Before we get into this post, I want you to know I spent many days thinking about what I would say on the subject of breastfeeding. You can find so much information about it online, hospitals give out pamphlets, there are books for expecting moms that offer pointers. Along with the basics comes a heap of controversy, guilt and pride, depending on who you are. I do not want to ever write anything that makes another mom feel small or judged, I also don’t want to draw negative attention to myself. (Isn’t sad something as simple and natural as breastfeeding can cause mama drama?) With the disclaimer complete, let me assure you I’m just sharing my experience, evolution of feelings, tips I collected throughout pregnancy and post-pardom, and personal trial and error!
Once David and I began seriously deciding when to start our family, I began seriously considering all the things I would want to do for my child. I went right back to all the motherhood blogs I had stumbled upon once I had finished perusing all the wedding blogs, back in my wedding planning days (yea, I research everything, well in advance!) Such helpful blogs as Natural Birth and Childcare, Early Mama, and Us Three Birds. These blogs lead to other blogs which lead to other blogs, you know how that works. So through looking at what these moms were doing, I began painting a picture in my mind of what I wanted to do, built a belief system for how I would nurture my baby, and what I would do for both our bodies. I began believing passionately in breastfeeding. I looked at everything I could on how to get started, the benefits, and what in the world was mastitis? I did for a while feel some judgmental feelings towards moms who chose formula, and prayed so hard that I would be able to produce for my child. I assumed moms who said they dried up just hadn’t followed all the “rules”. So here goes…
I had read, if I remember correctly, somewhere or TinyBlueLines sometime after she had her son, some tips for keeping up your milk supply. I searched her site last night though and couldn’t find the post I remember. But what I read is this, staying hydrated is mucho importante! Her rule of thumb (and she’s a labor and delivery nurse by the way, as well as awesome writer) to keep yourself hydrated was just to make sure you drink 8 oz. of water after each feeding to help restore your supply. It’s also important to eat the right amount and type of calories, so keep a snack nearby where you’re feeding.
Here’s what I did the first several weeks: I always had water bottles prepared ahead of time, and kept water bottles at the ready and just drank while E was eating, and after. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, you only need your normal caloric intake plus 300 calories. That’s basically yogurt and a granola bar, or two granola bars, depending what kind you choose. My favorite breastfeeding snack the first few weeks was a tropical trail mix that had nuts, yogurt covered almonds (something candy-like is a nice treat!), golden and regular raisins, papaya, mango, pineapple, and coconut strips (you can find this at Sam’s Club). SO for each feeding, hubby would grab me a water bottle, fill up a tiny saucer (1/4 to 1/2 cup) with my snack, and I would settle in to feed baby. This worked great for my supply. Here’s what didn’t work.
I talked to the midwives a lot about breastfeeding, asked the LDNs about mastitis, but when the lactation consultant came around, her advice stuck, and pretty much proved void after a few weeks into my post-pardom, but I didn’t know that til later. LC said no pumping since I wasn’t going back to work, it wouldn’t be necessary and it would tell my body to make more milk than I needed. She said only do one sided feedings, supposedly this will regulate your milk. First problem that had nothing to do with the LC, I didn’t know my milk was already in, probably before I left the hospital. I was confident, according to what I had read pre-delivery, I would only have colostrum for 3-5 days (the gel-like substance your body should produce after delivery containing all the vitamins and nutrients, and antibodies your baby needs for the first few days of like outside). I know had colostrum the first day at least, the nurse showed it to me when she strangled my lady lumps in an effort to help E feed. Any way, I finally got a clue when I saw large stains down my nursing tank that didn’t seem to be from lanolin. Silly post-pardom brain. My cup size went WAY UP (34H, from a 36D during pregnancy, crazy)! But I never felt the pain that so many women had described to me. So anyway, E had trouble suckling for a while, and I wasn’t able to have the relief that is supposed to come when your baby feeds. But because I was so dependent on the LC advice, and trying to recall everything I had read, and functioning on no sleep, I floated along thinking everything was fine. Plus at the 2 week checkup with the Ped. E had gained 2 lbs. *First tip here, if you’re like me and are clueless that you actually have milk, you can find out my hand expressing. Cup your breast with one or both hands by making your thumb and fingers into a “C”, and squeeze. You’ll soon see whether you have milky white or gel. FYI, white is milk 😉
Around 11 days post pardom pain in my left breast was getting bad, but I ignored it, assuming all was normal. That night I felt very chilled, tired, and weak. Again, thought this was all a part of the process. I had read Chaunie’s post about mastitis following the birth of her son, and feared the worst for me. But still in doubt, didn’t know what to do. At this point, I wish my brain would have been functional, I would have just called the on-call midwife for suggestions, but I let hubs and my visiting aunt make the decisions so we went to Urgent Care. I’ll spare the details of how they diagnosed me with appendicitis and sent me to our incompetent ER where I was told I had leftover post-pardom matter in my uterus (almost never happens with a natural vaginal delivery and full natural delivery of placenta, my midwife looked up the stats for me the next morning), it was brutal, my breast was still flaming and killing me, and I had a fever.
Three nights before all this craziness, I finally called the LC at the hospital because my left breast was so huge, so firm it was like a boulder, and hurting!!! They don’t work around the clock, so I had to leave a voicemail which she didn’t return til the next afternoon. She asked if I was feeding on both sides, I thought she meant the way I was instructed at the hospital, both sides, but not each feeding. (***I had been tracking feedings in a notebook, the time they stopped and started, and which side. This is very good to do in the beginning, I recommend keeping track somehow!!! My baby had nursed 20 times in 24hrs. This is too much, he wasn’t nursing effectively, if I knew what I know now, I would have done some things differently… more on that later too.) So I said yes. She said to stop that and proceeded to tell me to feed on the right side exclusively from Wednesday-Friday. Then switch and feed exclusively on the leftside. Well… that didn’t work. Especially since it was my left side that was already blocked. Again, slow post-pardom brain. I just followed advice like a lost lamb. I made it about 24 hrs. and it was obvious my right side could not keep up with my baby’s needs, I had to feed on the left side, but it was so swollen, the nipple was impossible for the baby struggling to latch anyway, to grab. I tried the pump finally but it was so used it had no power, I tried hand expressing and just got enough out to make enough lee-way for E to eat. Well, obviously to all (but me in the moment), this was the last nail in the coffin for my poor blocked milk duct!
PC dying… hubby needs to go to bed…. I will continue this later!!!!!!!!!!