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In Their Own Words: Kelly

Posted on August 9, 2013 at 9:22 AM Comments comments (49)
This is part of a "In Their Own Words" series in honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month 2013.  Here at Sweet Pea Births we celebrate and honor all breastfeeding relationships, and want to share these stories with you to empower and inspire you that no matter what the journey, with help, support, and persistence, most mothers can achieve the breastfeeding relationship they want with their nurslings.  If you would like to submit your story, please email me at krystyna{at}sweetpeabirths{dot}com.


When I got closer to the end of my pregnancy with Cruz I knew without a doubt I was going to breastfeed him. I thought it was odd that so many people were curious about if I was going to or not. More than just close friends and family, acquaintances and random strangers even asked. It wasn't an option for me. Of course I would breastfeed him, why wouldn't I?

Growing up I had been told a few times my mom breastfed us. It was natural, normal. She told us how she'd have to feed us TWINS at the same time and when I was younger I never fully appreciated how difficult and draining that must have been. I didn't hear my mom tell me how hard it was. She mentioned how she was in contact with La Leche League (LLL) members and how her milk was so rich she was told she should consider donating her milk to milk banks. Even though I knew she did this for us, with us, I didn't blink an eye when all my dolls were fed through a bottle. I remember their puckered lips and fake bottles whose nipple fit perfectly in those lips.   Thankfully, pop culture didn't steer me away from breastfeeding. My natural instincts knew it was the only way to go.

When my nephew was born, I had the profound privilege of being a part of his first few weeks. Every moment I had I drove to my twin sister's house and helped in any way I knew how. Not having been around a lot of newborns in the past, and never having seen the difficulties of breastfeeding, it was surprising how much work it was! We'd get up in the middle of the night, he'd latch on, and either her husband or I (sometimes both at the same time) would help with the SNS (or Supplemental Nursing System, typically given to moms who have had given birth through Cesarean, or to moms whose milk wasn't coming in fast enough).

It was tough, he was hungry, we were tired. My sister tried as best she could for as long as she could in those first few weeks and even contacted help through her hospital. In the end, she decided the best thing for him was to give him formula. Although she felt as though she couldn't breastfeed him, she didn't give up without a fight. I'm thankful for spending those weeks with her, watching and helping her with that fight because I knew it would help me when I had my own children. 

Before Cruz was born, I was ready. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew that as natural as breastfeeding is, it's a skill that takes a while to hone. A skill that many women all over the world hone on their own, but for me, I'm grateful for the people in my life that were there to support me and for the ones who let me be a part of their struggles so I may be more knowledgeable.

I attended a LLL meeting in my weeks before his birth and I was adamant that a lactation consultant come to my room within 24 hours of Cruz's birth. I wanted to get support immediately so I didn't have to make the choice to give him bottles unless I knew I had tried everything and it was totally necessary, just as my sister had done. 

In the first few days home, I suffered painful engorgement and was on the phone with the lactation consultant almost daily. At his first well visit only a few days after his birth, I went to see the lactation consultant *again* to make sure his latch was good and I was “doing it right”. She reassured me everything was great.

By the time Cruz was three weeks old, I was still in a lot of pain every time he latched. It was so severe I would cry out in pain or silently cry. At that point I made yet another appointment with the lactation consultant. She referred me to the Ear Neck Throat doctors to look at a possible tongue-tie. She warned me it was considered a controversial procedure to correct it because many ENTs don’t consider tongue-tie an issue since “structurally” or physically there’s nothing “wrong” with the tongue. We went anyway.  A $5 copay later and he had told us he saw nothing wrong with Cruz’s tongue. 

Still in pain, I went to my local LLL meeting that week and described what I was going through. Although the leader prefaced the meeting that she was not an expert, but had two children with tongue-ties, she referred me to the head ENT at Oakland Children’s Hospital. It turned out Cruz didn’t have a classic tongue-tie in the front…he had an anterior tongue tie, in the back, on the sides. A simple swab of local anesthetic, a quick incision, not even a cry, and his latch immediately improved. Not only did it not hurt at all but he seemed happier too.

Fast forward to Cruz’s well check at 7 months…the pediatrician told us he had not gained one ounce since his last visit at 4 months, and although he had grown in length, his head did not grow at all either. We had three different nurses measure, including the one who usually does all of his measurements at these checks. I was told to get him to gain weight yesterday and hope that with the weight gain comes head/brain growth. I even questioned the growth charts they used at that office, asking to not compare him to formula fed babies, or babies who had started solids at four months old. It didn’t matter. At 7 months, he was deemed failure to thrive. I asked the pediatrician what to do. He was an exclusively breastfed baby who had just started solids but that was just for practice. She recommended less solids and to follow each nursing session with as much formula as he wanted. In the meantime, she recommended blood tests to rule out any diseases.

Not wanting to have to draw blood unless we needed to, I asked what the worst-case scenario was. She told me she wished I didn’t ask…she said worst cases were leukemia, or some rare childhood disease (I can’t remember what it was called) where he would not see his first birthday.

I immediately contacted my LLL leader for advice. He was a happy baby who not only made every age appropriate milestone, but he had made them earlier than his peers. He was even sleeping through the night for the entire month before we found out something was wrong! I had been nursing Cruz mostly on demand for months now. He would sometimes go even 4-5 hours and still didn’t show signs of hunger. Not even crying. Usually by the fourth hour, I would be painfully engorged so I would nurse him anyway, even if he didn’t show the signs. He happily nursed at any time, whether it was four minutes after nursing or four hours. 


I thought maybe my milk wasn’t fatty enough for him. I started taking twelve fenugreek (the amount at which I finally smelled like maple syrup) combined with four mothers milk plus a day. I started nursing him every two hours, both sides, for at least ten minutes each side. He was a distracted nurser and wouldn’t nurse very long if there were something else in the room that seemed fun to play with or look at and the only thing that I could do to keep him at the breast was to play some stupid fisher price app. I offered him up to eight ounces of formula after each nursing session. Sometimes he finished all eight ounces, sometimes he only wanted two ounces. I was also instructed to nurse him then offer a bottle every time he woke up in the middle of the night, assuming that if he did wake up, he woke out of hunger. 

We had to go in to the doctor’s office every other day for the first two weeks for weight and measurement checks (head and length). Within the first 48 hours he gained almost two pounds. By the end of the second week he had “caught up” to his own weight curve and his head had shown small growth (but any growth was a success).

Within thirty days all of the blood tests came back and they found nothing “wrong” with any of it. They chalked it up to not enough calories. I was able to slowly wean him off the formula when he was ten months old, starting with the bottles in the middle of the night. The last one I cut out was the bottle after nursing before bed. By the time he turned eleven months he was back to being only breastfed every three hours and any time he woke in the night (which at this point he had begun to wake three + times a night!).

By the time he turned one, we were able to increase his solid intake and I got the “all clear” to return to on demand nursing. Two weeks after his one-year birthday he contracted hand foot mouth and went on a nursing strike. Combined with no nursing and all of the supplements I was taking to maintain my increased supply for him (the fenugreek and mothers milk plus), I came down with mastitis. I took antibiotics, pumped, anf massaged it away.

To get Cruz to nurse again, we took a few baths together and I didn’t offer nursing to him. I just cuddled him and by the third bath, he had felt good enough to nurse again.

Cruz is now almost nineteen months old and I am no longer taking the mothers milk plus pills but am still taking four fenugreek pills a day. I’m thankful I was able to get down to only four gradually without hurting my supply or risking a plugged duct or worse. Other than nursing to nap and at bedtime, he still nurses on demand which some days feels like it’s all day, and others it feels like it’s only to nap and to bed. Cruz still wakes between two or three (sometimes four to five) times a night to nurse when he’s not teething. When he’s teething, he will either stay latched on all night or wake at least once every twenty to forty-five minutes!

Because of everything we went through, especially after he was four months old, I felt like a failure. I felt like I was starving my child and didn’t even know it. I was inhibiting his growth and sabotaged my own supply by not catching on to his cues (if he even showed any). How did I miss the fact that he wasn’t getting enough? I looked for all the tell tale signs of hunger. To this day I harbor a lot of guilt and sadness. Although he’s thriving now, I can’t bring myself to trust when he says he’s not hungry or walks away from the table like most toddlers do. I’m supposed to trust that he will eat when he’s hungry. I’m supposed to trust that he will graze and barely eat some days like toddlers do, then sometimes eat like there’s no tomorrow like toddlers do. Everyday I battle with trusting Cruz and trusting my instincts. I keep a mental list of everything he consumes within each three-day period, just so I don’t miss anything. To make sure weird patterns don’t emerge. 

For this I am grateful I am still able to nurse him. On days he barely wants to eat or is too busy to eat, I know I can count on calories and nourishment from my milk. I will continue to battle this until I forgive myself and know that I was, and still am, doing the best thing I can for Cruz.

It hasn't been a walk in the park. The challenges I've had to face in the breast-feeding world: engorgement, plugged duct, blebs, tongue tie, supply drop, mastitis, Cruz batting at me while nursing, and kneading and scratching, Cruz wanting to sit up while nursing and tear off or down right refuse the cover while in public, distracted baby nursing, being so exhausted that my arm falls when nursing him at night and the slippage results in painful, accidental biting! 

I'm not going to lie, there are time I absolutely hate it. It can be isolating, especially in this culture. I'm stared at in public even if I use a nursing cover (which I hardly do anymore). Often times I have to go to another room to nurse, or I'm the only one in the room who still nurses, or the only one in the room who's ever nursed. Ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes breastfeeding is blamed for Cruz's sleeplessness, attachment to me, lack of weight and even sometimes the opposite - his "thunder thighs", and also sometimes his inability (or what I think is unwillingness) to "selfsoothe".

Breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful, but sometimes it is. Cruz likes to do acrobatics while nursing sometimes. And as much as I try to get him to stay still, he's strong. And active. And willful. And I'm exhausted. So I let him "get away" with it because I know it will last only 3 more minutes and then he'll be almost asleep. Or distracted and full and want to go play.


But as much as I hate it, 
I love it so much more.
I know he's getting the best possible nourishment there is. He’s only had one ear infection (and that was after he was one year old). He's only been sick twice and thank God I was able to nurse him through both of those times. The benefits for him are numerous but I'm not a martyr; I can't deny the benefits for me! And now that he’s a toddler, any time he is having a bad day, tantrums, falls and gets hurt, or needs comforting, nursing is the best answer! But even more so than all of the physical benefits for both of us, the greatest benefit is I've been able to continue to naturally connect with him deeper than anyone else in the world can. Only a nursing mother feels the gentle eyelashes flutter and slowly close for the last time as her child falls asleep peacefully at her breast. Only a nursing child can find and latch onto his mother’s breast in the pitch-blackness of the night and be nourished and know comfort the way nature intended.

These are the things that keep me going. They far outweigh any negativity society puts on breastfeeding. Even when I'm asked for the millionth time, "when are you planning on stopping?" It's a funny thing this breastfeeding relationship...people are always so curious when women decide to breastfeed and for how long.

When Beyonce nursed her baby, it made headlines. Perhaps because it came on the heels of Time Magazine's controversial issue depicting an extended breastfeeding relationship between a mother and her son. Perhaps because Beyonce is a pop star and very much in the public eye. Perhaps because she wasn't ashamed or made to think she had to hide when it was time to nourish her newborn. It makes me sad that our society as a whole doesn't view breastfeeding as the norm, and that it's even a topic to discuss at all. 

Shouldn't something so natural to mothers and babies be something that is naturally overlooked as a "hot topic" since it's something that can and should be happening enough to be the norm? Instead of "Oh, look, that mom's nursing her baby/toddler in public <gasp>", shouldn't it be "Oh, I didn't even notice her nursing her baby because I see it often enough it's not shocking."

Blessed be the day mothers can nurse their babies without making headlines. Blessed be the day no one asks a mother IF she'll breastfeed. Blessed be the day appropriate extended breastfeeding relationships between mother and child aren't questioned...more on that topic another day :) 


For now, I leave you with this…

My breastfeeding goal when I first had Cruz: definitely 6 months and shoot for 1 year as ultimate goal.

My breastfeeding goal now that Cruz is a year and a half...that's between Cruz and I. We'll stop when we're ready :) 





Feel free to leave a comment - it will be moderated and posted.
 
Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonDisclaimer: 
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

Chronicle of a Nursing Strike

Posted on October 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM Comments comments (1)
So I have officially weathered my first nursing strike.  I would hear about them at La Leche League, or see a thread posted on a message board.  I would read them with a question mark over my head and nothing to say since nursing has been a dream since we started having the babies under chiropractic care from infancy.
 
I found out what a nursing strike is in a big way last week.  With our fourth child, the one who seems to be filling in any remaining gaps I had in regards to labor, and now breastfeeding.  I was in denial at first, then in despair, and now I am feeling relieved and grateful for the experience and for coming out on the other side with a renewed dedication to breastfeeding.
 
What a nursing strike is:  A baby who has been nursing well for months that starts refusing the breast.  To quote a La Leche League pamphlet, “A nursing strike is a baby’s way of communicating that something is wrong, and most babies who “go on strike” are obviously upset about it.”
 
What a nursing strike is not:  The end of breastfeeding.  With patience and persistence, most babies will come back to nursing.
 
Here is our chronicle. 
 
Day One:  It started with a bite from our baby in the middle of a feed.  I made an “ouch” face and then broke the latch and pulled baby off the breast.  I was with the other kiddos and they laughed at my “ouch” face, and the baby laughed…not quite the same reaction I was having to the incident!!
 
It continued like that the next time I put her to the breast, but being late in the day, we were able to avoid any more nursing sessions until bedtime.  Bedtime arrives and we have more biting.  I try a little “reset” and we are able to nurse at bedtime.
 
Day Two:  Baby would bite at the beginning of the feed.  Bite and turn around to see if her siblings had noticed, and see if they were laughing.  So my suspicion that maybe she is teething starts to come apart.  Ah ha – maybe it is an entertainment or a newfound skill of being able to control an interaction.  I did what our pediatrician had told me to do, and which had worked with the other kiddos – I had only needed to do it two or three times and the biting stopped.  He had told me to tap the mouth, say no firmly, and then try to nurse again.  The kiddos commented that I should not be hitting the baby!
 
No success with that attempt…another day without really being able to nurse her during waking hours.  I was only able to get any sizeable amount of liquid in her at night when she was asleep.  In her sleep, she wanted to eat, not mess around.  In this instance, it was a relief to have a learned behavior to fall back on.
 
Day Three:  The biting continues.  Now my breasts are sore.  It is more of a joke than ever.  I am able to get baby to nurse when she is in a sitting position, but not enough for her to get the fluids I know she needs.  She only nurses a minute before I get bitten and I need to pull her off the breast – after three times, I am done.
 
I am in denial.  I figure we are seeing our chiropractor that afternoon – I have faith he will have some answers.  We go in for our weekly visit.  He checks both of us and cannot find a physical or emotional reason on either of us.  Now I am starting to freak out. 
 
I get a suggestion from a trusted source to flick the baby on the cheek with my fingers when she bites.  This again throws all the kids into a panic that I am “hitting” the baby, besides the fact that it doesn’t work.  Even after the reprimand, I get bitten the next attempt to put her to the breast (within a minute).  I am definitely NOT interested in flicking this sweet child all day long, so that idea is out and I tell Bruss I think I am getting ready to quit and wean.
 
I start expressing milk into a sippy cup so that I know that she is getting some fluid during the day.  At my mom’s suggestion, we also start counting her wet diapers and make sure we are offering water when she isn’t drinking out of her milk cup. 
 
Day Four: We run into Debbie Gillespie, the IBCLC we know at Modern Mommy.  I explain our situation and ask her for input.  Since the biting is at the beginning of the feed, she says it’s probably not teething.  She wonders if maybe the baby is doing it for attention and maybe exercising a little “look at me!”  She suggests telling Angelika, “Ouch! Hurt Mommy!” and take her off the breast for ten seconds before trying to nurse again. 
 
Try that when we get home – not working.  Even though the baby asked for the breast three times, each time she bit me – HARD.  More night feeding – this time after the baby has cried herself to sleep – second night in a row that Bruss has to take her for a car ride to get her to sleep. 
 
The trust is broken.  I do not trust her not to bite anymore.  It broke my heart to have her cry herself to sleep, at the same time, I was relieved that she nursed in her sleep and at least I do not feel like a complete failure.
 
Day Five:  I have been contemplating what has been going on.  If the biting is not teething and really driven from the desire to illicit a reaction from siblings and me, then maybe we are better nursing off on our own.  I go into the bedroom, use the old standby of going skin-to-skin, and try again.  Baby wants nothing to do with the breast, goes so far as to arch her back and roll around as far away from me as she can.  This is not what I expected.  I really want to quit now.  I keep going back to the thought that this really can’t be it.  I can’t really be weaning our baby when her toddler brother is still nursing, can I?  I bring to mind the mantra, “I can do this for one more day.  I only need to do this one more day.”  I express more milk into a sippy cup and we head off to teach class.  We get home, from class and baby has fallen asleep in her abuela’s arms and later, gets put straight into the crib.  I am a little bummed that my mom did not bring her to me groggy, so I just go back to bed and decide to let it go because at this point, a good night’s sleep is what I need to keep things in perspective.
 
Day Six:  I do not even try to feed the baby.  I consider calling my La Leche League leaders, but I know the next meeting is in three days and I figure I do not want to bother them on a weekend.  By now I am sure this is a nursing strike and they are probably going to tell me to do the things I have been doing: skin-to-skin, change environment, change positions, be patient, “one more day” mantra that I learned at meeting…attendance does pay off (small consolation).
 
I decide that we both need a break since the breast is not a “happy place” for either of us right now.  If Debbie (our IBCLC) taught me anything, it is that we need to keep the breast a happy place if we have any prayer of nursing again.  I take my mom to the airport, go to a baby shower, and meet another mom who understands my sadness.  She gives me a piece of cake to drown my sorrows – perfect!  Just what I needed! 
 
I get to talk to the guest of honor who gives me some ideas to try (role playing), and then I run into our IBCLC again (one of the benefits of social calendar that includes events with your birth-/breastmilk junkie friends).  I ask her if we can set up a home visit for Monday, and she says I do not need her!  (Tears!) She suggests that we try Hyland’s teething tablets, and offers to send me some reading via the Internet.  I also tell her how the kiddos have objected to the physical reprimands (and confirmed my gut feeling that flicking or tapping is not for us).  She suggests pulling the baby’s nose into the breast to force her to open her mouth to breathe and let go if she bites.  She makes the analogy that it’s like a game of “chicken” to see who can hold out.  I know that I can handle pain if I know it’s going to end – this is something I can do.
 
I go home a little nervous that if Debbie does not think we need her we may be sunk, and with a little more spirit since I have some new ideas to try, and tell myself again, that I only need to do this for one more day.  “This” being expressing into a cup to see if maybe, just maybe the teething tablets will do the trick and ease our baby’s gums enough for her to nurse without biting.
 
On our way out that night, we pick up some Hyland’s teething tablets and give the baby her first dose.  We are still continuing with the nursing during sleep – still the only way the baby will take the breast without biting.
 
Day Seven:  We use Hyland’s teething tablets again.  Angelika is asking for the breast now.  I am nervous to feed since there is pain and emotion tied to the biting.  I try once and she bites.  We play “chicken” – she lets go!  No laughing this time – just a look of surprise before she goes back to nursing.
 
Baby asks for the breast again throughout the day.  Each bite is responded to with a pull into the breast.  Baby releases and then continues to nurse without incident – and she is nursing!!  I can’t believe it!!  By the fourth nursing session that day, there is no biting.  Just nursing.  Dare I hope that this is it?  We are nursing again?
 
Day Eight:  Baby is asking for the breast again.  Sometimes she bites and we play “chicken”, but she is getting a full feed.  We go see our chiropractor.  He looks in her mouth and declares that she is cutting molars.  What!  Did all this start with teething pain that turned into a seven-day nursing strike?  I try Hyland’s teething tablets again – this time she just spits them out and we are nursing without incident.
 
Day Nine:  Nursing is back on track.  I only had to pull her to the breast once today.  Done.  I am a nursing mom again.  Relief!  Gratitude!  Amazement at the process.
 
I go to our La Leche League meeting on that night.  On the table is a pamphlet, “How to Handle a Nursing Strike”.  Argh!  Where was this a week ago?  I read it when I get home.  It’s everything I needed to hear last week to confirm what I was going through and to encourage me not to give up yet and wean.  I am also encouraged that I did the right things – skin-to-skin, changing environment, trying different positions, nursing during sleepy times, keeping track of wet diapers, using a cup instead of a bottle for breastmilk…all of those are in the pamphlet.
 
I am lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it:  I am a confident, supported mom.  I am glad that I have been attending La Leche League and that I learned the lessons that got me through the last week without this pamphlet. 
 
I am working on ordering this pamphlet and scanning it so that I can share it with other moms that may not have the experience or support system that I had to draw from.  What would my advice be to someone going through a nursing strike?  Take it a day at a time.  Own the mantra, “One more day – I only need to do “this” one more day.”
 
It’s been a thirteen days since the first biting experience.  We are now back to our regular nursing relationship.  We nurse in the morning, throughout the day for nourishment, at naptime, for comfort, and then again at night.  The week-long nursing strike made me put away books and gadgets that I had gotten used to having during our nursing times and made me look at my baby.  It has reminded me just how precious this time is and not to take it for granted.
 
What is your experience with a nursing strike?  Any words of wisdom to share?
 
Disclaimer: 
Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonThe material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.