Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 2

Baby Liora was about 1.5 weeks old. I threw out the rest of those tiny bottles of formula. I didn’t want them tempting me and taunting me as I tried to nurse my baby. I began to feel as if I was never wearing a shirt. I was always topless and putting her to the breast. As difficult as that was, I started to feel as if we were making progress. My nipples never hurt or bled like they did with my oldest, her latch was perfect again!

And then, the growth spurt!

Now listen, when you say you want to breastfeed your baby the hospital will hand you a packet of information about it. I remember reading and being told that the baby will nurse approximately 10 minutes on each breast every 2-3 hours. My baby wanted to nurse much longer than that, and it was rare she would go 2 hours between feedings! I felt as if she was nursing 24/7.

The packet told me 10 minutes on each breast! And every 2-3 hours! Surely something must be wrong, because all of a sudden at around the same time every evening she latched on and refused to latch off. I sat on the couch, after three hours of nursing, and cried heartily. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this! I can’t live like this! This is awful!

That is when I stumbled upon a website called kellymom.com, and it quite possibly saved my breastfeeding relationship. Apparently, you should take that handy packet they give you and throw it in your recycle bin or create a bon fire with it. It is useless, and inaccurate.

First of all, newborns love to nurse. They need to nurse! This is how your supply increases. This is also how they are comforted. Remember in my first post I discussed ditching the pacifier, well our breasts are natures real pacifiers! We pacify our babies at the breast, and we keep our supply regular as well.

Second of all, there was no mention of growth spurts! I was caught off guard completely when Li went hours on end nursing. I thought my supply must be gone. I must be starving my baby! Nope. She was just growing. She was just doing what babies do. It can be frustrating, but I promise it does not last forever. It is usually only a few days of extra nursing, and then your back on track.

I was thankful to know that she wasn’t suddenly starving, and also that this would not last forever; because let’s face it, 3 hours of nursing non-stop wasn’t very fun.

One major benefit was nighttime! Now I know often you hear that formula helps a baby sleep, but I really disagree with that. I formula fed my oldest and this is basically how it went….

  • Feed her a bottle before nighttime, rock her sleep and place her next to me in her co-sleeper.
  • Wake up two hours later with her screaming blood murder.
  • Slowly drag myself out of bed, and hold her in one arm as I shhhh shhhh her and make a bottle.
  • Warm the bottle. While she screams.
  • Take screaming newborn to my rocking chair and give her the bottle.
  • Burp her. Get formula puke on my shoulder.
  • Stand up and walk her around the room, patting her back, get her back to sleep.
  • Lay down in bed.
  • Wake up an hour or two later with her screaming bloody murder.
  • Repeat. ALL NIGHT LONG.

Yeah, not very relaxing or conducive for good sleep!

With my Liora, my first breastfed baby, I had her sleep in my bed with me (yes, it absolutely IS safe when done correctly) and this is how our nights went….

  • Nurse baby in my rocking chair before bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at my breast. Awe, so cute!
  • Read a little bit.
  • Go to bed with baby.
  • Baby starts to stir and make little noises.
  • Latch baby to breast while not moving from sleep position, or fully waking up.
  • Go back to sleep while baby feeds herself at my breast.

Guess which situation gave me better sleep?

So here we were, moving right along in our nursing journey.

DSCN3656
Nursing newborn Liora with big sis Noemi next to me

Things were starting to improve a lot. By the time she was 1 month old the days of struggling to latch her were long gone. Now, I had my toddler in the front seat of my grocery cart, and the baby under one arm nursing, while I pushed the cart with the other arm and finished my food shopping! NO joke, I really did this.

I was feeling a pro, finally. But there was still one problem left unresolved. I would keep saying “I am trying to breastfeed”, I still didn’t trust my body. Until one day, I was sitting at the edge of my bed nursing Liora when it dawned on me, “Wait…I AM NURSING!”

It sounds like a simple thing, but in that moment I realized that I had won. My body had not failed me. My baby did not need formula or bottles or pacifiers. All she needed, for the next five months of her life was ME. That’s it. Just me. I was enough. I was feeding her!

Those chubby thighs? My milk did that. Those adorable chubby checks? Yep, my milk again. I looked at my baby contentedly nursing and almost said out-loud to myself “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER!”

And the journey continued…

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 1

*Warning: I do post a single picture of my baby at my chest and my breast is visible*

When I think about my second born child, another little baby girl, something that comes to mind immediately is our closeness. I am close to all my children, but I think of our closeness as something solid and physical. I can feel her body and mine together in a way that is very tangible and real. She was my first breastfed baby.

I did try to nurse Noemi, my oldest daughter, only 18 months before Liora was born. I was a new mother, and like many new mothers I experienced significant road blocks to success. Sadly, I was not able to navigate them, and I nursed her for only 2 weeks exclusively.

But Liora, I did things differently with her. First I went with midwives rather than sticking it out with an abusive OB (Noemi’s birth story, I will share soon). They supported me in a natural birth, which helps begin breastfeeding more easily. They believed in my body’s ability to produce milk to feed my baby. This made a huge difference in how we started our journey together.

During pregnancy, I was not convinced of my body’s ability to sustain my baby solely on my milk alone. I kept saying “I am going to try to breastfeed” or “I really hope I can breastfeed”, as if it were a matter of luck or chance. There are a very small percentage of women who have physical problems (IGT, hormonal problems, etc.) but it is quite rare and

I had no reason to suspect any of these. Yet, the memories of my first born screaming constantly, the bloody and painful nipples, and nights crying my eyes out on the front porch had left me feeling rather inadequate and suspicious of my breasts actually working.

The day of her birth came, and as soon as she entered the world she was placed on my chest. She was wide awake, unlike Noemi who was born drugged. She looked right at me, and gently I brought her near my nipple. She latched on right away, perfectly and peacefully. I almost wept with joy! Maybe, just maybe, this could really work.

I was being pressured heavily by the nurses on the ward to give Liora a pacifier. The main reason why my breastfeeding relationship with my oldest was destroyed was due to “nipple confusion”; she nursed as if she was using an artificial nipple, and this caused painful bleeding nipples and low milk supply. The nurses all assured me that it was a “myth” (I hear this often, it angers me so!) and they even gave her pacifiers without my consent on multiple occasions.

Pacifiers do what the name implies, they pacify the crying baby. I took her home using a pacifier, I hated to hear her cry, and it was such an easy solution. I told myself that perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it wouldn’t cause any problems.

Well, it did. Her latch began to become noticeably uncomfortable and she was struggling to get it right. I knew the culprit was the pacifier, but I was being told by everyone around me not to take it away completely. I ignored them, and finally did what I knew I needed to do—get rid of the thing!

I threw out every single pacifier in our home, and within 24 hours her latch was once again perfect. There was only one problem….

Jaundice!

Liora was only a about 5 days old at this point, but I had been taking her to the pediatrician for blood samples due to her looking rather yellow. Almost as soon as I arrived home after our last appointment, they called me back and essentially told me to rush her to the hospital because her levels were dangerously high.

I was still a tired, hormonal mess and our nursing relationship was just getting started. I was so scared for her! I was also worried that once again my milk was not enough. My mother drove us to the hospital while my husband stayed home with our oldest, who I missed badly after days on the maternity ward. I had never been separated from our first child before the birth of her sibling, who was now sick, and I just wanted to crawl into a ball and cry forever.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the nurses put Liora under the lamps to reduce her bilirubin levels. They seemed quite concerned about her but they helped me understand what everything was for, and how to take her out to nurse her.

I sat there staring at my little baby, with these silly goggles on and I could only touch her through a door in the plastic box she was in. I cried. I cried a lot. I stroked her little arms, and I thought about how hard this was and how badly I wanted to bring her home so we could all be a family.

This may sound a bit dramatic, but remember I had just given birth!

I pumped like crazy while she was sleeping, desperate to keep my milk supply going. I did not trust my body, and I felt as if I would surely dry up like a hot desert valley if I didn’t keep on pumping! But man, I hated that contraption! Also, my body just didn’t respond very well to it. I kept taking her out whenever possible and nursing her, but the nurses really discouraged me from doing so because she needed to be under the lights.

I was pressured into giving her a little formula. They kept telling me dire warnings of what could happen if she didn’t eat enough. I was reminded that excreting the bilirubin was the best way to get rid of it. I relented and gave her tiny bottles of formula after putting her to my breast.

I felt almost defeated. I was so happy that we addressed her latch problem, but now here I was giving her formula. My heart was heavy as I considered the possibility that this just wouldn’t work. I would fail again.

But then, the next day, they released her! I was overjoyed to be going back home with my little baby, to join her big sister and daddy. I wanted to stay home with them forever, and just enjoy being together.

The nurse gave me a bag of formula before I left….

Noemi, Daughter

Noemi

Her hair is lighter than it used to be
I marvel at her long slender legs
That were once short with baby fat
Those big eyes are still big and beautiful
And right now they are wild with wonder
And joy;
A stunning ebony butterfly, with pearl white spots
And a splash of powder blue around the bottom wings
Has flown over my 5-year-old daughters head
Her bare feet pound the sand as she runs across the beach
To catch it.
Then, little sisters come following close behind
Their exuberance angers the oldest one
Who understands the butterfly will disappear
At their chubby hands grabbing
I mediate their bickering, and soon
The fun of the chase continues.
The oldest stands still, hands out stretched
Hoping this lovely creature will grace her arms
She. Is. So. Beautiful.
The child who opened my womb
Who gave me the honor of…
Mother
Her beauty is as unique and exquisite
As the butterfly she longs to hold onto—
Even more!
My heart expands like open fields,
Like the depths of the ocean,
Like the canyons deep.
Will she know her own beauty
After the tender moments of childish innocence
Are gone?
Will she know her strength
After her heart is broken for the first time?
Will she know that a thousand years with her
Is not enough time?
Not enough time at all.
My oldest daughter,
I look at you
And I see the brilliance of creation
I see the mercy of heaven’s King
Who saw it fit to bless me
With you.
You—this girl running across the beach
And splashing in the water
Holding, loving, and confronting
Little sisters
You—the one who opened my womb
And made me
Mother
Thank you.

Through Muddy Waters- A Poem of Remembering

Through Muddy Waters

There is a reservoir inside of me
Quietly streaming
Until words break forth and
The waters come rushing over me.
There is a secret a child is holding
So closely to her heart
That even now, it’s terrible truth is hidden;
Even from herself
What is that heavy burden you carry, child?
What a cross to bear on those tiny shoulders
Speak to me.
I am here now, waiting…
I know your fear—your trepidation
But it is safe now
Someone is listening
And I will believe you.
Because I have felt your buried rage,
Your broken will,
Your tired pain—
And I want to make it right again for you.
Those waters broke open,
And my mind is swimming in the puzzle pieces
Of memories long forgotten
But not completely.
Your trembling hands have held onto this
(bruises you are hiding, tears you keep from falling,
That heavy cross of a secret to bear…)
For far too long
Come out, child inside of me,
Whisper to me the truth I want to hide from
Because these pieces will fall into place
And I will see
His name.
And remember.
Then, the healing can begin.