Saturday, November 14, 2009

I HAD a plan...

Napping with daddy
Originally uploaded by Saunch09

I'm learning quickly that when it comes to being a parent, planning is hit or miss. I planned a natural birth and Benjamin's breech position made that close to impossible so I had a C-section. I planned on spending the first few weeks with my new baby naked, laying around just sleeping and nursing and staring at his incredible face, hands, feet, head, ears, belly..and on and on. Our lives so far have been filled with lactation consultant appointments, chiropractor appointments and the latest, dysphagia clinic appointments. Don't get me wrong, I am SO thankful to live in an area with so many resources and to have access to all of this help. The therapist at the dysphasia clinic and our LC have great hope for Benjamin and I and our nursing relationship. I have faith in them, him and myself.
Over the last week I have come to realize some things. I don't need to feed Benjamin breast milk for him to be a happy, healthy, thriving baby. I can feed him formula and he can still be all of those things and more! I spent a few days thinking that I would be what they call an "exclusive pumper" or "EP", someone who spends a lot of time pumping milk so that they can provide their child/children with breast milk when nursing isn't in the cards for them, for whatever reason. Our little family found out quickly that this is not the path we need to be on. I realized some things while hooked up to that breast pump 7-8 times a day, sometimes for an hour! 1. I can't hold my son. Even with the latest flanges that enable you to turn the bottles to the side, holding him while pumping is still awkward and near impossible when it comes to both of our comfort. 2. I was having to pump every time he ate to keep up a good milk supply. This meant that Thom had to be involved in EVERY feeding and putting the baby back to sleep afterward. Sometimes, Benjamin just wants Mommy and I know that cry. I can't bear being hooked up to that cold pumping machine when I know in my heart I should instead be attached to my warm son who needs and wants me. When I put on the Moby wrap and put him in it, he makes these sweet little cooing sounds and falls quickly asleep. When I have to put him in the swing so I can pump, he grunts and whimpers. More about that makes his cheeks SO cold. I hate when I take him out of it and his face feels like ice. His face should be against my chest, warm and cozy. 3. My body is sore. The last time we went to the LC was last Monday. She had me see if Benjamin could latch on correctly. He did not, but she still encouraged me to nurse him for almost an hour. We thought sometimes it was right, but most of the time not. This one hour session destroyed the integrity of my skin AGAIN. I am only now starting to be able to even touch my nipples with any kind of material. I've had to apply neosporin and aquafor to help them heal. Hooking myself up to a breast pump for 5 hours a day has been detrimental to my healing. 4. Formula is NOT poison. I say this to myself mostly because whenever I think about giving Benjamin that first bottle of milk that hasn't come from me, I panic. Will it make him have gas or be constipated? Will he have an allergic reaction? Will he get ear infections? Will he forget to nurse on the breast and I'll have to give it up for good? I met a woman at a La Leche meeting who has helped me to realize that I can be the same loving, caring, devoted mother and feed my baby formula. That he can still be smart and not sick and thrive! I was SO glad that I went to that meeting and that she reached out to me and changed my mind about formula and bottle feeding. I can also thank my wonderful friend Sharon for her advice about formula. Sometimes I can get so close minded about things until I'm faced with a situation that makes me look in the other direction.
Currently..MY PLAN..(there I go again) is to pump whenever I feel uncomfortable so that I can keep some kind of milk supply so that if Benjamin does improve his suck through therapy we can go back to nursing. I also need to pump so that I don't get plugged ducts or mastitis. I will not pump if my baby needs me. I will not pump if it hurts. I will not pump because I think breast milk is the only way to feed my baby safely.
Breast-feeding to me is having my son acquire milk straight from my breast. I WANT to breast-feed. I do not want to be attached to a pump and miss out on bonding the way I wish to with my new baby. If breast-feeding doesn't work out for us I will cherish all of the other wonderful things about being a mother, they are innumerable.

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.