Thursday, June 12, 2014

Breastfeeding Sucks: Latch, Milk Supply, Bottles, and Other Crap

Idealized fucking breast-feeding
 One of my favorite parenting resources online is Kellymom.  I've stopped reading it.

My last post was about how our birth experience didn't go as hoped-for.  There were few hippies present, few comfort methods employed, and no birthing tub at all.  It was like dominoes, as all our best intentions toppled.

I actually felt okay about it.  It was out of my control.  There was no guilt.  First, there were no natural contractions, so we had to scratch the homebirth and go to the hospital for Pitocin induction.  Two dominoes: hospital, Pitocin.  Plus, the Pitocin scratched the no-IV plan, so I was strapped to the bed.  That meant I couldn't use any of the comfort methods we practiced, like walking or squatting or using a birthing ball.  Another domino there.  Then the epidural, then the c-section.  Nothing went as planned, but I could hardly feel guilty that my cervix swelled.

Breastfeeding Sucks

The Hospital

Harder to accept were the faulty breastfeeding efforts.  Evie started out great, nursing very easily, cozy against me.  It hurt like a motherfucker.  Her latch looked right-- lips flared, her mouth wide-- but it hurt so much I was sure she had a bad latch.  What I remember from our breastfeeding class and related reading was that pain came from a bad latch, not "Dude, it will hurt a lot."  I could have skimmed; who knows.  I can only say I was surprised.

My figuring at that point was, hey, the really important thing is to get this kid fed.  Especially since she only had colostrum to work with, and she'd had to wait a couple hours after she was born to nurse, it seemed like the right thing to do was to let her get her fill, then worry about correcting her latch when we got home. 

Nipple goddamn shield, pre-sugar water
We were in the hospital for kind of a while, and I don't remember when things started getting iffy.  A know-it-all nurse (who, in fact, was really knowledgeable) suggested that Evie didn't like feeding at my left breast because I had an inverted nipple.  Did I want to try a nipple shield, she asked, to draw it out?  I was horrified-- the dreaded nipple confusion was upon us!  Still, I was scared that Evie was struggling.  I agreed to put sugar water on the nipple shield to entice Evie, which I knew was also against natural-birth, natural-feeding protocol.

It worked.  I felt terrible.

I don't remember why I asked another nurse for a pump, especially since I was still only producing colostrum at that point.  Maybe it was another part of the plan to draw out my deformed nipple.  I wonder if that was the beginning of the end.

Getting Home

We got home around noon on Easter Sunday.  My parents came over with food and comfort while we struggled to get our bearings.  I don't remember when, after they left, things got shady, but we were up most of the night with an angry baby.  There was a 4am car ride that kept Evie asleep only till we got home.  Panicked, Heather and I agreed that we would take her to the pediatrician first thing in the morning.

Newborn goddamn formula
Said the doctor, "She's hungry.  Feed her."  She suggested that my milk hadn't come in and that supplementing with a little formula might be in order.  Filled with hormones and self-doubt, I wept in the backseat all the way home, staring at Evie and wondering why I was such a terrible mother.

We had formula that both the doctor's office and the hospital had given us.  (Such a controversy!  I disapprove of the message it sends, yes, but it was also really handy to have on hand when the breastfeeding stalled...)  Heather mixed it, then filled a syringe.  Evie had no reaction to the taste, which was handy but heartbreaking: nothing special about my breast milk at all.

Breastfeeding Resources

After leaving the pediatrician's office, contemplating the dark prospect of formula-feeding that lay before us, I frantically texted Midwife Amy.  She asked when our postpartum doula, Beth, was due to visit.

"Not till tomorrow," I said. 

"Can I come by?" she replied.

Heather, Evie, and the fucking bottle
That is how much I was losing my shit.  By the time Amy came over, the dreaded formula-feeding had occurred.  I was ashamed to admit it to her.  She comforted us (well, me, because Heather wasn't having a problem at all), but I was in tears the second Beth walked in the next day.  Beth has a master's degree in social work and is active in the area's breastfeeding coalition, so she was as prepared as anyone could be.  She watched me attempt to nurse Evie and reassured me that it was Evie who was over-reacting.  It had nothing to do with me, my nipples, or my methods.  She was just too greedy to wait for my milk to let down.  So we gave her another bottle.

That made two bonafide natural-birth, womanly-art experts, kindly absolving me of this shameful act.  First I had a c-section and missed the Golden Hour of baby-bonding, and now the profound connection between mother & child through nursing was shot to fucking hell.  They were as qualified to question me as anyone could be, but they didn't.  Of course, they were as qualified to help me find a solution as anyone could be, but they couldn't.  Turns out, just like the birth, sometimes things suck and the all-natural plan doesn't work.

A little while after Beth gave me the bad news about Evie's greed, I sat all dejected-like in the rocking chair as Beth changed Evie.  (Seriously, postpartum doulas are the best.)  She was cradling the baby when she turned to me:

"She's trying to suck."

Evie and another fucking bottle
Okay, you know, that was just an asshole move.  Evie tormented me by screaming at the sight of my breast when I'd spent years fantasizing about nursing a baby, so much so that I cried to all the hippies, and then, once she gets next to a hippie's nipples, she's all ready to nurse.  That's some mean shit.

Beth handed Evie to me, and she casually latched on.  Like it happened all the time.

After that, I got lucky when Evie nursed once or twice a week, after filling up on the bottle first.  This left me pumping constantly and frantically, trying to keep up with her appetite.  I cried about it all the time. 

Evie is just eight weeks today.  Over the past two weeks, she's begun to be oddly flexible about bottle and breast.  One argument might be that she's had several weeks to get confident that she'll be fed, so she doesn't need to be so desperate.  Another argument might be that she's kind of an asshole.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Still blogging here

Celebrating Evie's birthday
This is the e-mail I sent my family and close friends at 3:30am on April 16th:

"So, what's up: theoretically speaking, there's a 72-hour clock on this leaking before the Powers That Be require me to be induced (and deliver) in the hospital.  Usually women start contractions on their own within that period of time, but we'd like to avoid the hospital so we've been trying to get things rolling on our own.  Today's attempts at castor oil were non-starters.  If nothing happens on its own by Wednesday morning, Amy is going to strip the membrane and may end up breaking the water as the next option.  (Presumably that just means making a bigger hole than the little one that's open now.)  If none of that starts it, we'll have to go to the hospital.
Amy says the baby is still doing very well, and I'm fine physically.  Still, it's kind of a shitty situation and I'm edgy at best.  Heather's more stable, so you can reach out to her if you feel antsy.  I'll give you guys a heads-up when there are contractions or Amy takes some kind of action; otherwise, it's probably safe to assume nothing has happened and I don't have the emotional wherewithal to talk about it."