Tuesday, May 17, 2011

11 months of breastfeeding

Before Lily was born I made up my mind to breastfeed for at least one year. I was more than determined to do this. I was downright stubborn about it. I set a goal, and I wanted to meet it. Little did I know what a challenge it would be! 

June 4, 2010: 
The journey begins. Lily was born at 2:41 am and within minutes I had her latched onto my breast for her first meal outside of the womb. As far as I could tell, she was doing a great job and it was painless!

Breastfeeding is HARD. At least for me! At some point while I was at the hospital I had a visit from a not-so-great lactation consultant that shook my confidence so badly that it took at least six months to recover. I thought we were doing great. Lily had plenty of output, so according to my brain, she must have been getting plenty of input. I was doing a decent job keeping her awake for feedings and she was nursing on demand. Everyone else, and I mean, EVERYONE ELSE, said our latch was fine. Perfect was even thrown around a few times. My midwives, the nurses, my hospital pediatrician, other lactation consultants, my husband, my mom and even a dear LLL leader said the latch was fine. All it took was one confusing and negative encounter for me to latch on to and shake my confidence. Yes, pun intended. I'm silly that way. Because I was worried about her latch so much, I worried about her weight gain. It wasn't enough that she gained her birth weight back and then some at her two week checkup. I was also hurting pretty badly by the time I got home and even suffered a bout of mastitis.

Is she getting enough to eat? I could not stop worrying if my baby was getting enough to eat. I constantly worried about her weigh gain. I worried about if I was nursing her the right way. I was SURE I was supposed to nurse on demand but I was not sure if I was supposed to nurse her on one side until she was done and then switch or if I should nurse for a certain amount of time and switch. I read everything I could get my hands on, but there was so much conflicting information! I did not know which sites to trust. I decided that I would just continue letting her nurse until she was done and then offer the other side.

I heart prolactin! I started to feel more comfortable with nursing and I enjoyed the natural relaxation that came from the hormones flowing through my body. One of the perks of breastfeeding and bonding with your baby are the wonderful hormones called prolactin and oxytocin. LOVE that wonderful cocktail of lovey-ness. I began to really think about how much I loved my baby. The stress of trying to breastfeed "right" began to subside and I was able to start enjoying being with my baby as she suckled and cuddled in my arms. I began to realize I needed to cherish these moments because they will pass too quickly.

I love this! I believe this was the month that I was able to get my iphone. I am only sharing this information because I would write blog posts on my notes app in order to share on my blog. I started calling my middle of the night posts my "prolactin ponderings." I continued to fall in love with my dear, sweet little angel and grew more confident and comfortable in my breastfeeding endeavors.

All for the sake of breastfeeding: As you may notice from the name of the blog, I play the flute. I periodically perform with the Rapides Symphony Orchestra in Alexandria, LA which is roughly five hours from my home. These concerts typically consist of a weekend of rehearsals and a concert. Because I did not feel comfortable going several days without nursing my daughter, I decided I should take her with me on these trips. How in the world was THAT supposed to work? I asked my mom to help me out. I would travel home, which is also five hours from here, stay for a day and drive with my mom to Alexandria, which was two hours from my mom's house. She would watch Lily while I was in rehearsals and I could nurse when we were out of rehearsal. As luck would have it, an added perk to spending such one-on-one time with her grandbaby, was that her own mother, sister, and other family live in Alexandria. So these trips turned into family reunions with beautiful music. Quite the challenge, but oh so worth it.

Solids! I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for her first six months of life. However, I decided that Thanksgiving was pretty much close enough to six months and I would let my baby have her first little nibble of solid food on Thanksgiving day. We talked about it for weeks and wanted to make it special for her. I even asked at a La Leche League meeting if it had to be EXACTLY six months to the day or if I could do it a week early. I think they must have thought I was silly for being so strict about it, but hey, I felt supported anyway. As it turned out, she loved sweet potatoes! My mom and mawmaw were a little too enthusiastic about my decision to start solids, so I pretty much had to fight them off. They wanted to give her an entire Thanksgiving meal as her first experience. Um. No. JUST sweet potato please.

Seven months of breastfeeding: I was pretty excited to make it this far, and I decided to reflect on our progress.

Why don't YOU go eat in the bathroom? Although I was pretty lucky to never encounter any nursing in public problems, I started to get tired of seeing other moms go through it. I'll confess-I was pretty self conscious about doing it, even with a cover, when my husband wasn't around. Okay. I'll tell the truth. I was self conscious even when he was around, but he gave me strength to do it by being there with me. When I was alone, I tried really hard not to make eye contact with anyone. Thankfully, the only encounters I had were positive ones. People actually came up to me to congratulate me and tell me what a wonderful job I was doing. Now THAT was a boost to my confidence!

Thank you for supporting me! Whether or not they want to admit it, women need lots of support to breastfeed. Women and men need lots of support in parenthood, period. But breastfeeding is hard. Sorry. But it is. There was always something. I am not sure when the biting started, but as some point, Lily decided to try biting me a few times. All it takes is ONE bite to make a sore that takes FOR-E-VER to heal. A bobo won't close if it's being reopened at every feeding. Ouch. Never mind the engorgement and recurrent clogged milk ducts that I experienced all the time. If it wasn't so common, there wouldn't be so much written about it. Women go through this when breastfeeding, and they need support so they don't quit. Yes, there ARE other options out there, but if a woman really REALLY wants to breastfeed, why not encourage her when she might get a little discouraged? Why not say, "You can do it!" when she's going through excruciating pain to try to provide her best for her baby? Why does that hurt? Oh wait. It doesn't! It never hurts to share a kind word with someone.

The "W" word. My baby was only nine months old when someone asked me when I was planning to wean. This was not even in response to a breastfeeding conversation. This was a question that someone asked me when we were talking about Lily's relationship with her dad. Around this time other people started to make comments about the fact that I was "still" breastfeeding. Maybe I am being naive, but the comments seemed to be positive and complimentary. You know what? I'll just take it that way. No room for cynicism here!

I'm getting tired. This month I started to get tired. Really tired. Nighttime feedings were finally starting to take their toll on me. I even considered trying Cry It Out methods to try to get our baby to sleep. I started envying those that used them. We even tried it one night. Just. One. Night. It was terrible. I thought it has been longer that that, but we began using the No-Cry Sleep Solution and it has been wonderful for us. Lily still wakes at night but maybe twice a night. I think once we are able to night wean her, she'll do great. And when we finally move her to her own room. Sigh. We really need to get her bedroom fixed up.

Wrapping it up. For the past month or so, I have had to open gashes on my you-know-what's. Every nursing session is excruciating and there is not much I can do about it. Remember when I said all it takes is ONE bite? Or one pull off where she "forgets" to let go? Yeah. Ouch. So this month has been a challenge more than a joy. Reminds me of the last few weeks of pregnancy.

I've decided that on Lily's birthday I'll finally be able to "breathe." I am not going to just stop nursing her cold turkey, but I am going to start the "don't offer, don't deny" approach to weaning. I suppose we have been doing that for a little while anyway, but I will 'officially' quit worrying about maintaining my milk supply. I am just going to relax and see what happens. She can lead the way.

1 comment:

  1. Kristi, you are a gem! LIly is a lucky girl to have you for a Mom. Being a first time Mom is nerve-wracking no matter what. Its stressful trying to do everything 'right'! Seems like you are figuring out that parenthood is a marathon and we will each find our own way. Its a lot of 'trial and error' but somehow we survive and our children turn out to be amazing human beings. Trust your heart and use your brain and you'll never go wrong. Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us. We think you're pretty amazing already but now we know if for sure!