Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mommy Musing: Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant, I did nothing to prepare for breastfeeding. My OB offhandedly suggested I sign up for a breastfeeding class when I was 37 weeks along, but the upcoming course was already full. Since he didn't seem worried about it, and had never mentioned it before, I didn't pursue it beyond the initial inquiry to the receptionist. I, like many new moms, thought that since breastfeeding was a natural function, it would be easy. It's not. It is not easy and it is especially hard to go it alone when you've had very little exposure to it. While I was still in the hospital, the lactation consultant I was promised never came to visit me, so other than the first few times the nurses shoved my baby's face into my boob, I had no help in figuring out the logistics of latching, timing, or positioning. From that very first day, we struggled. I remember walking (shuffling, really, because of my c-section) to the nurses station that first night to request some formula, at my husband and mother's prodding. I was crying while everyone reassured me, but I couldn't understand why I couldn't feed my baby. I felt somehow broken. (Having to sign a form absolving the hospital of any responsibility for my decision didn't help.) 

Almost four months on, and we have never reached our goal of exclusively breastfeeding. I searched for lactation consultants after the fact but we could not afford an expert and I couldn't find any free resources in my area. I have never felt so helpless, inadequate, isolated, confused, or conflicted in my life. I have nothing against formula - it offers balanced nutrients to my baby that I may not even be able to offer by breast alone (I am notoriously low on iron) - but the media and my experience of watching other mothers always led me to believe that it should be easy. As long as you can produce milk, and your baby can latch, you can breastfeed as long as you want. I never heard anyone else discuss things like low milk production, formula supplementation, herbal boosters, poor latching, cracked nipples, or prescription medicine. I was completely blind sided when I had to take antibiotics for a horrible case of mastitis. I would be feeding my baby in tears because of how much it hurt. Why are we hiding our true experiences from others so that everyone feels like they are struggling alone?

I've recently started taking Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle (12 capsules a day!) to try to increase my production as a hail Mary, so to speak. Every day I feel as though I am producing less and less while my baby wants more. These are things I am only discovering now. While it is too late in my breastfeeding journey to go the prescription route, Domperidone is another option for mothers who are struggling to satisfy their babies with breast alone.

When I was pregnant, I set a goal to breastfeed for the first six months, and I feel very lucky that I have been able to give my baby the breast milk I have up to this point. Not everyone can even get started, for myriad different reasons, so I appreciate every feed we successfully complete. Especially since I still don't think my baby latches totally correctly. I will seek out resources sooner, with my next child, because I now know that my situation is not unique. This is the most valuable lesson I have learned as I have struggled and succeeded through feedings: Breastfeeding is not easy and you are not alone.

I just wish I had learned it sooner.

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