Breastfeeding Journey, Part I

I could write a book on this one. Meaning, I went through emotional rollercoaster. And so did my body.

To place you in my setting… During my first pregnancy, I was in graduate school. Meaning, I was surrounded by mostly single makes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my homies, but I was not mentally prepared for what was ahead of me.

At some point I had read a story about actress Leighton Meester’s biological mother. She gave a birth to her while she still had over a year of her sentence to serve. So pregnant me thought “if she could do it, I can do it”. I was gifted with “What to expect when you are expecting”, which goes into a lot of details, so I definitely thought I got it.

Gave birth to my bundle of joy. My huge and painful breasts indicated that I have plenty of milk. First doctor check up was after 5 days where we found out that our girl was dropping in weight instead of reaching her birth weight. Did I cry in shock and disappointment? Yes I did.

We were appointed to talk to lactation consultant. Those women are angels, giving support in most fragile and uncertain life of a now mom. She told us that our kid:

  • doesn’t know how to breastfeed,
  • loves to cuddle while nursing causing her to fall asleep even though she is hungry, and by doing so,
  • she is losing (precious) calories by doing nursing jaw-movement.

What? Wait, what do we do??? She FULLY supported me in my (painful) breastfeeding journey and told me to:

  • feed her through a tiny tube connected to a syringe filled with pumped breast milk (that way we control how much she eats)
    •  and not by using a bottle, since that could make her even more lazy and then she will never work hard during nursing
  • pump after each nursing (that way, if she hadn’t eaten much, I can pump out the portion that is more fat and calorie rich and feed it to her after next feeding)
  • make sure she is spending only 10 minutes on each breast and that
    • she stays awake during that time (gentle pinches at certain places work great, and you will find what works for your kid)
    • keeping her naked (only in a diaper) during breastfeeding also helps to keep her awake (I was reassured she will not be cold since during those times, my body helps her body control the temperature; they are never too hot or too cold while breastfeeding)

If you don’t understand the severity of my situation, I will tell you 2 things: (1) she was losing so much wight that we had to go to wight her every day, (2) if she’d gain 5 grams, we would hear “great job!” from our LS and (3) my breasts were in so much pain that I was pumping pink milk (mix of blood and milk). The latter was safe for her, as I’d been told. Also regarding that, nipple shield brought some relief, but LS told me as soon as I feel my nipples are healing, I should dump it, since the shield is preventing my girl to take those last ounces of fat milk. And I did.

She was one month when we were told we don’t have to come anymore for daily weight-ins. She returned to her birth weight and my nipples (somewhere) healed. She was 75% when she was born. She’d dropped to 29% at some point during that first month. When she was 4 months, she was in 91%. Go me. Only with the help of my LS, husband who always supported me and some insane drive that pushed me to read all the breastfeeding benefits? I read a lot of those.

Another thing was a breakthrough for me – figuring out how to breastfeed while lying down. Game changer. Since I had to wake her up every 2 hours during night, doing it while in bed saved my back and my sanity.

One more thing, regarding bleeding nipples, I never really found anything that helped me. LS suggested coconut oil or lanolin (less preferred). I also tried 3 different Medela products (ointments and patches), couple of organic all-natural nipple creams. I guess the cracks were so deep that nothing helped. With the first one, airing them out and temporary wearing nipple shield, helped me over time. I also took few super hot showers throughout the day.

All in all, it was a hell for a month. But afterwords, it was magical. When she was 3.5 months, she would breastfeed for 5 mins maximum, on both breasts. My little chubby baby. I don’t know if this is related to anything, but she is never sick, has no allergies and eats pretty much everything now (this not all roses, there are serious negotiations involved very often, and it will be a topic of another post).

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