08 February, 2010

Motherhood: Week 7 and Our Breastfeeding Experience

Ollie 1 month

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! This month contributors talk about overcoming breastfeeding challenges. Check out others bloggers who are participating at the links below (more will be added throughout the day of 2/22) - and enjoy reading our breastfeeding story.

Life has been better around here. After one harrowing night of no sleeping and consistent crying he is sleeping at 4-5 hour intervals at night (well at least last night). Not being sleep deprived lately has allowed me to really enjoy this baby - he is awake around 1-2 hours during the day. He is interested in staring at toys and sitting propped upright, looking around. It is nice to see this once sleepy baby being attentive and playful. I can't wait for him to begin cooing and smiling at us - my sister got one coo out of him yesterday so I know it will happen soon.

I wanted to also talk a little about breastfeeding, because it has been quite a ride for us. Pre-term babies often have difficulty latching on and suckling as that is one of the things they work on in utero the last four weeks, Ollie missed out on that development. His first few days of life he didn't nurse with the exception of my sister nursing him for a short while. It was a vicious cycle of my nipple not being big enough to touch the roof of his mouth and him not suckling so that my nipple became big enough. Each time we tried to nurse he would just cry and flail around at the breast, it was heartbreaking. After the third day (it could have been second it was such a blur) he was down to 5 lb 11 oz and quite jaundice, we had to focus on getting this little guy some calories. Our midwife suggested pumping (we rented an electric pump from the hospital) and dropper feeding him each hour for a 24 hour period to get calories into him and "bulk" him up. It was a time of great mixed emotions. I cried and felt overwhelmed - on top of being extremely exhausted and recovering from birth I felt like I was not adequately providing for him, so the task just seemed next to impossible. Ron and I were both scared that he was just going to wither away. At the same time, I was confident that nursing would be successful - and that bottle feeding formula was going to be our last resort. I was lucky to have gotten this support and not made me feel bad that I was not supplementing formula. We called in the troops; my parents came over and a friend was around to help out. I pumped, we set an alarm for every two hours. Thank goodness for my mother who patiently coaxed little Ollie to take the droppers - some feedings took over an hour to get milliliters into him. I slept and pumped - it was exhausting, but I knew that it was the best thing for this little guy of mine.
After this marathon day I began to use a nipple shield. Despite the negative stigma that nipple shields have and that it is contested if they are in fact beneficial, I am thankful that we had this available to us. Without it he wouldn't have been able to latch on for a whole month. Nursing was a whole production - make sure the room wasn't too hot - take off most of his clothes - wake him up - run your fingers down his spine - put cold hands on him - tap his feet, etc, etc. All this baby wanted to do was sleep and sucking was last on his agenda.
Over the next few weeks we had a La Leche League Leader come over. It was so comforting to have someone come in and say that I was doing okay and that using a nipple shield was not a failure, that in fact she had seen many women with pre term babies use it for about a month and then nurse successfully. Our midwives also had many success stories where babies nursed beautifully after a few weeks. I was skeptical but hopeful - and on bad nights/days I was down right pessimistic. Alas come late January around what should have been 40 weeks Ollie began latching on. The first few days we used the football hold and he latched on a few times. After about a day or two he was not using the shield at all. Then came the nipple pain! I watched some videos about proper latching on because I realized he was not latching on correctly and his suck was still not great, very shallow so my nipples were a wreck, blisters, cracked and bleeding. Something that no one tells you - that basically your nipples have to get used to nursing (stretching etc) the first few days (for me this was a month later), and on top of his poor latch it was awful! I cried and dreaded nursing it hurt so bad, one morning I really thought of giving up, the whole nursing journey had been so difficult, I was at my wits end and envied every mother who could nurse their baby without pain. After some sleep and nurturing from Ron I got some lanolin (Lansinoh) and visited a nursing clinic in my area and realized that what Ollie and I were doing was working and I just needed my nipples to heal and get him to take in more of my areola by sandwiching the tip of my nipple. They are still on the mend - and now 7 weeks later - nursing is working. I won't say flawlessly because I think that is impossible even for the best of nursing babies, but I have an 1o pound baby now so something has got to be going right.

Other Carnival Participant Blogs:

Hobo Mama: Supplemental feeding techniques for a breastfed baby
The Milk Mama:
How I got my bottle-guzzling, breast-phobic baby to love nursing Breastfeeding 1-2-3: The Importance of a Babymoon
Whozat: A Rough Start
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Asks Us
Maman A Droit: Clueless!
Melodie @ Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: I'll Be Brief: How To Overcome Breastfeeding Challenges
Living Peacefully with Children: When Nursing Takes Longer...


erica said...

nursing is tough, even in ideal circumstances like mine. it took 3 months for it to finally 'click'. suddenly i didn't feel awkward holding him, and instead of feeling pain or annoyance, i felt relief when he latched on. i struggled again with my frustration when he started de-latching in order to look around (at 4 months) instead of nursing. it took 4 more months for me to be ok with the disruptions. now he's nearly 12 months, and i'm not ready to stop nursing just yet.

i'm glad that things are getting better for you and ollie. it's amazing the things mothers do for their babies.

Becky said...

rock on, sister. Nursing is hard work, even for full term babies. Everyone touts the benefits of breastfeeding, but no one talk about the torture and pain on your nipples. I am still dealing with sever nipple pain/the latch of fire....after the initial latch, it is okay, but I am literally seeing stars for a minute....You deserve a medal for sticking with it!

Melodie said...

Your story is similar to others I have heard, although these stories are far and few in between. Not many moms can stick it out waiting for their baby to get the hang of ibreastfeeding, but when they do, more often than not these babies do get the hang of it and go on to enjoy a long lasting breastfeeding relationship. Remember, if your baby was a preemie then he still needs to mature to the age of a full term baby before he will "get it." Great post.

ej said...

well done for sticking with it and having success! I two had a pre-term baby and it took three weeks to finally achieve breastfeeding success but what joy it brought us both. Im now a trained breastfeeding support worker and meet many moms struggling to breastfeed and all that it is is proper attachment. if the attachment is right it will work everytime but this is a learned skill, so it takes time help and support. If pain is felt on latch and feeding always stop and re attach and make sure the nipple is right back in babies mouth and the breast is being milked properly. Well done to all the nursing moms out there you should be so proud!

noahandlylasmommi said...

I know exactly what you are going through with the bleeding, cracked nipples. No fun! You should really pat yourself on the back for sticking with it. I had a terrible time trying to nurse my son and gave up within weeks. It isnt easy!