Positive Breastfeeding Relationship

Breastfeeding is back! A resurgence in popularity has been mounting for the past few years and I’ve boarded the train. Jeremy was formula fed. I had intended to breastfeed him when he was born 3 1/2 years ago but due to a few circumstances he was given formula in the hospital and, though we tried, we weren’t able to overcome the nipple confusion in order to breastfeed.

Angry Baby Jeremy!

No, I will not wait for the breast! I want formula now!

Lesson Learned #1: Make sure you are not so heavily medicated during or after childbirth that you are not aware of what’s going on with your baby. I had such a strong epidural (which slipped in my back and turned into a full spinal block like they do for c-sections) and I was completely numb from the chest down for the entire birth and for six hours following. They gave me some medicine to help me sleep off the exhaustion and medication.

Lesson Learned #2: Inform the nurses that you want to breastfeed your baby immediately following birth and that they should give him no bottles at all. While I was sleeping off my overly-strong epidural the pediatric nurses gave Jeremy bottle after bottle of formula. They said that he needed to eat because he was slightly jaundiced. Absolutely, of course I want my son to eat when he’s hungry, but I wanted to give him mother’s milk. “Well, you were sleeping and we didn’t want to wake you.” To me, that is not a good enough excuse. They could have woken me up. Also, they wouldn’t let me have him room-in with me until I was un-numb. By the time I got my baby out of the nursery he had had 4-5 bottles of formula and was completely confused by my nipple and the fact that he’d have to work a little and exercise some patience for breastmilk. He had already become accustomed to instant gratification of the readily-available formula and wouldn’t stay at the breast long enough for my milk to let down.

Lesson Learned #3: Don’t give up on your *girls* too early. Since breastfeeding wasn’t working out I just gave up altogether. My milk finally came in fully a couple of days after I brought Jeremy home from the hospital, we were already resigned to our bottled formula and I let the milk build up in me. Both sides became severely engorged and developed into mastitis. That was an incredibly painful stretch of days while I tried every home remedy I could find. Finally the cabbage leaf trick worked and my milk went away. Had I not become so discouraged in the beginning I might have realized that I could have pumped my breastmilk and given it to him in bottles. Nipple confusion and impatience are not the end of the world. Bottles are fine, just change what you put in them!

Lesson Learned #4: Make sure your partner is aware of and supportive of your plan to breastfeed. Jeremy’s dad went home while I was asleep and Jeremy was in the nursery, so he wasn’t able to stick up for my breastfeeding plans on my behalf. This time Jason was not only aware of my plan to give breastfeeding another shot but he was very supportive of my plan and has continued to be. In the hospital he read the brochures with tips so that he could help Jesse and I with our setbacks. At home he’s been great about keeping Jeremy entertained while Jesse and I take our time with breastfeeding so that we don’t have to rush. While it is a natural instinct, it takes a lot of practice for both mom and baby to get the hang of breasfeeding – you need time to work on it.

Happy sleepy breast-fed baby Jesse.

Happy sleepy breast-fed baby Jesse.

This time around, I had a really fantastic online community of lactation consultants and seasoned breastfeeders (including a few exclusive pumpers). They have been an incredible wealth of knowledge. I read everything they had before I even brought our Jesse home so I was prepared for any problem we could encounter. In our first two weeks we overcame the excruciating cracked nipple, painful shallow latch, low production of one side (due to little use while the crack healed), and over supply of the other side due to exclusive use while the crack healed on the other side. Without the experience and support of that group Jesse might be downing Similac just like his big brother did and suffering the extreme reflux, ear infections, horrible gas, and stomach aches that poor Jeremy had to endure.

What am I celebrating as a Finer Thing in Life this week? An extremely positive breastfeeding relationship! Link up your thoughts over at Amy’s Finer Things.

Disclaimer: Jeremy grew up just fine on formula. He is a very smart and strong 3 1/2-year old who is quite large for his age (the size of an average 5-year old). While I strongly support breastfeeding for a bunch of reasons, I do not at all look down on formula-feeding. How to feed your kids is a very personal choice and everyone is entitled to that without prejudice. This post is about my two experiences.
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9 thoughts on “Positive Breastfeeding Relationship

  1. Stephanie

    Allie and I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding, mostly because I was so drugged up, but also because I had a very low milk supply, regardless of how I altered my diet, how many herbal supplements I took and how often I pumped to stimulate production. We just fought through the nipple confusion when we got home from the hospital and my milk came in, and with my mom’s help (she had milk to spare) I breastfed for a full year and supplemented with formula. Unfortunately, as wonderful as breastfeeding is, not everyone can make it work and there’s really no shame in supplementing or formula feeding, in my opinion. All that matters is that your baby is fed and healthy. I’m curious as to why Jeremy had all those problems, personally. Allie was on Infamil and never had any of those issues. I guess every kid handles it differently. I’m glad you got past the problems you had with it before and made it work with Jesse. I’m hoping I can do the same with my next child.

    Reply
    1. Jen Post author

      Your mom still had milk after not having kids for so long? I knew you could stimulate lactation (adoptive parents and such), but I didn’t know it could be done after that long. Your mom’s not very old, but almost 20 years after her last baby is a long time! Kudos to you both for figuring out how to make your situation work.

      Reply
      1. Stephanie

        I meant when she had Michael and I, she had milk to spare. She did tell me that she still produced until Michael was about 6, though.

      2. Jen Post author

        Ah, that makes sense. I’ve heard it’s pretty rare for people to make it a full year. It’s great that you did, especially considering all the stress you were under then.

  2. Stacy McKenna Seip

    Fantastic!

    We worked like mad to make sure V was breast fed. With his time in the NICU, there was no realistic way to avoid bottle feeding. I spent his first month pumping, which I think might have been inadvertently a good way to get my breasts used to producing – the pump is much more consistent than an infant in terms of strength and stimulation, and really, no confusion about technique. Thankfully, my body responds well to pumping as well, so I didn’t ever have issues like mastitis.

    We got him on breast milk as soon as I was producing enough for them to put into his gavage syringe/tube. I think there was only 12 hours/one day of formula before we cleared up the confusion about whether or not we had breast milk products in the NICU fridge for him. They supplemented with additional formula to boost his caloric intake (common practice in NICU environments, especially when they get to bottle feeding where it’s harder for the kids to get the calories in them), but all of the staff were highly encouraging about getting that breast milk for him, especially that first week’s worth.

    We started attempts at breastfeeding at the hospital, but it was very hit and miss with regard to success, depending on how he was feeling that day, how tired he was when I was at the hospital, etc. When he got home we had another couple weeks of adjustment trying to ween him to the breast. We had to alternate for a while, just to guarantee he was getting enough milk into him (bottles are much easier to measure than the “weigh baby before and after feeding” method). This, of course, meant there were some issues with nipple confusion, especially at 3 in the morning. One night I was so worn out after having him bite me half a dozen times I literally screeched and dropped him to the bed after the last time. Thankfully, both of my men were there to help out, and one of them tended me while the other tended the child by getting a bottle. Irrational as it sounds, my biggest response to all of the frustrations of breastfeeding were based in “Why won’t he just work WITH me on this?!”. Turns out I have this issues with grown up boys, too. πŸ˜‰

    After those first couple months, when my post-hospital production had been scaled back down far enough to end the engorgement (I was overproducing by a liter/day at first), we got on fabulously for the rest of his first year. I was really kind of let down when he finished self-weaning around 18 months because I started insisting he ask nicely via sign language I knew he had. Breast feeding was just so darn CONVENIENT because there was so little I had to carry around/clean/worry about when the kid got hungry. I never rand out of food or bottles or anything like that. Toddler food was definitely more work for me. The weight-loss benefits of breast feeding didn’t hurt, either. πŸ˜‰

    Yay for you getting a good start on it this time around!!!

    Reply
    1. Jen Post author

      Agreed! Breastfeeding is incredibly convenient! I can use such a small diaper bag now that I don’t have to carry around bottles, drop-in liners, powder formula, and bottled water. And it’s free. My budget is loving that.

      I applaud you for working through such a huge obstacle as having V in the NICU. That’s pretty amazing!

      Reply
  3. Courtney

    I’m so glad nursing is going well with Jesse. I had huge problems in the beginning with Leigh, my first. She latched fine in the hospital, but when my milk came in the night we got home, my breasts were rock-hard and she had trouble getting a proper latch. I was engorged like that for eight days straight and pumping only made it worse. My letdown was strong and she always got plenty of milk (she gained over a pound in her first two weeks), but by the time the engorgement subsided she’d gotten used to a shallow latch and it took us several weeks to teach her how to do it right. Two months of sore nipples is HELL. I think that if I had been planning on going work outside the home, I would have switched to bottles. Also, my husband was incredibly supportive and knew how badly I wanted to nurse. His encouragement made a big difference. As soon as she figured out how to latch, it was smooth sailing and I nursed her for the whole first year.

    With Chris, everything went perfectly right away. I had experience as both a mom and as a breastfeeder, I was so relaxed compared to how I was with Leigh, and I was only mildly engorged for a couple days, no where near how it was before. We had a couple speed bumps later, though. I got mastitis on one side when he was five weeks old and a few days after I finished the antibiotics for that, he got thrush, most likely because of said antibiotics. Nystatin, which is usually prescribed for thrush, didn’t do the trick, so I got the okay from the pediatrician to use gentian violet, an older OTC remedy that took only three days to eliminate the thrush. It also stains everything it comes into contact with a dark purple, so both my nipples and his mouth were a fun color for a while. Shortly after that, we discovered I had gall stones (ended up in the ER on July 4th with a gall stone attack. Oh, joy.), so I had to pump and we had to get him used to a bottle because I needed to have surgery to have my gall bladder removed. He seriously hated the first bottle we tried, but as soon as we gave him the Platex nurser with collapsing liners and there was less resistance to him getting the milk out, he was fine.

    Fast forward several months and Chris started weaning himself. When he was ten and a half months old and doing nothing but biting when his mouth got near my nipple, I decided to stop. I tried to pump, but no go. I think maybe I was drying up, but I have no idea why. He refused formula in a sippy cup, but luckily, his doc said he could have whole milk instead of formula if we also gave him a baby multivitamin with iron until he’s one.

    I’m so glad I nursed my kids. I do think that me being a stay at home mom has a lot to do with long-term successful nursing in my case, but my sister was able to combine pumping and bottling with nursing after she went back to work when her son was four months old. I do think it has to work for both baby and mom, though. It does take a good amount of effort, but you get so much practice that you get good at it real fast. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Jen Post author

      Ouch, I’ve heard stories about thrush and really hope we don’t have to deal with that. If we do though, thanks for sharing about the gentian violet. I’ve also heard that keeping probiotics (yogurt and whatnot) in the diet helps ward off thrush as well.

      I think my being a SAHM this time around is definitely a major positive that’ll help us keep it up longer. Knowing that I was going to have to go back to work after Jeremy was born had me in a big ol’ funk for months. I’ve been talking to some working moms and stay-at-home-moms who do the exclusive pumping thing for various reasons and they say it’s more difficult but worth the effort to make sure their kids get the best nourishment they can provide.

      Reply
  4. Olivia

    Great lessons! I loved nursing and can’t wait to do it again someday!
    You are invited to Of Such is the Kingdom’s first birthday party! We’re looking back at old posts and giving away daily prizes. Come on over for some fun!
    suchakingdom.blogspot.com

    Reply

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