Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Breastfeeding Story

I was asked to submit something for a local newsletter and I shared my breastfeeding story. I figure I may as well post it here. I know I've shared bits of it, but I don't think I ever put the whole thing together until now.
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When I was pregnant with my son, I knew nothing about breastfeeding. I knew it was something I wanted to try, but had no experience and didn’t know anyone who did. I had never seen another person breastfeed either in real life or on TV. Since I was also working at the time, I didn’t do a lot of research. I went to a breastfeeding class offered at the hospital I gave birth at. The only other person there besides my husband and myself was the breastfeeding instructor. Knowing nothing about this, I didn’t know what I knew or didn’t know and didn’t know what questions to ask.
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Listening to her and watching her hold the doll in a bunch of different positions in a five minute span, I thought “I can do this” and didn’t think much more until several months later. Then, I went into labor.
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My husband and I arrived at the hospital and we made sure to tell them that I wanted to breastfeed. After my son was born, I received instruction from the nurses that included things like “10 minutes each side and that’s it. No more. And only nurse once every four hours. There is an obesity epidemic in this country and you don’t want to add to it, do you?” Well, of course I didn’t. I want my son to be healthy.
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Then the time came for the hospital bag and the nurse who gave it to me said “Do you want the breastfeeding bag or the bottle feeding bag the bottle feeding bag has more stuff in it.” Naturally, I took the bottle because I did not know what this “stuff” was and if there was something I might need for my baby, I will most likely find it in the bag with more “stuff.”
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Before my son was 12 hours old, I was asking for help breastfeeding. I knew I was doing it wrong. He wanted to nurse all the time and I knew that was wrong. I had already been told how often and how long each side. And I knew this was important because I was constantly being asked “How often and how long on each side.” So I must have been doing it wrong. I was also in a lot of pain. I was told “It’s going to hurt. That’s to be expected.” I also had a nurse tell me that “Because I was big busted, it will hurt more.”
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Before I had left the hospital, my son’s sugar dropped to 42 and he was being given formula. I was told that I had to give his formula until my milk came in. Well, when will that happen? I didn’t know and no one told me.
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I began pumping to try to bring my milk in, but all I would get would be a very slight coating of milk on the bottom. This “evidence” that I didn’t have enough milk had me going to the doctor. I was told that “some women don’t produce enough milk” and was put on Reglan. The Reglan made my already fragile mental state of post-partum depression and spun me into post-partum psychosis. I don’t remember much after that except for what I can only describe as a deep black pit of despair. All I wanted to do was feed my baby and I couldn’t do that. I was a failure and a woman and as a mother. I pretty much remained in that state until I got off the Reglan and it left my system. Waving the white flag, I accepted defeat with breastfeeding my son. This was something I was obviously incapable of. The physical pain and mental torment was too much. My son needed a mentally stable mother more than he needed breast milk.
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When I found myself pregnant with my now four year old, I did a bit of research and tried to find out where I failed with my son. When I did my research and talked with my midwife (both my daughters are homebirth by choice) I became angry. I became angry with myself for believing the stuff I was told when it came to infant feeding and I became angry at the medical staff who was supposed to help me. But, I did not stay angry for long. I realized that there is a lack of education surrounding breastfeeding and more myths about breastfeeding than there are about Mount Olympus.
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I found La Leche League and spoke at length many times with the leader. She assured me that yes, I am capable of breastfeeding. She let me know that my supply was compromised from the start and that I can call on her anytime if I have any questions or concerns. Helping me to separate fact from fiction gave me the confidence I need. Having my midwife tell me “trust your instincts” assured me that yes, I can do this and I can be a nursing mom. My midwife helped me make sure the baby was latched properly from the beginning and said “let her stay there as long as she wants. My La Leche League Leader helped to keep her there by answering the phone, not laughing at my questions, and assuring me that yes, I am normal and everything is going to be ok. She quickly became my best friend and even though I never called her in the middle of the night, knowing that I could if something did come up gave me a boost when I was feeling insecure.
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While nursing my now four year old, I came upon a new set of nursing issues that I never imagined myself having to deal with. I was pregnant and nursing. Can I do this? Is it safe? What if (insert some horrible thing that might happen on some alien planet in a galaxy far, far away) happens? Once again, my midwife helped me sort through this, kept close tabs on my pregnancy, and my La Leche League Leader now best friend came to my rescue armed with facts, friendship, and hugs.
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Before I knew it, I had gone from a failure as a nursing mother to nursing a newborn and a toddler. Me.
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Although I no longer have a nursing child, I will forever cherish the gift that La Leche League gave me.

2 comments:

Ms. Burrows said...

Great story. I'm glad you shared it with others. I remember when I breastfed my oldest. I was told the "x minutes on each side ever x minutes" bit as well. I was told not to let my baby use me as a pacifier, and all kinds of other crap. I made it with her, and tandem nursed her and my second daughter. But it was a rough start. Now I'm nursing through my 4rth pregnancy.

Meg_L said...

Kim, I had almost the same story with my first. My only saving was my mil showing up on day 5 and while she hadn't nursed her kids she was very supportive of me and got me through the next week.

Support networks are absolutely a must.