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When Breast ISN’T Best – One Mom’s Challenge with Breastfeeding

When Breast ISN’T Best – One Mom’s Challenge with Breastfeeding

When people started finding out my husband and I were expecting, one of the first questions people asked was if I planned to breastfeed. Of course I did! It’s what is best for baby! It’s natural! It’s free! It helps with bonding! Little did I know that none of those things were true…at least for my family. I never got around to taking a breastfeeding class, but I did watch a ton of YouTube videos by “natural mom vloggers.”  They all made it look so easy. I couldn’t wait to breastfeed my baby!

On May 30th, 2014 at 39 weeks and 1 day, my water suddenly broke at 11:30 am. I immediately started having contractions every four minutes. I was dilated to 3 cm by the time I got to triage at the hospital. By 2:00 pm I was having intense contractions every three minutes that made me moan and cry.  By the time I was admitted into my labor and delivery room, I was screaming out in pain and trying to make it through contractions that never really ended. They would peak, then ease up for about 10 seconds and then peak again.  My nurse kept saying how she couldn’t believe how close together and how intense my contractions were without giving me a break in between. I finally got an epidural which was the best decision I have ever made! By 7:00 pm I was completely dilated and ready to push. I had to wait 45 minutes for my OB to arrive to start pushing, but once I started, baby girl started to fly out! She was born at 8:02 pm and was completely perfect!

After all of the commotion had settled, I was asked if I wanted to breastfeed. Baby girl “latched on” immediately (now I know she actually did not have a correct latch). The labor and delivery nurse looked at baby nursing one time and said, “Looks good,” then left the room. I thought we were doing it correctly. My postpartum nurse and 3 lactation consultants in the hospital kept talking about how baby was “breastfeeding like a champ”. This made me feel great! I was so encouraged that breastfeeding was coming so easily!

We spent two long nights in the hospital, and we were discharged after a long night of painful non-stop cluster feeding. When I got home from the hospital, I took off my nursing tank only to pull of 2 huge scabs from my nipples that had stuck onto my shirt. I cried and cried not only from the pain, but from being so afraid to nurse my baby because of what it was going to feel like. My husband had to massage my shoulders and have me clench his arm when she latched because I would bawl every single time. I would wake up with my nipples stuck to my sheets and had to wet them to get them off in order to not rip the new scabs off. I tried every nipple cream I could find with no results.

In addition to bleeding nipples, I became extremely engorged and had clogged ducts the size of golf balls. I wanted to pump just enough to relieve the engorgement but the lactation consultants I had in the hospital gave me strict orders not to pump before four weeks or I would become engorged! Looking back I don’t know why I just didn’t do it anyway, but I was a first time mom and I wanted to do everything “right.” I saw my OB and he told me my breasts were “normal breastfeeding breasts,” even though when I saw him my breasts looked like huge lumpy bowling balls that were so tight they were shiny and had red streaks all over them. I told him I thought I was getting mastitis, but since I didn’t have a fever yet he said I was fine, and that breastfeeding “was supposed to be painful for a while.”

I dealt with this for three weeks. My baby literally needed to nurse ALL the time. My breasts never felt empty. Now I know she was hardly getting any milk. I was talking to one of my best friends who finally told me what I was going through was not normal. I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant outside of the hospital and saw her the next day. I was so excited to get this sorted out because I wanted breastfeeding to work!  She told me my breasts were very full and my nipples were extremely damaged. She told me she couldn’t believe I had not quit breastfeeding with how damaged my nipples were.
I liked her at first. Then she hooked me up to my pump. I pumped about half an ounce from each side even though my breasts were so full. She then watched my baby latch and told me I should be smashing her face into my boob more and told me that should help. She told me my baby had a lip tie and a posterior tongue tie but they were not so severe that they should be causing me so much pain, and baby should still be able to latch and empty my breasts.

Then she told me to have a good day! I was shocked that she was rushing me out so fast. I asked her what my plan should be, and if I should just pump and bottle feed until my nipples healed. She replied, “They are YOUR nipples. Do what you want.” I was so upset and cried the whole way home because I felt more lost and confused than I was before. I wanted so badly to breastfeed my baby but it felt like I had no hope.

I decided to pump until I healed because I couldn’t take the pain any more. When I got home and pumped 5 ounces (total), my breasts finally felt so much better! I gave my baby a bottle for the first time that night and that was the first time I think I bonded with my baby. I wasn’t in pain and she was full for the first time in her life! I was happy but still wanted to go back to breastfeeding. I researched and decided to get her tongue and lip tie fixed. We got then fixed at 5 weeks old and I thought we could go right back to breastfeeding! My nipples felt better for the most part. Unfortunately, since we didn’t get them fixed until she was 5 weeks old, she was unable to re-learn to breastfeed the right way. I then had to accept the fact I would be an exclusive pumper.

I became obsessed with pumping and my supply. My supply was very low. Since baby girl could not latch correctly, she never completely emptied my breasts and my body had regulated to this low supply. The same lactation consultant told me that I needed to pump every two hours to boost my supply. I wasn’t sleeping (now I know sleep is one of the best ways to ensure a good supply!). I was setting my alarm for every other hour to pump, even overnight. I would pump for 45 minutes  and only get out 1 ounce or less total. My nipples were so bad again from constant pumping. I was not making enough milk to feed my baby. I tried every supplement out there to boost milk supply and spent hundreds of dollars on them. I had to start giving my baby formula. She was hungry and I had no milk.

I was devastated and felt like the worst mom in the world. I felt very judged because of the whole natural parenting movement. I kept getting flashbacks of a YouTube video I watched when I was pregnant that showed a picture of formula and said “If you want to feed your baby breast milk instead of THIS STUFF, you may like my channel!” I was so stressed out because I wanted the best for my baby, and “breast is best!”  No one understood the guilt I was feeling, or the pressure I was putting on myself to give my baby the best. My husband had the best of intentions but would say things like, “Why is this SUCH a big deal to you? You are feeding her and that’s all that matters.” Comments like this just made me feel crazy and like my feelings were not justified.

Finally, one of my friends said something that made everything click for me. She said, “Maybe the breast actually isn’t best for you and your family.” I thought about this for a second. She was right! I did not have one fond memory of breastfeeding. I was in so much pain I was actually beginning to resent my baby. My husband was so stressed from seeing me in constant pain My baby never got full from it which made her constantly want to nurse. I know she could feel my body tense up when I nursed her and that made her tense. All breastfeeding was doing for my family was causing us pain!

This was the very moment I decided to give myself a break. I had worked so hard. I did everything I knew how to do to have a good breastfeeding relationship with my baby. It just wasn’t working for us. I decided I would pump and give her as much breast milk as I could, but also give her all the formula her little tummy wanted! I began pumping every four hours instead of every two. I finally relaxed and accepted our situation, and guess what? The moment I accepted it, I started making more milk.

Now, I know that stress is one of the biggest things that negatively affects milk supply. I began producing enough to only need to give her one bottle per day of formula. Now my baby is 7 months old, happy, healthy, and perfect. I am about to start weaning her from breast milk. My husband and I are going on a beach vacation in a couple of months and I don’t want to worry about pumping and bringing my pumping supplies and storing milk while we are there! I am now dealing with some guilt about weaning her, but I am proud of myself. I am proud of myself for doing what was best for our family. My baby was not happy while we were breastfeeding. None of us were.

Looking back, I wish I would have seen multiple lactation consultants, and followed my gut with pumping earlier to relieve my engorgement.  I wish I could go back and give my baby girl formula earlier, because I missed out on a lot of early bonding time with her. Now one of my favorite things to do is feed my baby a bottle, and watch her sweet little milk drunk (or formula drunk) face fall peacefully to sleep with a full belly.

I want other moms to know that feeding your baby formula is awesome! So is breastfeeding! So is exclusive pumping! It is awesome because you are feeding your baby and keeping a tiny little human alive and that is amazing.

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I am Strong {Miracle Twins}

I am Strong {Miracle Twins}

I  am strong because I was told I would never have kids. I was 19 years old and the doctor told me I was in early menopause. They said they could put on me on hormones to boost my body back, but it would take at least 2 years for my hormones to level out. I told my husband that it would work out great because we’d both have our degrees by then. So hopefully after 2 years, we’d be able to have kids!

I am strong because 2 months later, I was pregnant. When we went in for our 8 week ultrasound, I looked at the screen and was unsure… It looked like a mirror image flipped upside down. I wasn’t sure what to say, but when I did talk, I wished I didn’t!

Me: “Are there two?”

Tech: “Yup! You’re having TWINS!”

Me: “Oh my gosh… There’s only two though right? Not 3 or 4?”

Tech: “I’m looking right at it… There’s only 2.”

I could tell the tech thought we were totally weird as my husband and I looked at each other flabbergasted!!! My husband went right back to his phone. He was at a loss for words! Of course we were excited, but we were terrified! We didn’t have our degrees yet and we were poor college kids! How would we go from a family of 2 to a family of 4?! (It all worked out great in the end though!)

I am strong because we went through a rough pregnancy with losing 20 pounds, up and down hormone levels, abnormal swelling that made it impossible to walk, bed rest at 18 weeks, and PUPPS. I dealt with everything as best as I could, but the PUPPS was by far the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with! I felt like I had the chicken pox. I used benadryl, benadryl itch cream, hydrocortisone cream, and even a prescription anti itch med. It was horrible and nothing controlled the rash. By 36 weeks, it had started to spread to my face.

I am strong because at 36 weeks and 4 days, while my husband was at work, my dad drove me to my weekly doctors appointment at 10:00 am. I told my doctor I’d bake him a huge batch of peanut butter cookies if he’d deliver the twins! He looked at me for a moment, and then said “Let me make a few calls.” When he came back in the room he asked me, “How about 5:00 pm today?” FRICK YEAH! Was my only thought! I controlled myself and told him that I’d love that! 🙂 So I had to be to the hospital at 3:00 pm to prep for the C-section.

Just to clarify, I chose the c-section. I was worried that I’d have a vaginal delivery with my first and then have to have an emergency c-section with the second baby. So I chose a c-section to be safe.

I am strong because at 36 weeks and 4 days, I delivered 2 beautiful babies via c-section! A boy Dominic, weighing in at 6 lbs 2 oz and 19 ½ in long, and a girl, Gabriella, weighing in at 5 lbs 8 oz and 18 in long. They had to stay in the NICU for 11 days because they each had one slightly underdeveloped lung, and some eating issues…

I am strong because on July 9th, we took our babies home! Everyone and their dog wanted to come and visit, but we had no help whatsoever. So I pushed a lot of people away when they said they wanted to come visit. All I wanted to do was sleep! Pumping, bottle feeding, over feeding my babies so they’d sleep an extra 10 minutes, a husband working full time, and living off of hot pockets… That’s a summary of my life after twins. Haha.

I am strong because when the twins were 6 weeks old, I had a lactation consultant come help me with latch. I was SO sick of pumping! She was so great and got them to latch immediately. She told me to throw away my bottles and not even let the babies see them! So I did. I went to strictly Bfing and it was SO hard. The twins schedule went out the window. They woke up at different times, they ate at different times, they ate every 45 minutes instead of every 2 ½ hours… It was SO stressful. By day 4, I was ready to give up. My husband was my rock. He reminded me of how badly I wanted to breastfeed and how much healthier it’d be for our babies. So I kept going! By day 6, it was SOOO much easier. It was 10x easier than bottle feeding. My twins had it down completely!

I am strong because at 6 months, I got a job as a lactation consultant helping more moms learn to breastfeed! I always thought breastfeeding was something that would be a piece of cake! It’s mother nature right?? I’ll just put my baby to the breast and BAM! They’ll latch! WRONG! It was a total learning experience for myself and my babies. So I felt empowered to help other women with this!

I am strong because they’re 14 months old now, and still breastfeeding! We switched them over to cloth diapers too! They’re the healthiest children I’ve ever seen. They’ve had maybe 3 short lasting colds over the past year, no ear infections, no crazy illnesses… They’re just plain healthy!

YAY for a happy ending, right?!

-Amanda Twins Pregnancy

Twin Belly

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Twin Family Photo

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Formula Companies Push Breastfeeding Mothers to Fail

Formula Companies Push Breastfeeding Mothers to Fail

“This was from a bag that was given to me at the hospital after giving birth. At first glance I actually thought it was an alternative to the usual formula bag they give. Hah. Nope. It was a cute bag filled with a can of formula, coupons, a little freezer bag for breast milk storage (cool!). I feel like it should say, “Congrats new breastfeeding mom, here’s a can of formula just in case you fail!”  By the way, baby is 5 days old and we kick ass when it comes to breastfeeding!” ~Trisha

Where to even begin? This isn’t to knock formula feeding moms (that’s my disclaimer as I have formula fed one of my children). This is the fact that mamas who want to breastfeed from the beginning are pushed to give up and fail. There is nothing that supports breastfeeding in the bag. Freezer bags? Come on. How about nipple shields or cream or coupons for things related to nursing? Some other great ideas are making sure there are great lactation consultants available or resources for breastfeeding support.

It’s quite disgusting actually. How is giving a formula bag celebrating birth and breastfeeding? To those that wonder why women push to have breastfeeding seen as normal…this is what they are up against. This is why it is so important to nurse our babies and let others see us doing so!

Have your formula bags, but don’t label them for breastfeeding moms. It’s a slap in the face.

~January

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