Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My struggle with nursing

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From day one of being pregnant I knew I would breastfeed. There wasn't even a question in my mind. In addition to it being extremely convenient (no making bottles, cleaning bottles, warming bottles) and free (formula is expensive!) I also knew that breast milk provides so many antibodies to help prevent sickness and diseases (later in life as well) 
and I wanted to do every thing I could to make sure my baby was as healthy as possible.
And to know that you can burn up to 500 calories a day breastfeeding certainly makes it more appealing too.

Since I had a c-section, I spent 3 nights and 4 full days in the hospital. I had a lactation consultant help me with the latching the first day and although I didn't really understand the technique for latching it seemed easy enough. Boy, was I wrong. By day two in the hospital, my nipples had blistered. Avery pulled her face away one morning and blood ran down her chin and I freaked out. A nurse brought me a nipple shield which helped a lot. Unfortunately, Avery kept losing weight and there seemed to be a tremendous pressure to give her formula because she just couldn't get enough milk through the shield.
I refused. 
I was terrified of "nipple confusion" and thought that maybe she would see how easy she got milk from the bottle and would decide she liked that better. 
My milk hadn't even had a chance to come in yet, and it was just colostrum at this point. 
I was convinced that if my milk would just come in, we would have no more problems.

We were released from the hospital but had to continue to drive to our pediatrician every day to have her weighed. She continued to lose weight. I was sick to my stomach about it. We gave her a bottle of formula sitting in the doctor's office and I cried and cried. I felt like I was failing my daughter in some way. I couldn't even provide her with food. 

I don't think I have ever cried as hard as I did those first few days home from the hospital. I was sick to my stomach about the whole thing. My sister-in-law Amber changed everything around for me and I will be forever grateful to her and her husband. She took the initiative to find a lactation consultant who had been recommended by a friend, and had her come to our house. Wendy from Latching with Love was an absolute Godsend. She came over with a scale, and a bag of goodies. Wendy had me put on the nipple shield, and we put a tiny tube into it and fed her with my pumped breast milk, formula and a syringe. When Avery sucked, I would release a little from the syringe. I needed to do this with her every two hours. And then after every feeding, I needed to pump to stimulate my breasts to make more. By the time I was done pumping, and cleaning all of the parts and storing the milk in the fridge, it was time to feed her again. I was exhausted. Within three days the amount I was pumping tripled. Wendy would text me throughout the day to see how it was going, and I could text her or call her at any time when I had questions.

We did this for one week. The longest, most challenging week of my life. I felt like I was up around the clock. Brandon had to go back to work, so in the middle of the night I had to do it all by myself. I can't tell you how many times I cried, and how many times I wanted to give up. I was delirious. My mom came over every single day just to be with me, feed me, do the dishes. Brandon's mom came over one afternoon while I napped and cleaned our bathrooms, kitchen, and swept our floors. We had friends and family bring us dinner, lunch and breakfast. We didn't have to cook for weeks. In a million years I will never be able to express the gratitude I have for our families and closest friends.

Wendy teaches a free breastfeeding class every Wednesday right down the street from my house, so a couple of days later my mom and I attended the class. I still go to the class every Wednesday. Wendy weighs her at the beginning of class, and then at the end of the class to see how much milk she transferred. It's such a relief to walk out of there knowing that your baby has a full belly, and your body is doing what it is supposed to.
Exactly two weeks ago, we got Avery to latch onto my bare nipple and she has been doing it ever since. The pain was so intense and I cried every single time she nursed but they never blistered or scabbed again. 
Lanisoh cream was my saving grace. I apply it every time I'm done feeding her. It's soothing and helps to prevent them from drying out (and ultimately cracking). It is still not pain free, but it feels a million times better than it did even one week ago. I am hoping and praying that in another two weeks there won't be any pain. 

What this experience did teach me was that breast feeding isn't for everyone. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula, or formula fed babies. I needed to climb down from my high horse. I will never, ever judge another mom who chooses to use formula, or who simply can't breast feed for multiple reasons. This has truly been the most challenging obstacle I've ever faced, and one that I am so proud to say I'm overcoming. I want other moms out there who are struggling to know that they aren't the only ones. If breast feeding is something you want, there are resources out there. Find a free class, find a lactation consultant or a support group. Reach out to other mom friends, I guarantee you they will be able to share their struggles. I was blown away by how many of my friends shared their stories with me when I reached out to them. I had no idea they ever struggled!
As hard as it is, I look at this little face and it's totally worth it. 

Update 6/10/2013: We are still exclusively breastfeeding. After about 6-8 weeks the pain was mostly gone. I never thought I'd get to the point where I can say I really enjoy it, but I definitely have :-)



Justina F. Lee said...

I hope you are feeling better! Your daughter is so beautiful. Sending you positive vibes and hope your breast milk comes in soon.

Britt @ The Magnolia Pair said...

Amira, I am so glad to hear you and Avery are doing better in BFing! I'm so glad you blogged about this. We went to our first breast feeding class last night and as much I am relieved to know all the information and tips- I am so scared of doing it and it possibly not working the way I plan. Thanks for sharing your experience because if I experience anything like you, I will definitely remember your story. Sending good wishes your way that y'all both continue to do great :)

Justine said...

I can't imagine how hard it must have been not being able to breastfeed at first, but I'm glad to hear it's working for you now! You're such a strong woman to stick it out, I hope when I have a child one day I have the strength for late night duties! Hope the pain goes away fast :]

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot said...

I have been so worried about breast feeding being easy when the time comes and your story is extremely appreciated! It's nice to hear it will be okay even if its hard in the beginning. Avery is the most beautiful little girl!

Kendall said...

Oh wow your story brought me right back to those early days with Logan. Breast feeding is by far the hardest thing I've ever done and I never thought it would get better. The pain is terrible and I wanted to give up SO many times but I kept pushing myself. You can do it mama, and you're doing GREAT. It will get better and by the time you're done with breast feeding you'll be like me and crying because its over and your baby is no longer a baby. Hang in there!!

Amanda said...

What a great post! I'm not a mom but I have many friends you are and I know this is a very touchy subject.Thanks for your honesty.

Emily said...

That was so amazing to read! I just had a breast reduction about a month ago. My doctor had informed me that when I have children, I likely won't be able to breast feed. Hearing that SUCKS. Your story inspires me to keep trying when the time comes! It isn't easy for any woman and there is no reason I can't at least try.


Sini said...

Oh Amira! I knew breastfreding can be difficult but I'm sorry to hear it was and still is painful.You should be very proud of yourself! Lots of hugs, glad you have your friends and family there for you :)

lo @ crazy ever after said...

Love you, lady. You are a good mama.

Courtney said...

She has such a cute little nose!

That is such a bummer that you had such a problem with bf'ing but good for you for sticking with your gut & doing everything possible for your precious pumpkin! =)

Melissa said...

Thank you for writing this post. I want to breastfeed so badly, but I'm a little anxious that it won't work. For some reason, it's actually reassuring to know that other women struggle with it at first. I think it takes the pressure off a little bit. A lot of the pro breast feeding people that I've read about on the internet make it seem so easy. Thank you so much for your honesty and for being so candid. I'm so glad that it's working out better for you too. Avery is so cute!

Amy said...

I will be praying for no more pain! I am so thankful that in Blogland we can be real with our struggles and help other women going through the same thing! I feel so much more prepared for the things motherhood can bring after reading blogposts like yours, so thank you! :)

Katherine Fischer said...

wow! i had no idea breast feeding had the potential to be so challenging!! you are so impressive for getting through this and sharing your story. love following your adventures in motherhood. :)

Michelle {lovely little things} said...

Three of my friends who had babies in October all had nursing challenges. One has not been able to have her daughter latch successfully ever, and has resorted to pumping 5-times a day (now down to 2), the other had the tube to assist in delivering milk, and the other boy had a clipped tongue. Until hearing about my friends I had no idea there could be such challenges with breastfeeding. I appreciate you and everyone else out there who is willing to talk about this and provide support to others going through the same thing. Sending you good vibes, hope it becomes easier (or less painful) soon! xoxo

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad you blogged about this. We don't have kids yet but I already feel the pressures and expectations to be a good parent "some day." But no one really tells you what it's like or what to expect or what could go wrong or what challenges will come up. It's nice to hear an honest account of your struggles with breast feeding and how hard you had to work to overcome them. Thanks for sharing. :)

Meg {henninglove} said...

ahh what a blessing she is! im glad you didn't give up, breast milk is the best and i fully intend to breast feed my future children. praise god for wonderful friends who gave you and brandon lots of meals and for a mom close by to help with the transition of caring for your sweet sweet daughter

Khatija and Anjum said...

What a cutie

SH said...

I love the honesty of this post - thank you for sharing. She is adorable - look at all that hair!

Have a wonderful weekend!

The Hartungs Blog

Sue said...

You're wonderful to share this story. I think people forget that just because breast feeding is "natural" that doesn't make it easy. I haven't struggled with it nearly as bad but it's been more of a challenge than I would have ever guessed. You are awesome.

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