Tuesday, August 5, 2014

You're Just Lucky Breastfeeding Came Easily

For World Breastfeeding Week, let me say, any mama out there who thinks she is alone, or the exception, please remember that most if not all women struggle the first time they breastfeed. No matter how educated, or how immersed in breastfeeding culture, the act of breastfeeding is still a skill for both mama and baby that requires time and patience.

Do you remember your first two weeks at a new job? Did you struggle? Did you feel confused, maybe a little embarrassed? Did you make a mistake? What about the first time you tried a new hobby. What did your first knitting project look like, lol? Or your first attempt at learning a new musical instrument? No one expects a Mozart symphony in the first week of practice. It takes time to learn who you are and to share that with others. Similarly, it takes time to learn about your breastfeeding ability and to share that with your children. (Or donor milk children!)

My first breastfeeding breastfeeding photo when DD was a newborn.
This is also the first breastfeeding photo I published on Facebook.

My first breastfeeding experience

With my first child, I had just powered through about 3 days of intense labor ending with severe tearing that required an hour of stitching and PPH (post-partum hemorrhage) as I was squirting with a sticky placenta. I was so physically exhausted after the birth and after over 5 hours of pushing that, similar to people who push themselves in iron mans or marathons or rock climbing...whatever analogy...I couldn't even stand up, I couldn't unbend my arms to set down my baby lol. I had to be helped into a lying down position and then couldn't lift up my head from there. So there I was, freshly stitched, barely able to hold my own head up, with a newborn.

She had a thick posterior tongue tie and an upper maxillary labial tie. Her neck was sore from her asynclitic presentation. My right breast had an inverted nipple. She looked at me. I looked at her. It was the beginning of a journey.

I spent four days crying, pumping, latching, crying, pumping, latching. On the 4th day, my milk arrived and I spent a little more time crying, pumping, latching and then cup/syringe feeding to give my right breast a break as I decided to manually stretch the ligament to break the inversion, which for those of you who don't understand, is extremely painful.

I woke every hour at night to feed her, unable to nurse lying down but unable to sit up correctly because of the stitches. I'd burst into tears at night the first 2 nights because I had to sit up, and I was still bone tired from the birth. (It took a week for the rug burns to heal on my knees lol.)

We worked at it day and night. I spent all day top-naked, encouraging her to stay awake and to keep practicing. I watched every youtube video I could find to compare methods. I watched my (then breastfeeding) mother and mother in law. They came over to comfort me. To tell me I was doing okay and that this is normal. No one uttered the suggestion of formula. No one told me to use a bottle. No one told me to give up or that I wasn't doing a good job. They just sat by my side, some of them nursing their own babies, sometimes silent, other times asking if I needed anything.

And so we kept working at it. By the 1 week mark, she was latching well without clicking or sucking air. By the 2 week mark, my breasts were starting to look even again. (I forgot to mention, I spent some moments in front of the bathroom mirror, sobbing at my breasts because that right side was like a mango and the left side was a watermelon.)

I spent countless time gently manually correcting her latch to overcome the frenulum defects. I burped carefully and frequently, and switched to day/night block feeding. With time, her mouth and ties slowly grew and stretched until she achieved an optimal latch. As she grew, the ties receded and changed, no longer representing a functional defect for her.

We made it over our little hill, and into the valley. It's a valley filled with joy, comfort, peace, connection, and security. We scaled that wall together. That not-so-little baby is now almost 6 years old. She still occasionally latches on for comfort. We're both changed from that first time, when I looked down at her and she looked up at me, wondering what was ahead of us on that journey. We've grown in different ways, our bodies changing to complement each other, to fit together in this relationship.

Natural doesn't always mean it's easy. It doesn't mean the solution is fast and simple. If you're struggling with breastfeeding, don't make yourself feel worse by looking around at others and thinking it was easy for them. We all have our own rough patches in the road at different times and in different ways. You aren't alone, and you aren't different, weird or defective. Hang in there, Mama. Give yourself a fair chance.

Three pregnancies later, we are still going strong.

No comments:

Post a Comment