Hi everyone! My name is Laura and I blog over at Stories from Austin. I live in Austin, TX with my husband and my daughter, M, who was born over Thanksgiving weekend 2012. I am a stay-at-home mom, but I also do about 12-15 hours per week of contract work for my former company. It's a great set up for now, as it allows me to stay home with M most of the time but still keep my foot in the "working world". I go into the office 2-3 days per month for about 4-5 hours at a time (this is an important detail for later).
With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, M has been exclusively breastfed since birth.
Sometimes I can't believe it's been over 6 months because breastfeeding in the early days was harder than labor. Yes, HARDER THAN LABOR.
Before M was born, I was determined to breastfeed her if at all possible. I read a ton of books (my favorite was The Nursing Mother's Companion), read blogs, and felt like I had a good grasp on the ins and outs of breastfeeding. I could write an entire blog on why I think nursing is beneficial to baby, mom, and to society and I think the low rates of breastfeeding are a major public health issue (and I have a Master's degree in this area). I think more laws need to be created to protect breastfeeding in public, employers should encourage pumping in the workplace, doctors should be more educated regarding breastfeeding and I wish all moms had access to education and support regarding breastfeeding.
I went into labor on my due date (how often does that happen?!) and delivered M 10 hours later (Birth Story Part 1 and Part 2). I had hospital birth and overall it was a good experience. I had an easy labor/delivery and I'm thankful for that. M was placed on my chest as soon as she was born, but I didn't push her to try to breastfeed immediately. It was such an overwhelming time and my husband and I pretty much just stared at her for an hour.
I tried to feed M about 2 hours after she was born. The hospital where I delivered was working on their "baby friendly" designation, so the nurses were all trained to help mothers who wish to breastfeed. It hurt like hell when M first latched on, but the nurse was impressed and said her latch looked perfect. I winced in pain so I de-latched her. Tried again, and more pain. Again and again, pain, pain, PAIN. This didn't seem right. The nurse took a closer look at her latch and again said M was perfectly latched and wasn't sure why I was in so much pain. She said nursing might hurt a little bit, but I shouldn't be in excruciating pain.
I honestly assumed that I was a wimp and wasn't dealing with the pain well. That first day was painful, but I was on a lot of pain meds and she was only feeding every 3 hours or so, and it wasn't unbearable.
On day 2, it still hurt and her latch was checked again and again I was told it was fine. We worked through the second day, but breastfeeding was a struggle and getting more painful. Starting at around 6pm the second night, the cluster feeding started. Holy geez—M wanted to feed every 45 minutes (no joke). We fed, and fed, and fed all night long. I struggled getting her latched, and many times my husband would help, but I tried to let him get some sleep since I knew he was exhausted.
On day 3, I was discharged from the hospital and the pain was intense and I was developing sores. My milk was clearly coming in (my discharge nurse asked me if I had ever had a breast augmentation because she didn't think my milk could come in that soon for a 1st baby), and I hoped I would see some improvement in the next day or so. On day 4, the pain was even worse. If I had it to do over again, this is where I would have called a lactation consultant. Instead, I suffered through, caked on lanolin, took pain meds, and hoped for improvement.
On day 7, I had a total meltdown. I was in so much pain and it wasn’t improving. M was nursing 12 times a day and I was exhausted. My husband and I discussed giving up and giving M formula, or exclusively pumping (we hadn't bought my pump yet) for awhile. I decided to call every Lactation Consultant (an LC) in Austin to see who could see me first. We would do this and then reevaluate whether or pump, give formula, or continue breastfeeding.
After calling 8-10 Lactation Consultants, I found an LC who could come out to our house the next day. I credit her with saving our nursing relationship. She spent nearly 2 hours with us, and observed M and I through 2 feedings. Turns out, there was a problem. M was a tiny baby, with a tiny head (5th percentile for head at birth) and therefore has a tiny mouth. She had a great latch, but it was shallow since she was small. She also had a powerful suck and was eating as much as a 9lb baby (and she weighed exactly 7lbs when the LC weighed her) and I had a lot of damage, which made the problem even worse. The LC gave me some techniques to help deepen the latch and said I’d see the biggest change once M grew a little bigger. Basically, I had to wait it out if I wanted to continue nursing.
Knowing everything was ok and that it would get better once M grew made me feel better. The LC also told me that most of the time 80% of a successful breastfeeding relationship is dependent on the stubbornness of the mother. I took that phrase to heart and was determined to make this work.
The 2 week mark was tough, because she cluster fed for 3 days, but somehow we powered through. Slowly, things started to improve. At 4.5 weeks, the left side had zero pain. At 6.5 weeks, the right side had very little pain. It took until 9-10 weeks for the right side to have no pain, even though it looked like it was completely healed. My husband was my cheerleader during these weeks and having such a supportive partner is another reason why we've been able to have a successful nursing relationship.
Ever since the pain disappeared, breastfeeding has been amazing. I love the connection that I have with M, and I love that it makes me slow down relax with her 6-8 times a day. Sometimes I can't believe how close I was to giving up and I'm so glad that I chose to continue.
I've always breastfed on demand, and I fully believe that is the best way to keep up your milk supply. We had days early on where M was basically attached to me. Learning to nurse in the Ergo was one of my greatest accomplishments. Finally figuring out how to sidelie nurse in bed is another great accomplishment (hellooooo sleep!). There are a lot of things that didn't get done in those early days since so much of our day was spent nursing, but looking back on it now I'm glad I didn't stress that my house was dirty of that we got take out for the third night in a row.
The most difficult part of breastfeeding has been that M is TOO GOOD at breastfeeding and refuses to take a bottle. When it came to introducing a bottle, we did everything by the book---we held off introducing a bottle until she was 3.5 weeks old, and then my husband would give her 1-1.5oz every other day. She took it like a champ for a few weeks. Then, when M was 6 weeks old, she decided she wasn't going to have anything to do with an artificial nipple (she won't take pacifiers either). I detailed our bottle debacles here. After battling with her for weeks, we eventually gave up the bottle battle and started working with M to drink from a sippy cup/regular cup. Since I don't leave her for long periods of time very often, we decided to figure out work-arounds rather than pushing the bottle on her.
Since I do go into the office a few half days per month, her bottle refusal has been a huge stress for me. My husband has a flexible job and often takes half-days to stay with M when I go into the office. When he is with her, he brings her up to my office once to eat. After a lot of stress and tears, we decided this is easier than battling with a hysterical child for an hour and maybe getting her to take 1/2 oz. On days my husband doesn't stay with her, my step-mom has been watching her. She will offer the bottle to M, but she refuses it and seems more content to go hungry until I get home rather than eat from a bottle. I feel terrible that's she's hungry and just wants mommy. I spoke with our pediatrician about this, and she said since M can go a long stretch overnight without eating she will be fine not eating while I'm gone. That's reassuring, but it doesn't make the guilt go away.
I never thought bottle refusal was much of an issue until I had a baby and brought this up to some of my mommy friends. In my group, it's very common for the babies who have moms who stay at home.
When I tell people about her refusal, I get a lot of comments about how it must be stressful to be "chained" to the baby all of the time and how I can never leave her with anyone. It's actually not that bad and I do get time away from M on occasion but I have to stay flexible. If I want to go do something, I wait until I've fed her and then I've got 2-3 hours before she needs to eat again. If I didn't come home to feed her I would have to pump anyway, so it's really not a big deal. My husband and I even occasionally get a date night!
We've been trying to get M to drink from a sippy cup for about 2 months now and she doesn't seem that interested in it. In the past few weeks she's been loving drinking water out of regular cups.When I went out to run a few errands a few weeks ago my husband warmed up some milk and put it in a regular cup to see if she would take it. Lo and behold, she drank 1.5oz of milk out of a regular cup with no fussing--we were shocked! Apparently this little person thinks she's too cool for sippy cups.
After drinking milk from a "big person" cup.
I have a few bits of advice for new moms related to breastfeeding. First of all, research Lactation Consultants before you have the baby. Heck, make an appointment with an LC as soon as you have the baby---you can always cancel the appointment. Second, it can hurt. A lot. I'm active in a mommy group and I've talked with many of them about the early struggles we had and many of them reported extreme pain early on, despite the baby having a good latch. For some people, it hurts like hell for awhile even though the experts say it should never hurt. Lastly, if it works for you and your family, then it's not a problem. A lot of people think that we should have done whatever it took to get M to take a bottle, but we didn't. We gave up and figured out a different solution. I also nurse M to sleep for most of her naps, despite a lot of people saying that's "bad". But it works for us, so it's not a problem (this advice can apply to a LOT of things related to parenting!).
Thanks for reading and I hope you'll stop by my blog and say hello!