Monday, September 23, 2013

The Diary of a Breast Fed Baby

*I want to preface this by letting you know this post is all about boobs and the struggles of breast feeding. Feel free to not read on if you were like me 9 months ago. completely offended and disgusted by the idea. Somewhere between conception and birth I had a serious change of heart where my desire to breast feed and see the beauty in it grew beyond my wildest imagination.

Everyone knows the breast is best. The countless health and developmental factors were enough to keep me going. I had also heard beautiful stories of bonding and emotional fulfillment for mother and child that I was desperate to experience.

Sitting in the hospital the day after Anna was born, I had a melt down. I had gone to a nursing specialist and was given tips and tricks to get Anna to latch properly. I knew she was getting hungry and so I tried everything. Nothing was working and she was getting mad. I cradled her as i cried hopelessly and desperately tried to comfort my screaming Anna. As Zach sat there watching the pathetic scene, he recommended calling the specialist in again. We did, and this time she came with a plan.

We concluded we had to teach her to put her tongue down to suck properly. And so the express (pump) and syringe method began. We kept this up for two weeks until we finally, finally, purchased the Playtex Nursers bottles and a nipple shield. I have no idea why it took us so long. We were scared of nipple confusion, but whats to confuse when she wasn't even breast feeding. Don't get me wrong, we tried. Every day, multiple times a day, we tried. 5 minutes of uninterrupted latching and sucking (with the shield as that was the only way to get her latching) was like finishing a marathon.

Now that we had the pumping and bottle feeding thing figured out my breast feeding attempts slowed. The shield was inconvenient and temperamental. It was so disappointing to be rejected time and time again. Its hard not to take it personally. But more than having my feelings hurt, I felt like I wasn't able to perform my job as a mother. My body was built to do this, dang it, so why was it so hard?

I learned that breast feeding is hard for many, but I wanted this so bad, so we kept trying. After giving it a break, completely, for almost a week, my curiosity peaked and I tried again, this time with out the shield. 5 minutes, 6, 7, 15 minutes of uninterrupted latching and sucking. I told my mom and Zach right away. I was ecstatic. We kept on bottle feeding, but now I was trying to breast feed again, and she was getting the hang of it. She never stayed on long enough to be full so we still did the bottle thing but 5 - 30 minutes at a time was huge for us. Finally at 1 1/2 months we went 12 hours with no bottle. I had arrived. I finally felt like a real mom. One that could feed her baby and everything, just like the movies! All joking aside, I really was filled with a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Then after a week of real breast feeding the pain set in. Sharp piercing pain that started at the beginning of every feeding and grew until I had to pull her off and make her take the bottle. It got so bad I didn't even want to offer the breast. I just knew it would hurt. So I consulted Google about this pain that felt like needles being pulled from my toes and arms through my breast with every suck. Come to find out I was doing everything wrong. And trust me, there are a lot of things you can do wrong. (See Here for feeding solutions.) I was slouching, putting her in the same position every time, waiting to long between feedings and more. All those tricks I had learned in the hospital were all good when you're holding a 7 1/2 lbs baby but a whole new story with a 10+ lbs baby with her own set of bad feeding habits.

So, we pulled out the Boppy and used it to support my arms and her body. We mixed up our positions, practiced eating early and often, and here we are ladies and gentleman, we are learning how to feed and be fed. 8 weeks and we are finally where I naively thought all new moms walked out of the hospital at.

I am sure each stage of infancy and life will bring new sets of challenges. I'm not all gung-ho about breast feeding for the next 3 years or anything but I will confide that each successful breast feeding has touched my heart. Its an odd thing really, that this act of complete giving can feel so incredibly rewarding. But, isn't that how life works? Serving others gives us that sense of fulfillment that no shopping spree can bring.

To all you mothers who know what its like to struggle, bless you! To those who are struggling and wondering if its worth it, I say, yes. Yes, it is worth it. Every mother and child is different and I know that for some the benefits do not outweigh the struggles, and to them I say embrace the bottle, your sanity (and husband) will thank you. You know what to do and what you can handle. You are a mom!

Happy Monday everyone.


Kimimi Ashley said...

You don't know me, but my son Stephen went to school with Zach and I helped coach him in H.S. tennis. Anyways, just wanted to input that this was such a good article on the sometimes "not so easy" task of a new breastfeeding mom. You did well in sticking with it. Good job!

Zach and Sara Allen said...

Thank you Kimimi. I was so surprised to hear that this was so much more common than I thought it was 3 months ago. Wish it was talked about more, so it wasn't such a shock and a disappointment.