Monday, March 12, 2012

Breastfeeding: Am I A Sucker For Punishment?

Greetings Humble Readers...

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. 
So, given the experience I had last year, will I try breastfeeding this Halfling that I carry now?  Yes, but (and it's a big old BUT) I will have formula in the house.  I won't expect things to work automatically.  I will go easier on myself.  

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. 


  1. Holy D-Cup, you had one hell of a time. My heart goes out to you.

    My first thought when reading "I had nothing to give her" was, well of course not. There is hardly any milk for the first couple of days. Some nurses are heaven on earth. Others? Well...

    Did you try a nipple shield? My daughter loves that thing. Don't know if it will help but gee whiz, truly it sounds like you did your best.

    Don't sweat it. Okay? You did Everything You Could. You asked for advice, read any book that crossed your path, and you have a healthy child.

    Best wishes for your second child. Try the nipple shield if you haven't already. And if you have advice on how to get a seven week old to sleep let me know. :)

  2. Bless your heart!!!!

    I absolutely understand where you're coming from. Although we did have it a bit easier in the beginning, supply was my biggest issue, too. My weight/GD/PCOS all played a part in it and I knew that was coming but it didn't help when everyone told me that it was just the 'natural' thing to do. Whatever.

    I also did do.mperi.done (which is pretty much unheard of here in the States...had to order it from Thailand. Yes, you read that right, THAILAND. What?), fenugreek (I'd never heard that either!) and just about every other herb known to man. I have a list as long as my arm!! ;p Tried the nipple shield, too. And in the end, some combo of it all DID work but it was soooo incredibly difficult and I still had to supplement with formula.

    I know that BFing is the desire of many a mother's heart but it was the one thing that I wish I had given myself more grace with. Kudos to you for giving yourself that grace already and preparing yourself to be the best mama you can be to that sweet baby, breastfed or not. :)


  3. Good for you for having such a healthy balanced outlook on trying to breastfeed again. I hope it works for you but, if it doesn't,you can rest secure in the knowledge that proceeding with formula is the best think for you and the new halfling. {{{Hugs}}}

  4. I agree with you on everything! My experience was so similar. I actually did manage to produce a lot of milk through pumping, but never succeeded in getting my babies to breastfeed, or at least, when I did get them to latch they were never full afterward. Even though when I pumped, I produced almost enough to feed them both. Everything I read said that babies sucking were better than pumping at removing milk, but in my experience it wasn't true. And all that reading was so emotionally damaging, I am still suffering from it today. At 20 months, I'm still grieving the loss of breastfeeding.

    I don't think you're a glutton for punishment - you learned a lot the first time! And it sounds like you have a good attitude about it now. Good luck!

  5. Wow! You're a trooper! I'm proud of you for wanting to give it another go with 2.0 but this time with more realistic expectations. And, I had no idea GD could effect bfing?! Din live under a rock?? I'm glad you told me that! Looks like I could have a couple strikes against me that could make it challenging too. Alas, I shall try and see what happens. Hoping for the best! :). Ps. Thanks for the dose of realism, we all need that. Everything is not always unicorns, roses and butterflies, is it?? ;)

  6. Proud of you for giving it another go! Breastfeeding is HARD. I struggled with supply, too, but fortunately the herbs seemed to work pretty well for me (I was taking 9 Fenugreek a day and smelling like a pancake house, but whatever!). There are some really knowledgeable women on the breastfeeding board at, you might want to introduce yourself over there and get some tips from mamas who have dealt with low supply due to PCOS and other issues. They are also great at just cheering you on when you feel discouraged.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story. It's important to know that BF is just one more thing that won't necessarily go as planned and (yet again) we have to surrender ourselves to "what will be" rather than what we want.

  8. Well, you probably already know what I'm going to say. LOL. I think BF is wonderful!!! BUT, and I have a huge butt, it doesn't always work. I think it's fabulous to try and to get whatever you can. But don't put too much pressure on yourself, and don't go crazy with it. Don't make my mistake for sure!!! *especially since you're doing football hold too, going to the doc today to be fitted for the helmet* I like your middle of the line approach. I think that's what I'll do if I'm ever given the opportunity again. And always remember that formula is good... not as good as breast milk, but not freakin poison... and that a baby will suffer more from having a distraught mother than from being fed formula!

  9. That must have been so frustrating for you in the hospital. The staff doesn't seem very supportive at all! I am crossing my fingers for you that BF with the next little hobbit is more successful!

  10. my 38H's couldn't possibly fit in my little 5 pound baby girl's mouth. Totally understand. I'm so sorry you had such a horrible experience with your LC's. I'm blessed my LC's were wonderful and tried to work with me, not against or for me. My sister commented on how wonderful my LC's were compared to what her experience was with her first baby. Good for you for giving it your best shot.

    And being able to express now while still pregnant is supposed to be a good sign. Wishing you the best of luck and hoping it goes easier this time.

    Thanks for sharing your post on this topic!

  11. Hello, Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving some love (here from PAIL.) I'm so sorry that you ahd such a hard time BFing. My ride was a very bumping one too with my first. I am doing much better the second time around (so far.) Congrats to you on #2! Best of luck with BF this time as well. :)

  12. Hm, I'd say even without GD, you shouldn't expect your milk to come in for 3-5 days on average. I don't understand why a nurse would ever make you feel like you should have milk in right away. I had a similar experience with a nurse, and it was not pleasant.

    Also, just FYI, my boobs really didn't change during pregnancy at all either and we've been able to BF, so hopefully that isn't a true indicator of your future milk production. I don't know?


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