The Nursing Chronicles: Part One

While writing Breastfeeding by Fire, I got a little side-tracked and started writing about my first impressions of breastfeeding.  So here is my stream of conscious on that.

Even before I was pregnant, I planned to breastfeed.  I was not, however, a militant supporter of breastfeeding. I thought (and still do think) that full baby bellies are the most important thing, whether they are fed with breastmilk or formula. Sure, I was aware of the health benefits, but I was more focused on how breastfeeding was free and convenient.  I was wrong on both counts, at least initially.

As my pregnancy progressed, I became very worried that my milk wouldn’t come in, or I would have a low supply. I even avoided buying a breastpump, so that the money wouldn’t be wasted should I not be able to breastfeed.  I had read so much about skin-to-skin, and how important it is for developing a good breastfeeding relationship, and was terrified of the possibility of not getting that immediate skin to skin contact. I wrote in Vivi’s birth post about how they didn’t bring her right to me, and even that caused a little anxiety.

After only a few minutes, Vivian was brought to me.  A nurse asked me if I planned to breastfeed, and then motioned me to get the girls out. I had a nursing bra on, so that was easy. (don’t buy maternity bras when you’re pregnant. Just get nursing bras. They’re wonderful in the early phases).  I put a naked Vivian (except for her diaper) on my bare stomach and chest and voila.  She rooted around (bobbing her head back and forth) to try to find my nipple. I guided her a little, and she latched on with no problem.  Until that point, I hadn’t read a word about proper latch and all that. I just figured they ate or didn’t.

I expected that first time to hurt, but it really didn’t. At that point, only colostrum was coming out for her (colostrum is what one of the nurses called liquid gold for babies).

The time in the hospital was quite a daze. We had to keep a record of each time she ate, which was about every 3 hours or so. I remember feeling relatively relaxed about feeding her, and felt like things were going ok.

On our first full day in the hospital, I asked to see the lactation consultant on duty.  I figured a few pointers and suggestions could help.  Really, we wanted to be able to identify the signs that she was hungry (other than crying). The lactation consultant came by and asked if I wanted to try feeding her then.

(At that point, she was moving her head back and forth (in her little bassinet thing), and trying to find her hand. Other signs that a baby is hungry is rooting, which is when they bob their head back and forth on your body, looking for the nipple. And crying. Crying also tells you too.)

What a mistake that was.  The lactation consultant was rude, unsupportive, and made me doubt every instinct I had as a mother.  Until that point, Viv and I were doing ok.  Then she goes and tells me that I’m going to have trouble breastfeeding because my daughter is finicky.  Naturally I started getting upset.  She then said that she didn’t think she could help me because I was getting so anxious.  Wow, thanks a lot.  To top it all off, when we were talking generally about our lives and our two big dogs, she went on and on about how she hates dogs.  Way to know your audience.  I know for a fact that not all lactation consultants are like this, but I am so upset to know that she is out there discouraging other new moms.  I think that last part really sparked me to hate her, and dismiss her entirely.  When she stopped by the next day to check on us, I told her things were going fine.  They weren’t, but I didn’t want any more input from her.

Once I got home, I tried to settle into a routine. As with the hospital, the first few weeks were a blur. I was recording every feeding: start and end times, which boob. Over. And over. And over.  I was exhausted. The Man was exhausted. the dogs were exhausted. It was really hard not to get frustrated.

About ten days in, I started to lose it.  My milk had come in, and my boobs were killing me.  My nipples were hard and red and sore, regardless of how much lanolin I rubbed on there, and how often I put the nipples soothers on.  Initially, when Viv was hungry, The Man would hold her up under her arms and say “We want boob! We want boob!”.  Usually I varied between laughing or being annoyed, but on this day I just started sobbing. I don’t want to! I don’t want to do it anymore!

I started to have a horrible pain in the upper right side of my right breast.  After doing some internet research (my iphone was my best friend during those days), DOOM! It could be an infection! I read more about clogged ducts than I ever wish to know.  I called my OBGYN that Friday (12 days in), and never got a phone call back.  After actually sobbing through a feeding that afternoon, Bob and I finally decided to suck it up and go buy a breast pump.  And so, Vivian’s first store was Babies R Us.

That breast pump was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Aside from the humiliation of being hooked up to a milker, my first pump experience was great.  First of all, it didn’t hurt that much; certainly not as much as breastfeeding did.  I figured out that maybe breastfeeding didn’t need to hurt so much.  I had read so many people saying that if it hurts, you’re not doing it right.  But now I knew there was a difference between hurt and discomfort.

As I mentioned in the Breastfeeding by Fire Post, I started looking into different ways to hold Vivian while she ate.  I’ve sworn by the cross cradle hold ever since. For example, if I was feeding Viv form my right breast, I have her rest across my abdomen, with her body on my left arm.  My left hand is holding on to the back of her head.  I would then use my right hand to guide my breast to her mouth. My right elbow is sticking all out and weird, but it was perfect for us.  I had control over where her head was going, and where my breast was going. And after that, it just clicked.

That was two weeks in. Two weeks. When I was living it, it seemed like an indefinite, undending period of time.  But here I am, with an eight month old, who breastfeeds like a champ (ahem. have you seen the chunky thighs?). 

My next challenge was breastfeeding in public. or at least not hiding in the other room at my parent’s house.  Tune in for more details tomorrow whenever I feel like writing about it!

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