1:07 AM Posted by Erin
August is Breastfeeding Awareness month and I have been meaning to write up my story literally all month. But what can I say, I can be a procrastinator at times. So here it is nearly the end of August and I am finally getting to it. If you wrote one this month, be sure to link up in the Mr. Linky at the end of this post.
I would like to start by saying that while I am very much pro-breastfeeding, I firmly believe it is a personal choice and no one should be judged for the choice that they make. If you want to breastfeed than yay for you! If you would rather use formula, yay for you too! You have to do what works best for you and your family and only you know what that is.
OK, lets get to it. Here are my stories, I will try to not ramble too much. (No promises though). Disclaimer: there will be mention of breasts and nipples so stop reading now if you can't handle it.
When I was pregnant with my first 5 years ago, I started off with absolutely no desire to breastfeed. None at all. I didn't think it was for me and didn't even plan on trying. I'm not sure what happened in those 9 months to change my mind, maybe it was reading about so many success stories of other moms. But by the time the end of my pregnancy had come along, I was determined to give it a try and set myself a small goal of 3 months.
He was born just after midnight (12:01am) and took to nursing right away. I ended up being at the hospital for 4 days because of the time of the birth (and I wasn't turning down an extra day of help). On day 3 my milk had come in but we started having some latching issues due to flat nipples. Fortunately, the lactation consultant at the hospital was AWESOME. I loved her - she was a doll, extremely helpful and not at all pushy. I think a lot of lactation consultant get a bad rep because of the few crazy ones out there. So she worked with me on multiple holds and when we still couldn't get a good latch, she hooked me up with some nipple shields. With the help of them, we were getting back on track. I was able to stop using them a week later.
When we left the hospital she told me to invest in a good electric pump. Since I had a ton of milk, she wanted me to pump in between feedings to start building up my freezer stash. So after my hubby dropped us off at home, he ran out and got me the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. Excellent pump. I will say though, this is the one piece of bad advice I was given. I actually had an oversupply of milk to begin with so the pumping in between nursing caused me to get severely engorged. I seriously looked deformed and was in agonizing pain. It took a few days for the "buoys" to go back down to a somewhat normal size and from that point we did really good. I went back to work full time at 8 weeks and was able to pump enough while there to send to daycare.
I reached my goal of 3 months with no more issues and I was so proud of us. It was going great. Until we hit a major roadblock. W started getting eczema all over his body and we really weren't sure why. Then things got scary when I started seeing blood in his stool. Our pediatrician told me that this was all the signs of a cow's milk protein intolerance. So I could cut out all dairy from my diet or put him on special formula (expensive). I chose to keep nursing. At first it was hard, you don't realize how much stuff has milk in it until your start reading labels. After about a month of no dairy, we were still seeing blood. Back to the pediatrician we went and I was told that he most likely also had a soy intolerance. Soy is even more food than milk, but I still chose to cut it out.
FYI - a milk or soy intolerance is not the same as an allergy. Basically the proteins aren't broken down and they irritate the inside of the intestines causing them to bleed. They eventually outgrow it.
At this point we were also referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist. This man was a jerk and told me there really wasn't much benefit to breastfeeding beyond 3 months anyway. I wanted to smack him - what doctor says this? I left their conflicted and feeling worse about what I was doing. In the following weeks my supply started to drop, probably due to a combination of dietary changes, stress and pumping. I had to supplement with Nutramigen formula (the most disgusting smelling stuff ever). I was doubting myself and was in tears at night wondering if I should just stop. Then I went to see a different gastroenterologist. Its amazing what just a few simple words can do. She assured me that he was doing great, had a chunky little dude, and that I was doing the right thing and was a great mom. She sent me on my way with a bunch of samples and confidence in myself that I had chosen the right path for us. I felt a million times better.
I continued to to breastfeed him till he was 12 months old. By the time we had gotten to that 1 year mark, I was probably doing about 50/50 of breast milk to formula. He nursed great but my pumping sessions were producing less and less. Then one week before his first birthday he came down with rota-virus and with no appetite he pretty much self weaned. I was bummed but was so happy we made it 1 year, even with all the obstacles.
When W was 18 months old I became pregnant with our next child. Or so we thought. We were lucky to find out pretty early on at about 6 weeks that I was carrying fraternal twins. We were totally shocked. I knew that I wanted to attempt to breastfeed them and I had lots of time to educate myself and prepare. People thought I was nuts. Why would I want to nurse 2 babies? How was that even possible? For me, not only did I love breastfeeding my first son, but I hate making bottles and breastfeeding is FREE! My sister-in-law went and bought me the best twins nursing pillow from Double Blessings that was just awesome. No way I could have done it without this.
So when my twins were born I had my nifty pillow at the hospital ready to go. I requested the same lactation consultant and she was once again awesome. Even impressed by me nursing the twins. It went really well right from the start. I again had to use nipple shields for a week, but I had anticipated that and bought a few ahead of time. Knowing that the milk/soy issue is hereditary, I decided to cut milk out from the get go. L never showed any signs of an intolerance, but at about 2 weeks J did with blood in his stool. It was obvious that his intolerance was more severe than W's was. My wonderful gastroenterologist even told me that Nutramigen wouldn't do it this time, we would need an even more special formula, not even sold in stores. Yeah, I don't think so. So I moved ahead and cut out the soy too. It took several weeks for the blood to stop, but it did. At about 2 months old we realized that he also had reflux and so he was put on Zantac. What a difference that made!
From that point on it was smooth sailing. I continued with my milk and soy free diet (which makes you nice and thin by the way) and was able to exclusively breastfeed my twins. Due to my own laziness I rarely pumped which would come back to bite me in the rear because other than their first few weeks, they never took a bottle. Never. They refused. I had planned on stopping when they were 18 months old because that was when we wanted to start trying for #4 (yeah, we're nuts). Well that didn't happen. We did start trying again, but I kept nursing. Have I mentioned that I can be a procrastinator? ;) After 3 unsuccessful months of trying, I wondered if the breastfeeding was having an affect on my cycle and ovulation. They were only nursing 2 to 3 times a day at that point but maybe it was related. So at 21 months we stopped, just like that. They were fine, and we really didn't have any issues or crying. The next month I was pregnant.
I must apologize as that was crazy long, but I wanted to include everything. With baby 4 on the way, I am already setting my goals and thinking of things to do differently. I will cut both dairy and soy out from the beginning and hopefully avoid any issues. I will make a point to pump at least once a day and get new baby familiar with a bottle so I can leave every now and then. While I have absolutely NO PLANS of having any more children, I still plan to wean somewhere between 18 and 24 months but we shall see how it all plays out...