Saturday, 6 August 2011

My Breastfeeding Journey

To be honest, the fact that it is World Breastfeeding Week had kind of slipped my mind until I saw Holly Homemaker's post. Now that it is back on my radar, I figure that I should do a post about my breastfeeding journey.

At some stage in the first hour after Seagull's birth, my breastfeeding journey started. The midwife who had been with me when I gave birth asked me if I wanted to feed him. I said yes, so she attached him to the breast for me. I was a bit overwhelmed by everything, but I remember thinking "How the hell did she just attach him and how am I supposed to do that again later?" Seagull fed a few more times that evening and I remember having to buzz for help because I didn't know what to do. His last feed for the night, he finally managed to attach himself and I was so excited.

I can't remember if Seagull woke for a feed a few hours later (I think he did), but I most certainly remember being woken at 1am by a midwife who told me that Seagull's blood sugar and body temperature were low and she wanted to take him to the nursery to warm him up and give him formula. I burst into tears and said that I didn't want Seagull to have formula. She assured me that it would get his blood sugar up more quickly than breastfeeding, so I very reluctantly agreed. In hindsight, I really wish I had refused, but Seagull was my first baby, he was less than 12 hours old, I was exhausted after having 24 hours of contractions before he was born and I didn't know any better.

I woke up at 5:30am and immediately felt lost that Seagull wasn't in the room with me. I went to the nurses desk and asked if I could go see Seagull. The midwife said yes, so I went down to the nursery. The midwife there said that they were about to feed him again and as they were going to insert a nasogastric tube to do it, I should probably leave as it is quite distressing for a parent to watch. Feeling rather lost, I went back to bed.

I woke again at 7am and was determined that Seagull was going to come back to my room with me. The midwife at the nursery was happy to let him leave by this time. Thunder Maker came to visit and we all spent some time as a family. Seagull was sleeping peacefully. Later, one of the midwives who had been with me through my labour started shift and asked how long it had been since Seagull had fed. I realised that it had been 7 hours ago. He had been asleep all that time. When the midwife looked at him, she commented that Seagull looked jaundiced.

We tried to wake Seagull for a feed. He was too sleepy to attach. It was suggested that I hand express colostrum while a student midwife sucked it up into a syringe to feed Seagull. It rapidly became apparent that I had a lot of colostrum, so it was suggested by one of the midwives that Seagull be given another bottle of formula, just to get something into him while I used a breast pump to express colostrum for his feed.

At every feed after that, we attempted to get Seagull to breastfeed to no avail. After each failed attempt, a midwife would feed Seagull the expressed colostrum while I expressed some more for the next feed. I was getting between 80mL and 120mL of colostrum each time I expressed.

Despite all of this, I was determined that I was going to be going home breastfeeding Seagull. Fortunately, on our last night in hospital, there was a wonderful midwife on the graveyard shift. They were short staffed, but she was determined that we were going to get Seagull feeding from the breast. For nearly an hour, she sat down with me in between seeing other new mums and worked with me to get Seagull breastfeeding. Finally, she suggested using a nipple shield. For the first time in three days, I was able to breastfeed Seagull. It wasn't how I envisaged going home, but at least I wasn't still expressing.

For five weeks, I was using nipple shields to breastfeed Seagull. During a feed in the middle of the night, Seagull ripped the nipple shield off and attached himself to the breast. His attachment was all wrong, but I didn't care at that point. Turns out I should have. My nipples became so sore after a couple of days. Particularly the right one. It was inverted, but it was at about this time that Seagull's vaccum cleaner-like suction ripped the tendons holding the nipple in. It became so intensely painful to feed him from that side. To top it all off, I developed mastitis in that breast.

I asked the local lactation consultant for advice because I knew I needed to empty the breast, but it was too painful to feed Seagull from that breast due to the soreness of my nipple. She suggested only feeding Seagull on that side for one of every three feeds and use a breast pump to empty it for the other feeds. After a few days, the nipple healed, the mastitis cleared and things finally became easier. We had finally figured out the best way to help Seagull attach.

I have to share a funny story at this point. Seagull was very boob-obsessed during the duration of the time he breastfed for. One evening when he was about three months old, I was sitting on the lounge next to Thunder Maker, getting ready to feed Seagull. Thunder Maker got a bit excited at the sight of my exposed breast and gave the side of it a rub. Seagull flashed him the biggest death stare. Even once he was attached to the breast, he continuted to give him greasy looks for the next 10 minutes as he fed.

Seagull weaned when he was a bit over 16 months. I was not long into the second trimester of my pregnancy with Wombat and I sensed that he wasn't as into it as he was previously. I decided to go with the "never offer, never refuse" approach and he was asking for feeds about a week apart. One day he tried to attach and couldn't remember how to do it properly. I tried attaching him myself a few times and it didn't work, so I decided that that was it.

When Wombat was born, things were a lot easier. He started looking around for a feed about an hour after he was born. With a bit of positioning help from me, Wombat latched on perfectly for his first feed. This time, I didn't need any help with breastfeeding and it felt good.

Within the first couple of weeks at home, Wombat was throwing up a lot after feeds. We were having to change him and all his bedding each time it happened. I couldn't understand why it was happening because I was making sure that I burped him after feeds. When Wombat was about two weeks old, we had an appointment with a maternal and child health nurse who is also a lactation consultant. I had to feed Wombat during the appointment, and while I was feeding him, I commented on all the vomiting. She noticed that Wombat pulled off when my let-down occurred and she said that my milk ejection reflex looked like it was too strong for Wombat to keep up with. She advised pulling him off and burping him several times during a feed so that he didn't get a massive build-up of wind. Once I started doing that, Wombat stopped throwing up after feeds.

Wombat is now nine months old and is still feeding well. I love cuddling his chubby little body up to me and looking into his eyes as he feeds. Wombat is going through a phase where he likes to do acrobatics as he feeds, so we're coming up with some rather inventive feeding positions at the moment. I'm looking forward to him weaning himself in his own time. I feel so blessed to have had such a beautiful breastfeeding journey with both of my boys.

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