Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nursing my early arrival, and battling illness as a breastfeeding mom

In honor of his 9th birthday today, my story of nursing Scootch!

My second son, “Scootch”, was born prematurely at 34 weeks. He was a good size at five pounds, 11 ounces. I was happy that he made it to 34 weeks. At 29 weeks, I started leaking amniotic fluid. Assuming that delivery was imminent, I was given a shot to mature his lungs and sent by ambulance to the nearest hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) over two hours away from our home. We were lucky that I stopped leaking fluid and I was sent home and put on bed rest. I spent the next five weeks in and out of the hospital in an ongoing game to stop my labor. The hardest part of this was being away from my other baby, my 16-month-old son.

Scootch was born healthy and breathing well, but he was sleepy. He did not wake up when I delivered him. It was 24 hours before he cried. I began pumping right away so he could be fed through a tube and almost cried when I saw the few drops of colostrum in the bottle. "This would never be enough! They will insist on giving him formula!" I thought. The doctor then told me he had ordered that he be given five cc of colostrum every three hours. What I had was plenty!

It felt like one frustration after another. I asked that he be given no artificial nipples. I wanted all of his sucking to be at my breast. I was angry when I came in after a shift change to find a pacifier in his mouth. "It says in his chart no artificial nipples!" I informed the new nurse. "Oh, I thought that just meant no bottles," was her response.

I spent the next six days sitting in the bright, noisy NICU trying desperately to get Scootch to nurse, and then pumping afterward. The hospital was very busy at the time and sometimes there wasn't a pump available for me. I often had to track one down. It was almost impossible to get Scootch to wake up to latch on. He would just lie there with his eyes closed and lips shut tight. The nurses watched us. The lactation consultants watched us. "You are doing everything right. Just keep trying," they all said. I tried to hold him and give him as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. He was jaundiced and the nurses wanted him in the incubator under the lights as much as possible. At one point they gave him a special vest with the bili lights so that I could hold him more.

We were over two hours from home, staying in the Ronald McDonald House and going back and forth to the hospital. I was exhausted. There was no place for me to lie down at the hospital. I could only sit in a chair in the NICU. After a couple of days I had to give up on a few middle of the night feedings and try to get some more rest. I was able to leave enough pumped milk for them to give him through his feeding tube while I was gone.

After six days, I got to bring Scootch home. He had only nursed successfully a handful of times (I'm still a little surprised they let me take him home!). When we got home I was terrified. Would I be able to wake him and keep him alert so that I could get enough milk into him? At the same time, I knew nursing would be so much easier to do at home. I could lie on the couch or in bed with him all day and night and let him nurse whenever he wanted. I couldn't do that in the NICU.

After a couple of weeks, things got a lot easier and I no longer worried about Scootch feeding. He was nursing on demand without me having to wake him. He was thriving!

My biggest hurdle was yet to come. When Scootch was just over two months old, I got a bad stomach virus. It hit me really hard and I was taken to the emergency room (ER) by ambulance. At the hospital, the ER doctor was very concerned because I was so sick. He insisted on giving me a strong antibiotic that was not compatible with breastfeeding. I refused, asking to only have fluids and the medication to stop the vomiting. After a few hours, I decided to take the antibiotic. I checked with my local La Leche League Leader and she confirmed that this was one of the few antibiotics that are not compatible with breastfeeding. I could not nurse for 48 hours. This began 48 hours of "pumping and dumping" while Scootch was fed pumped milk from the freezer.

A few weeks later I still was not feeling 100 percent better. I went to the doctor and she ran some tests. It turned out I had clostridium dificil (C. dif). This is an intestinal bug that takes over when you have been getting too many antibiotics and have killed off too much of the "good bacteria." Looking back, I had been on IV antibiotics most of the time I was hospitalized for pre-term labor (just in case the labor was caused by an infection that they did not detect). I had also taken antibiotics when I had mastitis when Scootch was about a month old. The antibiotic from the ER was enough to push me over the edge. A "new" antibiotic, I was told, would cure me. Over the course of the next four months I took several more courses of antibiotics in an attempt to get rid of the C. dif. Every time I would feel better at first, then it would come back worse than before. I was rapidly losing weight, and I was already thin to begin with. Sometimes the diarrhea and cramping were unbearable. It was scary to be alone with my infant and toddler and not know if I was going to end up stuck in the bathroom, feeling as if I might pass out from the pain.

Sometimes I would get dehydrated, too. One time I became so dehydrated that I needed fluids by IV. When that happened, I completely lost my milk supply. I had no more milk in the freezer. "Should I give him some formula?" I wondered. I really wanted my son to only have my milk for as long as needed, but I didn't want him to go hungry either. I knew that if I gave him formula, he would be full and would not want to nurse, and right now, I needed him to nurse to tell my body to make milk. I told myself that as long as he was wetting enough diapers, and was not miserable and screaming, I wouldn't give him formula. I would get in bed with him (I was exhausted) and let him nurse continuously. It was about all that I had the strength to do. As long as he was nursing he was content, even though I was almost back to my pre-pregnancy A cup size and my breasts were soft and limp. After about 24 hours of constant nursing, my breasts were full again. My bra was no longer loose, and he was no longer eating all the time, he was back to every couple of hours. I was amazed at what my body and baby could do, even when I was so sick and weak.

I would feel my supply go up and down depending on how well I was able to stay hydrated. Normally, I had an abundant supply and Scootch would only take one breast per feeding. I could tell when my supply would drop because he would start taking two breasts per feeding. If I got really dehydrated, he would nurse constantly.

After a couple months, even my very breastfeeding supportive husband mentioned the possibility of weaning. I was so sick and weak and having such a hard time keeping any weight on. But I refused to wean.

Even though it took four months, a colonoscopy, and several doctors before I got better, I'm glad I never gave up on breastfeeding. I am so thankful I found the doctor who treated me with probiotic bacteria and special probiotic yeast that kills C. dif. It was very important to me because I knew it was best for Scootch. He went from the bottom of the growth chart as a preemie to about the 75th percent in weight during that time. At the same time, it was important to me because it was something I could do. Here I was, the mother to these two wonderful little boys, and I couldn't even care for them. I can remember my toddler asking me to push him in his swing during this time. It was out on our deck, no more than a few yards from the living room couch. It broke my heart that I was too tired to walk out there and push him in the swing. I could nurse lying down, and even in my sleep. Even if I could do nothing else as a mom, I could nurse my baby. Scootch went on to nurse for 14 months, and is now a happy, healthy nine year old.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Breastfeeding Rebels in the 1950s

Challenged by the Motherwear Breastfeeding blog, I'm posting about the history of breastfeeding in my family. Even though I was too late to actually participate officially, I was inspired to write!

My mother gave birth to her first child in 1955 at the age of 21. She had recently moved to California and was far away from any friends or relatives. She was not one to follow the mainstream. She was an art major in college, she was “natural and crunchy”, and I like to think she was a bit of a hippie before hippies existed. As a result, she did not want to follow the advice of all of the medical professionals who were telling her that bottle-feeding was best.

She gave birth while completely sedated and has no memory of the birth. When she finally got to see her baby she put her baby to her breast. The nurses would come in and tell her “I don’t know why you are doing that. We have perfectly good formula.” She was in the hospital for about a week (as was common at the time) and spent most of the time crying alone in her bed, trying to breastfeed while her nipples cracked and bled. She did not get any help, only pressure to stop being so stupid.

I have to imagine that the nurses gave my brother bottles of formula when he was not with my mother. Everything thing was done to make this breastfeeding relationship fail. She did manage to nurse him for a few months, which was so much more then most babies got in 1955.

Nine years later my parents adopted my older sister. She brought home this beautiful newborn and ached to nurse her. She put her to the breast a couple of times, but, having no idea that it was possible to induce lactation she didn’t tell anyone and quickly stopped. She watched me with great joy as I successfully breastfed my adopted daughter.

My Mom and I with my breastfed adopted daughter:

When I was born in 1967, she breastfed me for a few months. She told me that I was such a big baby (9 lbs. 7 ounces at birth) that she had a hard time producing enough milk for me and needed to supplement with formula, and eventually the formula won. She also breastfed my brother, born in 1968, for a few months.

As she watched me breastfeed my first baby (also over 9 pounds at birth) she told me that she learned a lot from watching me breastfeed. She now realizes that she probably was able to produce enough milk for me, that she just didn’t have the right information.

My family in 1969:

My mother in law gave birth to 9 babies between 1952 and 1964. Amazingly enough, she breastfed them all. She credits the “old school” doctor that she had with her first child who thought all of this new formula was nonsense, and that women were supposed to feed their babies at their breast. I asked her how long she nursed each child and she answered “Until I knew I was pregnant with the next one!”

I’m proud to continue the breastfeeding tradition in my family.

To read other stories of Family Breastfeeding History, please visit these additional blogs. :

Christine @ Christine’s Contemplations: Carnival of Breastfeeding- My Family History of Nursing
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Family History of Breastfeeding
Jona @ Breastfeeding Twins: Beer & Bottles (and other motherly advice)
Jake Aryeh Marcus: Breastfeeding? Not in My Family
Elita @ Blacktating: Three Generations of Breastfeeding
Mama Mo @ Attached at the Nip: How Women in My Family Feed Babies
Alicia @ Lactation Narration: Only the Hippies Were Breastfeeding
Dr. Sarah: Breastfeeding, Circa 1950s
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: An Unbroken Chain

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cafemoms Share the Real Benefits of Breasstfeeding

The Real Benefits of Breastfeeding
by Dayna Markley

We all hear about the benefits of breastfeeding from our doctors and other health care professionals. We hear it on TV, newspapers, magazines, just about everywhere! Well, what about the benefits we don't always hear about? The real benefits of breastfeeding.

All the health benefits of breastfeeding are wonderful but the amazing emotional benefits to moms and babies are something you get to see and feel each day! I know well the deep feelings of love, closeness, and pride that come with nursing your little one.

The breastfeeding moms group on the site Cafemom.com, a social site like facebook that is just for mothers, is a place for breastfeeding moms to come together and talk. Not to my surprise, many of the other moms had similar experiences to share.

I want to share our thoughts and feelings with everyone who is a mother or soon will be because I feel these benefits aren't spoken about nearly enough! So here are some of the real benefits of breastfeeding, quoted from breastfeeding moms far and wide...

(KemClaughlin) Kristin-I feel like a goddess when I am feeding my baby. I feel like I am fulfilling a divine purpose and sometimes when I am nursing the feeling is overwhelming and I want to cry.

(LKRA)Leslie-Never sick. Ever, ever, ever.

(Gruntlings)Sara-Knowing I'm not messing with what nature intends.

(precious333)Julia-I love how nursing calms the storm, for mommy and baby. As soon as my baby latches on there is a certain calmness, peace and rest that cannot be duplicated by anything else. All the worries tend to drift off as I enjoy the company of my little breastling.

(mama02040608)Kerri-Knowing even my "big boy" still needs momma!

(mom-loving-it)Margaret-I feel like Mother Earth. For 9 months I held this child to grow, I labored and held this baby from his beginning. I give him all I have-love, comfort, nourishment, sleep and a connection that will last a lifetime. I am a life-bearer and life-sustainer and I feel like I finally know what it truly means to be a woman.

(kyriesmommy13)Dana-Nursing forces me to relax, to sit down and hold or lay with my child. As Kyrie gets older, I find myself getting caught up in life's daily activities. Nursing time is our special time together, just the two of us. It allows me to give her my undivided attention, to reconnect and recharge throughout the day. It reinforces everything I believe in and that the choices I've made are what is right for us.
It allows me to appreciate the beauty of nature and being a mother. The one who can comfort, nourish and heal all! Breastfeeding-it is truly something! So beautifully simple and amazingly complex.

(griefsticken)Candace-The way baby Zaylei's eyes roll in the back of her head just as she latches on even though she just woke up and isn't tired. She's just satisfied.That I'm all she wants, that I make her happy and not some artificial object. The calm and contentment of my baby while nursing cannot be duplicated by ANYTHING!

Thank you to all the Cafemoms who contributed to this article!