Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nursing Naomi

originally published Jul 17, 2009 at 12:49 AM on Cafemom

I just wanted to get down the story, it was bouncing around my head as I was nursing her a little bit earlier....

So, nursing Lilly was/is pretty much a breeze. Sure, I had difficulties with pain, frustration, etc. until I was just about crazy with it all and only my determination kept me going, but I never once regretted nursing, not even when I was exhausted and in pain and afraid she wouldn't sleep and would wake me up and want to nurse on my sore side. I knew I was doing the best for both of us and just like I was promised, it got better. One day, it was like some magical switch flipped and the bad parts were just a fuzzy memory. But with all the issues, they complimented each other. She had a terrible latch, which should have made her not get milk, but her suck was so strong and my breasts were so eager to release their milk that she never wanted for any.

So, when I got pregnant again, I was confident with experience under my belt that I could face all the challenges coming my way. I had talked to moms with horrible nursing stories that ended poorly and thanked my lucky stars I hadn't had those problems.

Then I had Naomi. She was so sleepy that it was hard to get her to stay awake long enough to try to nurse. When she did finally nurse, it was weak and with a bad latch. Since I have large breasts, I can't feel letdown, so I had no idea if she was even getting milk. She tried to nurse maybe five times while we were at the hospital and lost less than her sister (who was in the hospital for three days instead of the one Naomi was there). The nurses knew I'd done well with Lilly and never brought up formula, even though I hadn't had a chance to tell them not to.

When I got home, I started getting worried... and then my husband went back to work only a few days post-partum. I was alone, tandem nursing my babies and getting worried about my little sleepy baby with the weak suck. She started arching, screaming and getting so upset she couldn't nurse at all.

Well, I was determined, so I broke down the problems into smaller problems. First, she needed to eat. She couldn't do that if she was screaming, so I went with Dr. Karp's 5 Baby S's before each feeding. I'd shush very loudly when she was crying at my breast and it would stop the crying instantly, she'd find the nipple and try to nurse.

Her mouth was so small and my breast was so big! I used the C-hold to overcome this, as it had taken me a long time that it was okay to do with Lilly. It is how I'm used to nursing. Those big boobs needed to be manageable for us both. Hands-free nursing is for side-lying an older baby or toddler at my size and I'm fine with that! The people teaching you to nurse make it sound like a rolled towel/blanket will solve everything when it does nothing but add an unnecessary, obnoxious step in the nursing process (at least, for me).

I worked on her latch/suck by having her suck on my finger, which she had no issue with (and which told me that bottles would be deadly to our nursing relationship, because they would be so much easier for her and she needed to learn to nurse what she had) and then quickly pull my finger out and offer the nipple. It took a week of doing this before I was able to stop, but it was successful in improving her latch and suck and she was growing strong and healthy, though it was her diapers I had to rely on to tell me that she was getting enough--she had about 12 wets a day, I knew she was doing good!

Nursing hurt my baby, because of my letdown. It was too hard for her. I tried having my toddler take the brunt of the first letdown, but that didn't help (it did, however, make it easier for baby to stimulate letdown in the early days when she was having trouble with her suck, to have her sister get it going first--I suppose I'd have hand-expressed, since a pump doesn't work for me, if I hadn't had Lilly to get things going... DH also volunteered, lol, bless him, he never got that opportunity ;) I needed time to heal!). She was textbook colicky, but I don't believe in untreatable colic.

Since the Baby S's couldn't work this problem out, I decided to assume it was gas and treat it accordingly. But when looking for the baby Gas-X, I found Hyland's Colic Tablets. They said that they were also helpful in relieving the pain from overactive letdown. I decided to give them a try.

It was like a miracle. The baby who had started arching and screaming at the sight of my breast was given two tablets and a few moments later, after I shushed her calm to latch, she was sucking--and all signs of pain vanished! Within a week, the arching/screaming cycle stopped! I forgot about the tablets and it resumed. I resumed them and it was gone. I would need them until she was about 3 1/2 months, but by then, all the other issues were long resolved.

My magic switch actually happened earlier with Naomi than it did with Lilly, at 6 weeks (Lilly's was 7 weeks). But I never would have made it if I hadn't been determined and believed in my body's ability to nourish my baby. There is little more heartbreaking than your baby screaming in fear at the sight of your breast, like you're trying to hurt her. I know that with her delicate stomach, anything else would have been even worse.

If I hadn't had the support and research I'd had for the past two and a half years, I don't know that I could have made it. Not knowing if my baby was getting enough and it looking like she couldn't possibly be getting any--but there were the diapers. There, I was reassured. Having my baby not know how to latch instinctively--that was terrifying and I was so depressed, I couldn't even bring myself to ask for help. I just kept going, doing what I'd been told should work and believing in it. Having her scream and arch--if I hadn't had the Happiest Baby techniques, I couldn't have got her semi-calmly to eat. The obvious signs of pain? I had to go with my gut and try something new (the Colic Tablets) and I was validated.

It was a hard start and with the depression, I also had serious bonding issues with my baby. But we persevered. We did it and I'm so proud to still be nursing Naomi. I wish I hadn't been so depressed I couldn't bring myself to call my friends for help when I desperately needed it, but I still did it because I believed. And I have no regrets and a good bond with my baby, as delayed as it was in coming. I'm so grateful for the friends I've had and the support I've had and the resources available to me.

Addendum: Naomi self-weaned at 2.5 years old in July of 2011. It may have been partly influenced by pregnancy, but I offered and she refused for about a week or two before I stopped offering and realized that she was done. I am happy with our nursing relationship and the natural end it found. I am sad that I have no pictures of her nursing after she turned 2.
A Little Bit of All of It Preparing for Birth Series

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