My Breastfeeding Journey

This is a LONG one people.

This is meant to be a continuation of thanksgiving for the willpower God has instilled in me, and to be an encouragement to mommas who are struggling with breastfeeding/might in the future.
My tenacious, OCD, willpower whatever you want to call it personality trait welled up big time after Pascal was born. While I was pregnant I didn’t make many plans for his life, I didn’t think about my birth plan all that much (good thing bc it wouldn’t have happened haha), but I did decide I was going to breastfeed. It wasn’t a hard decision, it was really a natural one for me. Most mom’s I knew breastfed and I loved seeing that interaction…it was truly normal, and my logic was: formula has been made for years to try to mimic mother’s milk….if i have it already why not use it? It didn’t really occur to me it would be as difficult to actualize in my life as it was (it also didn’t occur to me I wouldn’t have a perfectly normal pregnancy either ;) ) So, after abruptly having a premature son for a little while there my willpower meant nothing. I had no control, things happened around me, people made decisions, i was along for the ride (more stories to come later….). As soon as I was given permission though I put that bebe on my breast and I hoped, hoped, hoped it would work. It didn’t. Nope, he had no idea what was going on. I used a shield (a WAY too small one because his mouth was so small). It hurt. I got frustrated. I could only try once a day even though I visited him over the period of 3 feedings usually (3 hours ish apart), and the others I had to offer him a bottle. Eventually I got thrush because i was constantly pumping and using lanolin and had ton of antibiotics in my system so my LC had me stop trying once a day for his last two weeks or so in the hospital and just wait till he came home and got a little more mature. That was hard for me. “you mean if I stop and start again later he won’t forget? This will work right? I’m not so sure”. She was right. She has been right every time. Every baby is different, but P knew he wanted to suck, his mouth was just small and the bottle flow was easier, and he just needed to learn how to take all his feedings from a bottle in order to bust outta this joint! (Yes many times I viewed the hospital as a jail….lovely place though!) So I relented and waited. My stern will in the back of my mind saying, “as soon as I get him home i’m offering it every feeding and he will learn, i know he will”. Many mom’s i’m told pump for their preemies while in the hospital, but soon give up at home, or keep pumping but don’t ever breastfeed because it’s just too hard. I knew that just wasn’t for me. I didn’t get to control any of what happened to me this year, i’m controlling THIS I said. This decision brought me to tears more times than I can count or remember. It sent me into borderline depression and it made me cry out to God so.many.times. At home with my husband, mother or mother in law pumping every couple of hours was my life for over a month while Pascal sat in the hospital receiving most of his care from a triage of wonderful nurses. I couldn’t do anything to help him except make my journey to him 6 hours a day and the rest of the time “make milk” and rest and heal my broken body at home. I clung to the hope that this milk that I brought to him every single day was the BEST i could give him, it was all I could do for him right now and it was my joy to do so. I balled over my pump dearly wishing it was my son taking the milk from me and not a yellow electric box. I shook with grief that my womb was empty but so was my home. But I kept pumping, and pumping, and driving to and from the hospital, and filling basically an entire hospital freezer with more milk than he could ever drink, anticipating the day I could lose this machine and cuddle with the flesh of my flesh. After he came home it wasn’t all daisies and roses.Imagine sitting on the couch with a tiny baby SCREAMING at your breast that is pouring out food for him…it is more heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined (I know a lot of people can relate). Many times i wanted to give up. “Patient husband, you take him, give him the bottle he wants he doesn’t want me!” I go lay down in my room feeling like the most rejected person in the world. (seems a foreshadowing of taking care of a child/teenager the rest of their life: “I have what you need, I know what you need! And they blatantly reject what is before them.) I stare at my humming pump “This is not how it should be, you are not a warm cuddly baby needing me… you are a machine taking away my nutrients is all, i HATE you.” This was life for the next 2 months. Pumping, washing supplies, trying to feed him, failing. giving him a bottle, starting over again. As soon as he reached full term something began to click inside his little head and we were met with more and more success. These small successes of a minute or 2 of feeding gave me enough hope to renew my will to continue on. My LC said just give it more time…gave me advice about “baiting and switching”…give him a bottle then switch him to the breast. This and nipple shields worked occasionally, but he still had his screaming fits because it was coming out too fast or too slow for him, it was too hard or too tiring. His acid reflux flaring all the time, I was frustrated having to fortify my perfectly designed mothers milk for him to get 2 extra calories per feeding. Fortunately his latch seemed to just improve on it’s own slowly, and more of our problems dealt with my extreme oversupply of milk and fast letdown and his still smallish mouth. I tried to pump a little less, used a more proper sized shield, and then BAM! Little baby P changed his mind one day. On a December day when he was a little over 1 month old we came home from the Ped’s office after hearing the great news that we didn’t have to fortify my milk anymore (because P is such a CHAMP and is gaining weight so well), Pascal latched, ate, and fell asleep. I remember it so clearly (not because it was only a month ago…;)) I was sitting on the couch in utter shock. I stared at patient husband making silent gestures. We both shrug. Then a couple hours later he did it again. and again. and again. Seriously sweet boy? After all this struggle you just decided to do it? He must have gotten my willpower, it just didn’t kick in till that day ;) I was so overjoyed and relieved. It hasn’t continued without struggle. A few days after he got crazy again and would scream sometimes because he wanted my milk right now and I waited a moment too long, or he was too distracted by a light to realize he was hungry, then got so hungry we would have to give him a little bottle first to settle him. I still use a shield from time to time and have to trick him into latching…but less and less for sure. Now he just sort of wakes at night and feeds all sleepy and goes right back to sleep. I don’t have to tromp down to the fridge and heat a bottle…and when he snuggles with me I don’t even have to move he just eats and I can go in and out of sleep. It’s magical, it’s perfect, it’s what I wanted all along. He seems very content, his reflux has improved with this and medication, and he loves to snuggle up and get his food in such a relaxed fashion. He is 4 months old (2 adj). It took 4 months to get here…and that took a LOT of work. I could easily have exclusively pumped for a year (and fed 3 children), or given him formula which would have been fine (I am not judging ANYONE elses decisions) but for me, for us, this is what I knew was best. God sustained me, he renewed my strength day after day, he helped P’s mind and little will form and he created this relationship I so longed for. I praise His name for this gift to me, and I pray I remember that it is a gift all those times from here on out that he is so needy for me and I wish i could just sneak away (thank goodness he still takes a bottle though! :) ) The Lord gave me the willpower I know because it was how he made Pascal whole. I know my milk has given my three and a half lb preemie a great start to life, given him the immunities he didn’t get the chance to receive in my womb, and the snuggles now that he missed out on for so long. He gave me the will because this closeness is healing my wounds too.  He gave me the will to not quit because it was HIS will that I not quit. I’m thankful for His will. I’m thankful for the struggle. Thankfulness begets joy.

 

IMG_3621a whole lotta tube feeding (the reservoir was attached to his isolette)

IMG_3574lots of trying to bottle feed…..with tiny baby bottles :) He got sleepy

IMG_3590just after trying to breastfeed one of the first times.

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2 comments on “My Breastfeeding Journey

  1. Heather Price on said:

    Victory!! I love it. What a testimony, what motivation, what healing. Oh, the hurts that are healed by baby snuggles. This post makes me think of a prayer I pray at the end of each prayer I utter: I thank You Lord for the work you have done, the work you are doing, and the work you are going to do.
    He is faithful.

  2. Liz McNamara on said:

    This made me tear up… I relate SO much with this story. That first feeding (Lyla was 6 weeks), I was home alone and I gave up on the shield, the different latching techniques, all of it. I threw it all out for a day and that is when she just GOT IT. It was so natural, like she had been doing it all along and I was getting in her way with all of the mumbo jumbo they give you to “help”. I’m so thankful I didn’t give up. It is seriously the best thing I’ve ever done for her. The best and most rewarding thing I do! :) Thank you for this blog, I absolutely love it. :) It makes me feel like I can still have a little part of your life, roomie :) I miss you.

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