When I was expecting Ginny, I had great grand intentions.
I was going to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months. I followed all the well-intentioned advice I was given by other women in my life... my sister, my MIL, friends, nurses, my childbirth class instructor. I got rid of all the free samples of formula that I had in the house, and I didn't buy any bottles. I totally bought into the idea that if I didn't have it handy, then I wouldn't be tempted to 'cheat'.
My birthplan indicated that I wanted skin to skin contact as soon as possible and that I wanted a lactation consultant to visit early to help us get started. I wanted to do everything I could to make breastfeeding a reality for us.
Then, thanks primarily to the gestational diabetes, I went through a three day induction that led to a c-section. Ginny was born at 8:42pm. Because of the c-section, and Ginny needing to be monitored (for blood sugars) in the Special Care Nursery for a few hours, it wasn't until after midnight that I got to hold her.
Right away, we got started trying. But just like getting and staying pregnant, breastfeeding did not come easily. It wasn't long before my poor wee girl was screaming in frustration and hunger, and I was in tears.
The problem? I had nothing to give her.
I knew that I had strikes against me... obesity, gestational diabetes, being induced, and the c-section... all are things that play a role in how challenging breastfeeding can be. I had the perfect storm. But I believed when everyone told me that it would happen, it would just take some work.
The nurses I had that night tried to show me how to do a football hold, how to express milk manually, and how to use the breast pump. Nothing worked. After trying to follow their instructions on how to express milk myself, and not getting anything, one nurse grabbed my already sore bo.ob to show me what I 'was doing wrong'. After a few agonizing minutes, all I was left with was a feeling of failure, a very bruised bo.ob, and two drops of collostrum.
A nurse (who was supposed to be THE nurse on the maternity ward... the one who could get any baby to latch and get the process started for even the most challenging case) came to see me the next morning. She went through everything that the nurses tried the night before, commented on my bruised bo.obs, and watched as I used the pump as I had been shown. After 15 minutes of pumping, I had less than 5 millileters of milk from ol' Righty and nothing from Lefty. This guru of the maternity ward just shrugged, said to keep trying, and left.
Each new nurse I had during my three days after delivery had some sure-fired way to get things to work. Different holds, different ways to express milk, pump one side at a time, pump both together, feed her through a tube while holding her to my breast, feed her through a tube while she sucks on my finger. Each one told me something differently. And on the second night, when I was having a major melt-down, right along with Ginny, one nurse told me that I was being ridiculous and that if I would just relax everything would work the way it was supposed to. (Sound familiar?) She said that I should stop starving my daugher, just give Ginny the bottle and in a couple of days, if I wanted to I could try again.
I caved. I gave her the bottle. When we got home, we had nothing to help feed her except a couple of little bottles that came with the pump we rented. I had to send my Beloved out to get bottles and formula on his own.
I continued to try to breastfeed, with varying levels of success. When the public health nurse came by for her routine visit, she set me up with an appointment with a different lactation consultant. That LC went through the same things that all the other nurses did. I was put on the highest dose allowed of dom.peridone to increase my milk supply, and following the LC's advice I started taking fenugreek. I bought and read the La Leche League book (which honestly I found useless and just more damaging emotionally).
When Ginny was 4 weeks old, things started to improve a bit. I was pumping constantly, and yes I cried over spilled milk a few times. At our best, we were down to one bottle of formula a day, along with breast feeding and pumped milk. I still dreaded every feeding, but at least I felt like it was being productive. But when Ginny hit her 6 week growth spurt, I just couldn't keep up.
Our breast feeding saga slowly wound down from there, until my wee girl was three months old, and nursing for five minutes, twice a day. That was the end.
Since that time, I have learned a few things.
- My bo.obs hardly changed at all during pregnancy. Other than being sore during the first trimester, they didn't change in shape or size. This should have been an early sign that things weren't going to be normal.
- I never experienced 'let down'. My sister talked about the sensation hurting, especially the first time. My Beloved's niece-in-law talked about the tingly sensation she experienced whenever her little guy cried. Other than a few twinges in Righty, I never felt anything. Another red flag.
- Women who have dealt with diabetes should really not expect their milk to come in until the latter half of the first week after delivery. No one told me this, ever. I found it out on a GD-mommies message board.
- Fenugreek does not work for women who have (or have had) diabetes. In fact, it has the opposite effect. I was working against myself just by taking the herbs.
- I'm a large woman. And those involved parts of my anatomy aren't delicate little flowers, by any stretch. This made latching hard for Ginny. Also, big bo.obs do not have anything to do with the amount of milk you have.
I have found that I can express a few drops now from either side (Righty is still more productive), but just like last time the girls haven't really changed all that much... they hurt more than they did last time, like a constant premenstrual bo.ob ache. I hope that these things are signs of good things to come, but I'm trying not to put too much faith in it.
Breastfeeding is a natural thing, but that certainly doesn't mean it comes naturally. The benefits to mother and child are astounding. But the pressure we put on ourselves or that we allow others to put on us can be detrimental.
Like everything in life, it requires balance and patience. Oh heavens, it needs patience.