Here’s where I continue with our honesty in blogging and also indulge in a bit of soul bearing and whining. Breastfeeding is hard. I don’t love it. All those rose-tinted images that I had have been shattered. Right now, I am sticking with it for intellectual reasons only. If I based my decisions on convenience, emotions, or comfort I’d have given up 2 weeks ago. Here’s a bit of a history on the past 3 weeks:
My breasts are very large and I am rather petite. I’d have gotten a reduction years ago except I always wanted to breastfeed. And THEN I’d have a reduction. My breasts have been producing colostrum since my mid teens. Clearly, I thought, breastfeeding was my destiny.
After my very difficult labor and delivery I was still committed to get started right away. Curly rooted on my bare chest as soon as he was placed there, 20 minutes after he was born. He latched on and seemed to have the hang of it, though he was only getting a tiny bit of colostrum. In the hospital, I got help with positioning and latch from the nurses and 2 different lactation consultants. I was determined to succeed. However, he wanted to suck ALL THE TIME. We couldn’t wait to get home and give him a pacifier so he’d stop screaming if he didn’t have the boob or a finger in his mouth.
Once we got home, I kept at trying to feed him. It’s normal for the milk to take 3-5 days to come in. That first night home he was clearly starving and my colostrum wasn’t enough. My nipples were cracked and sore and one of them had a blood blister. He screamed for hours. For our sanity and for his comfort, we made him a bottle of formula (the hospital provided samples) and he finally fell asleep afterwards.
On the 3rd day, my milk came in but his latch was still quite painful. For the next several days, he would nurse for hours off and on. He’d sleep for 10 minutes, and then scream and flail and kick. Every time he latched on, he would choke and spit and pop off. When he did stay latched, he would bite my nipple and leave it blanched white and cramping for hours afterwards. I was a sobbing, hormonal mess. Still, at the pediatrician, he was within 2 oz of his birth weight, so we were told everything was fine.
We began to notice that he was extremely gassy and that was what made him so uncomfortable much of the time. He got hysterical if we tried to lay him flat. I noticed that the longer he ate, the worse he was, so I began to limit his time on the breast and things got a bit better. Then, his poop changed from the normal loose seedy yellow/orange of a breastfed newborn to a dark watery green. We looked this up online and found that we had all of the symptoms of a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance and an overactive letdown. (I’ll let you look those up if you are interested, basically I was making too much milk and it was flowing too fast.) The first cure for this is to “block feed” where you offer only one breast repeatedly over a period of a few hours and only express enough out of the other breast to relieve discomfort. So I did that. And I got engorged and was in pain and was leaking everywhere. But slowly, over a few days, his poop changed back to the right color and my supply adjusted itself.
A visit with the lactation consultant confirmed that we were doing everything right. It is still a fight to get him to latch properly. My wrists hurt from supporting his head and my breast. My nipples ache and burn and sting. The time I sit in my special chair and nurse him is boring. But, he is clearly thriving and even sleeping in his crib for a few hours at a time. And so I’ll stick with it. 3 months is my first goal. That’s when I return to work. If I want to give up at that point, I might. If not, I’ll try to pump at work and go until 6 months. After that, I can stick with it if I want, but I will have met my long range goal. Right now, that seems awfully far away.