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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WFMW: The Baby Years - Breastfeeding

Today’s edition of Works for Me Wednesday is a “Backwards” edition. What DOESN’T work kind of a thing. Well, since I did a series of posts recently that was a flashback to our baby years and what worked for us, this was the perfect opportunity to wrap it up with one big “What DIDN’T Work” for us post.

Oh, and my favorite male readers (I know you’re there), you may just want to move along today and pretend you never saw this post. I’m just sayin’.

Oh, and this turned really long… sorry.

Breastfeeding certainly didn’t work for me.

I tried, oh, yes I did. I tried hard. I pushed, I worked, I cried, I did everything a mom could do. But it didn’t work for us. And I’m writing this post not because I’m looking for you to tell me how I could have made it work, nor am I trying to start any kind of a breastfeeding debate, but because believe that there are others out there like me. Other moms who need to know that they aren’t alone.

I personally know some. And many, I believe, feel like they are less of a mom because they couldn’t make breastfeeding work. Well, I’m here to tell you, that I am so over that. I just wanted to share my story with you; maybe just as an eye-opener for some of you expectant moms, or just an encouragement to those of you who may have experienced the same thing or know someone who has.

I think I was led to believe that breastfeeding a baby was the most natural thing in the world… what God intended when he gave women breasts. And while I agree with that sentiment, I think that indoctrination caused me to believe that it should just be the easiest thing in the world.


First there was my daughter. I was a first time mom who only knew that both of her sisters had breastfed their babies (and one of them bf’ed triplets, no less). I did all the reading and classes and everything I could do to be prepared. Then, the day came. I gave birth by c-section (which was glorious, I might add) and as soon as we could after surgery, the lactation nurses were trying to help me get her to latch on. Nothing was happening partially because there was absolutely nothing there for her to get.

Fast forward 2 weeks. My milk didn’t come in until day 6 or so. We’ve been in and out of the lactation nurse’s office (otherwise known by my husband as the “breastfeeding Nazis”) several times a week. Feeding time was an ordeal with nipple shields, tubes & syringes to fill the shields with milk so that she would taste something, trying, and trying… then bottle feeding and pumping. On top of all of that she had a mild case of jaundice that just wouldn’t go away.

On the bright side, when I took a bottle of my pumped breast milk into the lactation nurses' office one day, I was told that I produced cream; not milk, cream.

Fast forward another 2 weeks. It’s been two more weeks of the same with no results. She just would not, could not latch on. I gave up. And felt like a failure.

But what a weight that was lifted once we made that decision. Such a simple decision to bottle feed my daughter formula opened us up to be able to see that we had a baby in our house; not just a mouth to try to feed a way that it didn’t want to eat. Looking back those first four weeks are a complete blur which is probably normal in some sense, but even more so since I didn’t feel the ability to just enjoy her. I was so focused on fixing the problem that I didn’t see my daughter. If I have any regrets of motherhood, that is one.

Then came my son. I was no longer that naive 1st time mom. I now knew that things can go wrong on so many levels. That things happen. That it might not work this time. But I was going to try because “breast is best,” right? So I found me some good lactation consultants in a neighboring city and visited with them before the baby was even born to discuss some of my concerns.

Again a c-section. This time, I got to hold him while I was in recovery unlike my daughter. The lactation nurse came in but I didn’t even try all that hard. I knew I wouldn’t have any milk. I mainly just held him and looked at him. And cried a little bit, too.

We had some of the same problems. I knew this time to ask for a pump right off the bat to help my milk to come in. It still didn’t come in until like day 5, but it was better. And he, like my daughter, had a mild case of jaundice.

We had some different problems as well. One of the lactation consultants in the hospital noticed that he had a short frenulum (aka was a little tongue tied). She suggested that might be a reason he was having trouble latching on. I remember so distinctly mentioning this to one of the pediatricians that came by and how curtly she dismissed my concern. I don’t remember what I said in return, but one of the nursery nurses and one of the lactation consultants came back by later because they had heard something about the altercation and I just bawled over it.

We did end up at an ENT’s office who clipped his frenulum. It was a 2 second thing, a drop of blood, and it was over. Now, in our case, it didn’t solve the problems, but now we knew that it would not cause any speech problems later and we were able to rule that out as a latching issue.

Again, this time, we were in and out of the lactation consultant’s office. These ladies were the best things ever! Not nearly the breastfeeding Nazis that the other ladies were. Their first priority was that the baby got fed. Period. Next, that my milk supply was okay. And last were any issues we were having with nursing. (Priorities I would suggest you look for in a lactation consultant, by the way.) I'm not saying that the group that I dealt with when I had my daughter didn't have these same priorities. What I'm saying is that if they did, they certainly were not verbalized and did not come across in any dealings I had with them.

And I learned a lot from them. For instance, the jaundice acts like Valium to the baby’s system and makes them sleepy, causing them (obviously) to want to sleep and not eat. They get the bilirubin out of their system by pooping (it’s a baby post, you knew poop was going to come into it somewhere). If they don’t get enough calories, they don’t poop and therefore the jaundice doesn’t go away and might even get worse, causing them to not want to eat… it’s a downward spiral.

So after 3 weeks of trying and mostly just pumping and bottle feeding him, that’s just what we decided to do. I’d pump on a fairly regular schedule and we’d bottle feed him breast milk. It was a great system and we did it for about 6 weeks. We could have gone longer, but we were headed on a long car trip to visit family and decided to quit.

Like I said, this post is to not generate debate over breastfeeding, but to hopefully show other moms that they are not alone and to also show that there are other options. That’s the great thing about being a human and having such creative and wonderful minds. We have come up with ways to feed and care for our babies when what appears to be the natural solution seems to fail us. People created pumps and formula so that those of us who are nursing challenged can still sufficiently provide nourishment for our children.

And by the way, providing nourishment is only part of being a mom. If how you do that defines your whole existence as a mother, then yes, you will feel like a failure like I once did. And yet, I can look back now and see that my time those first few weeks with my daughter would have been much better spent holding and rocking her rather than fussing over something that is so inconsequential as how I got food into her stomach. In other words, as long as the food is there, who gives a rip how it got there whether it’s by breast or bottle.

And that’s what DIDN’T work for us in the baby years.

Go visit We Are THAT Family to see more Backwards WFMW posts... you might be able to give some advice or just a little nod of encouragement by telling someone, "Yeah, that doesn't work for me either."

Previous Posts from "WFMW: The Baby Years" series:
Cloth Diapering
Homemade Baby Food

(Again – I’m not looking to start a debate or for anyone to tell me how I could have made it work better by joining La Leche League or anything. The point of this post is that it just didn’t work for us and that’s okay. Please keep any comments or remarks in a positive and encouraging tone. Thanks.)


Rachel said...

I just have to say that your triplet feeding sister should be expecting a very special place in heaven. Wow.

I'm in the process of weaning my daughter after a very long year of breastfeeding, and I couldn't agree more - it's one of the hardest parts of this whole momma business. I'd rather give birth than go through the nursing again. If it works for you - do it. If it doesn't - do what does and thank the Lord for your freedom!!!! That's what I hope to be doing in a few weeks!

Elizabeth said...

I just wanted to tell you that I really appreciate this post. My experience has been very different than yours, but I admire your willingness to share how hard breastfeeding was for you. And I am impressed with how hard you worked at it!

There are so many reasons why breastfeeding doesn't "work" for some moms, and I think one major reason is the high expectations and pressure that some moms feel. I definitely felt it, and I think I would of been heartbroken if it hadn't gone well. I believe new moms should get the facts about how perfect a mother's milk is, but not be led to believe like you were that it's going to be easy. It's not! They need realistic expectations and goals or else they'll just be discouraged and feel like a failure. That's not useful to mommy or baby, ever.

Thanks for the reminder, even though I am a La Leche League mama. I love your attitude. Mothering is so much more than just how (or what) we feed our babies.

~~tonya~~ said...

I'm a NICU nurse that couldn't successfully breastfeed. After my son was released from the NICU, I tried for weeks to get him to nurse, but soon resorted to exclusively pumping and bottling it. Then that got old after a few months and I switched to formula.

Bridget said...

Didn't work for us, either. I think your post will really ease the mind of some worried, guilty new mom out there!

On a differesnt note...thanks for visiting my blog! Great minds think alike...parchment! :)

Kay said...

Amen and Amen!

We also tried HARD to get it to work to no avail! I did everything I was supposed to do. I went to the bf'ing office after we came home from the hospital for more advice and I had a sweet friend that could be a wet nurse (not kidding) that offered advice, but it just would. not. work.

For one thing (if you're a guy and you haven't moved on.. now is the time, because this is definitely tmi) my nipples were inverted and even with wearing shields and doing other things, it just wasn't happening. There really wasn't anything TO latch on to. I think I had images of them sprouting into something workable and with all the encouragement to just try harder, I did try.

And like you,I felt blessed relief when I finally was able to release myself from, what for me and us, were unrealistic expectations (and a physical impossibility,btw)

I had a twinge of guilt, but mostly I was just glad the weight had been lifted. I knew other girls that had similar issues as me, so it wasn't like I was in it alone either, so that helped.

Great post!

taradon said...

It's such a shame that we get so ostracized and looked down on when breastfeeding doesn't work out. I tried so hard with my first and it just didn't work for me and my daughter. I was able to breastfeed my other two children more successfully, but I always had to supplement. I work with nurses and some of them are really rabidly pro-breastfeeding and can't be sympathetic to anyone who does not breastfeed. I recently came across this article that I really appreciated. You may like it, too...

MB said...

I just wanted to comment. I didn't have these problems, but I always feel for women who do.

I used to work with a nurse who had been a OB Nurse. She used to teach birthing classes and said that she always told the new mothers that it doesn't matter how you feed your baby, it's parenting that matters.

She also called the lactation nurses, "lactation nazis" which I always thought was funny. She said she hated how the "lactation nazis" would make the mothers feel as it they were doing something wrong if breastfeeding wasn't working and kept guilting them into continuing to attempt breast feeding, even at the expense of their own health.

This happened to my sister. She was up constantly feeding her oldest because he was always hungry. The lactation consultants kept telling her that she would make enough milk for him, but it just wasn't true. She eventually got mono and was sick for over a year because of this.

Now I know not ALL consultants are like this! So don't flame me! But, I've had many friends who were made to feel less than because breastfeeding wasn't working for them.

Take care of's the only way you can take care of your baby!

I have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding myself, but I keep trucking along.

Tara aka "Mama Koala" said...

I think most people think it is "natural," so they don't realize how difficult something "natural" can truly be!

Rachel said...

Hey Donna!
Thank for the tip on the BSF. I've heard of it and even have a friend of a friend who does it or leads one or something. I never knew it was so in depth. I'll have to check it out once I get that freedom I'm looking forward to... :)

Melissa D at said...

Formula is a blessing for those who can't go the BF route. Thank God babies can still get nourished! I feel for you -- I had an easy 1st baby in the BF department, but my 2nd had a rough latch for weeks and it was excruciating (mentally and physically). She finally straightened out, but weaned herself earlier than I wanted. Oh well! We ended up switching her to soy formula later on and realized she'd had some food sensitivities that had been keeping her from sleeping for nearly the whole 1st year.

I think the important thing is that you get the rest and recovery time you need to do what you have to do to take care of your little one. Stress doesn't help. Good for you for going your own way.

JenT said...

I've been on both sides of the breastfeeding issue, so to speak. My first child was easy to breastfeed. (But no one told me about the pain - that did go away and the rest was great). My second child was another issue entirely. She had to be in NICU for a few days and I didn't get to start with breastfeeding right away. They would tell me to come down, but then would only give me 10 minutes with her to try and feed her. Then they would say she needed to be fed and whisk her back to her bed to feed her. I didn't get much encouragement in that area. When we finally got to take her home I got all kinds of "encouragement" from friends, but no real advice. She wouldn't latch on right (and yes, there are different ways of latching on). Everyone just kept saying "keep trying, keep trying". They would point out one friend who "tried" for 6 months before her son finally caught on. 6 months! No thanks! My nipples were bleeding. Literally. How gross it that? My baby was getting blood in her milk. No way! I stopped after 6 weeks. I think. It might have only been 4. Anyway, I've been able to successfully breastfeed the rest of my babies and currently have a 7 month old nursing. But I will always remember that sometimes it just doesn't work. For whatever reason. I feel for those that can't breastfeed and have tried so hard. I know what it's like. And I felt like such a failure as a mother when everyone around me was saying "just keep trying". I felt like saying "try to understand - I just can't!"
Anyway, that's my story of how breastfeeding didn't work for us once either.

KindaSassy said...

I tired lots of things in the BF games. Not one BF Nazi ever made a positive impact. They would stress Bronwen and I out, she would scream for 30 minutes, then off they would trot with thier $75 in hand and I would be hysterical with grief.


One of the best memories for me was the little sighs of contentment that Bronwen would let out when it was a breast milk bottle, that she never did when it was formula. I know that she liked the sweet breast milk so much more, which is why I kept going with pumping for seven months.

I would have preferred only BF, but I couldnt. Not everyone can. Such is life.

thanks for sharing that you went though troubles too.