I always knew I would breastfeed when we started talking about having a baby. It was just always assumed, I never gave it much thought. I have plenty of friends that use formula and some that breastfeed and it's a decision that is made by each mother based on what works best for them. Some of my friends, including my sister, tried to breastfeed, but for some reason, it just didn't work. Either it was too much work, their baby didn't take to it, or they didn't have enough milk... the list goes on. Knowing all of this, I tried to mentally prepare myself for a big challenge. I tried to prepare for things to be very hard and that I would have to work very hard and be very patient for things to work out. I read plenty of books about breastfeeding, I attended La Leche League Meetings and I talked to all of my friends that breastfed successfully and unsuccessfully. I hoped that it would go very smoothly and that things would easily fall into place, but incase it didn't, I wanted to prepare. I was determined to make it work through any challenge.
It's a good thing I prepared, because things have definitely been very challenging.
From the get go, I had no problem producing enough milk. She latched on really well at first. Even in the hospital, within minutes of birth, she nursed for 30 minutes. It seemed like we were already pros. Before my milk came in, while my breasts were filled with colostrum, we seemed to naturally move from one nursing position to the next with ease. I was able to even walk around with her in my arms and nurse. I was nursing and eating my lunch at the same time, something the nurses seemed to be very impressed with, since I was a first time mom.
She had jaundice, but it was mild, so I refused to give her a bottle with formula when the doctor ordered that I supplement to get her bowels moving to help the jaundice numbers go down. With my hormones all out of whack, I cried as I told them there was no way they were giving my baby a bottle so soon before breastfeeding had even been established. I had read too much about nipple confusion and this wasn't something I wanted to deal with this early on (now realize how very very glad I am that I stood my ground, more on this below). I agreed to a "Supplemental Nursing System", which used a tiny tube that sat next to my nipple to deliver some formula while she breastfeed at the same time. When they weren't looking, I didn't use it, and once home, I threw it away. But she still ate like a champ and filled their poopy diaper quota. Her jaundice numbers went down and everything turned out fine.
My milk came in 2.5 days after the munchkin was born, and my boobs swelled up to the size of watermelons. Suddenly positioning her wasn't as easy. I remember right as my milk was coming in, I looked down at her, and suddenly she seemed so much further away from me. It took my a minute to realize that my boob had nearly doubled in size and it was threatening to suffocate my baby! And she too seemed confused and overwhelmed by the sheer mass of this breast sitting on top of her face. I am not exaggerating here... my breasts are ginormous! Some of the positions that were easier before, now seemed impossible. We were scrambling to figure out what to do. We figured it out though, and we found new positions that worked better.
Every day (and every night) is different. Sometimes she will go 2-3 hours between nursing, sometimes she will go 1 hour, or maybe only 30 minutes. Sometimes she just wants to comfort nurse, or sometimes she wants a 5 minutes snack. It's tiring, and frustrating, and at the same time, I feel that every nursing brings us closer, that we are bonding, and I am giving her the nourishment and comfort that she needs right now. I am building her trust in the world. And even though it can be very exhausting, it's easy to give her what she needs when she wants it. I love her so much, how could I do anything less for her? But that is not to say, that I do not get overwhelmed and can understand why some opt for formula. I have thought about how much easier things would be. How my husband could take turns feeding her and that I could get more then 1.5 - 2 hours of sleep at a time. But everyone keeps telling me this phase is short and things will get easier. She will go longer between nursings and this will pass before I know it. So I hang on to that thought and I repeat to myself many times a day.
It would help if I could get out of the house for a while and take a break. But did I mention how engorged my boobs get? I have quite an abundance of milk. The call it an oversupply, and if I had twins or maybe even triplets, no one would be going hungry. I was told that if they became engorged I could pump to relieve the pressure. I took this too far and was pumping 2-6 oz at a time with a manual hand pump, several times a day. Within a week, I had about 30 bags of breastmilk frozen and stored. I felt like I was pumping or nursing all day, without much time for anything else. I started to get worried that this was going to go on forever. After doing a little research, I realized that by pumping so much, I was making things worse. I was signaling to my breasts that this was how much milk I needed to and to keep producing that much. I had to stop cold turkey, try to endure the discomfort, and only pump a little tiny bit when things became too painful.
So last Monday (one week ago), I quit pumping. It's been a rough week. My boobs were leaking everywhere. I would have huge wet circles on my shirts and when she would nurse from one side, the other would leak really bad. When she would try to latch on, my milk would come out in so much force that she would cough and sputter. As she moved away from my nipple, milk would squirt out and spray her in her nose, or her eye or all over her face. So when it would get really bad, I would pump just a tiny bit first and make it easier for her to nurse. Or I would get in the shower and let them leak out to release some of the pressure. Sometimes I would just turn on the warm water in the sink and let them drain out into the sink. I always have to have burp cloths layered underneath us while nursing, or everything will get wet. After a week, I can say things have definitely improved quite a bit, but we still have a ways to go. I haven't had to pump at all for a few days, and they are leaking quite a bit less. They still become very full, but not to the point they were before, where I felt like they were going to burst open at any moment.
A few days ago, the munchkin was acting particularly fussy. She seemed to want to nurse nonstop and she was crabby, tired and fighting sleep. So I decided to try giving her a pacifier. She took to it pretty well, and after sucking on it for a few minutes, she drifted off to sleep. Over the next day and a half we gave it to her whenever she started getting fussy. It calmed her right down almost every time. But then I started noticing she was taking longer to latch on and then she wasn't latching on at all. She would act hungry, but then scream and cry as soon as I tried to bring her to my nipple to nurse. She would flair her arms around and push my breast away from her. I knew right away it was because of the pacifier. She had "nipple confusion" and didn't want to latch on to my nipple any more. She was also starving and had worked herself into quite a tizzy, so she had no interest at all into taking her time to try to nurse. I had to pump about 1.5 oz and feed it to her with a medicine dropper to take the edge off of her hunger and calm her down. Then we layed down in the bed on our sides and after 30 minutes of trying, she finally latched on. For the next day, she would only nurse with us laying down in the bed, as this was easier and more comfortable for her. She has almost had to retrain her mouth to breastfeed, and we are now using completely different positions then we were before, and she seems to have no interest in nursing in the old ones right now. Now she has also taken to nursing every 1.5 hours for 5-10 minutes at a time. This was our schedule all last night and so far today. Up until now... she has been napping for 2 hours!
Needless to say the pacifier has been put away for now. I was going to introduce a bottle at 4 weeks, just to have her try it out, but now I am going to wait until 6 weeks. This is frustrating, because I know I will be the only one to feed her for another 3 weeks, but I just feel that for the long term, this is going to be the best for her. If just having the pacifier messed things up that bad, the bottle could definitely do more damage.
So thats where we are now. Every day is different, but I think we are still getting better and that hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we will have these kinks worked out. We are both learning and getting to know each other. It's not easy, infact, it's pretty hard sometimes, but it is also very rewarding and I know we will have this part behind us soon.
She is lucky she is so damn cute.