Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why no one will ever mistake me for a Lactivist.

I read this little article on MSNBC the other day.  The term cracked me up, Lactivist. I guess its the new slang for a Lactating Activist.  I have so many thoughts and opinions on breastfeeding I thought I'd share a few.

Before I start, here is the best advice I have ever gotten regarding feeding a baby. It was from a nurse from the pediatrician's office.  We were there for a weight check with Toddler T. It was the summer, he wasn't gaining weight. I was hot, sweating, frustrated and overwhelmed. I may have been crying. The nurse looked at me and said, "Your baby needs to eat. He actually doesn't care how he gets fed and it doesn't matter how he gets fed. He needs to eat. Formula, breast, or breast milk in a bottle. It doesn't matter."

She was so calm and supportive of whatever we chose, she just wanted me to take the emotion out of feeding.

This is my stock answer when people ask about feeding babies. Take the emotion out of it. Easier said than done as I am right at a crossroads with where we are going with Tiny T.

With Toddler T, I used a combination of breast, breast milk in the bottle and formula until he was 6 months old. When he hit six months, I made the jump to formula only.  I was proud of myself and thought that if I had another baby, maybe I'd stick it out a little longer.  I thought that maybe I'd get over my fear of nursing in public. I thought a lot of things.

Then Tiny T arrived and as I've written in the last post, I was completely engorged by the time I left the hospital. I mean engorged so that there was no way this child could latch on appropriately.  I was so desperate for relief, that I even ignored his incorrect latch JUST so he would be able to nurse. For the record, that was a HUGE mistake which resulted in bleeding and cracked nipples. Terrible. Simply terrible to look down and see your child with a bloody mouth and know this little bundle of joy was the culprit of your pain.

I continued to pump once a day so that Mr. T could help out with a night time feeding.  I had a visit with a home care nurse and she helped with latch. Things started to get better and for about 4 days, I thought we were on the up and up.

Then all hell broke lose. I got sick. Toddler T got sick. I was doing feedings with a surgical mask on to spare Tiny T whatever bug we had caught. And then the tell-tale signs of oversupply and forceful letdown reared their ugly heads.

Oversupply means that your body produces too much milk. I know, I know.. cry me a river.. better to have too much than not enough, right. Wrong. Oversupply is awful. The ratio of foremilk to hindmilk is off, and your baby gets too much of the foremilk. The foremilk is lactose heavy and the hindmilk has the higher fat content. So what you end up with is a fussy/gassy baby, who is starving and pooping green.  It is awesome. Next, is the forceful letdown. With this large volume of milk looking for an outlet and only having one way out - things get ugly. Imagine your sweet baby latches on and instead of a blissful slow pace of milk - he looks like he has just latched on to an open fire hydrant. He gulps, he spits, he chokes, he latches, unlatches and cries. A LOT.

Having been through this before, with Toddler T, I knew a few tricks, pump a little first, try and let some of the excess milk spray into a burp cloth and eventually it should self-correct. Well, this go around it didn't self correct. After a call to the lactation consultant, I decided to block nurse. Basically, this means feed the baby off one side only for 2-3 feedings to send a signal to your body to simmer down on the milk production. Right, well the problem is, the side that you aren't feeding on, gets engorged and then we are back to latch problems. Tiny T cries, I cry and I swear to anyone who will listen that I will give it one more week. If in a weeks' time things aren't better, I'm going to straight pumping and bottle feeding.

I wanted to get past my fear of nursing in public. I even bought a cute nursing cover and thought, I can do this. But as the days dragged on...my faith weakened. I mean, how in God's name is a girl supposed to nurse and angry, choking baby with milk spraying everywhere, while trying to remain both discreet and keep an eye on a busy 3 1/2 year old. Simply put, I was not nursing anywhere other than my couch until this situation was rectified.

So, its for all these reasons, that you will never catch me picketing a store with my baby nursing in public.  Breast feeding is hard. It has many benefits but many challenges as well. I think that the only thing we should do is support a mom in whatever choice she makes, for whatever reasons she makes it. Because breastfeeding isn't always the beautiful, bonding experience shown in the videos. It hurts, it can be emotionally and physically draining and there can be a whole host of reasons why it isn't always the best.

Here I am, four weeks into it and I'm not sure where I'm going. I know that Tiny T will be fed and he will grow. I also know this this whole process is 2 steps forward, 1 step back until we settle into our groove. I'm just hoping we settle sooner rather than later.

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