This post is going to be more about my experience rather than a How-To guide…
I have always been interested in environmentalism, when I was a kid I started something called “The Clean-up Club” to go around and pick up trash off the streets. It wasn’t overly successful I was 10 and the “club” consisted of my best-friend and whoever she was hanging around with at the time. And when I was around 11 or 12 I started to detest the idea of eating meat. My point is, I should have known that the natural progression of this would be me ending up a vegan, semi-eco/natural mama who wanted to breast feed and cloth diaper.
If you will learn anything from my posts, it is that younger Kelly was way too quick to jump to conclusions and judge before knowing the facts or experiencing something for herself. Older Kelly knows better. So, a few years ago if you would have asked me about breast feeding I would have told you that I thought it was weird. I understood it was natural but still too weird for me to attempt it when I had kids. So, when much wiser (although still not wise enough) Kelly found out she was pregnant, the wheels started turning.
Steve and I discussed breast feeding at length (we were both Pro but we just needed to discuss the different scenarios). I wanted to do it, I was dedicated to doing it, but because of some medical issues I wasn’t sure it would be an option. But, I was going to try, and I hoped it was going to work.
So, my darling Lily was born and they immediately put us skin to skin (as requested) to attempt a latch. We tried for a few minutes but it didn’t quite work. Of course, she came out screaming so loudly that my family didn’t realize I had the baby, they thought it was an older baby screaming in another room; she just wasn’t quite ready to stop crying and start latching. I was so wrapped up in the moment that my disappointment with the failed attempt came and went quickly.
If there is anything I can tell you about the experience of giving birth and also attempting to breast feed it is that you will repeatedly hear doctors and nurses speak of your lady parts as though they haven’t been your own private business your entire life. Stranger than the discussion of your parts, is the touching of your breasts and nipples like it ain’t no thing…it takes some getting used to.
After the euphoria of finally meeting your beautiful baby dies down, they come in and ask you, “breast feeding? Bottle feeding? Or both?” My answer “Breast feeding.” This meant constant attempts to feed her: most failed, all painful. It also meant that she was brought from the nursery every 2 hours throughout the night (yes, we decided to put her in the nursery and not room in; I mulled it over a lot, don’t judge me) to nurse. Now, trying to nurse a baby when you just gave birth, have barely slept and you are inexperienced is quite the show at 2am, 4am,etc. But I did it, and I am glad I did.
The lactation consultants (LC) at the hospital are there for a reason- to help you. It is there one job. Use them! For some reason at my hospital the lactation consultants didn’t work on the weekends and I went in on Friday and Lily was born 12:14am Saturday; so they sent in one of the nursery RNs who was sort-of trained, to help me. She was semi helpful.
I lucked out because the LC was filling in for another nurse on Sunday and she was super helpful. Then on Monday another LC was on duty. She came to check on me because the LC from Sunday called her and asked her to see me; talk about service! She sat with me and Steve for a long time while we were waiting to be discharged going over tips, tricks and methods. She truly was wonderful. She even called me a few weeks later to check on me! (I didn’t answer the phone because I had a screaming baby but still…wow).
When we left the hospital Lily had lost 9oz. It is normal for a baby to lose something like 5-10% of their body weight in the first few days (which I didn’t know, so there is a little bit of info for you), she lost a little more than that but no one was concerned.
Once I got home, I nursed Lily every 2 hours pretty religiously. When I got tired or discouraged, Steve did a wonderful job of encouraging me and reminding me how important it was to me.
When we went for our one week check-up, Lily had only gained 1 oz. The pediatrician (who nursed all of her children, her youngest until he was 4!), said that as long as the numbers were going up there was nothing to be concerned about…yet.
Then at the next check-up she had only gained a few more ounces. It was a positive that she was gaining, according to the pediatrician, but she should have been gaining more. She said that we didn’t have to worry about supplementing yet but if she continued this way I might have to. She asked that I come for a weight check in 2 weeks and if she still hadn’t gained enough, to start supplementing.
Now, I know that there are people out there who will tell you that you never have to supplement. Babies should only be breastfed, etc. But you can tell those judgy jerks to shove it; it is about what is best for your baby and sometimes that is doing something that may not have been your ideal choice.
Lily was colicky. She cried and cried, a lot and loudly, during her first month. So before that weigh-in we decided to start supplementing. We started with just one formula bottle at night to help her (and us) sleep better. It worked. She screamed less and slept more. I still woke up to nurse her throughout the night, but it wasn’t as frequent and she wasn’t AS cranky. I have to tell you that it took a lot out of me to let go of the guilt I felt. I truly felt like I failed her because I wasn’t able to provide her with enough. Eventually, I let go of that but I had to work through it.
A week or so prior to that I started pumping occasionally. Not a lot, because I was nursing her all day long, but once in awhile at the suggestion of the LC. I was using something called a nipple shield (I know, what the hell is it that, right?) to help me and nipple shields can decrease your milk supply but pumping can help that (I no longer use them). I have to say never was I more in aw of the female body then after watching myself push another human out (yes I watched in the mirror) and then breast feeding; women, even if they don’t have kids should feel empowered…we are amazing! Anyway, once we started giving her the bottle at night I would pump because she wasn’t nursing at that time. I noticed that I wasn’t getting a whole lot. I asked my friends who had also had babies and they were getting WAY more than me when they pumped. I looked into different foods and things to try and increase my supply, I asked the pediatrician and nothing really worked. I still drink Mother’s Milk tea occasionally and I was already a lover of oatmeal, both are supposed to boost milk supply.
If you read up, the literature states that a baby nursing gets a whole lot more than a pump but even still it seemed like Lily might be getting short changed in the milk department. So, after a few weeks of supplementing once at night, we started supplementing when she nursed. Her colic almost disappeared. She still cried a lot, but not nearly as often and she slept SO MUCH BETTER (which then made her less cranky later). I should mention that nursing is a LONG process. it can be 30-45 minutes on each side. I would feed her for over an hour and she would still scream when she was done. That is why we decided to start supplementing.
At the next appointment her weight gain was perfect. 🙂
There are some people out there, maybe even professionals who will say that I didn’t go about this the right way. That’s OK. They don’t know my particular situation or my baby. I did what was best for my little Lily, and she is a much happier, healthier baby for it. I wasn’t sure if I could do the breast feeding thing and I did it. I didn’t want formula, but it happened and everyone survived. The biggest thing about giving birth and having a baby (and I am sure this applies throughout their entire life) is that you have to learn to let go of what you want and plan. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out or at least not how you expected it to.
I still nurse Lily and she will be 3 months in a few days. I returned to work a few weeks ago. I wake up at 5am and nurse her; I pump 3 times at work and then nurse her almost immediately when I get home. Then for her last feeding she gets a bottle (and I pump again). Unfortunately, because I don’t produce a lot, especially when I pump, the amount of breast milk she gets is a lot less now. She usually goes to daycare with 2 formula bottles and 1 breast milk bottle because that is all I have. But I am proud to say that I will continue to get her as much breast milk as possible.
All of these birth/baby/mama posts are going to have disclaimers…
DISCLAIMER: I in no way judge those who don’t breast feed. I know that it isn’t an option for everyone. I know some people try and try and there milk doesn’t come in or for whatever reason, they just can’t do it. And some people choose not to and that is cool, too. Some people only do it for the first 4 or 6 weeks and then stop. Do what ya gotta do ladies. No judgments here. We all love our babies and that is all that matters.
Also, I am not a doctor, nurse or lactation consultant so what may have worked (or not worked) for me may be very different for you. I am however, happy to speak to anyone about the rest of my experience with this. In addition, I don’t think I could have done this if Steve (my husband) wasn’t so supportive. He really was a huge part of this working for as long as it has.
PS- I recently started taking More Milk Plus Vegetarian Pills (all natural) to try and boost supply. It has been less than a week but I think there has been a very slight increase. Hopefully, it will keep increasing.
Some Resources (keep in mind that there are thousands of resources out there and that you should always talk to a professional who KNOWS YOU if you want the best help):
KellyMom (no not me)