Nursing Ignacio: My battle with breastfeeding II

1 02 2013

This is the second part of my breast feeding story. You can find the first part here. Third part here.

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The darkest days

I could see that my efforts were not good enough, I was trying what was advised, but it was not working. I realized this, but an insane voice in me kept saying “You just keep trying, you can’t give up, it will work”. When Ignacio was four weeks old he stopped nursing all together. He would open his mouth and cry batting at my chest. I cried too. My husband hugged me and told me it was going to be all right, he was healthy after all. But I just couldn’t give up hope thinking that it was not going to work, at the same time that I could see it was just not working anymore.

I decided to call the breast feeding helpline, where a nice woman told me it was going to be hard, and to keep trying. It didn’t really help. I called again the next day, talked to another woman, not nice at all, who told me that if it was up to her, she would just ban all bottles and burn them, and that my baby was just too old to do anything about it, he was never going to nurse again. I hung up and cried. I am not the crying type, so me crying two days in a row for the same problem was a bad sign. By then my mom was not with us anymore and my mother in law was taking her place, helping as much as she could and trying to comfort me too. I remember her telling me “I would have already given up”, not in a “you should give up, it is useless” way but more in a “you go girl!” way.

At one month, his formula intake was more than breastmilk. So disheartening!

At one month, his formula intake was more than breast milk. So disheartening!

I remember complaining about my problems in DeviantArt, where I have an art account, and one of the artists, Ania, now one of my dearest friends, suggested me to call her mother in law, Nancy Mohrbacher, who is a great Lactation Consultant (LC). Little I knew back then that this woman is THE LC, and she not only has a lot of experience, but she is the woman to whom LC go to for advice and learning. Ania also suggested me to buy Nancy’s book: Breastfeeding made Simple. I do not think I can recommend that book enough, but I’ll talk about it another time. I called her, we started email communication and she suggested to pump in a different way: instead of doing it every so many hours, do it whenever you can, even if it means every 30-45 minutes, at least eight to ten times a day, because that is how babies nurse. Eight to ten times a day!!! Holy tasks, Batman! But I set to do it, and this is where my mother in law’s help was invaluable, she took care of Ignacio, feeding him, diapering him, while I would sit at the pump. I started reading Breastfeeding Made Simple while pumping, to maximize the amount of things I was doing.

I remember going to Ignacio’s regular pediatrician check ups and the doctor asking me if he was BF or formula fed. I explained her about how I was struggling and I was trying to get breastfeeding to work, how much I was working to get things straight and how I was determined to get it done. As we were leaving she suggested “It is OK to pump, just don’t do it too much, don’t exhaust yourself”. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I walked out of her office seriously considering changing practices. I know she probably was thinking of my well being, and in theory she is very pro-breast feeding, but I about had it by then with her mal-advice and wanted someone who not necessarily would cheer for me, but that would not nicely giving her opinion against of what I was working so hard to achieve. I now have a terrific pediatrician whom I just ignore when he suggests something I am not willing to do.

I gave myself three months to fix all this mess. I felt horrible giving myself a time limit, I felt I was putting a time frame to give up on my baby, but from a child development standpoint three months was the most I wanted to keep my baby inside, not enjoying the outdoors as much as I really wanted him to. My whole life revolved around pumping to increase my milk supply, so going out was not much of an option.

I tried everything they suggested me to try, except domperidone because it is illegal in US. I tried fenugreek, which I think might have helped a bit, except Ignacio’s bum became covered in bleeding sores almost immediately each time I started taking it. I ate oatmeal several times a day, I drank malt every day twice a day and I drank 3L+ of water. Nothing worked for me. Being honest, if someone would have told me that I needed to dance naked under the full moon at midnight, I would have done it gladly.

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A new hope

As I started pumping, Nancy, who is extremely passionate about breast feeding and she really gets into helping moms, did a great job at giving me hope. She told me of babies that are given in adoption at 12 weeks that do nurse from their new mothers; she told me of babies being hardwired to nurse, and she told me that Ignacio was not too old to nurse again, it was going to be a lot of work, but I was willing to do it. Hope, my readers, changed everything for me. It was crucial in my wanting to put more effort into all this. She also found out we had a Breast feeding center in Pittsburgh, I needed to go see them and get hands on help. In the meanwhile tragedy hit the family, my sister in law’s fiance died unexpectedly, and my in laws had to return earlier than thought to Louisiana. My husband was not willing to leave me, but he needed to go too. Thankfully, my sister was arriving at the same time and he felt at ease so he left the day after she arrived. It was week five after delivery and I still couldn’t drive or do much because I was recovering from the C-section.

Somewhere in Breast Feeding Made Simple I read that never pregnant moms that adopt children can nurse and that gave me more hope, if they could do it, I could do it too, after all, I had all the hormones that they did not because I actually had been pregnant. Also I read about the laid back position and I decided to give it a try. Guess what… it worked! Babies are hardwired to nurse, and five weeks was not too old for bringing my baby back to the breast! Just as Nancy had said! Granted, he didn’t really nurse much, but he did nurse a bit, he took the nipple, did not fuss, did not cry of batted at me, and he just used the nipple as comfort, which I was totally fine with!

Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system, this one thing turned the tables.

Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system, this one thing turned the tables.

When my husband came back, at about week six, we went to the Breast Feeding Center, a great resource in Pittsburgh. In retrospect, I wish the LCs that I talked to before Nancy (all four of them) would have told me about it, since it would have saved us much pain, but maybe there was a conflict of interests there, who knows… The thing is that the Breastfeeding Center people did offer a lot of help. They gave me a Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system (NSS) and taught me how to use it, they showed me how to make breast feeding work better. By then Ignacio’s mouth was much bigger and his latch better, so things went smoother than before. I still had some pain, but nothing compared to how it was at birth. The wonderful thing about the NSS is that if you can keep the baby at your breast for 15 minutes, you can drop one pumping! So instead of pumping 10 times a day, I would avoid some sessions, which gave me and my husband much needed rest; we were literally obsessed, our lives turning around how many times I had pumped and when I was going to pump next. Ignacio was not crazy about the NSS, and he moved and unlatched a lot, but overall, it was working, he was actually taking milk from me and the tube, and for the most part he was not being bottle fed through the day. I did follow the advice of the LC at the Breast Feeding Center and I did bottle feed at night, to avoid all the frustration and fuss. I don’t think Nancy though it was a good idea, given that your prolactin spikes at night, but being a very professional lady, she did not say anything and respected the LC’s opinion. I did not think of all this at the beginning, I was happy to have full breasts in the morning to get a lot of milk to supplement during the day.

I had some sad and discouraging days, especially each time Ignacio would hit a growth spurt, I would see my effort being dwarfed by  his new intake requirements. Each time I would seem discouraged, Ania would contact Nancy, who would contact me to give me a pep talk, ask for precise information and give me advice. Those two women were key in those days of my life, their dedication and support were fantastic.

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