Thursday, January 16, 2014

This One's for the Girls

Our journey with breastfeeding.  It's a long one (took my entire snow day to write)!

When I was pregnant, people would ask if I plan to breastfeed.  I would always say something like, "hopefully" or "if it works out."  I think this was a way to not put a lot of pressure on myself, but of course that was my hope and plan.  I was signed up for a breastfeeding class, but didn't make it beings Bayden came early.  The only thing I had done to prepare for nursing before she was born was stopped at the medical supply store to ask about the process of getting a pump and bought 1 nursing bra.  

Bayden was born at 1:07 pm and a lactation nurse came to my room with a medical grade pump and supplies in the early evening.  She showed me how to hook everything up and wrote a couple schedules that I could choose from on the board in my room.  She said I should pump at least 8 times in 24 hours for about 10 -15 minutes.  I gave it a try and was thinking it would hurt, so was happy when it didn't.  The same nurse stopped back in later and I said that nothing was happening.  She said I could also try to manually and she gave my nipple a good squeeze to show me what to do and catch the colostrum in plastic spoons that she brought me.  I continued to hook things up and try with the spoons every couple hours around all of our visitors the next day.  Nothing happened.  

I was discharged Saturday at noon.  Gavin had gone to pick up a hospital grade pump that we had prescription for as long as B was in the nicu.  They sent me with little syringes to bring the colostrum to her in the nicu.  The first drops I got came early Sunday morning.  I was so excited to pull it up into the syringes.  We were going to be going to the hospital to have breakfast with my sister who was still on hospital bed-rest.  First my brother dropped me off at Bayden's hospital so I could see her and drop off the 2 syringes.  I was so proud.  This continued until Monday night.  I wasn't getting anything anymore and the girls were huge, red, and hurting.  

Tuesday morning, I showed a lactation nurse in the nicu what was going on.  I had a lot of milk and it needed to come out.  She said to pump every 2 hours for at least 24 hours and do lots of massaging.  It worked, my milk was in.  I remember pumping that night on the couch saying, "Gav look, it's spraying!"  Then, I was a pumping machine.  I pumped at Bayden's bedside, in the nicu pumping room, in my sister's hospital room, at home, where ever I needed to.  I set an alarm every 3 hours during the night to pump.  I brought bottles to the nicu and some I froze at home.  I wrote every session down in the pages the nurse gave me.  It was the one thing I could do for Bayden when I couldn't be with her.  

Now I was just waiting for the go ahead to try breastfeeding.  I remember the day we were supposed to get to try in the afternoon.  That morning Bayden had needed blow by oxygen and the occupational therapist (she made feeding decisions) said, "You won't be able to breast feed today if she can't even keep her stats up being held."  She probably said it nicer, but this is what I heard, and I cried.  It was probably a few days later that we tried for the first time.  A lactation nurse was there and Gavin too.  I strapped on my breast-friend and Bayden was just in her diaper for the skin to skin.  She didn't know what to do with my nipple.  A foreign object after weeks of bottles and tube feedings.  The lactation nurse gave me a nipple shield and she latched on right away and fell asleep.  The nurse said to do massage to bring my milk down and motivate her to suck.  I massaged and massaged and then we heard 1 big swallow.  And that was it for our first attempt.  We continued to try once a day and she got better and better, but still followed with a bottle.  When she came home she was nursing twice a day so that's what we did at home too.  

Our clinic/hospital has a breast feeding support group (I called it our breast feeding club).  We went once or twice a week last summer.  I could get her weighed before and after nursing to see how she was doing and the nurses answered questions.  The first time we went, Bayden and I were quite the sight.  First, someone asked about her monitor of course.  Then, I pull out a nipple shield and got another question.  Then, I had to warn the other moms that Bayden is a loud eater.  One mom said she sounded like a goose honking while she ate.  At least it broke the ice in this awkward circle of breastfeeding moms, thanks Bayden!  

She was also still doing 2 bottles of high calorie formula a day.  At her 2 month appointment the doc said to do 4 bottles to help her gain more weight.  I ordered a case of the formula in the parking lot from my phone, thinking about just throwing in the towel.  Then, I drove over to out BF club and the lactation nurses were so encouraging.  They said give 4 bottles of formula for awhile, keep pumping, keep freezing it, keep nursing, you're doing so great.  In that parking lot, I cancelled my case of formula and went to the store and bought just one can and haven't bought more.

I continued to be scared that she wasn't getting enough and nursed a couple times during the day, but always did a bottle during the night and then pumped.  The nicu trains moms to be scared that their babies aren't getting enough to eat.  I remember being home at my parents and shopping and then going to my grandma's so my sister and I could feed the babies.  Bayden had gone like 4 hours since eating, sleeping away in her stroller.  I breastfed and my boobs still felt so full and Bayden didn't eat as long as she usually did.  In a panic that she was going to starve to death, I had my mom make a formula bottle from my sister's stuff.  Bayden didn't want it, but I kept shoving it at her until she had projectile spit up all over the place.  Unfortunately, I didn't learn my lesson and this happened a couple more times, damn nicu.

In August, we were invited to spend the weekend at the lake with some friends.  I decided that I was not going to waste my chance to enjoy the lake by being in the house pumping all weekend.  I brought my pump, but Bayden only nursed the entire weekend.  I pumped a couple times when I was feeling full.  The first night wasn't fun because she woke up more often, but it only took the one night and she learned that I meant business.  From that weekend on, if I was around, she nursed.  Gradually, I pumped less often because I wasn't feeling overly full anymore.  She was happy, growing, and sleeping through the night, and I loved that time with her.  

When I went back to work, I pumped twice a day and then nursed in the morning, evening, and on weekends.  As the months have gone on, my supply pumping has gradually gone down, but I'd read that as long as baby was content and sleeping, she was getting more than the pump.

About a month ago, Bayden didn't nurse well before bed because she was so tired so I decided to pump before I went to bed.  To my surprise, I barely got anything.  I called Gavin, who was in the locker room at his hockey game, crying that my milk was gone.  I was so sad.  I just wasn't ready to be done and it felt so out of my control and sudden.  He talked me down and said he would take a picture of her nursing because I was sad we never did that.  Just one thing I was crying about. The next morning I called a lactation nurse and she said to add some pumping sessions in and I got some more milk vitamins and decided I would try to build my supply until Christmas and then go back to the breastfeeding club over Christmas break.  I'd read online to have her nurse more often.  I found out quickly that this would not work, if I tried to get her to latch when she wasn't hungry, she bit.

By Christmas my supply was still really low and Bayden was now waking up during the night for a snack.  Bayden was quite the character at breastfeeding club when we went back:  reaching out for the nurse to hold her, waving to other moms across the circle, giggling and playing with my hair while I tried to nurse her there.  It was so funny.  It was like she thought she was the big girl now and didn't need to be coming here with all the newborns.   The nurses were helpful and said that she still benefits from it, even if I have to give bottles of breast milk too (I still have lots frozen).  They encouraged me to keep trying to build my supply.  

I've tried, but nothing is working.  She nurses in the morning now, but that's the only time she does for very long.  Other than that it's bottles except she will to fall asleep for a couple minutes.   I've now decided to keep at it until the beginning of February when Bayden and I are flying to visit my parents in NV.  I'm not going to pack my pump and spend our vacation sitting in a room doing that 6 times a day and washing all that crap.  We're going to enjoy our trip.  If she wants to nurse, I will nurse.  If she won't and my milk is gone, I'll be okay with that too.  I've loved this time nursing her and I'm glad I put in the work to go this long (she will be 9 months Saturday), but I'll be okay if it's time to stop.  Not saying I won't cry a little more.  

It's a little harder to take pictures of an 8 and a half month old nursing than a newborn.  I'd give anything for pictures when she was younger.  Here, she is just looking for daddy.  We have a bunch of her sleeping on dad's chest, but he never thought to take one of me.  I guess that's another post though.


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. It is nice to hear about someones experience, what worked, etc! I admire your perseverance!

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  2. I hear you! I was so sad when I quit with Lucy too. Same thing happened to me. My supply just dropped out of nowhere. And with a toddler to contend with I wasn't monkeying around with pumps etc... Good for you for doing everything you have. I'm so very glad you got to have that experience.
    All my best!

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