Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eye of newt and toe of frog...

I want to be honest about my experience with breastfeeding (BFing) thus far. I'll preface this by saying I have desperately wanted to be successful at breastfeeding my baby exclusively, I had no idea how difficult that accomplishment could possibly be- and I'm not there yet.

The trouble for me began when I was not able to breastfeed Charlie immediately after my c-section. He fell into a deep 'slumber' after I came out of recovery and although I tried that night several times, he wasn't latching. The next morning Charlie was circumcised and was even more woozy. Around noon time I had a lactation consultant help me try again and this time we were somewhat successful, even though he was falling asleep every couple minutes. Although I had a setback when my pain got ahead of me and, not being aware that I had to request pain medication, I was a mess towards the early afternoon and most of the night.

The rest of my hospital stay I made sure I was available "on demand" for Charlie around the clock. I started to develop blisters on my nipples, but hearing stories from other women, I knew it would be painful so I just took it. Poor Charlie ended up spitting up some of his feedings because there was so much blood he had taken in.

We came home on Friday, May 2nd and I continued to try and nurse him around the clock. Friday night we settled in around 9:30 pm with Charlie in his bassinet beside me. At ten he was crying to eat so I nursed him for about a half hour, burped him and then put him down to rest. Fifteen minutes passed and he was crying again, and rooting like crazy so I put him on my other side and went for another half hour. This was how the whole evening played out from 10pm until 7am, he wanted to nurse.

I had read that newborns can 'cluster feed' to try and bring your milk in more and the lactation consultant told me he wouldn't eat if he wasn't hungry so I didn't stop him. Joe stayed up with me most of that night, but at about 3am I told him to get some rest. I remember Joe waking up at 5am and seeing me sway with Charlie in my arms at the edge of the bed. Joe said, "Oh no you're still awake," and then I burst into tears!

Saturday played out similarly with tons of feedings and at this point my breasts ached so badly I thought they might fall off. Sunday we kept Charlie up for most of the day and he slept better that night, but I was beginning to dread each feeding because the pain so white searing hot.

Monday we had our first pediatrician appointment and my group has a lactation consultant so she can in to visit with me as well. She took one look at my chest and told me that I needed to start pumping exclusively to allow myself to heal. In addition to that she told me I had multiple blockages and should see a therapist about it. The final blow was that poor Charlie had lost another ounce and I would need to start supplementing with formula. I left the office in tears feeling quite defeated- oh and with a prescrip for nipple ointment-oy.

I had the appointment for ultrasound therapy to clear out my blockages on Wednesday (between Monday and Wednesday I was still a mess physically with the pain and pumping around the clock was not helping with the extreme sleep deprivation). The only time they could fit me in was 7:15am in a town that was a half hour from our house. Totally insane but I was desperate for help so I went.

The therapist was extremely cruel to me. She berated me for showing up on time, saying I should have arrived at 7am to fill out paperwork and that she would not be able to give me a full treatment because of that. I had a breakdown (probably my 20th!) in the patient room and basically begged her to help me. If I wasn't so desperate to be out of pain I would have told her off. Looking back now I can't believe how awful she was, to a new mom in such a vulnerable position.

Anyways she gives me the treatment and what she calls is a "massage" after the treatment. Says it will be slightly uncomfortable. The word "massage" implies soothing and gentleness to me. This was much closer to a form of medieval torture. One of the worst experiences of my life. Again I digress...

This is where things start to get fuzzy for me, because, this journey as I have called it, has been marked with so many obstacles that I'd like to forget most of it. The pain continues, I call local La Leche League contacts, I have a lactation consultant make a house call, call the hospital nurse line and my pediatrician for help as well. The lactation consultant initially prescribes fenugreek and blessed thistle, two herbal supplements to help increase milk production. These, in addition to goat's rue (prescribed to me at a later time) are the reason for my post title. I felt like I needed to dance naked by a waning moon-wiccan style- to try and make this breastfeeding thing work.

In the interim of all of this Charlie proves to be both milk and soy intolerant, so the formulas he was on caused him a lot of grief as well and kept us up most nights (gagging, mucousy, painful gas). I felt and still feel awful for my poor baby, as he continues trying to adjust to the Alimentum formula and is having trouble.

I am now on domperidone (a prescription med) to try and up my milk supply, in addition to pumping around the clock. The pumping has been difficult and painful still because I haven't been able to find a "flange" that fits my breasts and that has led to chafing and yet more pain. Also, having to pump around the clock and then feed the baby, change the baby and feed myself and then start the cycle again takes up the whole day and doesn't leave much time for rest. So now you know why I have been incommunicado for quite a while.

I must say that there have been several times in this journey where I have wanted to quit because of the pain mostly. The pain I experienced from the c-section (which was pretty intense) pales in comparison to the pain I've had with BFing. Maybe it's also because it's coupled with a pain in my heart for this being so tough, something I wanted so desperately to work, to be able to bond with my sweet little boy and nourish him at the same time. I haven't given up yet, I keep thinking back on everything I've gone through so far.

I went to a post partum class at my hospital on Friday. It was great to get out and to talk with other women going through similar situations. I have to admit that I felt a pang of jealousy for those women though, because every single one of them breeastfed their baby at some point during the class. Although I also felt a bit of hope when one woman told me that she had to pump exclusively for 5 weeks and now was successfully breastfeeding exclusively. I hope I can be a success story too.

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