Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What I learned about breastfeeding (2 week update)

15 days old

After my nap, I started the lactation physician’s regimen.

I don’t know if it’s just time or the refreshed brain but BG seemed more alert. We were able to have some tummy time where she wasn’t just sleeping on my chest.

I will say this so far about Breastfeeding, it is one of the hardest parts of post partum or the 4th trimester. Just in case someone finds this entry, I want to share some things I’ve learned so far. I am by no means an expert but I do want to share my experience in the hopes it might help someone else.

What I have learned so far about breastfeeding:
I don’t care what the books and breastfeeding class says, breastfeeding is not natural. It is a learned process that baby, mom and yes, dad must learn together.

Just like anything that is learned, it takes time. All the books will say your milk will come in immediately after birth. Your hormones will kick into gear and colostrums and your milk will come in within 3-4 days. This is not true. It is subjective. Do not be surprised if your milk comes in 5-6-7 days later. It will come when it comes.

Do not think you are a failure because your milk does not come in like clockwork. Remember that every body is different. Focus on the most important thing, feed the baby. If your milk is not plentiful or has not come in within the time frame you think it should come and you feel your baby is hungry, give him/her formula supplements. It will not confuse the baby. The most important thing is a thriving baby. Use an SNS tube to supplement with formula while you practice and get your child used to latching onto your breast.

Get help. From day one, schedule a lactation consultant visit/appointment. If you are not happy with her, ask friends/family/nurses/new moms for a recommendation. I received my recommendation from my pediatrician. She knew my parenting style. She knew the needs of my child and so I trusted her. Later on, several other moms in the building gave me the same LC as a referral. If you are fortunate to have a lactation physician in your area, schedule an appointment. She will give you medical advice as well as BF’g assistance.

Join an online BF’s group, preferably one by due date so you are chatting with women at the same stage as you. Trust me. When it’s 3am and you are in tears because you are feeding, pumping, not letting down, etc… being able to vent to women who are at the same stage as you helps. The cheerleading that goes on is not saccharine. Everyone there truly understands if not more than anyone else what you are going through with BF’g and other post partum and new mommy related items.

On or around the end of your first post partum week, your breasts are going to be on fire. They will feel heavy and hurt like nothing you’ve felt before. Pump. For the love of anything holy, pump. Actually, take a hot shower, massage the breasts with the showerhead and then pump.

Whenever possible, use a hospital grade pump. It will hurt less and will assist with pumping more until you get the hang of it. It also has the strength and capacity to handle multiple pumps throughout the day. I’m actually considering renting one for my office because it is so much more comfy than the portable one I have.

Use the SNS feeding tube for breast milk and/or formula. Why? You have not had any time to rest. Your body was put through the ringer. Your hormones are leaking out of you like a sieve. Breastfeeding and pumping takes its toll on you emotional, mentally and physically. Have your husband help with one or two feedings so you can rest your body. A rested body is a healthier body to which you can produce more milk and not wind up crying on your couch while your child latches onto your boob as you rock him/her more to console yourself than him/her.

Another added bonus of the SNS tube is that you’re going to feel like you are not producing enough milk. By pumping and feeding it via the tube, you get to see the progress you are making. It may be slow but there will be progress.

Yes, you may find yourself on the couch in tears rocking your child at some point during the first week. You are not a bad mom. This is normal. This probably will happen during the wee hours of the night when hopelessness blankets like the dark of night. If your partner is up, he should definitely cheerlead you and give you assurances. He should also take the baby so you can go to the bathroom and freshen up. Take a bath/shower/wash your face/pee. Do anything for yourself.

I know many people are against dairy but have a bar of chocolate or some ice cream in the house. By mid-week, you are going to need a little pick me up and the a little chocolate endorphin action goes a long way.

Partners should attend any lactation classes/consultations. Not only will your brain be mush but just by physically being present will give you that added support structure you need.

Speaking of support, if you have naysayers or those who won’t support your goals or give you negative criticism surrounding you, dump them for awhile. Give them the post partum, new baby exhaustion line. You do not need negative energy at this time. Partners should also body guard you from them. Unfortunately, sometimes Grandmoms may needed to be added to this mix.

Set goals. Set realistic goals. People laughed at me when I said my first goal was to make it 14 days. It seemed short but in reality, when you are deep in the thicket of BF hell, day 3 seems like day 365. When you reach that goal, even if production is minimal, you made it and you’ll feel better and ready to hit your next goal. My next goal is to make it one month and to move away from the SNS tube.

Every day praise yourself and your baby. Start the morning feeding with a happy thought. Today’s feedings are going to be better than yesterdays? Why? Because all that practice is going to make it so.

When using the breast pump, make sure the shied holds your breast snuggly so when the suctioning begins, your breast doesn’t retract all the way back. If it does, you are not suctioning efficiently. Readjust. It also helps to increase the suctioning for a few pumps and then lower it to increase the snugness of your breast onto the shield.

Also use your palms to massage your breasts as you pump and do not pump for more than 15 minutes. It will be counterproductive to you and you’ll find it more of a chore and it’s not going to help produce more. You can do this by making ‘V’s with your fingers and hook them on each outer side of the breastshield. You’ll look like your fondling yourself which will make your husband laugh and stare for awhile.

Don’t feel obligated to increase the suctioning to pump more. It is subjective. For me, my let down happened at the lower settings. The doctor recommended to keep it at a lower setting. For you it may be different. Experiment but know suctioning should not hurt.

Don’t get too hung up on a diary. You’ll become compulsive and that again will be counterproductive.

When using an SNS feeding tube, hooking it onto your shirt is not always possible. Take advantage of the still lustrous hair you have. Ponytail it and clip the bottle to your ponytail.