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Monday, July 2, 2012

my milk story - the second time around

The First Time
So there I was, two years ago, wearing rose colored glasses, all naive and innocent, all "this is going to work perfectly and just how I plan for it to go," as I walked into the hospital to have my first baby, daydreaming about how bonded we would be after we'd successfully nursed and nourished and attached ourselves to each other.

my handsome boy Owen, minutes old!

Fast forward 5 days and my 9 lbs 3 oz baby boy was screaming and my husband was freaking out and I was desperate to make nursing work and feeling like the worst mother on the planet because it didn't work. Move on to the end of day 5 in the hospital when the doctor discharged me yet said my son had to stay another night because he had lost too much weight due to not getting enough food. Awesome. Score one for Mom of the Year.

Move forward 12 months from there to find me successfully pumping my last session, after pumping every 2 to 4 hours for an entire year, having supplemented with formula in the first and last months, having nursed only a week.

You can read my full story of my first time attempting to nurse, pump, etc. at this link

Nursing did not work with my first child. At all. I had cracked and bleeding nipples that hurt in the shower and when I wore a bra and pretty much all the time for weeks. My son was tongue tied. I was barely sleeping, feeling pressured to breastfeed, and my son was literally starving.

Pumping worked. It was just something I did and was really proud of. End of story. A happy ending at that. My son was super healthy and happy and growing. I did my job and I did it well - without nursing, with formula and pumping breastmilk into a bottle.

Preparing for #2
One of the first things I thought about and planned for when I found out I was having a second child was the feeding situation. I recalled how awful it started in the hospital with my son and nursing. I did not want to repeat that situation again. So I got books from the library about breastfeeding, just as a refresher course. I talked to my husband at length about our differences in opinions and how things went wrong back with our first child and feeding him (He saw a baby who needed to eat and who nursing was not working for, therefore feed him formula until things are working, end of story. I got all emotional and hormonal and guilt-ridden so could not act rationally.). I told him my new plan. He agreed it was perfect and would support me with whatever.

My mind opened more going into the second baby and feeding it. I was ready and prepared to take on lactation consultants and refused to be pressured or bullied into nursing again.

The New Plan 
The new plan was to do all of the above. When people asked me whether I was going to try nursing again ("it could be totally different this time with your second child, you never know.") or if I intended to pump exclusively like before ("that's so much work, are you sure you can do that with two kids?"), I said we were doing all of the above and whatever works.

I planned to try nursing in the hospital, but I already knew from the get-go that even if my child nursed like a champ I did not want to be a strictly breastfeeding mom. I knew I was not comfortable nursing in front of people, and I thought it took too long to nurse versus use bottles, and it was important to me to have my husband in on the bonding and feeding action so using bottles would help with that. I planned to pump often, starting the second day in the hospital. I planned to use formula in the hospital too if we saw our baby was not gaining weight or was screaming so loudly like our son did due to not getting enough food.

I planned to advocate for what I wanted and tell the lactation people thanks but no thanks, all set, I've got this covered.

The Second Time Around 
So how did it all turn out? AMAZING actually! Could not have been better.

With our second baby, a girl Addisyn, I was ready and empowered and not naive like I was the first time. Even when the pressure started the minute we got into the hospital - literally - when the nurse who was hooking me up to monitors introduced me to the lactation consultant who was on duty to be in the C-section delivery room with me in order to help me in starting skin-to-skin immediately and trying to nurse right away. I did not flinch or waiver. I repeated in my head over and over, "do not let them bully you, you can do what you want, it's your baby." Literally within 10 minutes of being there they were asking how we intended to feed our baby, breast is best you know, skin-to-skin is so important, etc. All things I've heard a thousand times before - and do not dispute, just for the record.

I matter of factly told them my plan - "all of the above" - nurse and pump and formula if needed. They did a sideways glance toward each other, and again repeated how best breast really is and how they were there to help me through it.

They asked what I did with my first child. When I told them I'd pumped for an entire year they were shocked, said they'd never heard of anyone doing that, how incredible. It made me feel so empowered, like, see I can still provide my child breastmilk, so back off, I've got this!

I have to admit the lactation lady and nurse were super nice and just trying to help me, no shame in that. But sometimes there is helping and then other times there is pushing too hard.

Fast forward about a half hour and we were in the surgery room. My baby girl was born and the nurse and lactation lady helped me put her to my chest almost immediately. That was INCREDIBLE. It was the most amazing thing in the world, especially considering with my son I was not allowed to do skin-to-skin or try nursing until at least an hour later. I could not even really hold him until an hour later. So this was amazing, and all thanks to the nurse and lactation woman.

It's working! ? ! ?
Within 5 minutes of putting my baby to my chest she was rooting and started nursing. It was incredible. I had heard about this and seen it on the video in the Breastfeeding 101 class I'd taken with my first pregnancy, but it had never happened like this with my first child. I was mesmerized. It was working!

After about an hour of some skin-to-skin in the surgery room while they patched me back together, we moved into the recovery room. Our family was outside the room waiting to see our baby girl and we were excited to have them come in. I felt pretty pressured at this point by the lactation lady and nurse. They said that it was fine to have family come in but baby needed to be on me for skin-to-skin. They put her to me, naked and me naked on the chest. They covered her up entirely so you could barely see her head and said, OK sure bring in the family. I looked at my husband for help, after I'd already said twice that I really wanted to dress myself and wrap the baby in a blanket so family could see her now for just a few minutes, not stay long, as I knew I needed to rest immediately after surgery and of course I wanted to hold my daughter longer. But it was really important to us to have our family come in right away, even for a few moments.

The women looked at each other like "this is not a good idea." My husband stepped in and asked what I wanted. I said I wanted my family to come in. He told them something along the lines of "she was bullied once before by nurses pushing the breastfeeding, I want to make sure she's comfortable." I was so proud of him and relieved that we were on the same page! They apologized and said absolutely, whatever we wanted. Our family came in for literally like 15 minutes and then baby was back skin-to-skin on me! I felt empowered, like, "we've got this, my husband and me."

Hospital stay = SUCCESS!?!?
The 4 days we were in the hospital were excellent as far as nursing went. Addisyn was a champion eater. Everyone told me so. She had a latch and sucking notion that just worked! I didn't bleed or have tremendous scabbing like I'd had with my son the week in the hospital. She knew just how to do it, so all I ended up with was one side a little bruised as they called it, but even that went away within a week of being home and wasn't terrible.

When my milk had not come in yet and my breasts were pretty engorged, making it tough for my daughter to latch quickly (just the size I think wasn't working for her), I started pumping (by day two like I'd said prior to her birth in my feeding plan!) for about two minutes just to get my nipples to come out and to make a few drops of milk come out so she could latch easier. This worked amazingly well! My husband I think is the one who thought of it, so proud of that guy!

A few things the nurses helped me with to aid in successful nursing: bringing her to me instead of me leaning over; using lots and lots of pillows to prop her up; switching sides every other session, but if she found one side that she latched easier on that was OK to just use that side, too; squeezing my breast like a sandwich to get her to latch more appropriately - that worked wonders; tickling her cheek and chin to get her to wake up more to eat after she'd fallen asleep while nursing; etc.

So much better this time around!
The one thing I found so helpful this time was that I was WAY more confident about what I was doing. I said what I wanted to say, did what I wanted to do, asked for help when needed and turned it away when not needed. I leaned on my husband more and on strangers or even family opinions less. I listened to my baby and to myself and did what worked for us. I think I had a sense of peace around this situation that I didn't experience with my son the first time. Everything with the feeding department with my first was stressful, chaotic, overwhelming, terrible. But with my second, it was easier, calmer, sweeter, and it WORKED.

I left the hospital with 2 ounces of pumped milk that I was super proud of, and a baby who latched great and was nursing, and the idea that yes, I think I could do this. My daughter lost the normal amount of weight in the first day like all babies do, and then kept gaining and has not stopped since. I kept asking them to weigh her every day because I wanted to make sure we avoided the situation we had with my first baby, which was he lost so much weight we had to stay an extra night in the hospital. Every night when the nurse would weigh her she'd say, "good job mommy, you're doing it, she's growing just fine!"

I was so relieved. We could go home!

Our own process.
I continued at home those first couple of weeks nursing a lot. I had one side - and still do - that was way too fast for her and each time she'd nurse on that side she'd vomit. So I would typically nurse her on one side and then pump the other side. This process had me freezing bags and bags of breastmilk from the first week. This was also something that was going better. I produced way more milk than I did with my son, and I didn't have to do it so religiously (every two hours, literally, 24/7 for 5 months at the start until I allowed myself to sleep in the night!). I could go every 2-3, sometimes 4 hours. Now I can go 6 hours and be OK (not that it feels great! I try to do it every 2-4 hours now).

By day 5, the second night at home from the hospital, we gave her a bottle of pumped milk. She was inconsolable, starving, screaming. We'd heard that scream before and we were not going to make it last. So my husband gave her a bottle of milk and she slept 7 hours that night. Crazy, I know. Since then I nurse her, give her bottles, have others give her bottles, use a pacifier - and she's great, does a great job eating, never seen anything like it. I feel very lucky that it all worked this way.

When she'd have a tough time settling down to nurse in the beginning at home because she was so hungry (from sleeping a while!) I would have to keep putting her away from the breast, up on my shoulder and shushing her and telling her to slow down, then move her back to my breast and she'd latch great. Sometimes I'd just switch sides to help her latch better. This was one trick we found that worked well for us!


I nursed more in the beginning, but then when my toddler son started coming home from school and I needed freer hands to help him, and when she turned around 3 weeks old or so I just seemed to get back into the pumping routine for some reason. I think it was partly out of habit, some out of preference for that system and routine I had and of liking knowing exactly how many ounces of milk she was eating at a time. I just started doing it again. It started with me just giving her 1-2 bottles a day, mostly at night so my husband could be part of the action and also so she'd sleep longer at night getting more from the bottle than breast.
I stopped nursing in the night early on, too, because it took twice as long as giving her a bottle did and man, we needed sleep!

Until we got to the point we are now, at 11 weeks old, and I nurse her first thing in the morning at 5-7ish and then maybe once during the day, depending on what we're doing, and then at night during her typically fussier time where she just wants to be close to me 5-7ish. The rest of the feedings are bottles.

I pretty much do what a working mom does, I think -nursing first thing in the morning, then when she gets home from work and maybe once more, but all bottles during the day. I just did it a lot sooner, during my maternity leave. It just worked for me.

Why pump at all?!
I have had several people ask me why on earth I pump if she is such a great nurser. It's not something I can explain unless you were a pumper, too. I just don't mind pumping, did it for a year with my son so you can say I'm sorta used to it by now. I have a system with pumping and it literally takes me like 10 minutes start to finish, including wash out the parts. I also REALLY like knowing how much she's getting at a time.

Also, in my personal experience my daughter nursing does not empty my breasts at all, no matter how long I leave her on there. I always feel heavy still afterward and I hate that feeling. It always makes me want to go pump. Perhaps that's because I'm used to that empty feeling from using the pump so long before. I know people say that babies nursing empties the breast more and babies take in more milk that way but I highly disagree - in my own personal experience, that's just not the case. I also like using bottles because every single time I nurse her she needs to eat sooner the next time around than she does if she has a bottle. Bottles keep her fuller longer.

So I pump.  Not always. But I do it.

But I appreciate the nursing parts!
What I love about nursing  is being close to my baby. I like how easy it is. Once early on we were out to supper and I had given her a bottle but she was tired and needed to be close to me to sleep, so I nursed her like 5 minutes and out she went. I like that when my son is running around and I have 10 things going on so no time to make a bottle I can sit and nurse her because it's there. I like that sometimes nursing is the only thing to calm her down at night when she's tired.

I feel very, very lucky that this is my nursing story. 
I feel grateful that my freezer is  full of breastmilk. That my daughter can nurse one minute and take a bottle the next, no problems at all. I like that the hospital stay was easier this time, way less stressful. I like that I felt stronger and more confident this time around. It all just worked better.

I now understand why some people can't comprehend why nursing didn't work for others. If I'd experienced my daughter breastfeeding so easily as my first time around I would have no clue why people say nursing is hard. It wasn't hard with her. I'm even more grateful now that I went through all the challenges with feeding my son the first time around because it made me better understand how difficult nursing really is. I hope those who had a baby like my daughter who was so easy to nurse really take into consideration that not all babies are like that, it is much harder for many others.

What's the plan?
So the plan now is to continue nursing and pumping and freezing breastmilk. I still have tons of cans of formula in the kitchen that I got at the doctor's office for free in case we need to supplement at any point (I had to do that the last month or so with my son when I stopped making as much). My goal is 6 months of breastmilk this time (funny how my goal the first time was a week, then to the end of maternity leave, then through the summer, etc.). 6 months is about when I go back to work, so I figure that is a good goal. However, my sights are set on a year again, but I'm not married to that idea. Having two kids means I am WAY busier and also way more realistic these days. I will be happy to get that far, but we'll see how it goes. I'm home this summer because I work in a school and there is no school right now, so my priority is feeding my daughter. Then after that when I'm working full time again and taking two kids to and from daycare and exhausted we'll see how we do. I hope it works out, but if not I will just be proud of what I've done so far.

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