Thursday, July 29, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week!! ~ and other updates.

Did you know World Breastfeeding Week is right around the corner?? Yep that’s right, 2010 WBW is the first week in August. From August 1-7 the World alliance for Breastfeeding Action along side breastfeeding advocates from more than 170 countries are joining together in celebrating the 19th annual WBW. This year’s theme centers around “Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps, the baby-friendly way”.

Join the World in Breastfeeding Action this year!

• Draw attention to the role of the Ten Steps in improving breastfeeding rates.

• Renew action by health systems, health care providers and communities to make breastfeeding the easy choice for women.

• Inform people everywhere of the risks of artificial feeding, and the role of breastfeeding for children’s development and lifelong health and the health of mothers.

• Enable mothers to enjoy full support for breastfeeding in health care systems and beyond.

So what are the 10-steps?? Well, stop by the World Breastfeeding Week website. There is a lot of great information. You can take a pledge, and even buy a shirt to show off the numbers and initiative.

I hope you will join in the initiative.  Numbers speak volumes.
Source for Post.
In other news, if you haven't had a chance to enter yet, I am hosting an EcoMom giveaway on my personal blog.  I know you were all open to having giveaways on this blog, but I want to try to keep this site more for breastfeeding and issues related to that.  I thank you all for continuing to spread the word.  Is there anything you would like to see on this blog that you don't already?  Would you like links to breastfeeding friendly articles?  Any suggestions are welcome!! Welcome to all our new followers; don't forget to "like" Simple Gifts on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cracked Logic

Item # 482 that no on tells you about becoming a parent: Breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily.

When I found out we were pregnant, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed. My mother breastfed all three of her children, I had been around babies since I was little and knew that breast milk was really good for a baby. I also knew formula was really expensive. I had read the research, and never doubted for a second that it was the choice I was going to make.

I read books and articles on how to breastfeed. I learned about establishing a supply, and all the wonderful bonding that goes on between a mother and baby. I educated myself about the added benefits to breastfeeding, like added weight loss for post-partum mommy, reduced risk of SIDS for baby, adaptation of your breast milk for your babies nutrient needs as they grow, lower risk of obesity and diabetes in children, and a reduced risk of breast, ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancers for mom. I even took the class at the hospital complete with my stuffed animal we were to bring along to act as a child. I brought a Cow, it seemed appropriate.

I just don’t understand why when you are pregnant people who have been there don’t tell you the hard stuff. Okay, maybe a stranger off the street coming up to you would be odd, but a friend, relative? It’s not like telling someone who isn’t pregnant yet, and then worrying you are the reason that they decided not to have children, we are already past that point. Our bellies are hard at work growing and developing a beautiful little human being. So why keep this stuff to yourself?

After Squish was born, I can’t tell you how many times I would say to a friend who already had children, “I didn’t realize breastfeeding would be so hard.” and got the response, “I know! I was surprised too!” Every time it happened to me, I wanted to scream, “If you knew it was like this, why didn’t you warn me?”

Besides not wanted to freak out a pregnant lady, I suppose people don’t tell you how hard breastfeeding is because they assume there isn’t much you can do about it until the baby is born. Or maybe it is because they think if they tell you that, and then you have an easy time making it work for you, you will think less of them. Either way I really really wish just one person had pulled me aside and said, “Listen, breastfeeding is amazing, but it doesn’t always go smoothly. This is what I found that worked for me.”

So by now I am sure you are grasping the concept that Squish and I didn’t have an easy road into the world of breastfeeding. Squishy was born via C/S at 38 weeks after I had labored for 26+ hours. I had wanted a natural birth, but after 20 hours of my contractions being less than 2 minutes apart, and making no progress with dilatation, I gave into the epi. 6 hours later I still had not made any progress. I was exhausted; Squishy’s head was swollen from being slammed up against my pelvic bone. We went ahead with a C/S. Squish was born 10lbs 2ozs. The first words out of my OB’s mouth were, “Oh My God!” to which I immediately cried, “What’s wrong?!” “He’s huge!” she replied. I was thinking… um hello this is what I kept telling you…

I knew things weren’t quite right when I didn’t really get to see Squish before he was taken to the nursery. I got to give him one kiss, and take a picture, and he was gone. My husband looked at me, and I told him to leave me and go with Squish.

After I was wheeled back into recovery, the pediatric nurse came in and told me that I would not be allowed to see my baby until after they stabilized his blood sugars, and the best way to do that was to let him have a bottle of formula. I wanted to see my child, so I told them to do whatever it took. (I did not have GD while pregnant, so his size and low sugars were a surprise.)

So much for not wanting him to have any formula, and breastfeeding right away. When I was finally able to see my baby, he did latch on pretty well, but he wouldn’t stay awake to eat. It took 2.5 days for his sugars to level out. During which time I was required to give him formula after every nursing session. I took him to the nursery once, because my husband was worried about me taking my first shower post C/S, and having to look after me and the baby at the same time. I fed him and wheeled him over. I told the nurses that he just ate, but if he needed anything to please bring him back.

When I returned 20 minutes later, I was shocked to discover they had fed him a full bottle of formula. I asked them why as he had just fed, and her response was, “You must be a first time mom, babies get hungry.” I think my husband had to pick my jaw off the floor, but I was too exhausted and sore to say anything. (I later told the lactation consultant about this when I came to see her 6 weeks later, and she told me that the hospital had taken a contract with a formula company while she was on maternity leave, and tried to push it on everyone.)

By the time we got home with Squishy, he wouldn’t latch on to my breasts and would scream until he got the immediate relief of the formula. I spent that night letting him take sucks of the formula bottle, and latching him on when he calmed down. By the 2nd day home, we were done with formula, but the damage had already been done. I would later learn that drinking the bottle was like not having to work for it, where the breast took some work on his part. He would latch on right and slowly slip down until he had a bad latch. My baby had become a lazy nurser. But since I didn’t know that breastfeeding wasn’t always easy, I just thought it was normal and let it go on.

When my mom came to visit, she said she didn’t go through what I was feeling, so when Squishy was 2 weeks old, I called the number the hospital had given me to call for questions. They gave me the number to a free lactation consultant. I took Squish in, and we nursed in front of the lady, and she told me he was a great eater. They did a weighed feeding and he was getting 4 ozs off only one side. She said I should try another position besides the one I was using to let my nipples heal a bit. She told me my nipples just had to get toughened up. I left feeling relieved and upset at the same time. If I was doing it right, why did it hurt so much?

I continued this way until Squish was 6 weeks old. I would dread having to feed him. I cried during most every feeding. My husband tried so hard to be supportive, but he couldn’t understand what I was going through. I felt like nursing was supposed to be natural and easy. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. My nipples were so sore. They were cracked and bleeding. My bras hurt, but if I didn’t wear one I would leak milk everywhere. I must have tried every kind of nipple cream on the market; I bought nipple shells to wear so my nipples didn’t rub on my bra. Even taking a shower hurt. I was exhausted and in constant pain. I felt like I must be the only one having this problem, because surely someone would have said something to me. If someone had handed me a bottle of formula right there – I just may have taken it. The guilt that I wasn’t enjoying this special bonding time was overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that my brain kept telling me to quit.

I finally decided I would try one more lactation consultant. And boy, am I glad I did. She realized that Squishy was a lazy latcher. That even though he was getting a lot of milk, he was sliding down the nipple while he nursed which is why it appeared that I had a good latch to start with. She corrected our form and had me stop and start Squish several times until he figured it out. She also advised I take a day off of breastfeeding and pump to let my nipples heal. (For reason even though I was pumping in the morning to create a stash, it never occurred to me to try the whole day.) She recommended Evenflo’s Breast flow bottle because they really required the baby to work for the milk like he did when he was on the breast. Finally a mixture of warm water and sea salt was to be applied to my nipples after every feeding. The sea salt doesn’t sting like iodine salt does, and it sure helped heal my poor cracked and bleeding nipples.

Shortly after that my nipples finally healed. I finally understood how joyful and special breastfeeding could be. I am so proud of myself that I stuck it out, but it would have been a whole lot easier of a journey to this point if just one person who didn’t have an easy go of it had said something. I would have prepared more; I would have bought the nipple creams and started using them right away. I wouldn’t have had it in my head that breastfeeding was natural and therefore easy. I wouldn’t have felt silly for asking for help sooner. Had I known it wasn’t always easy I would have found out that there were so many resources at my fingertips. My first weeks may have still been hard and painful, but at least I wouldn’t have felt alone and frustrated.

I later found out that a lot of my mommy friends struggled with breastfeeding. Some gave up, and were happier because of that, some stuck it out and figured out what worked for them, but not one person shared their experience with me until after I mentioned something to them. It was that feeling of frustration that drove me to create this blog. I wanted a place where women could share all kinds of different experiences in the hopes that it would help one mother to push through or just feel like they aren’t alone.

Emily 28, Mom to Squishy, 13.5 months and Creator of Simple Gift ~ Stories from Breastfeeding Mamas

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh how I loath, uh, I mean love my pump…….

Before I start I will tell you a little about me. I am determined, decisive, and generally once I decide something that is that. When it came to breast-feeding I always wanted my child (ren) to have breast milk. It is best, and it is free! I thought I would just pop my baby on and bam we would be breast-feeding.

Then came a major curve ball. At our 8 week ultrasound we found out we were have twins. TWO babies??!! My mind wasn’t big enough to wrap around that. How was I going to do this? I didn’t know how to take care of one baby, let alone two! (I had never changed a diaper before my boys were born). What a wrench.

I decided I would try to breast feed, but knew more realistically I would be pumping. Twins are almost always preemies so they have a harder time latching, as that is one of the last skills to develop. Because of the preemie status they almost always go to the NICU straight after birth to be at least checked out. Mine were born at 36 weeks. 3 days and as promised went straight to the NICU. I didn’t get to see them until 12 hours later (because of my c-section and the fact that I gave birth at night). All of these things were strikes against us in getting them to latch.

In the hospital they did latch…kind of. I found pumping less stressful then having two hungry babies and trying to get them to latch. I will admit that I was okay with the idea of pumping; I saw my breast as sexual objects not as vending machines (and, frankly, so does my husband). I thought it would be less conflicting for all involved without their mouths actually on my breasts. So I started exclusively pumping, and decided I wanted to make it at least 6 months. About 30 seconds in, I totally understood why women quit. It H-U-R-T. There was no support except the help I asked for from the nurses. I was surprised they didn’t encourage it more without prompting. My nipples bled. Even still I rented a pump and my husband picked it up before I got home from the hospital.

We went home three days later with one of the boys. I pumped and wasn’t making enough for anyone to have a full meal. We had to supplement with formula. And the guilt began. Did I bring the milk to the baby who was still in the NICU? Did I split it evenly? I pumped every three hours around the clock. Thankfully Baby B came home only a day and a half later. We made a schedule and stuck to it as if our lives depended on it (it very well may have).

Every three hours they needed to eat. I would sit on the floor with a baby on each side of me and bottle-feed. Then I would change them and get them back to sleep. Then I would pump, split the milk in two and put it in the fridge for the next feeding. If my husband was nice enough to get up in the middle of the night and feed them, but I still had to wake up to pump. My teeth didn’t always get brushed, a shower was optional, but I pumped no matter what. For a little while there I did make enough for both of them, and even had a tiny freezer stash. However, soon enough they started eating a lot more and I had to supplement again.

Guilt. Guilt that I didn’t make enough. Pain. It felt like someone was trying to rip my f&(@)#g nipples off. Exhaustion. Sleeping in 1.5 hour stretches is not really satisfying. I fantasized about quitting every time I hooked up that pump. I hated that pump. I wanted to throw it out the window. No one could talk to me when I was pumping because I was straight up angry when I was pumping. During the day I would put the boys in their bouncy seats and bounce them and sing to them while I pumped. I would always be on the internet when I pumped, it distracted me just enough. Did I mention the pain?

Around 10 weeks old my boys started sleeping through the night. I never knew 6 hours sleep would feel SO good! Except on my boobs! They were SO full in the morning. Despite my best efforts I began so see my boobs as food machines for my babies and not as sexual objects. My husband wasn’t allowed to touch them, or even look at them. They were sore. I felt like a cow; hook me up, and pump me out. But I pumped on.

By four months my boys had made it to the 95% in weight and height. They were getting about 50/50 breast milk/formula. Then they hit a growth spurt, and wanted about 40 oz. to drink a day. I couldn’t keep up so we started solid foods to get them down to 32 oz. a day. I felt good about the results. I felt like I accomplished something, that the breast milk helped get them where they were. I was still determined to make it to 6 months even though I still fantasized about quitting every second of it.

Then they got RSV and again I felt guilty. I felt like maybe if they had gotten 100% breast milk they wouldn’t have gotten sick. (I know these are not logical thoughts, but I am pretty sure mommy guilt is not based in logic). Still I kept pumping. Then I got a clogged duct. Oh, the new fresh pain. I massaged, I sat under the shower and rubbed. My husband offered, in jest, to help me rub them…. I almost hit him. I had no sense of humor regarding the pump or my boobs anymore. It finally unclogged. My poor poor nipples. Pump pump pump.

By six months the boys were wearing 12 month clothes, and still in the 95% for weight and height. They were eating solid foods by now and they were eating a lot! But I made it 6 months! On the one hand I gave myself permission to quit, on the other I had….you guessed it….GUILT! I had made it this long, why not keep going? It is still the best thing for them. I started to reduce my pumping times, from 15 minutes, to 13 to 10 to 8, etc, until I dropped a session.

I loathed being tied to the pump; “Nope sorry, I have to go home so I can pump.”, but I loved giving them breast milk. I loathed the discomfort, but I loved the free milk. I loathed my husband touching about or thinking about my boobs. I loathed/loved the pump. Even though I had started to wean off the pump, I had a really hard time finally giving myself permission to quit. It was at this time I got another clogged duct, and I had to start pumping more again to unclog it. It took a few days, but it finally unclogged. (Sitting in the hot tub one night cleared it up the best). Over the course of the next few weeks I weaned off the pump. The boys didn’t mind, after all they had been getting formula the whole time. We started going through a can of powder every 3-4 days! Yikes! That is about $60/wk on formula. I started fantasizing about starting pumping again. But I didn’t, and instead I returned the rental pump.

Even though it was so bittersweet, I had made it! I was proud of myself for making it that far, and at the same time ashamed I didn’t make it further. I could have done a year if I had tried, but I hated it so much. I was done, and it was over. I decided to just not think about it anymore. What’s done was done.
Once I stopped pumping my boobs deflated like a pair of old balloons left out in the sun. I have never been big or full-chested by any means, but what was left on my chest looked like the before picture in a plastic surgery picture. The kind that are so sad that you don’t wonder why the woman had the surgery. I was so depressed. Even though my husband was glad to have his boobs back, I still wouldn’t let him touch them because I was so insecure about them. I had never felt so unsexy (yes, never). He told me he loved them, that I was beautiful. Blah blah blah.
Slowly my nipples healed, slowly the guilt faded. (It did not go away; it never goes away.) Slowly I decided that I should listen to my husband. (Even though I still thought he is lying). Slowly I began to see my boobs again as the sexual objects they used to be (PS-I now know what Victoria’s Secret actually is). I can once again claim my body as my own for the first time in a year and a half. That feels good. I think it is no coincidence that when I stopped pumping, I started doing my hair again, wearing make up again, and worrying about plucking again. I no longer had to get up early to pump, or stay up late to pump. I got more sleep, I felt better.
I have decided that pumping is a mind over matter situation. For me it was my stubbornness (aka determination) that served me well in this venture. I absolutely understand why women quit. I didn’t have to go back to work so I could sit home and loath/love my pump. My husband was beyond supportive even when I was sitting there barking at him while I was pumping. My babies were both calm and quiet and gave me time to pump while they hung out in the swing/bouncy/play mat. If any of these things hadn’t lined up I don’t know if I would have made it.

My boys are 9 months now and wear 24 month clothes. They are off the charts in height and in the 90% for weight. They are still doing great, even without the breast milk. Although, as I reduce the amount of formula I give them, my thoughts still turn to the fact that I would be making enough breast milk to not have to give them formula at all at this point. I am hoping that I can stop thinking about it all together when they turn one, and they can have cow’s milk.

But knowing me, I might just be sitting here when they are 18 thinking they might have gotten better scores on their SATs if I had pumped more.

Lisa 28, Mom to Identical Twin Boys – 9 months

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Night Weaning Story

Callum and I have just recently passed our 18 month mark in nursing (as have the other half of Becoming Mamas – Holly and Gavin!). And I feel pretty confident that we have many months still ahead as nursing is still something very important to both of us. When I first started nursing, I had only a vague idea that I might like to nurse a year but that I’d probably wean shortly after that. As Callum got older, a year seemed much too young to wean – and I started thinking seriously about how our toddler nursing relationship would play out.

For the last 6 months, I’ve continued to nurse on demand – day and night. Until recently, Callum had never slept more than a 5 or maybe 6 hour stretch (and those were not frequent). Still, I’ve never considered him a “bad” sleeper – he would wake up, nurse a bit, and go right back to sleep. Because we co-slept these night wakings had little impact on me as well. Even so, I’d been pondering the possibility of night weaning for some months. Right around Callum’s first birthday, I started reading about the Jay Gordon method of night weaning; this seemed like an appealing alternative to many “sleep training” methods as it advocates still being there for your toddler (very importantly Dr. Gordon does not recommend forcing night weaning prior to one) and providing night comfort in other ways. Also important for me is the fact that it doesn’t hold out an unreasonable expectation that your child will sleep 12 hours straight without ever needing a parent’s comfort and notes that the “time” to night wean should be a family decision, not one made because of pressures from family, friends, society, or even doctors.

Even though I felt like this was a night weaning plan that would work for us, I still waited. At one, Callum was still quite dependent on night nursing and would “eat” quite a bit during the night. Over the next few months, that need slowly lessened and he began to sleep longer stretches on his own (as in I didn’t particularly do anything to encourage this). We had set backs of course – teething does a huge number on sleep! So, I just played it by ear. Around 14 or 15 months, I realized that I was starting to wake Callum up when I came to bed – or when I got up in the middle of the night for the bathroom or a drink of water. So, my husband and I decided that it was probably time to move Callum to his own bed.

I could write a whole other post on why we decided to go for a futon on the floor instead of the crib or toddler bed (and maybe I will!), but long story short we wanted a solution that would allow me to still sleep with Callum if needed and that would allow him the freedom to come to us if he felt he needed us. When we first started our new sleeping arrangement, I would sleep with Callum the second half of the night – after he’d wake to nurse somewhere between midnight and 3. But then suddenly he started sleeping longer stretches – even sleeping all night (or at least until 5!) without needing us. His night nursing habits had changed as well. He wasn’t “really eating” anymore – just comfort nursing to get back to sleep. Not that there’s anything wrong with comfort nursing at all; in fact, I think it’s an important part of a nursing relationship. But, to me, this meant that he needed comforting back to sleep as opposed to being hungry in the night – an important difference.

Even though I honestly feel that Callum was indicating he was “ready” to night wean, I also had a selfish reason for pushing the issue. I’m still waiting for my cycle to return and would like to try for another baby. While night weaning is no guarantee, it does kick start things for many women (and I’m hoping to be one of them!). This was certainly a factor in my decision. However, I think the timing of our night weaning struck a good balance between my needs and Callum’s needs – it felt right for our family.

I had intended to follow Jay Gordon’s plan but ended up doing things a bit differently. The first night, Callum nursed some and definitely didn’t like it when I offered cuddles instead of milk when he asked for more. Gordon reminds night weaning parents that a baby who is used to being comforted back to sleep with nursing will be angry when the expected comfort (nursing) isn’t offered – but angry and scared are two different things. It helped to remember that, but it was still hard to know that I was denying Callum something he really wanted and had always had in the past. After a few minutes of being mad, Callum came over, snuggled beside me, laid his head down, and went to sleep – and we snuggled until morning when he happily nursed again.

The next night my husband gave things a go. We’d had a brief period where he would rock Callum back to sleep when he woke the first time in the night – and that did work well for a while. We’d agreed that he’d try the first night waking and then if Callum woke after that or if he got really upset, I’d go in. After quite a bit of rocking and soothing, Callum did go back to sleep – daddies are pretty good at night snuggles too. We tried this for the next few nights and each night Callum went back to sleep with less rocking needed.

Since then we’ve had some nights where he goes all night without needing us and others where he still wakes a few times. When he does wake, one of us goes in to soothe him back to sleep. I still sometimes sleep with him the second half of the night if he seems particularly unsettled (those darn teeth again!). And I don’t expect him to go 12 hours without nursing. Generally, he nurses around 7 or 8 (before bed) – if he wakes any time after around 5, we nurse (and if it’s closer to 5, he usually goes back to sleep for a bit).

Like many parenting decisions, it’s hard to know if you’ve done the right thing for your kid. In this case, I feel like we did make the decision that worked for us at this point in time. Some kids will be ready sooner and other later. Some parents may choose not to “force” night weaning at all but let the child decide. Some may night wean while still co-sleeping full time and others may do so longer after kiddo has been in his own bed. For me the key to respond to your child’s cues and to make the transition with gentleness.

Part of me feels sad about this transition – although full weaning is still down the road, this is a reminder that it is coming. But just as with other milestones, I find it more helpful to look ahead at the new than to regret the passing of the old. It’s pretty darn cool when Callum comes scampering in our room in the morning to wake me up – he even hands me my glasses and climbs in to give me a kiss. I like that I feel we have the flexibility to co-sleep when needed. I also like that Callum knows he can still come to us for comfort in the night when needed.

We started the slow path to weaning when Callum began solids a year ago (yet another post!); this marks another step in that direction. I’m not sure how the rest of our nursing time will go…stay tuned to find out!

Meredith, age 31, mama to Callum 18 months

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Nursing a Toddler"

I am going to start from our beginning because it really did have a huge impact on our nursing relationship and honestly, my opinions on breastfeeding.

I was an NYU bound 18 yeas old when I found out I was pregnant. I was a senior in high school and a baby was obviously not in the planned future. Still, my parents were very supportive and they really were my rock. My father had ONE request. DO NOT GET MARRIED. At 18, I had zero interest in getting married. I won't get into details about the Dad-to-Be at the time, but...marriage was simply NOT something I wanted.

So, I was 18 and pregnant. Sounds bad right? Yup, not ideal. The thing is, I wanted more than anything to be a good mom. I listened to doctors and my mother mostly...but I read a lot too. One thing I didn't read much about was breastfeeding. My mother asked me if I planned on breastfeeding and I remember thinking "Um, yeah” I grew up around babies...not all of which where breastfed, but I never really paid attention one way or another. I figured it was natural and something I was supposed to do. I talked with the midwife at my OB's office and she gave me lots of tips...none of which I really absorbed. I was young and didn't pay attention to the challenges that could arise. I wanted to try for a natural childbirth and wanted to do what was best for my baby....breastfeeding really seemed like the natural thing to do, but it didn't seem THAT important to me. When asked how long I would breastfeed...I didn't have an answer....I heard from my grandmother that she worried about having enough milk and all the other things you often hear. She also made comments about teeth, NIP and how old a baby should be. So, I didn't really have a plan. I was going to go with the flow. If my parents were my rock, my grandmother was the exact opposite. She did have me convinced that I would never NIP and that I would probably not nurse when my baby had teeth...and that I would introduce a bottle early enough so she took one...because my cousin never took a bottle and THAT was awful. I did however have a rule at my hospital. No pacifiers, no artificial nipples. NONE.

I had Mya on Halloween of 1999. I caved and had an epi, but my labor was easy. I pushed for 15 minutes and had a healthy baby girl. I nursed her moments after she was born...and I was SO happy to nurse my baby.

Sadly, later that afternoon I wanted a shower. The nurse brought me in, and left me to shower. This was my first time standing and less than six hours after giving birth. My legs collapsed, I hit my head on the glass shower door...which knocked me out and fell through the glass door. I needed over 130 stitches in my back!! I still have a huge scar. I was also unable to lift my baby for a month! :( It took hours to stitch me up, hours that I could not hold Mya because I was covered in glass. During this time the nurses insisted on giving sugar water and a pacifier. Both things I didn't want, but was so emotionally wiped out, I didn't know what to say. My parents asked me what I wanted and in the end, no binky, no bottle.

The recovery was hard, but we found it was easiest for me to nurse laying down. We had a great latch and she was a STRONG nurser. I had bloody cracked nipples, but really...our latch was okay.

Then I started getting sick about one week after she was born. I had a fever and my left breast hurt more than my right. I thought it was from the cracked nipples, but I felt like garbage. So, we went to the OB and sure enough I had mastitis. I took my meds, started getting better...and listened to my grandmother (who lived with us) nag me about how I should stop if I have mastitis. She also would sit in a chair and cry because she couldn't give Mya a bottle. I was overwhelmed.

Then steps in my Dad. He was so good to me. He asked what I wanted; he encouraged me to stick with it and bought me books on breastfeeding.

Then I got mastitis again. Took meds, it cleared up. Then I got it AGAIN. Days after I was off the meds. This is when we had lactation consultant’s step in. Everyone at my OBs office, lactation consultants and even pediatricians could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Mya had a strong latch, but a good latch. I was always positioned was frustrating. Then came the Thrush. This was the one time the doctor said I might have to pump and dump for awhile. When I burst into tears...he figured it out for me and we nursed through the thrush. (I can't even remember what meds he put me on at the time) So...I kept getting mastitis...I would go into the ER in the middle of the night because it would go from perfectly fine to BRIGHT RED in hours. So bad that I remember sobbing (not crying...SOBBING) when she would latch on. It was hell. Nobody warned me that it could be so bad, but in all fairness, I never researched it. I pulled out the books, called LLL, talked with my LC and kept hearing the same thing "nursing through the mastitis will clear it up quicker" So...that is what I did.

When she was about six months old...I pretty much stopped getting mastitis. I think I had it a couple other times during her first year, but it was minor and pretty pain free compared to what I had dealt with.

Oh, and she started getting teeth when she was five months old. Mya bit me ONCE. That was it. She was such an easy baby....and even with all the mastitis, even those moments where my hair curled as she latched, she would look at me with her big brown eyes and I was so happy nursing her.

Then the questions started coming...when are you going to wean? What if she starts biting?

After all I had been through, there was no way I was going to wean. I fought to nurse my baby and she never once had a bottle...not a drop of formula. Why on earth would I give that up? Still, no matter what I said my pediatrician said, I was told I should stop. My mother encouraged me to go for a year....but never once said to stop then. My dad said to nurse as long as I could.

I started researching, talking with other moms...and yup, became a bit of a lactivist. I didn't mean just happened that way. She turned one, and I could not imagine weaning her...and we just kept going with it.

Mya eventually started calling "nursing" "Nu" She figured out how to lift my shirt and would attempt to nurse no matter where she was. If I am completely honest, I can't remember how many times a day she nursed at that point...I know at times she would go nearly the whole day (this probably didn't start until she was close to two) and other times she would want to nurse more frequently. She was a really good eater, loved veggies...but would often finish with a quick "nu" and run off to play.

Times she nursed more frequently...when she was sick, bored or had been really busy. One example I can think of...when she 29 moths old we went to Disney world. We have three or four pictures where she was nursing in random spots. Simply just photos taken where we are in the corner or something...and Mya was nursing. I know a kid pushed her at the playground, she nursed. I know we were waiting in line for a long time to get on a ride, and she nursed while I stood up carrying my toddler... (Got looks for that one) and I know she would nurse for a LONG time after we got home. The plus side to all of that is that it was really hot when we were there that year and she was well hydrated! She was hardly ever sick, but when she was sick, hydration was never an issue. I was able to nurse her in public and be somewhat "discreet" about it...we had nursing down. It was just something she did. However, if I wasn't around and/or I couldn't nurse...95% of the time she was fine. She didn't NEED to nurse. I could hold her off most of the time.

The biggest difference...she understood that there would be times that I couldn't drop everything to nurse her at THAT MOMENT. I could fix myself a snack and tell her "Hold on honey, Mommy will be there in a few minutes" and she would wait...or get distracted and not want to nurse at that moment. Family members stopped thinking it was weird and became supportive. Mostly because she was hardly ever sick and probably the least clingy child in the world. She also talked early, and was just a fun kid. My grandmother now gives all the credit to Mya being breastfed for so long. :D

Mya stopped nursing one day when I came home from work. She asked to nurse and I was doing a few things before I could sit down to nurse her. I told her "Not right now" and she was fine with it and went on playing. I sat down to nurse her, she nursed for about five minutes and then never wanted to nurse again. I think she was ready, and really...I think I was too. It was still sad.

Really, as she got just became easier and easier. I could hold her off, I could use it to soothe her, help her through a horrible tantrum, fight Disney World stress...but it was soooooooo different from nursing a needy baby. Mya doesn't remember nursing, but for is one of the most important parts of our relationship.

If I am honest, it is why I have a hard time with my MIL. She made many comments about "these people who breastfeeding their toddlers...ewwww” from the time I started dating my husband. (Mya was just over three when we met) and I heard it for nearly seven years. When I told her I was pregnant, she mentioned being excited about buying bottles and asked if I was ready to start mixing formula and cleaning bottles...and changing diapers again. I *KNOW* I had mentioned that I nursed Mya, but I guess she choose to ignore it. She had a lot of negative things to say...mostly that "Some babies just don't latch and I have a feeling you are not going to be able to breastfeed this baby. I hope you are not too upset, but breastfeeding isn't really that big of a deal!!" And "How long did you nurse Mya for? You must have stopped by the time she got teeth right. And you didn’t NIP...right?"

Sigh...I had my grandmother's support, but now I was hearing it all over again...but this time it was worse because I was already a mom. I still feel like she forgets that I have done this all before.

It drove me crazy. For me, breastfeeding was such a HUGE part of our relationship, that I couldn't imagine NOT doing it with Oliver. I fought hard and while I loved nursing a baby, nursing a toddler has it's own special place. A busy toddler often has to much to do to bother with Mom and long lap snuggles. Nursing gave me the chance to snuggle and be close. I think my MIL comes from a very different background and for some reason, is never going to be very supportive of my parenting style. That being said, I think that she has opened up a lot to breastfeeding. Do I think she is "okay" with it past a year...not really? Do I think she will come around like my grandmother did? I also doubt it, but I do think that I will hear fewer comments than I originally did because I have stood firm and been honest. When negative comments came up...I pointed to Mya. She is a good, healthy and smart ten year old. So, at the very least, nursing past a year didn't screw her up. :D

I just can't imagine doing it another way. Trying to wean a one year old seems terribly stressful to me. Part of it is that I am way too lazy for that, but mostly, I don't think either of us will be ready at that point.

I got through the hard parts with a lot of support and by being my stubborn self. I hear so many moms talk about their struggles with breastfeeding and their reasons for stopping. I am not denying that they have their own set of reasons and I support all mommies. Still, I can't help but really hope that all mothers get the same chance I did. I am always willing to hand out advice and try VERY hard to not be pushy, but I am pretty "encouraging"

Really though, the biggest concern I hear from moms with little babies is that they don't want to nurse a toddler as often as they do a baby. I think that it is seldom going to happen. There will be stages where your toddler is going to nurse more often (growth spurt) and I would expect that a sick toddler is going to nurse as often as possible, but otherwise...Mya was always too busy to want to nurse all day.

On Halloween of 2009, Mya got a baby brother as a birthday gift. Nursing him has been a completely different experience. He really wasn't interested in nursing during the first 24 hours. He would nurse for a few minutes and fall asleep. I had a few great nurses sit with me and help hold him on, the next day, he was doing fine. We are now in month 8. He has always been a wonderful nurser, although, a bit more lazy than Mya. He is also more easily distracted. Nursing was pretty much problem free, aside from his reflux in the beginning. I know how bad it was for Oliver and I can't imagine how much worse it could have been if he had been a formula fed baby.

My husband was raised hearing that formula is just a good as breast milk. I brought him to a class while pregnant and he quickly changed his mind when the instructor mentioned that formula companies are always trying to replicate breast milk. From that point on, he has been one of my biggest supporters. He has even gone from the pre-baby days of saying that people should have a cover, to asking me why I was trying to cover Oliver when it was making him so mad! He is now Deployed and talks about breastfeeding with other soldiers who have pregnant wives back home.

Mya is just as amazing. She talks about breastfeeding to classmates and even stood up to inform the her 4th grade classroom that breasts were not only sexual organs (as her puberty class was explaining breasts) but that they were also for feeding babies.

So...I think I covered mostly everything. I have no plans of doing things differently with Oliver. I will most likely let him self-wean. I can see myself being comfortable up to age 3.5-4. But who knows, maybe I will decide to before then....maybe even later (although...I don't know about that)

Krista, Army Wife and Mom living in Germany, Daughter Mya (10) and son Oliver (8 months)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lactation Consultants!!

I had no problems nursing my first child and did so exclusively for 5 – 6 months. I nursed my second as well, but got mastitis when she was 24 days old, on Christmas Eve. I had never been so sick. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic. This cleared up the mastitis, but caused a yeast infection – in my nipples. This caused cracks, which lead to a bacterial infection requiring another antibiotic, leading to yet another yeast infection. This cycle continued for about another 2 months. As much as I loved my doctor, I felt like he was at a loss to help. He had me contact a lactation consultant at the hospital, who told me to follow my doctor’s orders. I cried in my doctor’s office and told him I wanted to nurse for a number of reasons: I loved the time with my baby, I wanted her to be healthy, and it was convenient and inexpensive. He told me my baby needed a sane mother more than she needed breast milk. I stopped nursing.

My husband and I did not get pregnant again for another 10 years. I decided I would nurse my son, but only if I did not experience the problems I had with my daughter. I got mastitis when my son was about 3 weeks old and immediately felt defeated. I was with a different ob-gyn practice. I had met their staff lactation consultant (the practice I had seen with my first two children did not have one) at the hospital, but only spent a few minutes with her. When I went in for my mastitis, they treated me but also had me meet with her. I told her about my prior experience, and told her I wanted to nurse as long as I could but I knew this cycle would end my nursing. She promised me she would not allow that to happen to us; and that as long as I was willing; she would be behind me all the way. I nursed my son a little over a year, and I got mastitis several times. The lactation consultant worked closely with me the entire time. She helped me figure out the triggers that were causing mastitis, and how to take care of myself better. I never got a yeast infection, and never stopped nursing, and other than not feeling well, I never had any physical difficulty nursing.

Shortly after I stopped nursing my son, I discovered I was pregnant again. My baby did not latch or eat well in the hospital. The hospital's lactation consultant met me with and noticed that he was slightly jaundiced (none of the nursing staff had noticed). She worked with him and me until he finally latched and nursed well. After leaving the hospital, I noticed he was making me sore on one side but not the other. I met with the lactation consultant from my ob-gyn who pointed out that he was tongue-tied and that I was shaped different on one side from the other. She estimated that he was not able to latch well on one side. His pediatrician scheduled a procedure to clip his tongue. He is now 7 months old and nurses with no problems.

All of this is to say this: I did not see the value of lactation consultants by the time I had my second child. I had not needed assistance with my first. While I was determined to find a solution to my difficulties with my second child, everyone encouraged me to stop nursing. I don't know if it is that the profession has changed that much in the ten year gap between my children or if I was just with the wrong practice. I am so thankful for the lactation consultants I have had the great fortune to work with since my two sons have been born. My children's current pediatrician is also a lactation consultant. What a wonderful profession! They have been so helpful, and I feel like I have my own cheering section. I would encourage any nursing mother to take advantage of the knowledge that a lactation consultant has, even for the seemingly simplest of questions. I could not have made it through the last 3 years and 2 children without mine.

Jennifer, 38, mom to 2 girls (16 and 12) and 2 boys (3 and 7 months).