Nursing Ignacio: My battle with breastfeeding I

30 01 2013

I have been thinking a lot whether I should write this post, mainly because breastfeeding can be a sensitive issue and some people take it as a crusade to take sides on nursing vs. formula feeding, and some people will take it wrong no matter what I say. For months I evaded the topic, but the truth is that what I have to say might actually be helpful to some mom out there that is in a situation similar to mine, and if one woman out there finds help in my story, then I will be happy.

Let me first say though, that while I am a strong supporter of breast feeding, I do not think a mom is not a good mom for choosing formula over breast milk, we all have our own reasons to do certain things (past sexual abuse, going back to work, cultural stigma, etc.) and I am not familiar with every woman out there. And this is my story, this is what happened to me, it is not judging, it is not bashing, it is just my own private struggle.

I also decided to break this post in more than one post because it was looooong! The second part can be found here, the third part here.

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Before baby:

Breastfeeding is easy, right? I mean, we are mammals, we evolved to breast feed, it has to be simple, otherwise we’d all be dead. That is why I did not worry much. I took care of informing myself about the benefits of nursing, how it would be much better for me and my baby, but when it came down to the mechanics of it… meh, it has to come as natural as eating. My OB discouraged me from taking the BF class at the hospital saying that it was rather dumb (He was right, by the way, according to what I heard from other moms) and explaining me that they had excellent consultants on site to help me through. My mom told me it was a very easy and simple thing to do and that I needed to learn nothing, it was going to come naturally to me.

I did order a book through Amazon, though, but for some odd reason the shipping got delayed over and over, and since I was really busy with all the other stuff that pregnancy brings, worrying about my baby because of a risk pregnancy, and trying to finish all the work I needed to finish before having my C-section, I rather put it off of my head deciding that “I was going to take care of buying a book later”. Later never came and I found myself not really having prepared at all before my baby’s birth.

Trying to make the football hold work. Still at the hospital. Nighty courtesy of Photoshop.

Trying to make the football hold work. Still at the hospital.
Nighty courtesy of Photoshop.

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The beginning of the end.

If you follow this blog you know that Ignacio was born via C-section at week 37. While there are a lot of books and blogs saying that the fact that a baby is “small” or slightly premature does not affect breast feeding, I think that Ignacio was not ready to nurse because he was not fully ready to be born. Don’t get me wrong, his lungs, brain and circulatory system were just fine, but the fact is that his tiny little mouth could have done a lot better if he could have stayed in a little longer, plus we know that the baby triggers labor and the mom’s body gets ready to receive the baby.  His latch was not good, I called the hospital lactation consultant and we worked on the latch, but despite working on it and finally being told that it looked good, I now think his latch was still not good given the excruciating pain I felt while trying to nurse him.

Furthermore, Ignacio lost a lot of weight, within less than three days he lost 10%, now I know that C-section babies are born waterlogged, but I didn’t at the moment, and when this wonderful nurse that had done a great job so far told me that she was really worried that Ignacio was just not getting enough food, of course I worried. Now, please, do not get me wrong, this girl was just fantastic. She put in a call for the breastfeeding specialist to come back as soon as she could and in the meanwhile tried to work on Ignacio’s latch, she brought a hand pump and helped me express milk to give to Ignacio, and gave me a bottle to give him my own breast milk. She suggested to use a nursing supplementing system, but did not really demonstrate how to use it, and I was just too tired to understand much about anything. We took the easy and familiar way: bottles.

By five o’clock in the morning my then pediatrician blasted into the room telling me “Constanza, wake up! Your baby is starving!! you have to feed him!” which sent my husband and I into this adrenaline rush, she got me to sit up and try to nurse my newborn in the football hold (a preferred position for C-sections moms in the hospital) which me and my baby did not like, I tried to nurse him semi-reclining but she kept saying “Sweetheart, you need to sit up! sit up straight!”, it was just not working. I was exhausted after two nights of no sleep at all and I just wanted to go home and make all the breastfeeding work, I never imagined it was going to be so difficult!

Later the lactation consultant came and asked me what I have been doing to feed Ignacio. I told her I was expressing milk, I was first putting him to the breast, but as he kept falling asleep and doing the fluttering nursing, I would give him expressed milk in a bottle, and then, if needed, formula. She nodded approvingly and asked to keep doing that. She placed a call to my OB so he could fill a prescription for an electric pump. Since the pump was not ready for when I was released, our insurance sent us the pump home. I have to say everybody was doing their best to help me and my baby succeed, I felt taken care of at every moment, I have no complaints about that at all! So, after I arrived home I set up to feed our baby as much as possible from the breast, I would pump while my mom was bottle feeding him, I would store the milk in the fridge, I would nurse him as much as he would take, but he was just simply not much into it, he’d either fall asleep or start fussing at the breast, so I would end up giving him a bottle again. We were supplementing with breast milk and formula.

Ignacio was about a week here, so tiny! In this photo he is being fed expressed breast milk.

Ignacio was about a week here, so tiny! In this photo he is being fed expressed breast milk.

Because he lost so much weight at the hospital, the pediatrician wanted to see him the next day. Since I was just off of the C-section and I live in a 3rd storey up the stairs with no elevator, we decided that my husband was going to bring the baby to the pediatrician while I stayed put, so I did not have to move too much up and down the stairs. Ignacio showed great progress, he actually not only recouped the weight he lost but also he gained some more! My husband explained the pediatrician that I was pumping a lot and trying to get my milk production going. She answered that if I was serious about nursing long term I would do good in not pumping so much, maybe once or twice a day. I should try to just put the baby to the breast, else I might end up dealing with blackened nipples and not having enough milk in the long run. Of course this freaked me out! I wanted to nurse my dear baby so bad! So I dropped the pumping to about three or four times a day, which now I know it was a terrible mistake, but back then I was very naive about all this.

It soon became evident that my milk production was not enough, Ignacio hit a growth spurt and I saw all my improvement being nothing compared to what he now needed, so we started buying more and more formula and he started to consume more formula than breast milk. I was completely heart broken, I found that I was thinking of myself as a failing mom, while my mother was telling me it was not such a big deal and my husband kept telling me our baby was going to be OK and healthy no matter what. Intellectually I knew that, after all I was always supplemented with formula and I was passed to cow milk very early in infancy, and my husband was completely soy formula fed, we are both healthy and fit adults with PhD’s in science, so we are proof that people who are formula fed can be healthy; but I wanted to breast feed my baby so bad! I knew it was the best option for our family.

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Home made baby wipe solution.

24 08 2011

Yesterday Hope, our office manager, called me to let me know that we had a package. I got very excited because it was our Aloe vera juice! Oh, by the way, I do not drink Aloe vera juice, but I use it to make my baby’s wipe lotion.

Changing table, complete with pump bottle and wet wipes contaier. This was before Ignacio arrived, so I did not know which system I’d like best.

See, I have heard once and again the story of how when I was a little baby I never got diaper rash except that one time my mom used commercial pre-moistened wipes. And both my husband and I have very reactive skin, so it really is a matter of probabilities that Ignacio’s skin will react strongly to things. So I started to look into making my own wipes. I bought cotton wipes (also non disposable and environmentally friendly!) and bought me some ingredients. I made a mixture of a recipe given in Diaper Pin and one that my friend Hanna makes.

It works really well. It smells great (lavender!) and has kept Ignacio’s bum clean and rash free. Plus I know exactly what goes into it and have not to worry about any unwanted chemicals. Once I prepare the solution I place the wipes in an empty tub (I use one that used to have disposable wipes) and add a generous amount of solution to it. Then I turn the wipe stacks upside down and add some more solution. They stay moist for a long time (think couple of weeks). You might get some deposits as some components can precipitate over time, but this is not a problem.

I know Hanna uses her solution in a pump bottle. I tried this but I found it easier to have the wipes pre-moistened for whenever I needed them. I keep the remaining solution in a soda 1L bottle until I need to prepare more wipes. If I don’t use it soon enough (two-three weeks) the oil might oxidize, but I just wash the bottle with hot water and clean out the old solution.

My recipe:

2 cups hot water

1/4 cup aloe juice (the cheapest one, I will not drink it after all)

1 tablespoon mild soap (Dr. Bronner)

2-6 drops tea tree oil

Oh, and there is no reason why you should not use this on yourself too! I did, and it was the only thing that wouldn’t burn like crazy when the skin around my belly broke into a wild rash in my 9th month of pregnancy!





Cloth Diapering 2: Health and Environment.

25 07 2011

Now that I have talked about the financial advantages of using cloth diapers, what else do you need to consider when choosing what kind of diapers to use?

Disposables are made to be super absorbent. This might be attractive for some people, but not me. When we were in the hospital my newborn was diapered with disposables and most times we could not even tell if he had urinated or not. As you may know, the number of wet diapers is an indicator of how well a nursing newborn is feeding. We had no clue if he was wetting the diapers because they were constantly dry. Now, the stool too would become so desiccated that we would have to scrub his skin to clean it! Also, I want my baby to know that he is wet or soiled, so he will tell me about it, I want to change him promptly and have him clean. I think no one deserves to be sitting on their own stool.

And besides, cloth diapers are so cute!!! 🙂

There are also health concerns. When a child feels wet or soiled, he will be uncomfortable. This will prompt him to stop using diapers sooner in childhood, which will save money and environmental resources (the less your child is in diapers, the less diapers he’ll use), children in cloth diapers potty train earlier than children in disposables. There has been an increase in young children showing lower urinary tract and bowel conditions, likely related to the extended age at which they are remaining in diapers; once the average age to be potty trained was 18 months, now it is 3.5 years!

While both cloth diapers and disposable diapers proponents advocate that their choice is best against diaper rash (cloth diapers because they are changed more often and have no harmful chemicals, disposables because they keep baby drier) there is contradictory information and no real support for either claim, so don’t decide on one system or the other based on this. There are a multiplicity of factors affecting your baby’s skin and it includes the sensitivity of the baby’s skin itself, things a breast feeding mother might have eaten, kind of detergent being used to wash the diapers, etc. The important thing is to change baby as soon as possible and to avoid using alcohol or fragrances that might affect baby’s skin.

What about the processes that go into making these diapers? There has been much debate about the environmental impact of this, with people saying that the cotton industry pollutes as much as the chemicals used in disposables (though there is always the organic cotton option). There has been also debate about the energy and water used in washing cloth diapers (though criticism has been drawn to the studies saying that the impact is the same given that they were commissioned by the disposable diapers industry, and that the data collection was flawed).  However, when it comes to health I find cloth diapers safer, disposable diapers contain polyacrylate as an absorbent, this chemical has been reported to be of moderate concern as a non reproductive toxin. I know that I will never be able to protect my child of everything out there, but I can try to reduce his exposure to toxins as much as possible.

There is one major thing that would decide me against disposables even if I believed that the environmental impact is the same for both systems, though, and it is the millions and millions of diapers in our landfills, more than 2% of landfills are used by piles of soiled disposable diapers. I do not want my child’s diapers to be still here after the children of his children are long gone! Cloth diapers are not made out of plastic, so they will rot more promptly, and even if they were in conditions so anaerobic that they would not, the amount of cloth diapers that one child uses along infancy is much less than the amount of disposables. As I mentioned earlier, my baby goes through 12-15 diaper changes per day, that would be about 400 in a month; I have 16 shells with 40 cloth diapers for him; and even when I will buy some more, the waste that we can generate for all his diapering age is one order of magnitude less than what we would use in one month alone!

Additionally, there is concern about all the bacteria and viruses that are being contained in these diapers in the landfills and could potentially leak to the water shed. A very scary thought.

This is not to say that I will never use disposable diapers, I have in certain occasions, and I will talk about that in the future, but I can reduce my impact by restricting those instances and using cloth diapers in my every day life. You don’t even need to commit to full time cloth diapers to reduce your impact on the planet. Most daycares do not want cloth diapers, but you could still use them when you are back home; or you can choose to cloth diaper during the day and use disposables at night to keep baby drier during sleep time. In the end the decision is entirely yours, but if you would like to pick the cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly choice, cloth diapers are the way to go.