Saturday, May 24, 2008

Breastfeeding Fears

After four weeks, I am ready to come clean with my current views on breastfeeding.

Dudes, breastfeeding is really intimidating.

I am really hoping that I don't scare off the moms-to-be reading this, because after all, millions of mothers worldwide breastfeed successfully. But I find it scary as hell.

Take a look at the list of things that can go wrong with breastfeeding:
Bleb (I had one of these last weekend, holy hell did it hurt)
Cracked or Sore or Bleeding Nipples
Blocked Ducts

Slightly intimidating, wouldn't you say? Whereas, the problems with formula feeding are as follows:
Expense ($75-$200/month)

*While breastmilk is always there and always the right temperature, the flip side is that Dad or Grandma can give a bottle while I have a damn rest (or get a massage, or whatever), so the convenience issue is kind of a tie.

Now, before you all jump in to tell me the benefits of breastfeeding, don't worry: I know. But ultimately, most of those benefits are for the child. And most of the sacrifices made for those benefits are made by me. And while I'm not completely ready to throw in the towel just yet, I am needing a bit more encouragement, assistance, and motivation than I expected, because I am finding breastfeeding to be a lot more difficult than I thought I would.

Let me count the ways:
Day 1-3: painful bleeding nipples due to bad latch, lack of milk
Day 3-4: milk comes in, I get norovirus
Day 4-6: Gwen gets norovirus, loses interest in nursing, my supply dwindles
Day 7: Gwen losing weight, scheduled feedings imposed
Day 8: Taking herbs to increase milk supply; constant tears (mine) because of feeling inadequate
Day 9: Gwen still losing weight, started domperidone and Supplemental Nursing System (formula)
Day 10: Difficulty latching on left side (unsure when this started, but I remember remarking on it as far back as Day 10)
Day 11-24: Gwen slowly gaining weight
Day 15: Left side increasingly sore
Day 22: Left side intolerably painful; bleb appears; trip to emergency room discussed
Day 24: Bleb resolves with help of warm compresses
Day 28: Gwen pronounced healthy and no longer in need of SNS
Day 29: Gwen 'bites' hard on left side, causing pain lasting 2-3 hours after nursing
Day 30: Left side still too tender to nurse

Looking at this synopsis, it's easy to feel hard done by. While our caregiver looks at Gwen's weight from the outside and declares her healthy, I look at the situation from the inside and feel nearly insane at the thought of doing this for another eleven months. Exactly when is it supposed to get easier? When am I supposed to get this warm rosy glow of love and bonding and mutual appreciation?

I know sleep deprivation is a factor in how I'm feeling right now, as is frustration and lack of quality time with my husband. And I do feel guilty for complaining about it, because I imagine the Great Wide Internet looking at me with raised eyebrows and saying, "Did you really think it was going to be easy?" No, no I didn't. I knew the first three months would suck. But I didn't expect breastfeeding to be as difficult and downright painful as it is, especially a month into it. And when my mom looks at me - my mom, who breastfed both my sister and I in an era when it really was not as supported as it is now - and says, "Well, breastfeeding's not for everybody," I am torn up inside, because part of me wants to be stubborn and determined and do everything to give Gwen the best I can offer, and part of me wants to latch on to this sentiment like a "get off the hook free" card and quit right now.

I think about what life would be like with Gwen on formula - a life where Chris could take the late night feedings (10pm and midnight) and I could take the early ones (3am and 6am) so we could each get a decent rest. A life where Grandma Karen, who has been begging since Day 1 to have some time alone with Gwen, could have just that as I went out for a massage or a manicure or just stayed home and had a bubble bath**. I fantasize about it the way I fantasized about getting an epidural when I was in labour. But like the epidural, I know I can't really do it. Not yet.

I have two things left to do. On Monday, I'm going to call the Health Unit and go to their Breastfeeding Help Centre. I'm going to ask them about a lactation consultant, as well, in case I need more help (or, as seems to often be the case, I need help on the evenings or weekends).

And then, I'm going to resort to my old standby of motivating myself with money. If formula costs $75-$200 a month, my pain and suffering is saving our family that much money. Furthermore, if we found out that breastfeeding was actually impossible and we had to buy formula, we'd find the money somehow. Therefore, I figure I should be entitled to a breastfeeding allowance of at least half the formula cost ($35-$100/month) just for me, for fun frivolous stuff, something to focus on when it feels like an angry rat is chewing on my tender nipples.

**This life would also be possible if I could pump enough milk to get a couple feedings' worth per day. I've tried pumping exactly twice: the first time I got three drops, the second time I got nothing. But I'm going to keep trying.


Anonymous said...

*Definitely* keep in on the pumping - it is probably the best way to build your supply. I also found that I learned a lot about how my lactation works by pumping and that's been valuable.

I know it's hard - my life was ruled by my damned pump for the first 4 months of Rowan's life - but it's so worth it. Eventually when the pumping gets easier (and it will) you can have those benefits of formula feeding by bottle-feeding expressed milk - best of both worlds!

Btw - what kind of pump are you using? This matters *a lot*. Ask your midwife and/or that clinic you're planning on attending for some recommendations. I started out with a rented hospital-grade pump (probably overkill for your situation but was necessary for my premie) and then got my own Purely Yours. I love the Purely Yours, though I know a lot of women who swear by their Pump In Style and it's a great pump too. Most other pumps are only good for occasional use once lactation is thoroughly established.

With a good pump, on those days when one side is too tender to consider offering it up to your potentially bitey baby, the pump is actually much gentler and can keep the supply up in that breast. I had to do this once when Rowan somehow managed to latch on completely wrong and give me an incredibly painful hickey on my areola :-0

I found that everything got so much easier after 12 weeks (corrected age, in Rowan's case). The baby's just so much stronger, some feeding problems resolve just with that extra time and strength.

(Um, OK, except for the biting. I confess that the biting gets worse. Rowan bit me so hard yesterday I actually screamed. But at this stage you can also start to train them *not* to do it.)

So hang in there until at least 3 months - I know another 8 weeks of this probably sounds like hell, but a woman who is strong enough to birth an 8lb 12oz baby without an epidural can SO do this. Whatever happens, Gwen is so lucky to have a dedicated and thoughtful Mommy.


Unknown said...

A recommendation from a friend here says to try pumping while you take a hot shower. She found that the hot water made her lactate a little anyways and she produced way more with the hot water help.

Anonymous said...

What Mouse said.


Anonymous said...

it takes about 2 months for the milk to regulate. Those first two months are hard. I'm proud of you for keeping on trying. Having said that, I think it's not so bad to give yourself a break once in a while. I used to have a pack of the powdered formula so I could whip up a bottle once in a while. Once your milk regulates, it's hard to leave a feeding out, just because you get so full.... but it's definetly an option.

My best advice to all new mom, is do what feels best for you and baby! If you feel that you need some time away during the day, take a feeding out, and let Chris feed Gwen formula while you take a nap, he's probably really excited to see her when he gets home from work, and will want to spend some time with her.

And yes, I used to get into a hot tub... and I could squirt right to the other side of the tub!!! I'm super lactator! (I need a cape!)


Anonymous said...

I have no advice to give, but lots of encouragement. You're doing all the right things, and you're probably right that the sleep deprivation is what's making it hard to cope with a tough situation.

It's easy to expect that something's going to be hard, but we always picture that we'll be bravely soldiering through - realistically, it's easy to feel discouraged and frustrated, no matter how much you know you're going to get through it.

And you will! I think calling the lactation consultant in is a great idea, and I do think Gwen will get the hang of the breastfeeding thing eventually, especially because you are persisting and trying really hard to make it work.

Hang in there!


Kat said...

I also have no advice but things that Mouse say seem very sensible. Of course whatever you choose to do nobody that actually knows you will judge you AT ALL. Quite the opposite in fact, everyone who knows you will support whatever decision you make because only you really know what is best for Gwen.

Amberism said...

With Callum it took 3-4 months and right now I'm astonished I lasted that long. Most people say 6 weeks, but for folks like us (where breastfeeding is downright PAINFUL, it seems to be at least 3 months).

I was also forced to supplement with Callum and with Claire I don't have to supplement, but I don't get to be "baby-free" ever and mentally? That's hard. I want to be the Mommy who just loves to be with her baby 24/7 and its sad to me that I'm not. But I'm not. I want a massage, too dammit!

We still haven't given Claire formula (Steve didn't do it that day!). And everyday I'm asking myself why don't I? Am I martyr? I don't know the answer, I think I'm waiting for 3 months...

I sort of cheat with the pump. I pump an hour or hour and a half after a feed and then I get more than a drop. I don't get an ounce, but at least I can "see" the milk in the bottle so I feel all "GO GIRL". That might help the psychie? Of course, I'm feeding it back to her within the day usually, but hey, it felt good. And sometimes, I can save it for a whole day before I feed it back to her!

I totally, TOTALLY relate. Give me a call if you need a sounding board!


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