thin and unhappy.

Obviously not an option for me!

Mama Seoul said...

I just did one bottle a day and gave 2-4 oz at a time. That is all.

Go see Steph's doctor and get the prescription but keep trying to nurse as much as possible.

You are doing well, you just need the confidence. The baby doesn't need to be obese to be healthy. Give as the smallest amount of formula or pumped milk that you can to get through.

You are breastfeeding so the question is not,"Will you be able to breastfeed?" The question is."Will you be able to (or do you want to) exclusively breastfeed?" You are doing a great job with nursing.