My Breast Friend ; )

My passion for breast-feeding comes from my own struggles with it.  The only reason I was successful was because my daughter hated formula.  Thank GOD!  I would have missed out on one of the most rewarding aspects of being her Mommy.  As a nurse in the NICU, we have been educated and seen first hands how wonderful breast milk is for babies.  When I found out I was pregnant, I decided that I would “try” to breast feed.  I would be open-minded and give it a good effort to see if it would work for our family.

When I had our daughter I breast-fed.  I got sore pretty quickly, but I kept going.  It didn’t take long before I started to dread feedings.  I developed a lot of anxiety (please don’t wake her up, I might have to feed her again…OUCH).  My nipples bled and scabbed.  The baby was doing great, she barely lost any weight and had gained weight by her two-week check-up.  Breast feeding still remained very difficult for me, she wanted to nurse ALL THE TIME, how much can two little nipples take?  I even started to envy bottle feeding parents.  I remember one time in particular, my husband and I were at lunch in a restaurant and there was a mom on the other side of the restaurant feeding her young baby and I sat there watching her  thinking in my head “wow, she has it so EASY!  Just stick a bottle in the mouth and done.”  I’m pretty sure I was on the brink of insanity. Between the hormones of just having a baby, the pain of breast-feeding and what I thought to be a “cranky” baby, I was definitely going a little crazy : )

At about four weeks postpartum the worst thing EVER happened.  I got MASTITIS!   I was SO sick, I felt like I had been ran over by a truck, my nipples were going to fall off and my boob was the size of a watermelon.  I called the lactation center at my hospital, who quickly confirmed my dreaded suspicions.  I then begged my doctor to see me that day (Friday, pretty sure I would have died if I waited until Monday), which they did.  Thank you God again.  I got  in there and they gave me antibiotics and told me to “feed” through the infections….hahaha!  Sure I was definitely going to be able to do that.  It hurt so bad!!!!  So I continued to feed on my “good” side and pumped my bad side and fed her bottle breast milk for my “bad” side feeding.  The antibiotics worked wonders, I started to feel better pretty quickly and was able start to heal my nipples by pumping on the “bad” side.  I continued to breast feed and still struggle.  I really did not like breast-feeding, it was torture.  My daughter loved it : )  So I continued for her. At this point I set up a consultation with Lactation to see what the heck was going on.  My nipples were still tore up and my daughter seemed to want to nurse 24 hours a day.  I remember the drive to see the consultant.  My daughter cried the entire drive (20 min), my “bad” boob was getting more red and swollen by the moment and I couldn’t find the dam center…I was on the verge of tears when I got there.  The consultant asked to watch me feed and then she evaluated my daughters latch and suck.  She said that she thinks that while my daughter was going in my uterus that because she was squished she didn’t develop her left jaw muscles very well and was weaker on the left side and that was what was causing all this trouble.  She wasn’t able to express enough milk therefore not emptying the breast and latching incorrectly tearing up my nipples mostly on the right side.  Okay so how do we fix this?  She recommended that I see a speech specialist to evaluate Brielle and show me some exercises that would help strengthen her muscles.  She also recommended that I see the doc again because you guessed it I was developing mastitis AGAIN!  Same boob, holy crap!  I seriously was traumatized and thought I wasn’t going to make it breast-feeding.  I got some stronger antibiotics and again started to feel better. I made an appointment with the specialist and supplemented (per her recommendation) with formula until I saw the specialist.

Supplementing did not go well.  My daughter HATED formula, she would cry and cry while I tried to get her to take the bottle.  I thought that I was helping her because I didn’t think she was getting enough milk from me (bad latch) and needed more food( I wasn’t getting enough when I pumped now). I even switched formula which didn’t make a difference.  We saw the specialist who said that she did have all kinds of stuff going on with her latch and suck and that I would need to do exercises to help strengthen her latch and blah blah blah…Alright the exercises were next to impossible, it never worked for us.

The big turning point.  I was “trying” to feed her a bottle of formula and she was screaming.  I just stopped and stuck her on my breast and said from that moment on I would do whatever necessary to only feed her breast milk.  I got a prescription for Reglan, started taking fenugreek and pumped like a mad women.  It worked!  I have never again given her formula.  She exclusively breast feeds when I am home and drinks bottle breast milk when I work.  What I haven’t mentioned was that I only feed off my “good” boob.  Call me Mrs. Lopsy!  I was traumatized from the bouts with mastitis, I started to feed more and more off the “good” side and didn’t have the time to pump regularly off the “bad” side.  My production from the “bad” side has decreased to about 1 ounce/day now.  Where my production from the “good” side is about 4 ounces per pump session.  Nonetheless I regret not making a better effort to keep the production up on the “bad” side.  Mostly for cosmetic reasons.  I look pretty ridiculous o O !

To breast feed now is a piece of cake!  At about 2 months it just got SO easy.  It doesn’t hurt at all and I actually LOVE it.  When she looks up at me while nursing and smiles, it is the best feeling in the world.  She is seems so happy when she is breast-feeding.  I am so glad that I stuck with it and can give her that happiness. This is why breast-feeding is now a passion of mine.  I want to help other moms experience this wonderful God-given  gift.  I hope that my experiences good and bad with breast-feeding can give encouragement to other moms to continue and experience this wonderful time with their babies.

I am heading up a project at work to make our unit more “breast friendly”.  Right now I am trying to develop what areas we can improve on and get permission to do a survey with willing participants and get first hand feed back about what we can do in the NICU to make breast-feeding easier and more successful.  I am hoping to present my project to the team for permission in October.  Fitting that its breast cancer awareness month and breast-feeding decreases your chances of getting breast cancer : )  I will keep everyone updated on the progress of my project.