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Breastfeeding Take Two

If you follow my blog you’ll know that I only breastfed Babyice for 3 weeks before quitting. I had an awful time of it. I wasn’t even sure I would try again with PrincessIce. After tweeting about it I was referred to Kim, a La Leche League (LLL) leader, and she encouraged me to attend a meeting while I was pregnant. I understood that having a support system was important and decided to start building one in the form of LLL before PrincessIce was born.

I attended two meetings while I was pregnant and purchased a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding on Kim’s recommendation. I was still very nervous about doing it all again, but found myself learning so much through other mothers and the book. I was really clueless before. Sometimes while reading the book I found myself getting excited at the prospect of being able to feed my baby and bond with her in this way.

There were certain things I wanted to happen when PrincessIce was born. I wanted them to put her on my chest skin to skin and I wanted her to drink as soon as she was born. This never happened with Babyice at all. I really wanted it to be different and to get breastfeeding off to a strong start. I never voiced these desires to my gynae or the nurses at the hospital. Minutes after PrincessIce was born the nurse put her on my chest (incidentally the same nurse that helped deliver Babyice). They took her back to wipe her off a bit and the nurse spotted the lady who helps new mothers breastfeed in hospital walk past my room. She called her over saying “We have a new baby here” and she came to help me latch PrincessIce for the first time. So even though I never told anyone what I wanted, everything happened as I wanted it to. I was so happy I could cry.

I continued to breastfeed in hospital. We really struggled at first. I could barely fit my nipple into PrincessIce’s tiny mouth. My nipples became sore and a guy (!) on Twitter recommended I request physio for my nipples. I never knew such a thing existed! I asked for the physio to come around and they did. She treated my nipples with a laser and ultrasound. It really helped! The breastfeeding helper, again the same woman I encountered when having Babyice, was so much more attentive this time. She took her time helping me and answering my questions. She came to see me every time she came to the hospital. It was surreal. The polar opposite to my previous experience.

I was quite overwhelmed by the oxytocin released while feeding and at one point I was afraid I would fall asleep and suffocate PrincessIce.  I asked the nurses to take her away for a while so that I could sleep. One nurse told me not to put her on the breast repeatedly as my nipples would get sore. On another occasion the same nurse told me not to feed for longer than 20 minutes per breast for the same reason. Such misinformation! Luckily I knew to just nod and smile as my newly gained knowledge empowered me. I felt sorry for the new mothers who would blindly follow this advice. Would they succeed? Although these tid bits wouldn’t lead to failure themselves, what else were new mothers being told that just wasn’t true?

I fed PrincessIce as often as I could and when we finally came home I focused on feeding her. It was my only priority. When we were booked back into hospital to treat her jaundice the pediatrician questioned my milk supply. What he based this assumption on I don’t know. He had suggested temporary formula to help clear the jaundice and I told him only as a last resort. He offered me meds to increase my supply and I said I would prefer to go that route over substituting breastfeeding with formula. I was in constant contact with Kim and she found resources and articles for me to read, again preparing me with an arsenal of information and equipping me with questions to ask the paed instead of just accepting everything he said as gospel. I now knew that babies rid themselves of jaundice by means of dirty nappies. I could then make the argument that frequent breastfeeding which is a natural laxative would aid this process in a way formula might not. The paed didn’t argue. You can’t very well argue with logic. PrincessIce gained 70 grams in the two days we were in hospital. He didn’t question my milk supply again and said if I ever felt I needed the meds I could call him. The meds had now become optional instead of being deemed necessary. I felt so very proud of myself for standing up for what I believe in and so grateful to Kim for giving me the means and confidence to do so!

After being back at home my nipples were still very sore and should of gotten better. I wanted someone to inspect our latch and check for thrush. A friend who has a 3 month old was taking her baby to the breastfeeding clinic in Panorama and I asked if I could tag along. We set off on a Tuesday morning and I saw an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) there. People with this qualification are the only true lactation consultants. She seemed sceptical about Princessice’s weight gain as she was not yet back to her discharge weight, but said that it could of been affected by the jaundice and that the scales may differ. She asked me to come back on the Friday to weigh her again. She gave me breastfeeding tips and information. Almost all of which I already knew from LLL and reading the book. I know the theory back to front, but in practice it is something else altogether. It turns out having bigger/heavier breasts makes things more challenging in the beginning. Just my luck! I mentioned to them that PrincessIce thinks she is too much of a lady to poo more than is absolutely necessary and that she only has a dirty nappy once every 7 – 10 days. They said this is completely normal for a breastfed baby (even if younger than 6 weeks). A breastfed baby can poo 14 times in a day or once every 14 days.

For the rest of the day I was in tears. Proper crying too. I was feeding and crying. Almost hysterical. I felt the exact same way that day as I did on the day I quit breastfeeding Babyice. I felt terrible. I reached out to Kim and I tweeted about it. People came out in full force supporting me and encouraging me to persevere. Rudi came home to me in an emotional mess and even said “Just put her on formula” which didn’t really help. It just upset me more. I asked him to go with me to he clinic the next day before we make that decision and he agreed.

The next morning we went back. I took my own pillows with me determined to get help. The feeding position I was shown the previous day just wasn’t working for us (another reason for the tears). PrincessIce was weighed again. She had gained 30 grams overnight! The IBCLC was very happy about that. She said that she had doubts about her weight gain the previous day, but 30 grams in a day was excellent. She took us into a separate room and addressed my concerns about positioning. She helped me find other positions to try. The day before I had assumed that our latch was bad because my nipples were still sore and we were told to work on latch and positioning. She was surprised I thought the latch was bad. She said it really wasn’t. I cried. She showed compassion and said we were doing a good job and trying our best and to continue doing so. She asked us to come back a week later to weigh again. She wanted to see whether PrincessIce was back up to her birth weight. I was nervous about the next weigh in as I had been diagnosed with bronchitis the day after her last weigh. I was put on a heavy dose of antibiotics (875 mg!) and I wasn’t sure how that would affect us. A week later I returned. It was a great effort for me to go back. I had to cart Rudi to work and fetch him, all the while feeding in between, whenever and wherever I could. PrincessIce weighed in 45 grams short of her birth weight, 120 grams heavier than the previous week. I was disheartened as I had expected her to be at least back up to her birth weight, but the nurses said that 120 grams was a good gain. They weighed her before and after I fed her to see how much she drank and were happy with that as well. The nurse said she only had to be weighed again when she goes for her 6 week immunizations, indicating to me that they were no longer concerned.

It occurred to me later that this was EXACTLY the same thing that happened with Babyice. We went to the clinic, the nurse said he wasn’t gaining enough weight and I lost it. When recently comparing the two situations I realized that I gave up the first time because I was concerned that I was not providing my baby with enough nutrition, that I was failing at providing one of he most basic needs. It had nothing to do with my own discomfort or lack of motivation. Babyice was already being “topped up” with formula though and it was in the house which made it just that much “easier” to stop breastfeeding. I cried for days afterwards. Although I still regret not persevering with Babyice, I have finally forgiven myself. Having success with PrincessIce has shown me that it was possible all along with the right support and knowledge.

PrincessIce is more than a month old and we are still happily feeding today, but as mothers do, I am worried about the next weigh in that will be happening next week when she goes for her shots. I am sure everything will be fine as her nappy output indicates things are going well and she is generally content and happy. Fingers crossed! Even though I’ve done the whole parenting thing before, with breastfeeding in the mix this is a whole new experience with a whole new set of rules.

I am still in frequent contact with Kim. Her passion for breastfeeding is almost contagious! I’ll be going to my first LLL meeting since PrincessIce was born on Saturday and I’m really looking forward to it.

Thank you to everyone that has been so caring and supportive in our breastfeeding journey. We appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts!