Jul 2, 2011

Breastfeeding Breakthrough


Tallulah was born with a more recessed chin than most babies which made/makes it more difficult for her to latch on, not to mention she is just naturally a weak sucker. To make matters worse, I have large, flat nipples. All of these things combined made it very hard to get Lula to breastfeed when she was first born. Albeit, we probably would have had more success if the "help" that we received at the hospital was actually HELPFUL, but alas, it was not.

Breastfeeding has always been one of the joys of motherhood that I was adamant about doing. Not only because of the health benefits breast milk supplies to new micro-humans, but also because of the wonderful bonding it nurtures. It's a beautiful, natural thing.

I will admit that there was nothing beautiful about the poking, prodding, stuffing, pinching, twisting, and wrenching that the nurses and the lactation consultant at the hospital thought was necessary to try to get Lula to latch on. And EVERYONE had a different "technique" and advice for me - most of which didn't add up from all of the books I had read about birth and babies while pregnant.

It was frustrating to the point of tears. I kept thinking to myself "this isn't supposed to be so hard, this is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, isn't it?" So why wasn't it working?

The truth is, breastfeeding is a learning experience for both mother and child. It doesn't come as naturally as everyone thinks that it does. Yes, there are some babies that just "get it" almost immediately, but this isn't always the case. Babies are born with instincts that help initiate the breastfeeding process, but they don't just see a nipple and immediately latch on at just the right angle and suck to get what they want when they want it. Not to mention, every mother doesn't have the same set of teats. Nor is every baby born with the perfect mouth to fit its mothers breast with utmost perfection. Often times it's just a whole lot of trial and error until the "ah ha" moment we are all waiting for.

So, while in the hospital, Tallulah and I were subjugated to every manner of "trying" that every nurse, nurse's assistant, and the lactation consultant could muster... to no avail.

Hospital's are funny places. They put restraints on everything. Lula and I were put on a time restraint for breastfeeding. They would not let us leave until she either latched on, or I was feeding her some other way. Crazy, isn't it? For a normal birth in a hospital your stay might last between 24 and 48 hours, barely enough time for a normal mother's milk to come in. Babies don't always have the desire to eat in that span of time since they have fat stores they built up in the womb to live off of until your milk comes in.


We were talked into pumping. First, we fed with a syringe at the breast to try to initiate latching until, finally, we ended up feeding with a bottle. I was crushed. This was not at all what I wanted. However, I was determined to try again at home where I would be less stressed out about it thereby making Lula less stressed so that maybe we could have some success.


Postpartum depression, maybe. Stress, definitely. Crying in a heap because my baby wasn't doing "what all babies do", certainly.

In a gallant effort to ease the situation my boyfriend, Mark, called in a private lactation consultant off of one of the many many papers that the hospital threw at us on our way out the door.

In steps my savior, Vicki!

Vicki was the absolute best thing that every happened to me as far as breastfeeding. Not because we were successful with her, because we were not, but because she was so knowledgeable and compassionate to my plight. I learned more in one session with her than the entire hospital stay or breastfeeding class combined!

With Vicki at my side, we tried again. We tried latching directly to the breast. We used a breast shield, which worked intermittently. We even used a contraption that had a tube going from a bottle to my breast so that Lula would stay interested in my nipple. All the while I was pumping my life away to keep up my milk production. I even started taking herbal supplements to help since I was not getting the nipple stimulation I needed from Tallulah.

And still, no breastfeeding occurred. However, I was consoled by the fact that Tallulah was still receiving breast milk, albeit, not from my breast. After all, that was the goal wasn't it? Or, at least, the point of breastfeeding?

For me, it was only halfway to where I wanted to be, but I could live with it and not fall to pieces over whether or not I could do better. It wasn't about me. It was about us - Tallulah and I, as a team. The fact of the matter was that she wasn't ready. But Vicki, and a couple of breastfeeding books I read out of desperation, assured me that as long as I kept trying and kept Tallulah breast friendly, she would get it eventually.

In order to keep Lula breast friendly we initiated a new rule - I would be the only person allowed to feed her. Bottle or breast, it doesn't matter. Milk comes from momma. That is the way of things. (For all of you dads out there who are going to be butt-hurt because you want to take part in feedings too... just remember, babies have to learn from someone that unconditional love doesn't always come with a nipple attached. That's your job!) We would also make sure to have as much skin-on-skin time as possible between Lula and I so that our hormones would stay in sync.


So that has been the way of things for the past 2 and 1/2 months. I am the only one who has fed her. While feeding her I always try to hold her as if she were latched on to my breast. We have as much skin-to-skin contact as we can. At least once a day we have made an attempt at actual breastfeeding, both with a breast shield and without.

Yesterday we had a breakthrough! Lula and I were lying in bed together cuddling and having skin-on-skin time when she started nuzzling and mouthing at my nipple. She was trying really hard to get it in her mouth and was getting frustrated with it so I put on the breast shield to help her out. Well, SHE LATCHED!! Not perfectly, but really close. We had our first ever full feeding by breast, to include both sides and ending with Tallulah passed out from the effort. Yay!! She got it 3 more times over the course of yesterday and once this morning.

It's not perfect and it's not consistent, but it's a damn good start. It is the beginning of the end of pumping, freezing, storing. The beginning of the end of washing and assembling bottles and pump parts. The beginning of breastfeeding and a better relationship with my daughter.

Persistence has paid off for me. Will it pay off for you? You have to want it. You have to want it bad. You have to be willing to put up with a lot to last long enough to see results for your efforts. But if you want something badly enough you will always get it eventually.

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