"Hold your baby's hand instead of a bottle"

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Breast Support

Ok, so before I get into my favorite parts of the Boobie Bible I have to backtrack and fastfoward a bit in my breast-feeding journey so that it will make sense why I found that book so helpful and comforting.

In my previous posts I mentioned how my breastfeeding classmate at UNCC told me I needed a support group before I started breastfeeding - and how I completely dismissed that advice. Then when I had difficulties nursing my sister in law came to the rescue. She was the one who showed my husband where to buy the breast wedge (that would replace a rolled up diaper under my breast to help create a better nursing position for baby) and this handy dandy little stop watch beeper looking gadget called an ItzBeen, (both of these items are listed under my helpful links) which kept track of the last time I nursed, how long I nursed for, which side I nursed on last, when I last changed the diaper, how long the baby slept for, and when I last took my painkillers (will explain why I needed those when I use a blog to cover Ben's birth).

When I finally got in touch with my UNCC friend and told her all about the help I got from my sis in law, she explained her troubles with nursing her first baby and how she needed help too (maybe she will write up a blog about her experience and let me share it here). At any rate, she became one of my "go to" moms whenever I had a question about positions to latch baby in, or if it was normal for him to cluster-feed, or if it was wrong for me to nurse him to sleep, etc. It is so helpful to have someone who recently nursed to walk you through all the questions or concerns you might have.

My best friend had also nursed her baby a year before I gave birth, but she never had cracked, bleeding nipples, latching problems, colicky babies, or ever complained about the discomfort during a let down. So I was a little hesitant to go to her with my issues because I didn't think she could help, but I quickly realized how helpful it was just to have one more person be supportive of my choice to breastfeed.

Within days after my sis in law left we started having other visitors. Some were family, others were co-workers of my husbands, or other friends of mine. I can't blame anyone for trying to help me with my colicky Lord of the Rings screaming dragon baby, but it was very frustrating when people would tell me to give my baby sugar water, formula, or a pacifier. There were a couple more desperate nights when I gave in and tried to feed Ben formula in a bottle but the two or three different brands we tried made him gag and vomit instantly. I was scared to offer him a paci bc I didn't want him to get nipple confusion and wreck the transition I was working so hard on to get him to nurse.

In time I began to get even more pressure from family members to formula feed my baby. At this point the nursing thing was starting to go well. I no longer needed nipple creams, latches came naturally, and the let downs were no longer uncomfortable. So I was very sensitive to their attempts to have me give up what I worked so hard for. One family member that is very close to me kept harping on the issue: "You know I wasn't breastfed and I turned out okay...neither you or your brother were exclusively breastfed and you both survived. I think it would make your life easier if you switched to formula." Easier for who? I remember thinking. I'm all alone here. I can't ask my husband to get up in the night every two hours to make a bottle, he has to go to work all day. So instead of picking up my baby and cuddling him against me while I nurse him back to sleep I should shuffle downstairs into the kitchen and hassle myself with sanitizing nipples, measuring water and powder, heating bottles to perfect temperatures and then have to clean the bottles later on?

One thing my sister in law told me to constantly tell myself was, "No dirty bottles to clean, no dirty bottles to clean." When I explained that nursing was the very best thing for the baby, and that I wanted to do it for a year, this particular family member told me that maybe the first few days of nursing is important but the difference between nursing for 12 months or 9 months or 6 months or 6 weeks or even 3 weeks didn't really matter. Maybe this person didn't understand breastfeeding because his/her own mother never breastfed, but throughout the course of breastfeeding my son I continued to hear comments about how "this isn't natural" and how my desire to nurse is becoming "a perversion."

Another family member asked me on what felt like a weekly basis, "Is he still on the tit?" and "how much longer till he's off the tit??" While out to eat with both of these family members Ben was about 3 months old and I knew if I could just nurse him he'd calm down and potentially fall asleep and allow us to enjoy our meal together. When I explained that his relentless crying was because he was hungry they asked with fear and alarm in their eyes, "You're not going to feed him right here are you??" I told them no, and carried my baby into a bathroom and nursed him in a stall. FYI there are cotton pretty little apron like things called Udder Covers you can use to nurse in privacy should your baby ever be hungry in public.

Because I didn't get the encouragement and support from certain family members I heavily relied on my breastfeeding friends to become my breast feeding support group. But I was still discouraged by those that weren't supportive and thought that if I could educate them on how wonderful breast milk is then they would see why this was something so important to me. This was when my research began and the more I read, the more convinced I became that this wasn't just a beautiful bonding time for mother and baby, this was something I would fight for. Not just my right to nurse, but the right for every baby and mother to be given the support and tools they might need to breastfeed. There is so much information, so many truly amazing qualities to breast milk, benefits to both baby and mother, many still yet to be discovered and no single book can cover it all. New facts are being published all the time and I continue to read articles on breast milk or formula and want to somehow organize as much of it as I can in a way that can be useful to those just starting out. This is why I am dedicating this blog to breastfeeding, because the very best thing is the very breast thing!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Milk Came In!

I have to clarify that my husband and I moved from South Florida to North Carolina when I got accepted into the master's program at UNCC. We left all our families and friends behind and two semesters before I graduated we had our first baby.

When I got home from the hospital I tried mixing my first ever bottle of formula. I had disassembled all the pieces to 3 or 4 different style bottles, steamed them, and stored them all in gallon sized zip lock bags. I had no idea how to put the bottle back together or which pieces went to what. I was beyond tired and could barely read the words on the can of formula powder. I called my sister in law hysterically explaining that adding 2 oz of water plus 2 oz of powder to make a 2 oz bottle of formula didn't make sense, (or at least this was what I remembered of the proportions). So I had this lumpy paste mixture in a bag and couldn't figure out how to make the narrow baggie stay inside the bottle with no bottom to it, or how to get a nipple to fit the open baggie inside the bottle (I was missing the ring and a few other parts I think and didn't have a picture to look at and could probably have been declared legally insane from sleep deprivation at this point). She told me to put the bottle making supplies down, go upstairs to my screaming baby in the crib, and just hold him and keep nursing him, just keep nursing him. Every hour or two I had to nurse. It's all about supply and demand. If you don't demand milk, your body won't make it. The second you start supplementing with formula you begin the weening process (as stated by my pediatrician). My sister promised she'd be up the next night (it was about a 12 hour drive from where she lived and she had a 2 year old and a 9 month old and needed to pack up everything she needed to take care of them so that she could take care of them, me and my 3 day old baby).

I set an alarm to go off every 2 hours to nurse my baby (which I didn't really need because I never put my baby down) and dozed off whenever he was nursing instead of screaming in my arms. I remember once waking up startled to the sound of his breathing being muffled by my breast that was covering his face. I kept looking at my cell phone, telling myself to not even think about the one year commitment I made to nurse, but to just get through the hour. With every latch I'd grind my teeth and rock back and forth with the pain of it all. I didn't want to cry or scream b/c I knew babies could sense what you're feeling so I did my best to contain myself. I vividly remember thinking, "This isn't what I signed up for. It wasn't suppose to be this way." I'd seen TLC's shows about having a baby, and even cried while watching it and imagining how sweet it would be when I would experience bringing home my very own baby. I wondered if I was just a bad mom, or if every mom felt this way but we all just lied to everyone, lied to ourselves. Why didn't anyone warn me? A true friend, a good sister would tell you not to have kids. Again, I remembered my sister in law telling me I was crazy to have a baby so far away. She was right. I was crazy, and I wondered if I'd ever be normal, or happy again. This was my darkest hour.  

I don't remember much about that next 4th day except that my husband became a knight in shinning armor when he relieved me of baby duty at 6 am and returned 30 minutes later with a plate of egg whites, bacon and french toast. His sister told him to make me a big breakfast in bed. He fed me while I fed our baby, and that was then things started to look up.

When my sister got there she taught us how to swaddle a baby, how to bounce him to silence the screams, and most importantly she taught me how to nurse. She sat in bed beside me, helped me cradle his body and get a proper latch.

The next thing she insisted on was for me to take a shower. I really wanted to go back to sleep, but she told me I'd feel better after I showered and the hot water would help my milk supply come in. While I was showering I have to admit it felt wonderful. Better then wonderful. I specifically remembering thinking If every mother could just get a hot shower every day there would be no post partum depression! When I stepped out of the shower I saw a drop of white fall down in my reflection and land on my foot. My milk came in!

The next day my sister went with us to the first Pediatrician appointment and saw me awkwardly trying to nurse my baby without my breastfriend pillow. I was literally holding the baby's head in my right hand, balancing his body with part of that arm and my knee. I was trying to lift my boob with my left hand as if it were a bottle. I hovered over him and tried repeatedly to get him to latch on. My sister rolled up a diaper or onesie and propped it under my very full, very heavy breast, creating an ideal horizontal position for baby. I now had a free hand to wrap around my baby's body and I could use the angel of my bicep and forearm as a pillow for baby's head.  I cradled him against my body, straighted my back and like magic, he latched on. When the nurse stepped in I didn't flinch, but my sister draped a receiving blanket over me. "You'll get your modesty back and thank me later," she told me.

While waiting to check out of the office, I could feel my breast refilling and the sensation was unexpected, new and still uncomfortable. Almost like your foot falling asleep. My hands flew to my breast automatically and without thinking I began massaging them in small circular motions trying to rid that tingly feeling away, when again my sister had to whisper in my ear, "Stop rubbing your boobs." Only then did I look around the lobby and notice a bunch of other parents and children. Some were staring and others looked away as though trying very hard to concentrate on anything other than what I was doing. Something didn't make sense. I told myself not to care what strangers thought about me. I had MILK! I was breastfeeding. That was all that mattered. But the looks I did get bothered me. Didn't they understand what I'd just gone through? It felt off. Out of balance. Why should this be something to be embarrassed about? Why should women feel the need to be discreet or ashamed of their ability to feed their baby? I felt like everything had changed in the world. A baby grew inside me and it made its way out of my body! My very most private body parts had been exposed to countless nurses and doctors. I felt like my body wasn't even mine anymore. It had gone through a battle and now I had to be self conscious about tending to the wounded, altered and changing figure I was left with? 

In time I did regain some of my modesty, but I'll never think the same way about my body or what our body parts are really for. Breasts are not just sex symbols. They weren't created solely to make Victoria's Secret rich. Maybe originally breasts became sexually attractive to the cavemen because it was their survival instinct that if a woman had breasts she could feed their children. Then something changed over time. Breasts are now mostly viewed as sexual objects and it seems their real purpose has been forgotten. Cleavage and bras are displayed all over the media and for the most part I don't think people are offended by it. We can judge the breasts on TV and say, "Those are fake" or "she needs a lift" but if a new mom wants to breastfeed, she should do it behind closed doors, and hide under an udder cover. As if nursing breasts are different. They have milk in them and that's not sexy. It seems backwards to me that the breasts for feeding BABIES should be covered up, but if shown for sex then extra cleavage is acceptable and there's nothing wrong with putting them on display. I don't get it! 

After that doctor's office experience I ordered the book, "So that's what they're for!" and actually read it, and it really opened my eyes. I will continue with my breast feeding journey and highlight some of my favorite parts of the book I now refer to as "The Boobie Bible" in my next blog.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Where to begin?

There is so much to cover; I’m both excited and overwhelmed with all the information I want to get on here, but where to begin? Do I start with the most important facts? Interesting, startling, amazing articles and journals? Tips and products that can help those who need this information NOW, or should I start at the beginning, in chronological order? I think I will update this blog in the order of information and tips as I got them, along with my experience with breastfeeding and how I became inspired to create The Very Breast Thing.

I'll start with my story and this will help you better understand how and why I care so much about breastfeeding. I'm actually a little nervous and concerned that people will assume I'm one of those nursing fanatics (and maybe I have become one) but I haven't always been this way, and I definitely didn't want to be one of those kinds of women.

I knew my mother breast fed me when I was a baby, but only for a couple of months, still I have to throw this in because I think on some very deep level it matters. Maybe there is a study out there that can prove that women who were breastfed and exposed to breastfeeding are more likely to nurse their own baby.

Also, I want to clarify something right up front, before I became a nursing mom, I was never "anti-formula", and I'm still not (I understand that sometimes, in some cases, formula is needed, and I do not want this blog to make mothers who could not or did not want to breastfeed feel guilty, or that I'm judging them, or that I think it's wrong) but maybe because my mother nursed me I knew I wanted to "try to breastfeed" one day.

In my experience, a bottle was what you gave a baby. I never grew up watching aunts, cousins, friends of the family or women in public nursing. So when my friend from high school / now sister-in-law had a baby at age 25, and chose to breastfeed, I got my first up close look at how it was done. She made it look easy. She made it look natural. She sent me on errands to buy nipple cream, breast pumps and nipple pads for her, and I was honestly embarrassed to purchase them, hoping the cashier would somehow know these items weren't for me (in fact, I think I asked for a gift receipt). As shy as I was about the products in my hands, I was fascinated to watch my sister-in-law nurse her baby. I tried to give her privacy, but at the same time I thought this was so beautiful (unlike childbirth, which is not!) and so I'd peek up now and then and watch her nurse her baby. This, too, was probably a very large factor in my desire to "try" to breastfeed my own future children.

When I became pregnant, almost 2 years later, one of my classmates at UNCC was also pregnant. She asked me if I planned to nurse and I told her that I planned to "try to nurse". She told me I had to make a solid commitment before the baby arrived or else I wouldn't do it. To me, women were lucky if they could nurse. It wasn't about a choice, it was about fate. It was something I thought that didn't always work. You could try, and hope you would make milk and the baby would want to drink it, but don't be disappointed if it doesn't happen. My friend recommended a book called,
"So that's what they're for: Breast-feeding basics" and I immediately assumed that the book would show pictures but offer no real help. Either this was something that would work, or not, and reading a book had nothing to do with the outcome.

Before she had her baby she told me that if I really wanted to breastfeed I had to find a support group. I thought that was the lamest, most ridiculous thing I'd ever head of! I'm way too shy to go to some Breastfeeding course with a bunch of strangers pulling their breasts out and comparing nipples and latches! She also told me to purchase a "my breast friend" pillow which she said she wouldn't have been able to nurse her first baby without one. This sounded so miraculous that I actually bought one - and I'm SO HAPPY I did! (I placed a link to their website in my list of links below.)

Finally, my baby Ben was born (those three words require their own entire blog, which maybe I'll share another time), and I was very committed to "try" to nurse. I was beyond exhausted, in pain, emotionally drained, and then this screaming newborn wouldn't latch on. I had my breast friend (better then a boppy pillow) but I didn't even know how to hold this fragile, floppy, screaming little thing in my arms. Everything about this process felt awkward. I remember thinking This is nature's way - the best thing for my baby. Relax. Breathe. Then I'd try again. Screaming. Tears. More Screaming. Stay Calm. But there was nothing natural about this! "Take him away, he doesn't want me!" I sobbed to my husband. He calmed the baby down and got him back to sleep. I paged the nurse and demanded to have a lactation consultant ASAP, my baby was hungry!

Twenty four hours later, two lactation consultants, the entire team of nurses, after my mother and husband's assistance, and I still couldn't feed my own baby! At this point I think I hadn't slept in 3 days and I was sinking into a complete depression. My mother left and we were all alone. I heard my sister in law's voice echo in my mind, "You're crazy to have a baby so far away from family."  That 4th night in the hospital I finally got my baby to latch on, only it was a bad latch, and it HURT. But I didn't care. I wanted him to get that amazing colostrum. I wanted him to get food. I needed him to stop crying! After 20 minutes on one side, I finally unlatched him and noticed a small blister forming, but at least he was asleep. I paged the nurse and she brought some nipple cream. Had my sister in law gone through this? Maybe in a day or two I'd be cradling my baby and nursing like a pro, I just had to hang in there.

A few minutes later my baby began screaming again. My husband told me "Please, hunny, PLEASE just give him formula." His son is STARVING and my milk still hadn't come in. I looked up at the nurse, tears falling down my cheeks, and asked her what she would do if this were her baby. She said she'd substitute with a little formula until her milk came in. I gave in and wept while she prepared him a bottle of dairy based artificial baby food. (That is the scientific name for formula, and that was exactly how I'd come to view it after the little bit of Internet reading I'd done in preparation for nursing.) Little did I know that my son was intolerant (not allergic) to the protein found in cow milk called "Casein."  An hour after the bottle, his crying shifted into what we refer to as "level 3" screams, which my husband describes as the ear-piercing, shrieking screams similar to the unnaturally high-pitch dragon from Lord of the Rings. My husband, Nick, would say our baby's cry makes you want to stick a knife in your ear to remove your eardrum because when the screaming stops it leaves your ears ringing, the back of your eyes pulsing, and your head throbbing with a monstrous migraine. The word Colic didn't seem strong enough to describe our baby.

We went home on the 5th day of being in the hospital (I was induced and in labor for the first three days) and bringing home baby was not the beautiful experience I had anticipated. Nick went to the drugstore to pick up my pain reliever prescription and took his blood pressure in one of those arm squeezing machines while waiting. His blood pressure was so high the pharmacist told him to go straight to the ER because he should be in cardiac arrest. He didn't tell me this until a week later, but I could tell he was in bad shape and told him to sleep in our room while I locked myself into the guest room with my baby, my breast friend pillow, my nipple cream and my cell phone. That was probably the very darkest, hardest night of my entire life. Sleep deprivation can do horrible things to your mental health. Luckily, my sister in law came up the next day and she saved us all. Will save that story for the next blog!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Introduction to my first ever Blog!

I am a 28 year old mother who is so thankful to have been able to breastfeed two beautiful boys! My goal is to provide the support, encouragement, information, and education to moms (and dads!) who want to breastfeed or are interested in learning about breastfeeding. I wish to pass on my knowledge and experiences with not only mothers to be, but to all women so they might share this knowledge with other women in their lives. This blog is dedicated to those that think they want to breastfeed their baby and especially for those who desperately want to nurse but are having difficulties and do not have the support they need. I hope the information I post on this blog and my experiences will enlighten, comfort and give you the tools to make the best choice for you and your baby.