Sunday, November 8, 2009

Milk, Milking, Milky, Milked

Elephant robe from Jane
Originally uploaded by dogs & music

I decided to actually start writing an entry in my blog now and then, specifically because for approximately four hours EVERY day I am immobile due to being hooked up to a breast pump in order to feed my child. Having Benjamin in our lives has been surreal, I stare at him sometimes and can't believe that entire little body formed inside mine.
About the milk...Ben and I have been having problems with breast feeding from the very beginning. I had many different lactation consultants at the hospital and they all seemed to steer me in a different direction. The problem with him latching on improperly wasn't discovered until I was sore, cracked, bleeding and holding on to sanity by a very fine thread. Nursing him was torture by the time we returned home from the hospital. Thom and I had a routine for feeding him where I would get all set up in bed and start preparing myself for some of the worst pain I had ever experienced. I had to stare down at his sweet little face and feel like the last thing I wanted to do was feed him at my breast. This broke my heart and quickly started to break my spirit. Thom would bring me a glass of ice to chew on to divert my attention from the pain as Ben nursed and I would go about my hour or more of torture.
We had a home visit from one of the nurses from the Birth and Wellness Center the Monday after we returned home (we came home with Ben on Saturday). She noticed that he had lost some more weight since birth and tried to help me nurse him properly. When she saw the state of my nipples, and my being for that matter, she suggested I use a nipple shield to help with the pain. I thought this was the greatest thing ever. Immediately I felt like he was getting what he needed and I was finally being relieved of all this pain. Little did I know the consequences that tiny little plastic shield would have on our lives. A few days later we stopped in to have the midwives weigh Benjamin and they discovered that he had lost an entire pound since birth. They had me attempt to nurse him with the nipple shield, only to discover that he wasn't really getting much milk and had been pacifying himself to exhaustion instead of actually eating from my breast. This was the moment that I had a total breakdown. Everyone left the room for a minute and I stared at my tiny, now 6.3 lb, helpless, starving baby. I felt helpless, sad and stupid. I felt like I made the wrong choice in continuing to breast feed him and that I should have just given him some formula. I QUICKLY decided that my thinking was irrational and that I had been doing everything in my power to make sure this worked out right and would continue to do so. We stayed at the WBWC for a few hours trying to feed him as much milk as we could from a supply of donor milk that they gave us. Thom and I used a syringe with a tube attached to get milk into his sweet little mouth because we all feared the dreaded "nipple confusion". We fed him this way for a day or two and then with the help of a lactation consultant made the decision to switch to a bottle to make sure he was getting what he needed. I started pumping milk and realized that my milk supply was severely diminished. I had to start taking a drug called Reglan and an herbal supplement, Fenugreek. I did quickly start to notice my milk supply increasing and I also would nurse Benjamin as I felt comfortable. It would only take one or two sessions before I would become horribly sore all over again. After a few weeks of this we were referred (by a wonderful woman at the WBWC) to the Carolina Pediatric Dysphagia Clinic. We met with an amazing speech pathologist there to analyze Benjamin's suck and swallow and she quickly realized what we had all been thinking, that he was scrunching his tongue up in the back and using his gums to try and nurse. He had been "chewing" on me and on his bottles for the past month, aka his ENTIRE life. Basically he had been mashing my nipples up against his palate instead of sucking them into the back of his mouth. IT WASN'T SOMETHING I WAS DOING WRONG! I have felt so much relief since that appointment. She had us switch to a different bottle and actually use a pacifier to teach him to suck properly. The pacifier will pop out of his mouth if the sucks improperly and we can correct his "latch" to the bottle with little effort. We are hoping these exercises will help him nurse correctly and in the meantime I am trying to heal my body to prepare for that day. Meanwhile, I am pumping and feeding him with my milk alone, no supplemental milk bank milk or formula! Being hooked up to the pump is not fun but I'm learning to love the opportunity it is giving me to give my child what he needs from my body.
I also went to a La Leche meeting on Friday with my friend Kristi and it was wonderful to meet so many people with different nursing experiences and also to see all the sweet babies so happy to be nursing, or not!

On a different note, Benjamin has been starting to smile at us so much more and be much more alert. He stares right at our faces and smiles the biggest smiles. We are both sleep deprived but incredibly happy to have this little sweetheart in our lives. The photo above is Daddy and Ben, Ben is wearing his "elephant hug" towel from his Aunt Jane, Thom's sister.


  1. I'm so happy that you've created a blog! YAY!
    I had no idea breastfeeding could be so hard and complicated. I'm sorry that youve had to go through this. I'm happy that everything is working out, now. I can't imagine what it's been like for you. I'm so sorry, Becky.

  2. Thanks Carol! I had no idea breast-feeding could be so challenging either. I just expected to pop him on the boob and go on our merry way. Whatever happens I'm going to make sure our way is merry anyway! Come visit! We miss you!