Written by Dohiyi Mama
In the short time I have been a breastfeeding mother, I have heard countless reasons and excuses why other mothers were unable to breastfeed. I knew two other young women who were pregnant at the same time as myself, both of which planned to nurse as well. The babies are 4 months, 3 1/2 months and 2 1/2 months respectively, and only one of them is being breastfed- mine. When her baby was six weeks old, I asked the mother of the oldest baby if she was nursing as planned. She shook her head and informed me that her milk had dried up after a month. A month or so later, I asked the second mother (hers is the youngest) if she was breastfeeding. She replied that "after a week of misery" she had given up and that her milk never fully came in. Apparently, only my boobs 'knew' how to function.
After hearing these stories, I started asking around in my circle of family and friends who had successfully breastfed. Both grandmothers on my side insisted that their milk was 'no good.' An aunt told me she had tried with my cousin but the baby had wanted to nurse constantly and she just couldn't handle it. My paternal grandmother said that she tried to nurse, but her doctor told her that her milk was insufficient. My maternal grandmother even said she was nursing with no problems with one of her daughters, but since the daughter wanted to nurse every two hours, her milk must have been inadequate, so she fed her evaporated milk and Karo syrup instead! And under a doctor's direction! You can imagine how horrified I was.
Before my daughter was born, I was rather nonchalant and un-intimidated by the idea of breastfeeding. Why should I be? My mom nursed four babies and lots of her friends did too. It was normal in my world. My midwife encouraged me to read about it and attend a local La Leche League meeting, but I never did. I blame this carefree attitude for the troubles I had with breastfeeding.
I was up for two days straight before my little girl was born, and unbelievably tired. My dear daughter latched on like a pro soon after birth, and I thought that was it! Yes! We had done it! No worries.
My daughter turned out to be one of those babies that never sleeps. Even now, at three and a half months, we're lucky if we get a nap in, and sleeping at night uninterrupted? Forget it. (Not that I think she should, but this baby seriously just won't sleep.) This doesn't have much to do with breastfeeding, but I believe that my being exhausted played a crucial part.
After a week of no sleep and hardly any food because I was too tired to eat, I got a fever. My immediate reaction was panic. What if my husband had brought something home from work and now my four pound newborn babygot sick? My temperature peaked at 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit for one day, and then subsided. I was relieved, but called my midwife just in case. She explained to me that usually when new mothers have a temperature, it is either a breast infection or uterine infection, and since she knew there was no afterbirth left in me, it was not a uterine infection. My breasts were a little sore, but I thought it was just the engorgement. She told me the fever would probably come back later that evening, and to get in the shower and express milk, and to rotate my nursing positions to make sure I was emptying all the milk ducts.
By that night, my fever came roaring back and peaked at 104.3 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn't know how high it was, but I knew I was cold, so I decided to take a bath to get warmer. Thankfully, for some unknown reason, there was only a tiny bit of hot water. I got out, freezing, and bundled myself up. I called my mother bawling hysterically that there was no hot water, I was so cold, and my head and breasts hurt horribly. I then took my temperature and saw how high it was. My husband was working overnight at the time, so my parents came over immediately. We decided I would go live with them for a while so I could be taken care of. My mom started packing up baby stuff, so I decided to help. I remember walking to my daughter's room and getting socks for the baby when I started stumbling around like Otis from the Andy Griffith Show. I started thinking "oh boy I better go sit down," and right as I was heading out the door, I fell. I immediately tried to get up, but my body snatched me right back down on the floor. My dad was freaking out and helped me to the bed. My fever was getting higher, so my parents made me get in a freezing cold bath. It didn't help at all. I was too tired to even chew food at this point, and then my daughter woke up and was completely inconsolable. I was nauseous, dizzy, weak- the whole nine yards. I stayed home, but I can honestly say that night, having to wake up and nurse and comfort the baby instead of just lying there, was agony.
I stayed at my parents' house for two weeks, and the evil mastitis flared up twice more. I was absolutely sure that I was never going to be the same again, that I was never going to want to do anything but sleep ever again. My nipples were raw, cracked and bleeding. We started having trouble with our latch. My breasts were so completely sore and swollen and hot and engorged. My daughter was so small that all these nursing positions I was advised to try were difficult and met with much frustration from both myself and my daughter.
However, we made it. FF never even came to mind as an option. By the time my baby girl was six weeks old, the worst was behind us. She was thriving, and nearly doubled in weight during that time. It was at this age that we learned that she had a tongue-tie, just something that made our breastfeeding experience even more difficult.
My point to all this is that you CAN breastfeed, even when the odds are stacked against you. My baby girl and I overcame:
1. Her low birth weight, which made her unable to drink all the milk I was producing, and hard for us to nurse any way but lying down.
3. A tongue-tie.
4. Extremely sore and cracked nipples due to the poor latch, due to the tongue-tie.
5. Mastitis, with all the flu-like symptoms, for over two weeks.
Things I wish I'd known:
1. That mastitis exists.
2. That you get it from only nursing in one position and therefore not allowing all milk ducts to be emptied.
3. To push the nipple towards the roof of the baby's mouth to get them latched on.
4. That newborns are going to want to nurse pretty much all the time- had I known this, there would have been much less crying.
Things I'd like new moms planning to breastfeed to know:
1. Forget the breast pump. You're not supposed to pump until your milk supply is established (10-12 weeks of nursing), or else you will probably dry up your milk. (I think this happened to mom #1). Babies, once full, switch to non-nutritive sucking which signals your breasts to produce more, whereas pumps empty your boobs and that's it.
2. Forget going out, forget 'freedom'. You're tied to the baby for a long time, especially when they are a newborn. They want YOU, and they want to suck, and they NEED this. They're not getting spoiled. Yes, they are using you as a pacifier, and that's okay. You're mama, you are their pacifier.
3. Let them nurse when they want to and forget about schedules. It's not gonna work and you're just going to cause yourself a hell of a lot of misery.
4. Nurse in different positions. ALWAYS.
5. BE TOUGH! It's gonna hurt, but this too shall pass!
That's my story. My baby girl is 3 and a half months old, and we currently have no problems with nursing. With all that said and done, I think that the saddest thing is how so many moms are just misinformed and uneducated on breastfeeding, and that's why so many give up. I don't think they realize how much a huge commitment it is, and once they do realize it, they're in so much pain with the sore nipples and the exhaustion that they think it isn't worth it. It's up to us nursing veterans to spread the word! New mamas and mamas to be, you CAN do it! Stick it out! Just get through the pain and the sleepless nights. I promise you'll never regret it. I know I don't. :)
Dohiyi mama is a 19 year old stay at home mother to a baby girl. She is of Cherokee decent and actively practices attachment parenting techniques with her husband in the deep south of the United States. http://dohiyimama.blogspot.com
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Written by Dohiyi Mama