Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Breastfeeding Isn't Always Easy

When I decided to breastfeed, I honestly thought it would be super easy.  I thought the baby would be born knowing just what to do and that I'd just have to sit there holding my baby... I was wrong.

Since Logan was so tiny, he was unable to breastfeed but breast milk was the best thing for him and the only thing I could really do for him, so I pumped.  I pumped every 2-3 hours, even through the night for the first few days and continued to pump every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night for the rest of his 17 days.  I felt like I never stopped pumping.  Our entire schedule was based around the NICU hours and when I had to pump and I quickly learned to pump just about anywhere, including the Walmart parking lot.

When Eli was born, Doug and I decided to have our family wait while I attempted to feed Eli for the first time.  We told them it would only take 20-30 minutes.  It ended up taking at least an hour.  Eli couldn't figure out how to latch.  My nurse helped, a lactation consultant helped, we switched positions several times, and finally we got it!  I was so proud in that moment.  During our hospital stay we had some good feedings and some not so good feedings but I was sure it would get easier at any moment... wrong again.

The first few days at home were tough.  I can remember sitting on the couch with Eli on the Boppy trying and trying to get him latched while he screamed and I cried.  I didn't want to give him a bottle because everyone told me that it would lead to more problems latching but at one point it got so bad I didn't care.  I decided to pump and give him the milk in a bottle because I figured getting breast milk out of a bottle was better than no breast milk at all.

At times I just wanted to give up, it obviously wasn't working.  But thanks to some great friends and a supportive husband I kept trying.  I didn't let one bad feeding several bad feedings keep me from trying again the next time.  And eventually, Eli and I figured it out together.  We got into a groove and breastfeeding became what I had expected.  Then I went back to work.

At first, I had no problems keeping up with what Eli wanted.  But when his first tooth came in, my milk supply dropped.  I immediately called the lactation consultant and asked for help and they gave me some pointers: look at a picture of Eli, use a warm compress or heating pad and pump for longer.  I did all of that and it didn't help much.  So then they suggested I try fenugreek, an herbal supplement that helps with milk production.  Three pills, three times a day.  I started getting a little more but not much.  Then one day I noticed that the tubing on my pump had a tear.  It was a definite "aha" moment for me.  With the combination of fixed tubing and fenugreek I was back to my previous supply.

Only one problem, by the time Eli was 4-5 months old, he was wanting even more, but I wasn't getting more when I pumped.  The lactation consultant offered to help me get a prescription of Reglan which often helps supply but I had taken Reglan for nausea when I was pregnant with Eli and it made me feel dizzy and light-headed, so I wasn't really interested in trying it again unless absolutely necessary.  Eli's doctor told me not to worry because a pump is less efficient than a baby and I was probably only pumping half what Eli was actually getting when he nursed.  He suggested that I send formula to daycare and nurse when I was with Eli.  I didn't really like that idea so I looked for other moms who were having similar problems and noticed that several suggested pumping in the middle of the night.  Since Eli had been sleeping through the night for a while, I wasn't really enthused about not getting to sleep through the night anymore, but I decided to give it a try.  The very first night I got 5-6 oz.!  For me that was huge because I was used to getting 3-4 oz.

So since then, I have been getting up once a night in order to make enough milk to send to daycare without dipping into my freezer supply.  I still had some milk in the freezer from before I had come back to work.  Then our freezer thawed due to a GFI plug in the garage that had tripped and I lost my entire freezer supply.  I wasn't too worried at first because I was able to keep up with daycare needs anyway.

Sometime last month, my supply dropped unexpectedly again.  And I started to get nervous that my breastfeeding days might be ending.  (I have since read that this is not uncommon around 9-10 months, for moms who pump because the baby starts needing less breast milk so the supply goes down and since the pump is less efficient, you get less when pumping.)  So I redoubled my efforts, starting pumping even longer and on the weekends after I nursed Eli and now I actually have some milk in the freezer!

Breastfeeding hasn't been easy for me.  Many times I could have thrown in the towel and I completely, 100% understand why some women decide it's not for them.  However, for me it has been the most rewarding experience ever.  Nursing Eli gives me an excuse for one-on-one bonding time with him.  My favorite thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning is nurse him in our bed, laying side by side and just staring at each other.  Sometimes he smiles back at me or even laughs.

I nurse Eli anywhere and everywhere (except church) and I wish the stigma some people associate with it would disappear.  If I pulled out a bottle to feed my baby, no one would think twice about it, but even if I have a blanket completely covering Eli and myself, people look at me like I'm crazy.  I just smile back :)  I've nursed Eli under a sweatshirt at the outlets in Destin, in my wrap walking through the mall, under a blanket at a football game, in Sam's, at a wedding reception, in my car, at numerous restaurants, even sitting poolside at my parent's neighborhood pool.  Recently my mother-in-law told me she was out with one of her nieces (who is breastfeeding) and her niece asked if it would be okay for her to nurse her baby, she responded "You can bet Anna Gooden would!"

Maybe it's crazy, but it made me proud.  Proud to be a nursing mama, who doesn't hide in a corner or a bathroom, who struggled with breastfeeding but stuck with it, who is still nursing her 10-month-old and sending breast milk to daycare.  Don't get me wrong, I am somewhat looking forward to that first full night of sleep when I don't have to get up to pump, to that morning that Doug gets Eli up and fed while letting me sleep in.  But I know I'll be sad then too, because my breast feeding journey will have come to an end.  At least for a while :)


  1. Breastfeeding is hard! My first child was easy. She was a pro and we didn't have any issues. It was wonderful! I nursed Emma for 5 months. It started to get really difficult because of the job I had. I couldn't get on a schedule to pump regularly. I nursed Tyler for about 6 weeks. We took him to the ER when he was a week old because he was coughing up blood. They said it was a breastfeeding issue. Well we tried but could never get it right. I just didn't want to put my baby through any discomfort. We soon found out that he had acid reflux. We had to go through several formulas before finding the right one. I am glad that you and Eli got it down!

  2. Breastfeeding has been difficult for me too! Amelia is the longest I have breastfed and I still supplement with formula. I love the bonding experience of BFing. Thanks for sharing!