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One Mom’s Story– Breastfeeding Challenges

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Welcome to the January Breastfeeding Carnival. This month we’re writing posts on the theme of “beginnings and endings.” Personally, I’m beginning this year by trying to go to bed before 11:30. So I’m delegating my post this month to my sister in law. She recently sent me a short essay she wrote about the challenges she faced breastfeeding her son. She had a low milk supply, mastitis, and a yeast infection. Here’s her story, about beginning to breastfed, in her own words:
I thought breastfeeding would be fairly straightforward. I had taken a prenatal breastfeeding class, and thought I had learned everything there was to know about nursing. I understood the signs of hunger, mastered the cradle hold with my baby doll, and left armed with nursing pads for leaks and Lanolin for cracked nipples.
Unfortunately, there was some stuff that the teacher didn’t cover—or at least that I didn’t remember. And, as luck would have it, those were the problems that I developed. So, I was completely unprepared when our son lost over 10% of his body weight within a few days of his birth. All babies lose weight in those first few days, but the nurses said this was simply too much. They thought that perhaps he wasn’t getting enough to eat because my milk hadn’t come in yet, so they gave me advice to get things going. Rub his head. Don’t rub his head. Touch his feet. Don’t touch his feet. Squeeze your boob like your eating a hamburger (I’m not kidding!). My head was spinning.
Our pediatrician was also concerned about the weight loss, and advised us to breastfeed and supplement with formula through a supplemental nursing system (SNS). If you’ve never heard of an SNS, picture this: the mom wears a small sack of milk around her neck and a tube goes from the sack to the mom’s breast. The baby sucks on the tube and the mom’s nipple at the same time. So while the baby is getting food from the tube, he is also getting breast milk.
My husband helped me set the SNS up for our first try, and everything went pretty well. But when it came time for the next feeding, he was off doing an errand. I asked the nurse to help, and to my surprise, she refused. She tossed the SNS on the bed and said I shouldn’t supplement with formula. I had been a mom for forty-eight hours, and was distraught by the thought of going against the pediatrician’s advice and not providing my baby the nutrition he needed. But, since I couldn’t use the SNS by myself, I just cried and waited for my husband to return to help me.
As it turned out, my milk supply was low. So, over the two next months, we followed a manic feeding schedule to increase my supply and help our son gain weight. I nursed every two hours, pumped between nursing, took Fenugreek, and gave pumped breast milk using the SNS. It was emotionally and physically exhausting, and there were many days that I wanted to give it up. Along the way, I also got a yeast infection on my breast and mastitis (a breast infection that makes you feel like you have the flu). Yet two more painful problems that I didn’t remember from my breastfeeding class!
We used the SNS for one month and breastfed exclusively for the next six. But by six months old, my son had dropped from the 25th percentile for weight to the 3rd, so our pediatrician again recommended that we supplement with a 4-6 ounce bottle of formula each day. Armed with better perspective, and a little more sleep, this no longer seemed scary or wrong. So once a day, we gave him a “milk shake,” our own name for formula. And given his age, we started giving him solid foods as well.
To this day, I still don’t understand why that first nurse made me feel so terrible about using formula, and why she didn’t put my baby’s needs before her own biases. I am also unsure as to why my breastfeeding class teacher didn’t mention how to fix a low milk supply. Maybe she didn’t want to scare us. But I could have benefited from knowing in advance how to fix the hard stuff. And my friends, who have had breastfeeding challenges of their own, agree.
Thinking about that breastfeeding class…all my teacher really needed to say was, “Most breastfeeding problems can be solved by…you guessed it…breastfeeding!” Mastitis? As painful as it is, nurse more to prevent engorgement! Low milk supply? Nurse and pump. A yeast infection? Latch that babe right on! Hey, what better way to encourage someone to breastfeed?! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to let moms know that the occasional “milkshake” can help too.

To read posts from the other blogs participating in the carnival, here are the links:
Bad Ass Dad shares his thoughts about encouraging his wife to breastfeed. This is one post you should not miss!
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog likens a ripe fruit to a child who is ready to wean.
Breastfeedingmums writes about being unprepared to begin, and to end, breastfeeding.
Crunchy Domestic Goddess writes about her first few days breastfeeding her baby, and supplementing with formula until they left the hospital.
Nature Moms reviews “Mama Knows Breast.”
Leche Baby writes about weaning a toddler.
Adventures of Pip and Squeak writes about breastfeeding her first child and looking forward to the second.
Reid Elizabeth writes about getting started breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding 123 writes about weaning a toddler, tandem nursing and her third pregnancy.