Monday, July 13, 2009

My Breastfeeding Success Story

There's been some talks on the breastfeeding support groups on Facebook about publishing books with success stories about nursing. Since I'm having trouble with my Facebook accounts getting deleted and losing all the information I post there, I decided to share my story here, and it's up for grabs for whoever wants to use it.

The International Breastfeeding Symbol

I had my first baby when I was 19 years old. I had only witnessed breastfeeding about three times in person at this point, and I was across the country from my family. My closest friend at the time wasn't currently lactating, but she was probably my biggest support because she talked so positively about it, never doubting my ability to do it. What is amazing to think about now, is that with her fifth baby this year, she ran into complication nursing like never before, and I was able to encourage her, and now her newest baby is enjoying a healthy robust breastfeeding relationship. Even the most experienced moms can run into trouble nursing, and it can take a lot of effort to work through it, and I'm so proud of her that she stuck with it.

I didn't have any issues breastfeeding my first two babies. It was pure bliss, and they nursed for about 9 months each. I wish that I had nursed them longer.

I am now 28, and had my third baby last year. I was now living closer to my family. My sister said that I shouldn't count on breastfeeding, that it just might not work out this time, planting seeds of doubt before my son was born. He was 8 1/2 pounds at birth, born naturally VBAC in the hospital Saturday morning, ~15 minutes after arrival; we attempted a home birth but chickened out at third stage labor. He is now almost 7 months old, he weighs 20 pounds and is crawling, even starting to cruise on furniture as he pulls himself up already. Nursing after birth was great. I am upset that the nurse took him for a full twenty minutes before I first got to nurse, but we made it through that... and never again will I allow that to happen! We were ready to go home 24 hours after birth, but had to wait for the doctor to come in after church to officially release us. The next day I spent in bed skin-to-skin with my baby (in the hospital I held him constantly, but not naked and it was so sweaty and uncomfortable in that bed!). At home on his third day of life, it was heaven. My mom had my oldest children with her, so there was absolutely no worries that day, pure bliss.

My milk came in fully on that Tuesday, which was the day I was required to bring the baby back to the hospital for a health check since we had been released so soon. I was just starting to have complications that day, as I was so engorged that my son could not get a good latch. My nipples were sore, and I honestly was almost to a point of giving up breastfeeding it hurt so badly. I could see my milk ducts were starting to get plugged. The lactation consultant told me to get a breast pump and express enough to get my nipple drawn out, nurse the baby, and then drain the breast. If I hadn't done this, we would not have succeeded at nursing, I am sure. It only took one day of this, and I did not have to use the pump any more.

At two months, the pediatrician advised me to start nursing on a schedule. I did this for about 2 weeks, then went back to nursing on demand. Switching sides after 15 minutes was causing a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, making my son painfully gassy. He had always been a little gassy, a bout for 3-5 minutes once a day or so, he'd squirm, cry, pass gas and be happy. We'll get to that issue in a bit. It was at this age that he was nursing constantly. My family (most of whom had never nursed, and if they had it wasn't for very long) would say things like, "You're nursing him again?" I even began to wonder if I was forcing myself on my baby, or was I teaching him to seek comfort by eating in a way that would lead to obesity later on in life.

At three months at our well-child check-up, the pediatrician said my son had thrush. I really didn't buy into it, though, sure his tongue was white but it wiped easily off... the same way my tongue is if I don't brush for a couple days (don't ask me how I know that...) It may have been thrush, but perhaps not... I admit I didn't give the whole dose of prescribed medicine, and I didn't use the topical stuff more than a couple of times. Within three days of the prognosis, we had no complications and no more white mouth after I washed his tongue with a wet washcloth soaked in an extremely mild solution of tea tree oil, baking soda and water.

At four months, my son had a day of extreme nursing, he was so gassy and perhaps it was a growth spurt, regardless of why he nursed and nursed. He nursed so much that my nipples got extremely sore. Even my breasts got sore, my left one felt like someone had punched it, like it was bruised deep inside. I began to think that perhaps the supposed thrush had turned ductal, and even a little guilty at not using the medicine the doctor prescribed three weeks earlier. So I used the medicine again, though I wasn't convinced it was thrush really. I believe my son was using me as a pacifier, which isn't so bad... what was bad was that when he was done eating, he would lose a proper latch and nibble on my nipple for a long, long time. With a focus on proper latch and breaking suction with the proper technique as soon as my nipple started to get irritated, within three days we were back on track with no more pain.

It was at this point that I officially made a decision to only nurse one side per feeding, as long as he wanted until my nipple couldn't take it any more. If he was still hungry at that point, I would switch sides after breaking suction. At our four month check up later that week, I happened to ask my doctor if I was cleaning my son correctly, as he is not circumcised. The doctor proceeded, without my permission, to perform a surgical procedure called retracting of the foreskin. I mention it here because whenever I get a chance, I tell people "IF INTACT, DON'T RETRACT - ONLY CLEAN WHAT IS SEEN!" We were extrememly fortunate that my son appears to have not been injured by this procedure; he did not respond with any indication of pain. A couple of weeks later, I researched this more online and learned about how it is dangerous for the foreskin to be retracted. At this same appointment, I addressed with the pediatrician yet again about my son's issues with painful gas. He said that since the bouts only lasted about 3-5 minutes, there was no medication he could prescribe that would work any faster. It was irritating that he only cared about giving a drug as treatment, rather than taking a holistic approach and discussing what might be causing the problem and work on preventing it.

So I ended up doing my own research online, contacting my local La Leche League. It was in a conversation with LLL that the "cow milk protein sensitivity" was brought up. Before that, I was thinking that my son was "lactose intolerant" and so I needed Lactaid or soy milk to replace the dairy in my diet. But upon further research, I decided that based on the symptoms and my own trials with dairy elimination in my diet, that my son has a slight sensitivity to cow milk protein. As a result, we decided to buy a goat share and now own one seventh of a dairy goat and that is what I drink instead of cow milk. My son seems to be doing much better as far as the painful gasiness goes... it can take a month before all the proteins have left both the mother's and baby's systems! I recently started reintroducing bovine dairy products, as this sensitivity usually goes away as a baby gets older. But, I can tell whenever I've had too much, he gets gassy again (my weakness is ice cream).

That puts us here at almost seven months old and starting solids. My son is getting a jar of baby food every other day, in addition to cereal with expressed breast milk. My pediatrician said I could be feeding him more, and in fact the only thing I've agreed with him on is to not use jarred baby food from the store. I had bought some jars before learning more about baby led weaning, and so we are going through them rather than waste them and doing a combination that suits us. Once they are gone, he will be eating whatever foods we eat that are suitable and safe for him. I am irritated that the doctor made a statement about making sure my baby gets water because he could dehydrate during the summer heat... breastmilk is the best for hydration, not water- in fact, water can lead to electrolyte imbalances. My doctor was also irritated that I decided to decline vaccinations at our six month visit, saying I wanted to read Dr. Sears' The Vaccine Book before getting any more shots. When he (very rudely) asked why I had started to doubt vaccines, I mentioned my concerns about mercury. He flippantly responded, "Oh, they stopped using that years ago." That statement is simply not entirely true- one only need check out their ingredients listed at the CDC site.

I have included my complications with my pediatrician, although not all entirely breastfeeding related, as evidence to all parents, that you simply can not blindly trust doctors. You must educate yourself. My doctor is a nice man, he's great with kids... but he's working based on a lot of outdated knowledge, and the reality is HE IS NOT ALONE. I'm not in a situation where I have much choice in regards to our pediatrician; I'm working on finding a doctor more attuned to our parenting style (he also doesn't agree with our co-sleeping). My location is one of the biggest limitations, the area isn't exactly reknowned for being up to speed on the most recent health trends. Kentucky was the fourth lowest-ranked state in 2008 for breastfeeding rates, falling behind by a good 20% in comparison the rest of the United States. The local hospital here actually admitted to having a policy of not encouraging breastfeeding; they do not encourage nor discourage nursing (or so the doctor told my friend who recently had a baby)... but they hand out free samples of formula, which in my eyes, is a blatant discouragement of breastfeeding. Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Kentucky is definitely NOT a Baby Friendly facility.

Edited 7/18/09

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