While I was pregnant I read a book called The Nursing Mothers Companion by Kathleen Huggins. I didn’t breastfeed my first daughter. I was young and unsure and the hospital was more than happy to shove formula at me instead of trying to teach me. I believe that hospitals get kick backs from the major formula providers so they will push their products. Since I didn’t breastfeed the last time I read that book but thought that the natural way should be the easy way. That is not so for everyone. It can be difficult. We don’t live in a culture where the majority breastfeed and are willing to teach the new moms. When we have problems we are supposed to hire lactation consultants. There isn’t a group of women right in your village to ask like in certain tribes. The closest thing we have to a tribe is the La Leche League. You can go to a local La Leche League meeting or contact one of the people listed on your local site. I touched on some of the difficulties that I had while trying to initiate breastfeeding in a previous post. Let me say that it was a nightmare. I spent several hours crying and sad about the situation. We had to have bilirubin checks every other day after leaving the hospital and the numbers were going up. When we left the hospital she was around 11. When she was 4 days old her level was 15 and 20 is when they get worried about potential brain damage, blindness etc. I couldn’t get R to latch due to my issue with large breasts, huge areolae and flat nipples–freak of nature. To make matters worse my milk hadn’t come in and she was frustrated with nothing coming out and would scream. So finally depressed and frustrated on the day of her doctor’s appointment when she was 4 days old, I opened the Enfamil gift bag that they gave me and fixed her a bottle. I was so sad that I had to use the “gift bag” for “just in case”. She was so hungry that she gulped the bottle down. When we went to the doctor, I told them that I had started giving her a bottle of formula and they seemed relieved. I knew she had to eat and since she wasn’t latching on she wasn’t getting any colostrum, so I did the only thing I could think of to do. I was still determined to breastfeed so I was worried about nipple confusion. We had to give her formula and put her on the bili-light that they rented us for home use. Since she wasn’t latching on, I had been pumping every two hours to try to get my milk in. While I was in the hospital, I was using a Medela pump and they gave me breast shields to use. They gave me the standard 24 mm and a set of 27 mm breast shields. Pumping every two hours, I was barely getting 10-15 mm of breast milk out at a time and was putting it in her bottles of formula. On day six, my breasts were so swollen and tender they felt like rocks. My milk had come in but were engorged because not enough milk was removed. I was getting very frustrated and depressed at this point and spent A LOT of time crying. In doing research, I came to believe a couple of things: my breast shields were too small, my pump had a leak and that my ducts were blocked a bit by milk not being removed. Medela makes shields in sizes 22 mm, 24 mm, 27 mm, 30 mm and 36 mm. There are some illustrations on how they should fit here. There is a PDF file that shows how they should fit. My problem came because when the pump worked a lot of my areola turned into a nipple when I used the pump if that makes sense. My nipple would start small and get very large when the pump was working. So after a few minutes of pumping my nipples was rubbing the sides of the phalange. G went to Babies R Us and rented me a hospital grade Medela Symphony pump (I love this pump). We wanted to see if the different pump would make a difference. He also bought me the 30 mm and 36 mm breast shields to try; and picked me up some more Lansinoh. Lansinoh is wonderful, it helped with my soreness and kept me from getting to the point where I was cracked or bleeding. It took trial and error to figure out which shields I needed. When he got home, I immediately used the 30 mm shields and the Symphony pump. I was so happy, I got 3 ounces between both breasts! I had only been getting 20 mm between the two breasts. At this point, I was double pumping for 15-20 minutes. Over the next couple of days I took hot showers to massage my breasts even though it really hurt! I massaged the knots out of them and I used a heating pad on my breasts before I pumped. It took about a day or two before all the knots were worked out and my breasts felt back to normal. I was alternating between the 30 and 36 mm breast shields and found the 30 worked perfectly for me. By day 9, I was able to go from formula bottles with a little of breast milk, to all breast milk bottles! I was so excited. I had decided that even if she NEVER latched on because of nipple confusion, I would exclusively pump my breast milk for her. Late in the night of day 10, I noticed my nipples stuck out considerably more than when I started this process, so I decided to try to latch her on. She latched on immediately, but she seemed to nibble. I let her do that all night when she wanted to eat. The next morning when I tried to pump, my supply had decreased dramatically! I barely got the 10-15 mm again! I was devastated and didn’t know what to do. At this point, I decided to call one of the La Leche League women. I picked a lady out of my list of women available in my area. She just happened to answer and be able to talk to me. I told her what was going on. She said that some women just don’t respond well to only pumping and don’t let down appropriately with only the pump. She also told me that since I was able to get R to latch on, I was to try to feed her every hour and only supplement formula in between and if she was wanting more to eat. I was to only offer R one ounce of formula after a nursing. At night I was allowed to go every 2-3 hours. She said this could take a week! I thought to myself, I can’t do this every hour for a week! I was still very determined to try to make it work. One last effort, if you will, and then if it didn’t work, I would exclusively pump. I did this for the first day and noticed that by the evening time, she didn’t need the formula in between and was content only eating from me every hour. By the second day, she was eating every two hours pretty consistently! I was so happy! By her 11th day she was exclusively breastfeeding from me! She has been exclusively breastfeeding and gaining weight well. I try to make sure she eats every 2-3 hours during the day and I don’t wake her at night to eat. I let her wake up on her own. She usually cluster feeds from 7:30 until bedtime at 9:30 or 10 pm. Then she sleeps until around 5 am. She is averaging 5-7 hours of sleep a night depending on how much she slept during the day. I am very blessed that she seems to be a good sleeper!
Breastfeeding can be very difficult and frustrating. I called my mom several times saying that I was giving up, only to do more research and commit to trying different things.
There are a couple of things that helped me through the times that I wanted to give up:
1. I had been told that it takes 2 weeks. 2 weeks for all the hardest stuff to be addressed. 2 weeks for breastfeeding to be established and running smoothly. This proved true for me. I kept pushing forward and sure enough she latched on day 11 and was breastfeeding only by day 14. If you are having trouble, just give it two weeks where you give it your all and then decide if you want to give up or not.
2. I had someone else tell me that your nipple soreness would peak at 5 days. When I finally got R to latch and start nursing, her latch wasn’t great at all. My nipples hurt so bad and my whole body would tense when she would latch on. I wanted to cry at times when she latched on. But sure enough, day 5 was the peak of the soreness and then every day after that it got better. I just kept applying the Lansinoh during that time. I also let them dry before I put my breast pad on them and covered up. I loved the Gerber disposable nursing pads. They didn’t stick, seemed to breathe well and didn’t have a plastic backing. I also used my cloth ones but if you leaked a little bit and didn’t change them they would stick to your nipples, which was awful when my nipples were so tender. Now that I am not leaking as much and not so tender I use and wash my cloth breast pads and they are wonderful.
3. If you are dealing with extended nipples sources, check your latch. Dr. Jack Newman, has videos on his site showing proper latching. Here is another link showing proper latch. Also Kellymom is an invaluable tool for latching and other breastfeeding issues.
4. Call your local La Leche League ladies. They are more than happy to help. Some of them do advocate breastfeeding for a very long time so you can take some things with a grain of salt if you don’t believe in all of the things they talk about. You can look up your local support. I am so glad I called Carol in my area she was wonderful. In fact, I have been meaning to call her and tell her thank you! She helped me at a very dark time.
5. When you feel like giving up, just push forward a little longer. Even if you tell yourself that you are going to give it one more hour and then reevaluate after that one hour. That helped me push forward slowly to the two weeks.
6. Relax. I know it is terribly hard when you feel like a failure, but do try to relax. When I first started trying to latch R on, I read that babies can feel your tension and not want to eat or latch on. My tension was so built up and about to bust through me, I know R picked up on this. I remembered my meditation training, that I received thanks to Lynn Louise Wonders! So while I was trying to nurse, I focused on my breathing and forced myself to relax. It really did help! She seemed to relax as well. Meditate while breastfeeding, I highly recommend it! In fact, I am thinking about teaching moms to do just that!
7. I was looking at my shelf today and noticed the book Breastfeeding Made Simple and it hit me…if breastfeeding was so simple, why do we need 200 + page book telling you how to make it simple? Find support whether through La Leche League, books or online and try to keep pushing forward. It isn’t a crime to not breastfeed, however I have heard countless stories of women who wished they had kept trying and not given up. I didn’t want to have that regret. If you can’t make it work, be comforted knowing you tried everything you could to make it work. I honestly think that breastfeeding was harder than delivery and you are not alone in those problems.
8. If you are pumping using Medela and the sides of your nipples are getting sore, try a larger size. If you are using too small a shield it will make the sides of your nipples sore and decrease potential output.
Just know Natural doesn’t always equal easy!