Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Breastfeeding Support

I haven’t written much about our breastfeeding journey but now after three months of exclusive breastfeeding, I think it’s about time.

Let me start by saying this – breastfeeding is tough, yo.

When I was pregnant, and for long before that, I knew that breastfeeding would be extremely important to me and that I would want to do all that I could to ensure that baby and I were successful at it. I was fairly knowledgeable in the ‘workings’ of breastfeeding and understood that it wasn’t necessarily something that would just come naturally and easy for baby and I.

But still, despite that knowledge, it was difficult in the beginning.

Thankfully, what saved me, was the extensive support from those around me. I had my midwives, my husband, my mother, and my mother-in-law all on my team.

Without that support, I can’t say that I would or wouldn’t still be breastfeeding, but I can say that the beginning stages would have been much more difficult.

For the first two weeks or so, I couldn’t breastfeed on my own. I needed a second pair of hands to hold Evalyn’s arms down. Let me tell you, for the first few weeks of her life, my modesty went out the window. Eva is, and always has been, a hand sucker, and so it took a while to help her learn that she needed to keep those wild things out of the way in order to get the good stuff. Once I was on my own, I often had to swaddle her to nurse so that I was able to manage holding her in the proper position, getting the latch correct and nursing her without worrying about her flailing arms.

We also had difficulty with nursing on my left side for the first while. From what I can assume, the letdown on my left side is very quick. Much quicker than the right side. When my milk had just come in and was in abundance and not yet regulated, I think this fast letdown was very overwhelming for my babe. She couldn’t keep up. Because of that, she would pop off multiple times per feed. She needed to come up for air. As a result, my left side was being worked 10x as much as the right side, and this took a toll on me. I had a fairly large crack that was bleeding and quite sore. When she was just a few days old, she spat up a huge pile of blood everywhere and this scared me. Every time I nursed her on that side, she would pull my nipple in that direction and break open the sore once again. I was pretty sure it would never heal.

It got to the point where I absolutely dreaded feeding her on my left side. It would take me a good amount of time to work up the courage to put her on that side and when I did, I often spent the entire feed with tears in my eyes. Thankfully, for the first few weeks, I always had someone there with me to help. Many feedings involved my Dude sitting beside me, rubbing my back, helping me get through it. Eventually, he helped me sort out some positions for nursing that allowed her to be latched on at a different angle, so the sore wasn’t being rebroken with each feed. After 11 days of nursing using football hold and/or laying down when she was on the left side, the crack was healed. And then, we started to re-learn how to nurse on that side using a cradle hold.

There were days when she literally wanted to nurse every 45 minutes to an hour. And those days were long. And exhausting. There were times when the Dude would take her so I could go to bed, only to bring her to me 15 minutes later, saying she was hungry again. And I would say “No. I don’t want to feed her yet”. But I did. With him laying beside me. And really, my difficulties were nothing in comparison to what some women face.

And each week it got easier and easier. I kept reminding myself of one important piece of advice that was given to us in our prenatal class … “Most breastfeeding issues resolve themselves within the first 6-8 weeks”.

Eventually, my milk started to regulate itself so my baby wasn’t being attacked with a pressure hose every time she latched on. She started to figure out that she would get her food a lot more quickly and easily if she kept her arms down. I started to learn how to position her properly so that the latch would not hurt. And together, we learned how to complete a feed within 10-15 minutes rather than 45-60 minutes.

And we used a lot of nipple ointment and breast pads along the way.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the people who were supporting me never said, “It looks like that really hurts. Why don’t you just quit?”

If they had said that, I don’t necessarily think I would have thrown in the towel, but what I’m trying to say is that having that level of support and encouragement made it easier to push through.

After my Mom left, she would call or e-mail almost everyday to see how nursing was going that day. My MIL told me stories of her breastfeeding days and somehow, that helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. My friend, a L&D nurse, came when she was four days old and helped me with our latch. The Dude often sat with me while I pumped and/or fed and his being there made all the difference in the world.

And now, three months in, Eva and I make a great team. Nursing is easy, natural, and fulfilling. I love those moments together.

If you are a new mama, or a mama-to-be and breastfeeding is important to you, my hope is that you have a strong support system around you. And if you don’t, and you feel like you need it, shoot me an e-mail. Of course, I won’t necessarily be able to be beside as you as you go through the motions of figuring it all out – but I can try to give you the support that was given to me.


Gaby said...

Oh my goodness it is hard. All the lactation classes make it seem so easy and natural and it was not that way for me. Im glad you had the support it is crucial to make it through!

Katie said...

I wish more people would write about breastfeeding. It needs to be more out there, especially with the younger generation (like us :) ) because so many people tell them to just quit...and move on. Heck, my mother in law said that. THANK THE GOOD LORD that my mom is an awesome support. My twista's were a great support. I also am a hardass when it comes to DOING WHAT I SAID I would, and sticking with it. And here I am. I didn't have all the odds other people did, but your story sounds similar to mine. I had a lazy latcher, and OMG MY NIPPLES SUFFERED because of it. For almost 3 months. But now? at 7 months? SO EASY.

Its free, too.

But it was a rough road.

I'm glad you wrote about itI! I wish more people would.



This Texas Momma said...

Ug. I dread this. Since I'm not that committed I'm thinking the first sight of blood will be the end for me. I guess only time will tell!

Erica said...

Great post. Is it weird that it's kind of fun to read about other people's BF experiences? To be honest, though, your brutal honesty about the pain/cracks/bleeding/ointment have me not looking forward to those first few weeks again! I'm hoping the second time around it won't hurt as bad, wishful thinking maybe?

I'm so happy you had such a support system. My husband was wonderful (and frequently had to hold down our crazy little girl's arms too), but other than that not many of my friends or family have ever breastfed. My mom was supportive, but she never did BF so there were always the, "You know a bottle won't hurt anything," comments.

It's empowering to make it through, that's for sure:)

Jackie said...

My birthing instructor told me that support from my husband would be essential--it was, and I am so thankful he was so supportive. I was scared though, b/c I just knew it wouldn't come easy for me...but surprisingly (and thankfully) it WAS fairly easy. Once I got past the soreness, it was smooth sailing. I am sure the next time around that won't be the case. ;)

I am so glad for you guys that you are such a great team now. As you already do, you will always, always treasures those little moments with just you and her. Such a blessing!

Jaclyn_Rose said...

Good job Mommy!

Your experience was VERY similar to mine. Athough the right side was my problem side... in the end for probably a year I had to nurse him football style on that side because he had gotten so used to it (try public nursing like THAT! haha)

I had to swaddle as well so hands wouldn't get in the way - but it was winter and freezing, so he was swaddled most of the time anyways!
And totally had the same cracked nipple/bleeding thing... I didn't like using gooey ointment, but finally used it and wished I had used it from the beginning!

Support is key - I lived with my in-laws and my MIL had nursed 7 kids for about 2 years each, so she was AWESOME!

Anyways, good job - oh, and don't get discouraged if every few months it seems like baby is eating a lot more, or taking longer (don't think it's your milk dissapearing) I think it's just that your body starts producing a little less gradually, so the baby will notice and start to feed more to get your production up!

Amanda said...

It's good to see more posts cropping up about the "darker side" of breastfeeding. Yes, it's best for baby, but it's not all sunshine, rainbows, kittens, and unicorns.

That said, it's totally worth it. I breastfed both of mine, one for 13 months and one for over 18 months. They're now almost 12 and 8 years old. Yipes!!

Keep at it, mama :)

Annie said...

this was very informational and a good read. thank you for sharing!!!
my little guy will be here in a few months and i really want to nurse as well. i'm nervous about this....along with a million other things.
i think it is so awesome you had such a strong support system. i might have questions and emails for you in a few months!!

Holly said...

Good for you for hanging in there, mama! Support is such a big thing...I didn't have all the extra support that you did (nobody was against it, just nobody really said anything about it), but Craig was 100% with me, and that helped a lot. I'm also a huge proponent of educating yourself beforehand, whether or not you have supportive family. I attended several La Leche League meetings before my oldest was born, and more afterwards. I read every breastfeeding book I could get my hands on before he was born, so I knew what was supposed to happen and how, even though I'd never done it before. He actually took to it like a champ from the minute he was born. My middle child was a great nurser, but it took months and months for him to get the right latch himself. I used to have to flip his lips out for him, otherwise he sort of sucked them in with my nipple, and that was very painful.
Three children and some 48+ months of breastfeeding later, I'm so glad we had that relationship!

Lucky in Love said...

Consider yourself warned...I will be e-mailing you pictures of my boobs asking if they look normal :)

Llama said...

I hope that one day I will have the strength and ability to do it. I havent had kids yet, but my friends have all told me that breastfeeding is really tough.

Megan Colyer said...

Dear Lucy,

I’ve been following your blog and have noticed you write about being a new mother and wife. This specific blog is really helpful for women experiencing similar problems.

The reason I'm leaving you a comment is that I'm the intern for, and I am looking for bloggers who might be interested in guest writing on our site. Could we feature you? We work with talented writers and bloggers to build a network of stories, crossing all stages of life, that will help make the world a better place, and I think our readers would gain a lot from your life perspective.

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Mandi @ Finding Home said...

I have to tell you that I have twice now referred to this post after reading it the other day. Our little Aubrey is now almost three weeks old and apart from the crack, my experience with breastfeeding is identical to yours. I opened your blog up today specifically to read this post again as Aubrey is nuring most every hour and I just had to read again that you went through the same thing. I identified with every single thing you wrote and I can't tell how encouraging it was to read your experience and to know that eventually, she won't be nursing every hour. I've found myself so encouraged while reading your blog lately. I haven't been able to comment as usually I'm feeding Aubrey and may only have one hand available and typing a comment with one finger is just way too much. Thank you for helping me know I'm not alone...I know I'm truly not but to read about your experiences really reinforces that I'm not alone. And as the past few nights have been incredibly sleepless...again, I found such comfort reading how you had those same kind of sleepless nights. Thank you so much for your honesty. I appreciate it so much.

Sarah said...

I know this post is more than a year old, but I'm commenting anyway. I just want to say a big THANK YOU for writing this. I just gave birth to my first son eight weeks ago, and last week I was feeling so frustrated with nursing. It's been hard to get a good latch and painful a lot of the time (although I know no where close to what some mamas experience). I was ending each day in tears of frustration. Around seven weeks I started looking for breastfeeding posts among bloggers I've read (I recently found your blog through Katie's blog and started reading in June when I saw we were both planning home births and due that month). Anyway, this post has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband and great midwives, but dang it's hard! I think we've finally turned a corner, but a lot of times it feels like two steps forward, one step back. So thanks for sharing--it really helped out a new mom who was/is struggling.