Friday, March 5, 2010

Extended Breastfeeding

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my breastfeeding history. So, I thought I'd tell my entire breastfeeding story here!

Of course, you can't have breastfeeding without birth and that's really where my story starts. I didn't exactly have the birth I'd dreamed of. In fact, nothing that happened was what I had envisioned. I felt so out of control in my daughter's birth. I will rarely call it "my birth", because I really feel like I did not give birth. It is my daughter's birthday. She was birthed on that day, but I did not give birth. It happened to me.

Because of that extreme feeling of disappointment and failure, I vowed to not give up. Okay, I didn't make that vow right away. I really thought breastfeeding was going to be just like birth -- easy. I thought it was going to be natural. When I left the hospital I really wasn't sure I would continue breastfeeding. I was struggling with milk supply and sore nipples. For the next few days, I pumped, breastfed, and bottle-fed (combo of formula and expressed milk). I suffered from extremely low milk supply. I had nearly every single risk factor for decreased and delayed milk supply. Here's what I had:

- low hemoglobin (I did eventaully get 4 units of blood. I think my hemoglobin was 4 or something. It was low. It sucked! It really affected my milk supply.)

- I was induced (none of MY hormones to stimulate labor, none to stimulate milk!)

- I was on Magnesium Sulfate -- it just slowed everything down

- epidural -- they most definitely affect milk supply and breastfeeding, even in seemingly normal births

- c-section -- there are NUMEROUS reasons why c-sections affect breastfeeding -- delayed contact, blood loss, hormones, etc (most are above)

So, from the second my daughter was born, the deck was stacked against our breastfeeding relationship.

There are a few things that actually helped us. Here they are:

- Immediate skin-to-skin contact -- well, immediate for a c-section. Within one hour of my daughter's birth, she was on my bare chest. Granted, I was bleeding a great deal at this time, but our most awesome nurse put our baby on my chest and let her go to town! Thank you!

- My doctor, Dr. S. She is AMAZING! I basically asked for her to tell me it was okay to quit breastfeeding. She wouldn't. She told me to keep going. That's when I realized I had to keep going! She helped with a Reglan prescription. She was the one who introduced me to my favorite herb of all time: FENUGREEK.

Somewhere amidst all the trouble, I decided my birth sucked, so my breastfeeding relationship would not. For TWO months, I struggled. We used formula and breastfed. I remember the last formula bottle my daughter ever got -- it was 4th of July weekend 2007. She was 2 months old. I sat crying with my husband as I bottle fed her at my parent's lake house. I knew I just needed to relax. I knew something had to change. From that day forward, I made her food. I let my body do the work -- still trying to regain my confidence in my body.

Now, 2 years 10 months later, I'm still making my daughter's milk! I never, in a million years, imagined I would breastfeed for almost 3 years. I'm so proud of what I've done. I'm so amazed that body DOES work! I'm so astonished I can nourish, fully and completely, a human being.

Would I do it again? I would be lying if I said I never fantasized about my husband being able to help more. I thought about how wonderful it would be if I could just sleep through a feeding. I have thought about how awesome it would be for my husband to be able to put my child to sleep. But, there is nothing like knowing I have done what I have done for my child. It has been an incredible experience. We have a bond like no other. For that, I will always be grateful!

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