Sunday, February 21, 2010

My (Abridged) Breastfeeding Story

I knew I would breastfeed. I never questioned it, not even once. If you asked me why, I'm not so sure I could answer. I always knew it was the better choice but in a casual way, I never really cared either way. The only child I ever really witnessed being breastfed was my brother, I was seven when he was born and my mother switched to formula when he was 9 months old. I remember him walking around with his bottle more than anything else. Perhaps I had a psychological memory from my own infanthood. My mother breastfed me until I was a little over two. At that time she kept developing mastitis and when her doctor found out that I was two he told her she should wean me. Apparently it was a very difficult transition for both of us. My mother breastfed me because it was a wonderful, calming experience for both of us and she never really felt inclined me to wean me until the doctor recommended it. Also, it seems I was still an avid nurser and was not at all interested in weaning myself anytime soon. Maybe it was the traumatic weaning experience or the prior years of mutually enjoyed nursing that made an impression on my young mind. Perhaps neither. Either way, I knew I was going to nurse Audrey.

Warning: This paragraph and the next may contain TMI for some readers. When I had Audrey I was still relatively young and very unassertive in uncomfortable situations (which is still the case today). My passive attitude led to a horrid birth experience. It also led to me not using the hospital's nursing consultant the way I should had. I went to the one-time nursing class the hospital held while I was pregnant, it wasn't very useful. The town we lived in at the time did not have an active La Leche League group so the hospital's class was my only option. When the nursing consultant visited me during my hospital stay I said everything was going well. Truth be told my latch was not very comfortable but it was hard for me to tell if that was because it was new or if it was due to an improper latch. Again, my reserved personality left me unwilling to truly converse with a stranger that kept trying to touch my boobs. When Audrey was four days old I became engorged, I might as well say my boobs ballooned to quadruple their already huge milk-filled state. They were so large and rock-hard that Audrey could not latch at all. I used the cheapy pump I had bought but barely succeeded in getting more than an ounce. Nevertheless, I put the measly amount in the one bottle we had and gave it to my starving newborn. It was late at night so my only option was to call the hospital. The nursing consultant had just gone on vacation and so I was left waiting for a call from the pediatrician on call. I basically got information that I already knew. "Try to pump...I hate to say give her formula...bottles will probably cause nipple confusion...she needs to eat." The hospital had sent me home with the customary formula bag and I sat in the closet staring at the contents contemplating all the possible effects that using it could have. I looked at the ingredients and I just couldn't do it. I gave Audrey water in a bottle and hoped we could wait it out until morning when I could go get help nursing. It was the longest night of my husband's and my life. Audrey was miserable, we were miserable. I felt helpless and defeated.

When morning came we rushed to the pediatrician who sent us to the hospital. Seeing as the nursing consultant was out of town, the nurses lent their help. Apparently, my engorgement had also flattened my nipples making latching even more strenuous. The nurse gave me a nipple shield and Audrey instantly latched. Feeling my milk letdown was miraculous though not a miracle. As soon as the engorgement abated I should have left the nursing shield behind but I had the new mom jitters and was terrified of a repeat of that awful night. So I kept the shield the time I felt comfortable taking it off my little girl was used to it and had nipple confusion. I think the shield might have helped protect me mastitis but I think it also dulled my feeling which might be a good thing when Audrey had the occasional nibble but not so good the rest of the time. I also think it might have caused me a few extra clogged ducts. In the end, I am thankful for the shield but not for the inconvenience it posed.

When the boy residing in my uterus pops out, I am determined to nurse sans shield. I am planning on attending the first LLL series of meetings for new breastfeeding mothers which will probably seem odd to most since I have been nursing Audrey for almost 3 years.

Other than that, I have recently experienced a breastfeeding agitation/nursing aversion due to my pregnancy. I started drinking more water and making sure I was getting my needed calories. That along with the knowledge that I wasn't going crazy has helped me get through it. If nothing else it definitely prepares me for how well I will need to take care of myself whenever it comes time to tandem nurse!