Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Giving Myself Some Grace: Exclusively Pumping {My Story...}

Please excuse any errors in this post...it's long and I'm 20 cups of coffee short of functioning.

Throughout my pregnancy I had my eye on the prize! I was going to be breastfeeding.

(Let me just say this before I continue. I understand that every parent is different and I truly believe that breast milk, formula, or both is an individual decision. I am no one to judge anyone. It's not like they ask you if you were breast fed or formula fed on your college application...)


 I was so sure that I was going to be breastfeeding that I purchased many of my supplies ahead of time. I wanted to feel that bond with my daughter. The idea that I would be feeding her the best possible nutrients I could made me feel like super mom.

So there we were. I was admitted to the hospital on Friday at 7 AM to be induced. My husband and I were so excited to finally meet our baby girl. At around 4:30 PM she was born. As per my birth plan, I wanted to have skin to skin and breastfeed as soon as she was ready. They put her on my bare chest and already I was so in love! She started making her rooting face and was searching me out. "Perfect!" I thought to myself, we can establish a good latch right here and now.

Well...if only I knew what was coming.

Everything happened so fast. We positioned her in the cross cradle hold and tried to have her latch. Immediately I had this sinking feeling. She didn't latch at all. And what was worse she got frustrated at the breast extremely quickly. Before I knew it, the nurse that was "trying" to help me got a nipple shield. We put it on and she started to suck.
Excruciating Pain!!! That is the only way to described it. I was shocked at how horrible I felt. After about 20 minutes on the nipple shield I looked down to see my nipple cracked, bleeding, and black and blue. I was devastated, however I kept on. Every two hours we tried with the nipple shield. About every other feeding we tried to get her to latch right on to me and it was the same thing. She wouldn't latch and then scream after a minute or two.

The next day, both my nipples were shredded to nothing and the nurses could only offer me lanolin and ibuprofen. The lactation consultant does not work weekends at my hospital and I delivered on a Friday at 4 PM and went home Sunday at the same time.The nurses tried to offer me some support and help, but everyone had a different opinion about what I should try. I think I cried to every nurse concerened that I wouldn't be able to feed my baby.

Then more bad news...

After one of her check ups in the NICU the pediatrician came to our room and said she had lost 6% of her weight in two days. They said they don't like to see more than 10% weight loss in the first week and she has lost 6 % in only two days. They suggested I supplement her with a formula feeding.
"Absolutely not!" I thought to myself. This wasn't how I had it planned. I wanted her to have my breast milk and ONLY my breast milk. The next few hours were so emotionally draining. I cried for hours trying to get her to latch and trying to see if she was getting enough out of the nipple shield. She would scream at the breast and act hungry after hours on the nipple shield.
Finally, a nurse came in with a supplement and sort of "shoved it in my face". (Let's be clear, the nurses were great but I believe they are VERY quick to give formula) She basically made me feel like I was starving my child and I finally caved in. The nurse feed her a supplement feeding while I cried the entire time.
Upon discharge, it was recommended that I offer a supplement every 12-24 hours in place of a feeding until my milk came in. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for my milk to come in, but then entered an entire new set of problems.

My daughter still was not latching directly to me. It was a frustrating experience for both of us and after about 10 minutes each feed of trying to get her to latch we would end up using the nipple shield. However, once again the pain from the nipple shield was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I pushed through for several days working with the nipple shield. Little did I know, because I wasn't told, but the nipple shield dampers milk supply and production. I didn't know this so I wasn't pumping afterward. This is a no no.  I also had been in contact with several lactation consultants trying to work on my latch. I had sore, cracked and bleeding nipples each time we nursed and then it hit me. Mastitis. A week into nursing with the shield I developed horrible chills and a fever of 102 for 3 days. I made an attempt at urgent care where they gave me an antibiotic. I took that for two days and nursed through the pain, however on the second day I had a change of heart about taking the antibiotic. I was worried about my supply. She would nurse forever and still be hungry. She obviously wasn't emptying my breasts with the nipple shield. That, and the opportunity for thrush, made me stop the meds and I went to try to get rid of the mastitis on my own. I took ibuprofen and used warm compress every time I nursed. I also started to pump more. I wanted her to have breast milk. I wanted to feed her. Plus I was able to empty my breasts better and my nipples were healing a bit. Every time I used the nipple shield she wouldn't get what she needed, my nipples would re-crack and bleed, and my breasts wouldn't empty.

I started to lose faith in the nipple shield. After another appointment with my lactation consultant she still wouldn't latch on to me. I would slip out of her mouth and she would scream. An endless cycle. Ultimately, the lactation consultant didn't seem very positive and ended up suggesting I just use the nipple shield--she mentioned I can use it up to 9 months or so. To me right there made me feel like even she thought my daughter wouldn't latch. I tried to explain how I thought the nipple shield was causing more problems than helping, but I didn't seem to get through.

That night I sat down with my husband and discussed our options. I cried and cried because I felt like a failure. I told my husband my desire to pump my breast milk for her if I couldn't nurse. This is where it started. The pumping. Every two hours like clock work to mimic her feeding schedule. I started researching exclusively pumping and realized this was going to be super demanding because it's like double duty. I have to pump then also feed her. However, I am determined to make this work.

I must say the emotions have been up and down over this. I cry and feel guilty, but then some days I offer myself a little bit of grace by telling myself I'm doing the best I can. I'm at least giving her breast milk which is the most important thing to me. And! I AM FEEDING HER!

It's always interesting when people ask me if I'm breast feeding. They see me giving her a bottle and maybe assume I'm formula feeding (BTW I'm not knocking formula, trust me I KNOW how hard this is and parents need to do what works for them!). She is getting my breast milk. I'm learning to give myself some slack and I'm going to try to exclusively pump for as long as I can in order to give her the best possible.

I've been reading several other blog posts from mommas who have exclusively pumped for their baby. There are PROs and CONS. The PROS means that my daughter can have my breast milk and the benefits that come with that, but I do find there are more CONS. I am constantly tied to a machine and I can't leave the house without planning to be back in, AT THE MOST, 3-4 hours. On top of that I think I have spent more money on Amazon ordering replacement pump parts, extra parts, and other items to make my machine time  much more bearable. There are many more issues here, but I really don't want to complain. I think the best post I came across was from this blogger who said "Remembering that if push comes to shove, I am more important to my baby than my milk".

Side Note: We still continue to work on her latch and we are making some progress every now and then. That I'm still working on too :)

Additional blog posts I found encouraging:
http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/2013/02/mind-and-body-after-baby-8-months.html
http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2013/08/finding-support-for-exclusive-pumping.html
http://beingmrsriley.blogspot.com/2013/08/postpartum-exclusively-pumping.html

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What I Thought I Knew...

For my readers who do now know, I recently gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl! :) A bit earlier before my due date since today (Feb. 1st) was my actual date.
I have to admit that these past few days have been rough, but joyous all the same. It is funny to think about how I had everything planned out (that is my personality of course) from how I would handle labor to how I knew I was going to breastfeed.
I had a birth plan.
A recovery plan.
A newborn plan.
A, how I was going to do things, plan.

Looking back, I wish I could slap myself as I was planning on these things a few weeks ago. Little did I know that things would change, not work out, or be much harder then I had anticipated. I thought I knew how it would all be.

First off, I would like to start off with a little vent! There is so much pressure! Pressure to be the super mom or the best parent out there. Doing everything the right way (if there is such a thing as a right way). Everyone has an opinion about what is considered the best practice in having a newborn, and most of the time people, specialists, and doctors agree to disagree on many matters.
That being said, I'm one of those people. I put the pressure on myself.
I'm a member of several mommy groups on Facebook. Some about breastfeeding, some about natural living, cloth diapering, mommy questions, etc. While I love these groups (mostly because people ask the questions I'm too afraid to ask), I also can find them a bit hostile. 
Okay...maybe that's a strong word.
Argumentative?
Yeah...argumentative.
Not that disagreeing is a bad thing, but some of these moms go back and forth arguing about who is right, who did what, and shame on you if you didn't do it the all natural way etc.
Maybe it's just me, but I find these groups intimidating. I don't want to be viewed as someone who "does it wrong" because I don't do things someone's believed way. 

I think it goes without saying that this blog post is a bit all over the place. Not really a thought-out post; just a few thoughts in my head that I seem to have found the time amidst my zero sleep and my shower lacking self to type out. 

I guess it boils down to, what I thought I knew...I don't.
Everything I had planned, didn't all happen (some things ARE going as planned FYI).
And, finally, for the first time in my life, I'm learning how to fly by the seed of my pants.

Cheers!