Thursday, October 3, 2013

Our Nursing Journey…So Far

I’ve had notes on my phone for FOREVER waiting to write this post. And it took me a really long time to type it. I probably forgot a few things and will have to go back and add it in, but I wanted to get it out there.
Diclaimer: This is in no way intended to offend or scare anyone! (Ha! But really.) It’s simply MY thoughts & MY experiences, and our nursing journey so far. It has certainly been eventful and a major learning experience! I wanted to be able to remember some of these details, even though I know I may have different experiences with future children. Anyway, what better way to remember than to blog about it, right? I am warning you though…if talk of cracked nipples or mustard colored baby poop freaks you out, here’s your chance to turn and RUN.
Pre-Pregnancy: During my last few weeks of pregnancy, I started to feel really nervous about not being able to breastfeed. I read that somewhere around 5% of women truly cannot breastfeed (or something along those lines), but for whatever reason I started really freaking out about the fact that I could potentially fall into that 5%. No one in my family is hard core about breastfeeding, but it is something I am really passionate about and really, really wanted to be able to do.  The more research I did, the more “hard core” I became about wanting to nurse Jase (if I was able). Jonathan and I started praying very specifically that all would go well with nursing.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
I read parts of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding while pregnant, but pretty much decided I would “figure it out” when Jase arrived. I found that most people either have horror stories and stopped, OR it came super easy and naturally and they thinks it’s the best thing ever. Obviously breastfeeding is not something you can plan for or know how it will go for you, so I was just expecting the worst, but praying for the best somewhere on that continuum. I just made up in my mind it was going to be an extremely challenging, hard, exhausting, overwhelming, and painful journey- but that I was going to do it no matter what (like I said, the Lord willing….if I was able) because it’s what I felt was best for Baby Jase.
It’s no secret that nutrition is so important to me, and reading the MANY benefits of breastfeeding sold me even more.  If you haven’t ever, I encourage you to look up some of the immense benefits nursing can have for both mom and baby. It’s really mind blowing. And just like Jonathan said after we took our breastfeeding class, it’s very obvious God INTENDED for women to nurse and designed our bodies to do this….from the milk production & let down, to how the baby fits perfectly cradled into your arms and the position to nurse. He isn’t quite as passionate about it as I am, but was very supportive and agreed it was best (after I read him the benefits over and over! Ha!). I told him I didn’t want him to let me give up no matter what. He told me he didn’t think it would come to that because he knows how I am….and I am the kind of person that when I make my mind up on something, that’s it. It’s done.  I’m in it to win it.
Post-Partum/Hospital: I was nervous that having a c-section would affect him nursing because I’ve read that many times the “drugs” can affect a baby’s ability to nurse right out the gates. It can make the baby very sleepy and sometimes the milk takes longer to come in. Thankfully I was able to go natural right up until delivery time, so the medicine in our systems was very minimal. As soon as they finished cleaning us both up, they brought Jase to me and the lactation specialist helped me get him latched on. After a few tries, he seemed to figure it out pretty quickly. It wasn’t an immediate thing…it took a couple of minutes to figure it out.

Our first few days in the hospital were a major learning experience. The lactation specialist came in a few times to help & showed me HOW to get him to latch, positions, etc.  I typically laid back (propped myself up with pillows) and used a ton of pillows to nurse Jase in the football position.  If you’re modest, all that kinds goes out the window as the nurses help you maneuver your breast and nipple into the babies mouth (but hey, that’s part of it!). All of the nurses that took care of us offered their advice about switching sides, how long to nurse, how to tell if he’s swallowing (look at his jaw and ear/listen for the suckling sound), watching for his hunger cues, burping positions, etc. (It was all different, but it helped me figure out what was best for us.) They were all very encouraging too and told us what a great job we were both doing. My milk started coming in the last day we were in the hospital. I didn’t know what to be looking for, but one of the nurses told me it was. (Now I know…my boobs were filling and getting hard.) She told me to take hot showers if I needed to, & they were all constantly hooking me up with Lasinoh cream because my nipples were SORE. YOUCH!! I applied after every feeding. (Stock up- ask for as much as they’ll give you!)
On the Home Front/ The Early Days: Those first few days weeks home were an absolute DOOZIE.  I totally, completely, 100% understand why people quit. It was hard. It was frustrating/discouraging. And it HURT!!! Sheesh!! I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but that was some pretty intense pain for a few days as we were getting adjusted. No really, my calves were sore….and I realized it was from curling my toes so hard and tensing my legs every time he would latch. YOUCH.
**Long Feedings--Obviously I nursed on demand and Jase was eating every 2 1/2- 3 hours in the beginning. I watched for his cues to know when he was hungry. He never really cried, so I watched for him rooting (and used the clock a little too). He would eat for around an hour or so, and sometimes even a little longer. I tried everything to keep that sleepy baby awake, but nothing worked- none of the tickling, wet rags, undressing him, etc. It took a WHILE before he got quicker.
**Positions—We tried several positions to find one that was comfortable. Honestly, the ONLY one that felt comfortable was the cross-cradle hold using the Mombo. He is WAY too long for the football hold.

**Sore Nipples-- My nipples continued to be VERY sore & I was BFF with the Lasinoah nipple cream for about a week or so, until someone told me one of her lactation specialist’s said not to use it. I applied it after every feeding and ruined several t-shirts, nursing bras, and got it all over the couch. (It doesn't come out of fabric well.) My nipples even hurt to the touch, so I didn’t want to wear a shirt. If I accidentally hit them on anything, it would almost take me down to the ground. (Not trying to be overly dramatic here or scare anyone- this is just how I remember it.) I pretty much walked around my house topless or in a robe for the first couple days. Jon had to put curtains on the front door for me & we limited our visitors. We had LOTS of skin-to-skin time the first couple of weeks. I loved every second of snuggling that precious angel on my chest! I kept him in a diaper and on me as much as possible….and that sweet smell is something I will NEVER forget!! I don’t think there’s ever been a sweeter smelling baby!
My nipples also had sores on them for a while…..some bloody/cracked fun. That meant every latch was painful and made me want to cry.
**Engorgement-- When my milk came in, I also became engorged. I’d heard the term and knew what it meant, but I didn’t know that’s what was happening to me. (I know…looking back I’m like “Duh, Danielle!”) I assumed huge boobs that were hard as rocks, hot, and extremely painful was totally normal?? This meant he couldn’t latch, so we were both struggling. I remember one time Jonathan was “trying to help me” get him latched and said “Well you must not be doing something right.” He almost didn’t live to ever make another comment like that because my post-partum hormones were NOT very receptive to that type of “help.” Haha!! It’s funny looking back now. At the time, not so much.
The lifesaver? I read hot showers would help…and maybe it was just me, but WHO the heck has time for that?? I also read nipple shields would help, but the babies could quickly become dependent on them, so I was scared to try that too. One of the LLL leaders told me to try using a heating pad for 10 min+ on each breast before nursing, then manually expressing some milk so it would soften my boob to the point he could latch. BINGO!! Worked like a charm! Still huuuuuurt something serious for the first few minutes, but the pain either numbed or went away after a little while into the feeding, not sure which.
Conair Moist Heating Pad
Jonathan thought it was awesome my boobs were so massive from the milk coming in. But remember those sore nipples? Yes, I resorted to threats. If Jonathan had even thought about touching me, it wouldn’t have been a good situation for anyone. (Once again, funny now…but I was so dead serious at the time.)
**Counting diapers—We tracked every poop and pee diaper for the first 3 –4 weeks. We just kept a chart and tallied it daily to make sure he was having enough of both because that’s how you know the baby is getting enough to eat. Their weight drops some after birth while your milk is coming back in, so you want to feed on demand to get your supply up and to help them get back to birth weight. It’s easy to beat yourself up and worry to death if they’re getting enough (especially if they’re really sleepy), but you have to trust that your body is making enough for the baby. (Doctors are pretty helpful if it seems to be an issue.) There is also an app that makes it super simple to track, but I prefer pen and paper. You know your milk is coming in when it shifts from the meconium (dark, tarry looking poop) to a seedy, mustard yellow deal. They are supposed to have as many diapers as they are days old for the first week. 3 days old = at least 3 diapers. It’s more common that breastfed babies do not poop every day, and I remember Jase going over 48 hours without going #2 our last night in the hospital and when we brought him home. I was worried about it, but the nurses told me just to watch for it. I remember celebrating when he went! My, how life changes!! I don’t know if I was changing too often or what, but some days we went through up to 15 diapers!! He also had a little diaper rash and one point, so we would air his booty out and use a homemade remedy.

Homemade Diaper Rash Cream Recipe: Mix equal parts Hydrocortisone cream (1%), Lotrimin AF, Desitin (for the zinc) & Neosporin
**Pumping & Storing—I was SO nervous to pump at first. I read that pumping can increase supply, and I couldn’t handle MORE milk or more engorgement. I finally started pumping some after a few weeks in using the Medela Harmony hand pump. It hurt at first. Our insurance company hooked us up with a free Ameda Purely Yours electric pump too. It’s not hands free, but for FREE, I’ll take it! (If you’re buying one though, I DEFINITELY recommend hands-free, and Medela is my fave.) I waited a little longer to use that. I pumped after a few weeks and stored a good bit of milk. I use the Medela storage bags and a funnel to transfer milk to those. I put the bag of milk in a Ziploc bag too and write the date on it. I keep it flat in our deep freezer because it’s good there for up to 6 months. I used this Mayo clinic's Guidelines for storing….as I figured they would be the most legit.

{Thankfully AdvoCare came into our lives and allowed me to stay home with Baby Jase, but HATS OFF to the mamas who pump at work!! That is such a huge commitment and takes so much effort, so if you’re one of those mamas, a BIG HUG to you! You ROCK. Don’t have any feedback on this area…..but feel free to comment if you do have some tips.}
**Bottles & Paci- I didn’t want any nipple confusion, so we waited a few weeks before introducing the first bottle. I gave him a paci the last day in the hospital, but QUIT using it when we got home! I just didn’t feel comfortable with it & couldn’t get a peace about it, even though Jon and my mom both really wanted me to give it to him.  After a few weeks in we started using both the paci and a bottle on occasion. I didn’t want Jase to NOT take a bottle and only eat from me - couldn’t handle how confining that would be for us with out go-go-go lifestyle and traveling so much. I used the Medela bottles and nipples, and the Avent paci they give you in the hospital. He weaned himself off the paci at about 3 months. He will take it periodically, but usually spits it out and isn’t a big fan. Now he’s moved to his thumb, but the paci was great for a little while to soothe him. That lil sucker was ANNOYING when he would spit it out during naps and it would wake him up during the early weeks and I quickly developed a love/hate relationship with it, so I’m glad it’s pretty much out of the picture now….

**Milk Supply—I had a RAGING milk supply in the beginning. I would squirt milk out everywhere, ALL over the house! It was all over everything, and when Jase would pull off, it would squirt him in the face like a firehose! (Poor little guy!) When I finally started pumping, I could get 4-5 oz per breast. I invested in a Milkies Milk Saver (although it only catches that foremilk, but at least it’s not being wasted or dripping everywhere and soaking my clothes), but didn’t use it for long. I used Lasinoah nipple pads in my bras when I left the house so I didn’t have wet spots on my shirt. (Except that one time at Target.) Anytime I would hear a baby cry, the flood gates would open and I’d start spewing.  Looking back now, I wish I would have pumped more in those earlier weeks when my milk supply was so plentiful. I used my earliest milk (with more Colostrum) to give Jase a bottle after his vaccines because I knew it was packed with antibodies.

As He Grows:
Things have definitely improved!! He’s way more efficient, and it doesn’t hurt anymore! Hallelujah!!!! BUT, there are definitely still hurdles. And the biggest one is the MENTAL hurdle. Breastfeeding is a MAJOR commitment, and it means that I have to be CONSTANTLY thinking and planning for his feedings. If we’re going somewhere, I try to plan around his nap/eating schedule- Do I have bottles? Nipples? (Don’t forget the ring or it will leak everywhere….lesson learned.) My pump? Plug? A cooler? Ice packs? A nursing cover? Etc. For someone who isn’t a planner, this takes a LOT of effort. (Well, it takes a lot of effort for a planner too, but they may enjoy it more than I do.) Maybe I overcomplicate it- really, all you need is your boob, right? Well, yes, but…You don’t ever just get up and go somewhere carefree. Even on the nights Jon and I go on date nights (we go on date nights to the gym!), we rush to get back so I can either feed him or pump or whatever.  It just means that I stay home as much as possible.
**Milk Supply- Once Jase started sleeping through the night, my milk supply started dropping. A few times before that I thought it was falling off, but it was really just regulating to his needs. At one point (while out of town), I was dehydrated and it got crazy low….to the point that he wasn’t getting enough & I couldn’t pump ANYTHING! My mom went out at 11 pm and got me some Mother’s Milk supplements to help, and I chugged a few bottles of water (which helped immediately.) Water is crucial.  I’m a pretty avid water drinker, so I didn’t realize how essential water is until that happened. You need a LOT. Think you’ve had enough? Drink more. The teas and supplements (Gaia, Mother’s Milk, & Lactation Support)helped, and I started pumping more after feedings to help it pick back up. After a few weeks, it seemed to be back to normal.
**Diet—I eat clean as much as possible, and so far the ONLY food that has bothered Jase is steak. Totally random, but both times I’ve eaten it I had to give him gas drops. I never eat red meat….like ever… it’s just a really random coincidence I ate it twice since I’ve been nursing. I’ve only given him gas drops 4-5 times ever (the other few times were the early days and I didn’t know what was wrong with him, so I just tried the drops), and 2 of those times were for steak. No more of that! I’ve heard people say different things bother their kiddos’ systems- citrus, tomatoes/onions, junk food, leafy veggies, and chocolate…but so far he seems to be pretty okay with everything I eat. I eat pretty much the same foods each week, and they are the same foods I ate while pregnant as well.
Here’s more about What I Eat While BreastFeeding.
As far as his diet, we are exclusively breastfeeding till 6 months. At that point, we will introduce solids using the Baby Led Weaning method, but for the whole first year, breast milk will be his primary source of nutrients. Solids will be for fun! I’m not a big fan of cereals for babies…but that’s just a personal opinion after a good bit of research. Our pediatrician even recommended it, but I did my own research and decided to stick with exclusively nursing till 6 months, then introducing solids that we eat. Real food. (I used to think I would puree my own baby food, but after reading BLW, changed my mind on that too. I have a ton of stuff about making your own baby food is anyone is interested…)

**Feeding in Public- I don’t do it often. Freaks people out- especially my husband. Yes, I know it’s completely natural, and yes, it’s better than a crying baby, but I just prefer to do it in private. I’m not against it and have done it and still do it sometimes, but honestly Jase thinks he needs to be a part of everything going on and doesn’t like the nursing cover. It doesn’t bother me to see others do it (although it was a little more strange until I became a mom), but I KNOW it does bother some people. Plus, I struggle to be discrete, so like I said I prefer feeding in private. I will absolutely always nurse on an airplane though- that one is a non-negotiable.
**Pumping Supplies—This bag has been my LIFESAVER because it is SUCH a pain to sanitize all those pump parts!

Now I try to pump after our morning feedings because we’ve both gone through the night, & I also try to pump around midnight-1:30. I got lazy with pumping for awhile because it’s SUCH a pain to me, but I want to make sure I have plenty of milk stored up. Not sure what I’m storing for specifically, but I do know I’ll be thankful our freezer is stockpiled at some point. You just never know…(we seriously need a generator!)

**Resources- The hospital hooks you up with tons of free literature, and it’s important to actually READ them!! They are very helpful! I also looked up some La Leche League leaders and called them on the phone for tips when I was struggling with the engorgement issues. One lady was a little nasty (just very brash, and I don’t respond well to that) and kept saying over and over that Jase was tongue tied and it needed to be clipped. I googled it and didn’t think so, but she made me doubt. Another lady was a Godsend and SO encouraging and helpful!!! LLL is very anti-scheduling, so I just didn’t even tell them about my plans to start implementing a schedule. We started working towards BabyWise around 4 weeks old. Up until then, I totally followed Jase’s cues and soaked up every second with him!!! He fell into a pretty natural 3 hour schedule. Plus, other mommies were an AWESOME resource and so helpful. Adrienne, Emily, Lindy, Jessica, Larissa, Melissa, Kelly (hope I’m not forgetting anyone) were all super, super helpful!!! And my mom. SHEW! Couldn’t have made it without her! She helped me read through the books and pamphlets to try to come up with solutions. Even though she never breastfed, she was and is one of my #1 advocates and has been incredibly helpful!!!

We also took a breastfeeding class before the baby was born, and know there are local La Leche League meetings and other nursing mom groups (through the hospitals) that are super helpful. The lactation specialists at the hospital are available and helpful too. The biggest thing is to make a decision to try EVERYTHING before giving up. Talk to the people you know are pro-breastfeeding so they can encourage you.
NOW, I know that may have seemed a little negative. Breastfeeding is absolutely a challenge (just like anything worthwhile), but it is SO WORTH IT! It’s worth it for that sweet snuggly time. It’s worth it knowing you’re giving your baby the best. And even as tough as it is, I am SO THANKFUL I’ve been able to. If I catch myself almost complaining, I stop and thank God instead that He has allowed me to nurse Jase. So, wanted to leave on a positive note with Just a few of my FAVORITE benefits of breastfeeding:
(And every DROP of that liquid gold is good for them!)

And DEFINITELY read this one...Talks about health benefits for mom, for baby in the early years, for baby later in life, and the economic benefits of breastfeeding!


DanielleWoods91711 said...

Are you still using your manual pump? Just curious to know if its a good option in case I don't want to splurge on the 300$ one :)

Andrea said...

Girl, you sound EXACTLY like me. I was hell bent on breastfeeding my son no matter what. And I did...and I still am and he is 12.5 months. It was a long, long road for us full of nipple shields, lactation appointments, and lots and lots of pumping. We also did BLW and my son Ben wasn't interested in eating solids until nearly 9 months! Thanks so much for being an advocate for breastfeeding! It's so important! -Andrea

Adrienne said...

Thank you for the shout-out! Those early days seem a million years away to me now! Definitely a labor of love!

Heather Forcey said...

My kiddos are now 6 and 9. I breastfed them both approximately 4 months. Pumping after I went back to work was TOUGH, and I eventually gave up. I was at peace in stopping when we did, but I am surprised (even 6 years later!) at how much I miss that special time with my boys. I was the sole person providing them with nutrients. I remember griping about having to be attached all the time, but now I wish I could have a few of those moments back. There is nothing that can compare to feeding your baby from your body. Good for you in persevering.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your encouraging words to new mommy's! My little boy is almost 5, and I tried so hard to nurse. I believe, like you, it is what's best. I was only able to nurse for 4 weeks before my supply dried up. I was devastated! I tried everything. After my sister had twins 2 years ago she experienced the same thing at 5 weeks.

Thank you for encouraging others and getting the word out that breastfeeding is best!

Mollie said...

Hi Danielle- Great post!! I pumped exclusively for 13 months, and I had an abundance of milk that I donated. Milk banks are great to work with if you have milk that is close to expiring! And it doesn't cost you anything to donate. I donated through the Mother's Milk Bank of North Texas.

Andrea @ The Dawley Fam said...

You go girl! I will agree that breastfeeding was hands down the most difficult thing I have ever done and totally get why people quit. I nursed my first daughter {now 2 1/2} until her first birthday, and my second daughter {8 months} is still nursing 5 times a day. I will it's so much easier the 2nd time around. You still have some of the same problems, but you know that it will pass. I think breastfeeding is 90% mental. Also, I'm a working mom {have been with both girls} and I pump at work. Not gonna lie, it's the worst! But, we have to do what's best for our babies!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I will pass this along to some pregnant friends of mine because you stated everything so well. You are such a positive person, but you are also REAL.
I laughed so hard at so many of your experiences because mine were very similar.( agreed, not funny at the time though). Nursed for 14 months and loved it! ( the first month was very hard and painful though like you said.
My Doctor said it also has to do with being very light skinned. ( why nipples may get more sore than others)

Rebecca B said...

Great post! I am currently exclusively pumping for my second child, and since I went back to work 9 weeks post-partum, I've unfortunately had to pump a lot at work. Unfortunate about the work part...not the pumping. Both of my boys were not good latchers and I got so anxious about them not getting enough to eat that pumping works best for us. We know exactly how much he eats, and while it is annoying to pump all the time, I've got my schedule down to only 4 times a day. For my first I stored up a bunch, but for this second one, I don't have nearly as much in the freezer. As long as I have electricity or batteries, I'm good to go. I've even pumped while riding in a car (not driving). For those not wanting to invest a lot in a pump, just imagine how much formula would be, and check with insurance because sometimes they will cover it. I use the Medela Pump in Style, and I love it!

So while this comment has got a little long, I just wanted to say "Way to go!" Boob juice is so good for baby!

Stevie said...

I had my little girl a couple of weeks before you had Jase and have had a lot of the same experiences! Breastfeeding was a definite challenge at the beginning, but I am so glad I was able to continue and have been able to stick with it. Working and pumping has gone better than I thought it would. It is part of my job as a mom, so I will enjoy it :). We are also going to do BLW - it just makes sense! Love reading your blog!

Katie said...

I love this post and your blog!! I had the exact same trials as a first time mama! I posted a blog post about my breastfeeding experience as well