Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Breast is Best

It's only been 5 weeks since I gave birth but already this whole breastfeeding adventure has been a huge strain on my body and my spirit. I promised myself that this time, breastfeeding would go well. I'd be one of those women who could miraculously produce gallons of milk in a day with just the simple act of pumping, minus the flailing arms, hysterical cries and constant frustrated feeding sessions I had with Julian.

I had two major problems with my first go at breastfeeding. One, I never made enough milk to keep Julian satisfied. He was always in the 95th percentile in everything - weight, height, pain-in-the-butt factor. And no matter how many times I fed him, at one point just trudging all over the house in nothing but a nursing bra, it was never enough. I supplemented him the very first time with formula at about 8 days old. First it was a bottle a day, then 2 then I was lucky to get a ratio of 4:1, formula vs. breastmilk. When I went back to work, I could get about 8 oz with 2-3 pumping sessions per day. Then it went to 5, then 4, then 2. The only thing my body kept doing was making breastmilk at night so that he could sleep-nurse. However, sleep nursing was absolutely killing my sleep. I know it's supposed to be more relaxing and give both mom and baby a peaceful sleep, but my experience was that I would wake up every hour or so to nurse and he would just keep sucking for comfort for 20-30 minutes. In the end it made for hellish sleep.

The second major problem I had (related to the first, of course) is that I didn't really enjoy breastfeeding. Once you make the choice to breastfeed, you're conceding that you're going to be tied to this one person all day long, and if you have a huge baby who needs constant food, you're pretty much tied to them and nothing else. That leaves no time for eating, relaxing, going out, walking, napping, or any of the other things new moms need to do to stay sane. Plus I was going through some post partum blues and having to deal with the fact that my life was irreversibly changed. Given my lack of enthusiasm for it, it was more than easy to just say, ok, let's make a bottle. So I did. And my supply dropped, which was horribly depressing.

I was really down on myself about my first go at breastfeeding. I told myself that I should have tried harder and sacrificed a bit more (this from the mouth of a person who is perfectly comfortable in her role as a mom NOW and more than willing to sacrifice for her children). So I was determined to make my second try better. I nursed each and every time Emily wanted to. I read all the books. I got an electric pump. I bought all sorts of breastmilk storage containers and bottles. I even drank that foul Stilltee (breastmilk tea) they give you with each meal at the hospital. I was really happy with my progress and by the time I got home (7 days postpartum) I was making a lot of milk and Emily was really thriving.

Then about 2 weeks postpartum, my supply started dropping for no reason. I couldn't even squeeze out 1 oz from the pump after sitting at it for 40 minutes. I couldn't figure out why this was happening or what I had done wrong. I was getting decent sleep, I ate enough, and I was feeding her each time she was hungry (about every 2-3 hours). Then, the same day I started worrying about my supply, I was rushed to the hospital for massive hemorrhaging. It seemed that was the reason I was losing my milk (more on that later). After my surgery, they told me that it was possible I'd dry up because I lost so much blood and I was now severely anemic. I was so upset - to work so hard and lose my milk for something so totally out of my control. On some level, it should have been easier to accept if it wasn't my fault - and my mom did point out that after all, breastfeeding is hard and it's not such a bad thing if we had to switch to formula. After all, kids are sometimes raised on nothing but and they all grow up just fine. That night, Emily had her first bottle of formula.

I woke up that night completely engorged. I became suddenly elated because, huzzah, the surgery must have knocked something loose and my milk was back! I was so happy - now I could go back to only feeding breastmilk. Screw formula! We don't need no stinking formula! If that bottle was still there and if it wasn't made of glass, I would have thrown it across the room for emphasis. The next day, the lactation consultant stopped by and asked how it was going. I was so enthusiastic about the return of my milk (btw, this makes me think of this song). She smiled and then said "Yeah, you need to take some medicine to prevent further hemorrhaging. This will most likely dry up your milk."

It's a good thing there were no objects that I could throw nearby. I couldn't believe it. One thing after another - it was super depressing. First the anemia, then this medicine. I just couldn't win. It's not like breastfeeding is super easy anyway, but all these roadblocks being thrown my way made me feel like I was running the hurdles while people were shooting flaming arrows my way. Plus, I was being told repeatedly to REST but come on. Who can rest with a brand new baby?

So, now 3 weeks on and I'm still breastfeeding. In fact, I'm pumping as well. I won't say it's going perfectly. There are still days when I think I'm drying up again, but for now, it seems to be going ok. I just drink a lot of water, eat a lot (like I needed arm twisting for that), and make the whole thing a matter of pride, rather than an obligation. I can do this because I was told I couldn't. I will persevere because I am strong.

Being a mom is does that to you.

Easing into It

Hmm, I used to have this blog. It was a good blog but I realized at one point, I was no longer blogging for myself, but for other people. I was too concerned with making sure I didn't offend people I knew, or even people I didn't know, or how many comments I was getting - all of which had nothing to do with writing for myself. That was, after all, the reason I started blogging in the first place. But I do miss it. I'm just going to kind of ease into this blogging thing. I don't have a ton of time to do it. I have two kids now and barely any time.

I'm now 5 weeks post partum. I was actually going to start exercising the other day before I realized, yeah, I should probably wait. They say you should resume normal activities after 6 weeks, but I had massive hemorrhaging and surgery after 2 weeks, so I assume I need to wait another 2 weeks, no? Not that I'm itching to exercise - just would be a nice way to get some energy.

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