Posted by: Amber @ NotMommy | July 22, 2010

What Breastfeeding Wasn't

I want to preface this post by saying that I love that we’ve been able to breastfeed for so long (17 months tomorrow).  I am proud to have been able to provide nourishment and comfort for my daughter with my own body.  I am lucky to have had the support necessary to make it through the rough patches.  I adore the bonding time we’ve spent together when she was just a wee little baby, and the cuddles that we share now that she’s a toddler.

For all the joy breastfeeding as brought me, it certainly wasn’t:

Natural –  For the first 5 weeks of Alexa’s life I was hooked to a hospital grade pump.  As most of you know, she was born way early, so we spent a good long time in the NICU.  She wasn’t able to nurse until the week she was released, and even then she was no good at it.  I pumped for hours and hours on end, took all kinds of herbs and meds to get my low supply up.  Brought home blankets she had slept with to “sniff” for the pheromones, and had to watch slides shows of her photos to evoke my own hormones.  Had blood tests ran, saw the lactation consultants at 2 different hospitals and the one renting me the pump.  They were all ready to give up on me.  I was left pretty much on my own and with the help of my friends online I learned how to suffer through it till she got home.

Free – Like I mentioned above, we had to rent a $75 a month machine to milk me.  We also purchased the Pump In Style to use once the NICU stay was over.  Neither worked, both were wastes of money.  At least insurance ended up reimbursing us for the hospital version and I sold my PIS to an LJ friend who’s broke.  Add to that the cost of all the herbs and internatinally shipped medications.  Then the bottles and formula we had to buy because Alexa needed a higher calorie version due to low weight, and the regular formula after she gained enough because we were still supplementing.  Oh, there were many other nursing supplies that were purchased.  SOOOO not free.

Easy – Even after all the above mentioned issues were worked out we had some pretty horrid nipple confusion.  That meant I lived and died by my nipple shields.  See, they basically make your boobs shape like a bottle.  I had many many many pairs because I couldn’t be bothered washing them over and over throughout the day.  I was thrilled when we were done with them after about 4 months, but couldn’t toss them.  Hell, the fuckers cost like $6 a pair.  Luckily I had a friend that wanted to have some on hand, so I gladly packed them up and sent them to her!  Funny though, now it hurts so bad because she’s lazy and basically comfort nursing.  I could probably use a pair or 2 again :P

Comfortable – While I was fairly protected from her bad latch with the shields, it was still pretty painful.  First off the pump killed.  I turned it up far too high because I wasn’t getting anything and was distraught.  So I cranked it up all the way to try to force it.  To no avail.  I had to wear hard plastic nipple protectors because it hurt if they touched anything.  There was also a pretty nasty case of thrush that lasted for weeks.  Luckily that happened somewhat recently, because I totally would have given up had it occurred in the first few weeks.  I don’t know how you mamas do it when your nipples end up looking like hamburger meat.  My hats off to you for sure!  Now, like I mentioned before, Alexa’s latch is terrible.  She’s not getting much out of me, so she lets her teeth rest on my nip.  OUCH!  Beyond the boob pain, my back is wrecked.  She never really let me get comfortable while nursing.  I’ve sat for a year+, hunched over my child, while she lays flat on the Boppy.  Dammit to hell if I can ever recline!  Then there’s the night nursing (which is almost done I hope) but sleeping propped up on my side for so long has left me pretty banged up feeling.

A fat melter – Nope nope nope still fat!  Yeah…maybe it has something to do with my love of snack cakes, HAHA, but still?  In the beginning, when most people melt away, specially ones with babes that nurse day and night.  Nope, I was left basically the same weight as when I was preggo.  WTF?  I’m truly hoping that I’m one of those freaks that just cannot lose weight till after we wean completely.

Less work than formula – I can honestly say, we would have had an easier time if she was exclusively bottle fed.  Since we had to do both, we had to deal with the hardships from each side.  Bottles to clean, nipple sheilds to scrub.  Powder to measure, boobs to pump.  We had to supplement for months because she just wasn’t getting it…then once she did “get it” we still gave her a bottle here and there.  Now, she gets “milk” in a bottle because she’s not a huge fan of anything other than water in her cups.  The bottles just will not go away, and I still have to whip my boob out, only now she screams and drags the Boppy over to tell me what she wants, ha!

A cure-all – I know people swear that breast-milk wards off just about everything nasty for new babies.  Well Alexa really doesn’t get sick, but she has had 2 ear infections and has some pretty ugly allergies.  I’m not saying she would have been better had she been BF exclusively…or would be worse off had she only gotten formula.  But it didn’t work it’s magic over here.

I do realize that my situation was different than most.  We didn’t have the normal experience of learning together right after birth.  I’m guessing that had things went smoothly things would have been far different.  But I will never know how it feels to just do what comes naturally.

Would I go back and change anything if I could?  Maybe?  Sometimes I wonder if Alexa had been bottle fed, would she have been a better sleeper?  If we had weaned sooner would she be better able to spend time away from me?  Do I think I could ever do this again?  I really don’t, and that’s one of the reasons I honestly don’t think there will be a sibling for Alexa.

**That said, I’m still a strong supporter of breastfeeding.  I know it’s the best, most perfect food for babies.  But it’s hard, and a lot of times people don’t tell you that it doesn’t always come naturally.  Far too many mothers out there are left feeling like failures when they can’t breastfeed because they weren’t warned that it is work.  I know my own mother was no help because it all “came so easily” for her so she had no idea how to help.  I hope that by being honest about my experience, and that by also showing that even though some of it sucked we still made it…that maybe someone out there will be inspired to stick with it if they’re so inclined to soldier through :-)
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Responses

  1. Way to go on making it so long! I breastfed Julian for 18 months and plan on doing it just as long with Audrey.

    You saved my life with the nip shields, btw!! Thank you for those! Let me know if you need them back, and I can pop them in the mail with that shipment of brownies I promised you like eleventy-billion years ago.

    • Thank you! I can’t believe how fast it’s gone (even though some days drag like hell)! Still in awe that everything worked out in the end :-)

      We’ve talked about this before, but I think I could possible do it again if I waited to have a second like you did. The thought of going back to this anytime soon though? Nuh Uh!

      You are so very welcome about the shields! Did you actually have to use them much? I blanked and forgot to get all nosy and ask you how the nursing mechanics were going for your this time around. If you want to get rid of them, I’ll take them back…but if you think you’ll use them at all…please keep them. Even still, if you know anyone that might need them pass them along. HAHAHA how long do they even last? I don’t think Alexa would allow me to use them at this point. I’m pretty sure that my weekend away at BlogHer will seal the weaning deal anyway. 3 days off the boob should be a pretty clean break. I’m ready, hope she is ;D

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amber, Amber. Amber said: What Breastfeeding Wasn't – http://tinyurl.com/25f9egl (via @unlikelymama) […]

  3. I hated breastfeeding for all the reasons you’ve mentioned above and many more. I will try to do it again with my second baby, but I now know that personally to me it is a sacrifice and not a pleasure or convenience. I do envy those who truly enjoy it… I honestly cannot think of one thing that I liked about it, other than said health benefits for a child.

    • The same for me…a sacrifice. One I was happy to make this time…but I really don’t think I’m selfless enough to do it again (at least any time soon). I’ve always said that if I did have a second it wouldn’t be till Alexa was 4 or 5 anyway, so maybe by then I’ll be rested enough HAHAH and/or amnesic about the infant stage :P
      Either way, I have to go back to work soon…so no babies for at least 2 years so we can get our shit figured out again!

  4. Oh man I know what you mean about pumping on high. Sometimes if I was in a hurry I would pump on high, and I always end up regretting it because I’d get blisters. It’s all a learning process. I’ve been pump free for a month now. You asked me after a week if they had dried up, it took 3 weeks for me to dry up. They are seriously ugly now. I now know why women get boob jobs. I’m not saying I want one, but dang they are just gross. I had nice ones before. Ha!
    Congrats on not giving up, and going so long! High five mama!

    • Damn! I never got blisters, but they were just so raw feeling. I had really hoped to build up a supply to freeze just in case. It was sad when we decided to sell off the pump, because there were always going to be times when Alexa would need a bottle (if I wasn’t home…or whatever). Ah well…formula was ok since we had no choice in the beginning and learned pretty early on that she couldn’t tolerate the regular kinds.

      OH and about the boobs! I’m actually really freakin’ happy I didn’t like mine before pregnancy, because I’m sure they’re gonna be a mess once I’m done and deflated, lol! If the time comes, and money allows, I’ll totally get these bad boys a lift if nothing else :-)

  5. Congrats on 17 months!!! Wow that’s amazing.. you did so well :)
    BF is so different for everyone and think it’s the best thing for baby if you can do it!! I had low milk supply and only lasted 6 months (I didn’t lose much weight… damn!!). I did BF, pumping and we had to do formular too! I was really sad when BF ended (morning feed only).. my milk just completely dried up :( But I am thankful I had 6 months… I loved it!
    Max is still having bottles too.. but he does drink out ot sippy cups and cups as well! I’m in no hurry to give up the bottle just yet… he’s still a baby really (my baby)! Hmmm I will have to ween him off bottles soon!
    Who knows whats right or wrong hey… you just got to do what’s right for you and your baby :)

    • I remember when you were weaning. I think it was about the same time we were having some major supply issues yet again. It is so hard sometimes. I’m so glad you enjoyed your boob time though, seems much more important than how long it lasted :-)

      Honestly, I don’t understand the push to have babies off bottles. Ok, I get it if they need them all night, then there’s issue with teeth rot. But if your babe (and yes, they’re still babies I AGREE!) takes their milk in bottles during the day…then who cares? Some women swear that sippy cups are easier, but really it’s just as much to clean. I like it that Alexa only takes water in hers, means I don’t have to wash 8 a day, lol…she gets the one all day and I keep rinsing and filling up. The same way I drink out of my cups during the day ;D

  6. Absolutely, positively well done to you for feeding Alexa for this long. Even more kudos to you for soldiering on through all of the setbacks – I know how easy it would have been to just throw in the towel and move to bottle feeding. But you didn’t, and that is a testament to you as a mother wanting the best for your child.

    My son was born with a tongue tie, so he was unable to latch on. For some ridiculous reason the easy procedure of lasering the tongue isn’t done in hospitals, so I pumped with a hospital grade pump as you did. I refused to give him formula, so pumped every 2-3 hours without fail. Luckily for me I had plenty of milk. Although like all new mums, you always believe you have a low supply. As a natural therapist I knew what herbs to take, to up the water and protein etc. With the help of a fantastic lactation consultant, my son took to feeding and we haven’t looked back.

    Fast forward 2 years and 7 months later and I was still feeding my son, right up until a week before my daughter was born. She was a dream to feed straight off, and is still going strong at 11 months. I’ll feed her until she self-weaned. And funnily enough I haven’t even touched a pump since she was born!

    As pro-breastfeeding as I am, I totally understand the choice mothers make if they decide to formula feed. Everyone has their reasons. However there is no doubt that ‘breast is best’, and I really hope mums can find the support they need to continue breastfeeding, particularly when the going gets tough.

    Take care xo

    • I have no idea if my low supply would have been remedied faster if Alexa had been able to nurse…but since she was born too early to even know how to swallow…there was no way to find out. I had to rely on my pumped output…which was sad. The NICU nurses told me to stop many times, but I wouldn’t. I even pulled the pump up to her incubator when I was visiting. I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but hey…what’s the difference between that and bf’ing at her little area? I was lucky to have so many online friends that mentored me through the herb and med process. Can I tell you how nasty fenugreek made me smell? LOL

      That said, I can completely understand why anyone dealing with the NICU would stop. There’s so much other stress that it can get to be too much to deal with… pumping hour after hour (I would sometimes pump for an hour or more, ever 2-3 hrs). It took its toll on me, specially since I would visit with Alexa every day for half the day or more. I’m sure that’s why the nurses were trying to tell me it would be ok if I stopped. They didn’t want it to become a burden that was too much to bear, specially once we too her home and still had to deal with the effects of her prematurity. Thankfully…Peter was always supportive. Though, I did cry and beg for it to be over many many times.

  7. I am sorry that you had such trouble with this, but I cannot express how proud I am of you for sticking with it! There are so many people that go through a tenth of what you had to deal with and give up so easily. You were such an amazing trooper and you’ve done such an incredible job with breastfeeding and rearing your daughter in general.

    • Nothing to be sorry about. I just wanted to write down some of what I’ve been thinking about now that weaning has taken a nose-dive and we’re pretty much back to full time nursing. Not at all bitter about that (insert sarcasm here, lol). No, it’s great…and it’s what she obviously needs from me. I’m home and here for her, so whatever it takes right?

      Thank you for the amazing compliments though! It means the world to me, since you’ve been with me since the beginning (my special preggo LJ com friend)! **muah**

  8. Fantastic posting! Thank you – saw your posting on Scary Mommy.

    I’m working on a breastfeeding post on my blog in the next couple weeks based on a policy change paper I wrote for a graduate nursing class. I’ll probably link back here because this is so well put.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks, please do link back, I would be honored. If you don’t, at least send me the link so I can read it! BTW, love the blog name. T-rex is my fave “big head, little arms!”


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