I have spent the past three years on prenatal vitamins. I found out that I was pregnant with my first (holy shit, it still freaks me out that there is a first AND a second) in November of 2007. She was a surprise to my husband and me but that story will be a different post for a different day. She was born on July 30, 2007 and we fell in love with her instantly. That also could be a different post for a different day. I had a excessive laundry list of problems with breastfeeding but I had my mind set on it. I'm not sure what made me feel so strongly about wanting to breastfeed but it was something I was NOT willing to give up on. Maybe it was that my mother did it and look how fabulous her offspring are (ha). She didn't want to latch on when the nurses wrapped her up and lay her on my chest. I tried every position...football shmootball, nothing worked. Oh, it was discouraging. I thought your kids weren't supposed to reject you until they were teenagers and mine was rejecting me when she was mere moments old. I had the hospital nursery take her for one night and requested she not have a pacifier and not have a bottle. "Please just bring her to me when she gets hungry." They seemed to get it, but they didn't. She came back in the morning plugged up with a pacifier and having finished 3 bottles during the span of the overnight. UGH, I felt like I had take giant steps backwards. We tried nursing her every twenty minutes or so. The lactation specialist told me I had inverted nipples. I turned Jason as if to say, "You don't think there's anything wrong with my nipples, do you? You've been hiding the fact that my nipples were weirdly irregular and backwards since we met? You bastard." It turns out he didn't think there was anything wrong with them but my little girl had a different opinion. So, they gave me this odd contraption called a nipple shield. If you've never seen one it sort of looks like a clear plastic UFO with holes in the top. Its designed to be placed comfortably (yeah right) atop the nipple and suction it when the baby sucks through the holes. Jason would spend 20 minutes dipping the shield in cold water, turning it inside out and then suctioning it to my boob. It was like a love scene out of a Hugh Grant movie...flawless (my ass). Keep in mind the baby was cring this whole time, can you hear her? Can you see him? It was a disaster. It never stuck and Jason felt like an official Nipple Shield Failure of the highest degree.
After alot of practice and the discovery that all the technique of the water dipping etc was totally not necessary, we got the hang of it and Baby Girl got fed. I started to question my motivation though. She was sucking through this unnatural apparatus and that was one of the reason I had ruled out bottles in the beginning anyway. I thought nursing was supposed to be so natural and her we were not even skin to skin. Not to mention the inconvenience of it all. We would leave the house without the all important nipple shield and have to drive back to the house in order to feed my BREASTFEEDING daughter. So, now both reasons (doing what was natural and convenience) I has come to breastfeeding were gone. I thought my body was physically rejecting being a mother and I started to doubt my choices. "see, I wasn't cut out for this," I would complain to Jason. He always had something comforting to say but it never made me feel any more confident. He was the one changing diapers and doing little tickle games with our new baby. I mostly pouted in the corner scared I would break her. I knew I loved her but could I ever learn to take care of her and give her everything she needed? In the following weeks I cried as I fed her from my plastic covered cracked nipples. I cried and cried and cried. In all the books I read pre-baby there were wonderful photos of mothers cradling their babies to their breast, looking down at them with a peaceful, loving and pain-free smile. I wanted that picture. I didn't want the tears or the pain or her dissatisfied cries. I wanted, instead someone to be cradling me, telling me everything was going to be alright. The pain turned out to be mastitis and thrush. When I was diagnosed with these infections they told me the baby should be treated because she might have thrush as well, in her mouth. I cried some more. Now, I had given my brand new healthy baby girl a sickness. My sick body had made her well body, sick. We both took the antibiotics and I, someone who has never had an allergic reaction barring a rash I got from amoxil at age 6, was allergic to these antibiotics. They made my skin crawl and made me feel even more crazy than I think I was. Because now, I was wondering why my whole body itched and why I couldn't sleep or sit still. It was horrifying.
Needless to say I got off the antibiotics and received some of the most helpful advice when it come to breastfeeding. Finally, useful, helpful, real advice from a woman whom I respect and admire. She told me to just keep at it for six weeks. After six weeks she suggested that I reassess the situation and give it up if I was still in so much agony. It was PERFECT. I had a time frame. A time to which I could push myself towards but all the while knowing there would be relief if I made it there. I don't know why I didn't just give up at the beginning but I had this feeling that this was best for my daughter and that's what I strive for. After hours of Internet research and countless lactation specialist home visits and La Leche League advice it turns out that this woman's advice was all I needed to turn my attitude around. As we neared the six weeks mark, my daughter's jaws got stronger, her suction improved, my nipples slowly healed, and the pain subsided.
One day, I sat down in a chair with my baby, yanked down my shirt and she ferociously gulped and stopped and gulped and stopped with a perfect rhythm. Jason walked in and said, "well, we're at six weeks...should I go buy formula?" We still didn't look like the pictures in the nursing brochures but we were just perfect. And it only took six very short weeks.
What have your breastfeeding experiences been like? Good or Bad? Love or Hate? How long did you last?
This is her at about 11 months. And, though we had quit breastfeeding and she had fallen hard for avocados...I still think we made a great team!