Twelve years ago, I had never heard of La Leche League International or could even tell you that we had a local chapter in the area. Who knew that 9 months later, a group of women I had never met would save my breastfeeding relationship?
I was 23 year old when I
gave birth to my first child; a daughter we named Jaina Catherine.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I was determined NOT to breastfeed. Why
would I? I didn't want to be tied down with my newborn that wouldn't
accept a bottle from anyone. I didn't want my breasts to be deflated
balloons in my early 20's. I certainly didn't want to be like that
"hippie" aunt of mine that nursed my cousins until they were old enough
to walk and talk.
Formula was just as good, right?
my prenatal appointments were under the care and supervision of a
Certified Nurse-midwife and not the head OB/GYN doctor. She encouraged
me to at least learn a bit about breastfeeding... read a book, take a
class. "Just try it."
My husband was very
pro-breastfeeding and encouraged me as well. Latching on at the hospital
with my baby Jaina was pretty easy. The Lactation Consultant checked up
on us while we were there as well. I thought, "This isn't so bad...
maybe we will nurse a few weeks or a few months."
weeks into breastfeeding my newborn and I was in tears. No one tells you
how much it HURTS! Or how often newborns want to nurse! Jaina nursed
for 45 minutes of every hour she was awake. I dutifully kept a log by
our nursing spot on the couch. Along with my tube of lanolin, nursing
pads, and a water bottle.
I sat on the couch with my
newborn and my sore cracked nipples and just cried during every latch
on. My husband had told some of his co-workers that I was having a lot
of pain so some of the woman would call me at home to let me know that a
little soreness was normal, but that everything would be fine soon. I
clung to those words and vowed that I could nurse her just until the end
of the week and then everything would be better.
things got worse. I started having deep shooting pains in between
nursing sessions. I had a painful let-down whereas before, I couldn't
even feel a let down. I discovered blood in Jaina's mouth when she spit
up one time. After calling the Nurse On Call, I discovered that the
blood was from ME. From nursing on my cracked and bleeding nipples.
was torture. Cold packs didn't help. The lanolin was doing nothing. I
resorted to pumping with a manual pump very gently and feeding her a
bottle when I couldn't stand the pain.
My "hippie" aunt
got word from my mom that I was having trouble and told me to
immediately get in touch with a LLL leader. Jennifer was so sweet on the
phone and invited me to the meeting that week.
never forget my first meeting. I had never met this group of women
before in my life, but immediately I was welcomed and felt comfortable
to share my issues with them. I even showed one of the moms at the
meeting the sore spots on my nipple that were bright red and shiny.
A bad case of breastfeeding yeast, or thrush, as its commonly referred
to. I had never heard of it before. My midwife confirmed at my 6 week
post-partum check up. She sent me home with nystatin for me, the baby,
and some diflucan as well.
The support I received from
all the women at the LLL meeting is why I kept breastfeeding. They told
me that you CAN recover from yeast, there was a light at the end of the
tunnel, that nursing didn't have to hurt, and that I would actually enjoy it one day. I believed them. And you know what? They were right :)
battled yeast with Jaina for our first 3 months together. I believe
that a treatment of Gentian Violet (which I first heard about at an LLL
meeting) was what finally made the Candida vanish. For the first time
ever, I was able to nurse my baby pain free.
still nursing very often, though. I wasn't sure what was exactly normal,
so I just went with my instinct. When she fussed, I offered her my
breast. When she woke up, I fed her. I nursed her to sleep. A well
meaning neighbor suggested that we try the Babywise schedule feeding
method. It didn't sound like a book I really wanted to read, so I didn't
end up reading it until years later. My new friends at LLL said that it
was perfectly normal for her to be nursing often. She was gaining
weight beautifully and I had no worries about my supply. It was
important to me that she was able to take a bottle, so I pumped once
daily for her. My husband would feed her a bottle of expressed
breastmilk while I cooked dinner each evening.
Jaina was between 3 and 4 months old, we traveled down to South Florida
to visit my brother and sister-in-law, who had just had a baby 9 months
before Jaina was born. I picked up a book I saw on her coffee table. It
was "The Breastfeeding Book" by Dr. William Sears. I flipped through it
while I was nursing Jaina and agreed with everything I had read. His
philosophies just made so much sense! It really was okay to nurse her on
demand and hold her as much as I wanted to. I was confident in my
parenting decisions, but it made me feel even better that there was a
book that validated my feelings. That was the first time I had ever
heard the term "Attachment Parenting".
When we returned
from South Florida, I started going to the playgroup that our local LLL
had put together as well. I also joined a local chapter of the MOMS
Club (Moms Offering Moms Support). I was thankful to find some other
friends through MOMS Club that also practiced Attachment Parenting. I
met women in both groups that co-slept, bed shared, nursed on demand,
practiced gentle discipline, and nursed past a year. Things I said that I
would NEVER do before becoming a parent myself. How babies change us as
My friends and support system at LLL were there
for me during Jaina's introduction to solid foods, nursing her through a
case of the roto virus, night weaning, and then weaning completely a
few months after her second birthday.
I conceived our second child, a boy this time, almost immediately after weaning.
smugly announced to my close circle of friends, "Breastfeeding will go
much more smoothly this time. It has to! I know so much more now!"
while that certainly was true, and that knowledge and understanding can
be vital to a breastfeeding relationship, it certainly does not
Jayce Carrington was born at 40 weeks
and 4 days. I was able to have the intervention-free birth I had wished
and worked for. I had never even had the wish to have a natural,
drug-free birth before meeting my friends from LLL.
being full term at birth, Jayce had major latch issues. Its like he was
born not knowing how to suck. We couldn't get him latched on to my
nipple, a bottle, a pacifier, or our finger. He would stick his tongue
up to the roof of his mouth instead. What do you do with a baby that
Well, first you cry. Then you pump and feed
him the ounce of colostrum with a medicine syringe. Then you cup feed
him an ounce of formula when it was announced that his jaundice levels
were rising and the nurses threaten to not let you take him home from
Those first two weeks home with Jayce
were a nightmare. There is nothing worse than not knowing why your baby
won't eat. I tried latching him each and every hour. Most of the time he
wouldn't even take my nipple in his mouth at all. My good, supportive,
caring friends came every day to offer support and encouragement.
Finally, it was my neighbor that got Jayce to latch on. She was a Speech
and Language pathologist that worked in the NICU at the local hospital.
She taught me how to do exercises with Jayce's mouth to get him to put
his tongue down. It worked and Jayce finally was able to nurse.
was still not prepared for how different he would be from Jaina. Jayce
never seemed to want to nurse. He would go 3, 4, sometimes even 5 hours
without latching on. And he only nursed for a grand total of 7 minutes.
It was no surprise that his 50th percentile birth weight started falling
on the charts.
Jayce was really fussy. He didn't eat
well or sleep well. I was determined not to get a case of thrush this
time (but I did, anyway) so I had put myself on a Candida Diet that
consisted of no fruit, no carbs, no starches. When that did not help, I
also restricted myself to no dairy. Living off of free range meat and
vegetables was not fun!
By four months old, we knew
something was wrong. Slow weight gain, bad case of breastfeeding thrush
that wouldn't go away this time, refusal of the breast, crying after
feeding. Finally, the pediatrician saw Jayce push away when I tried to
nurse him in her office and she ordered a barium swallow x-ray. It
showed that Jayce had severe GERD.
It took a few months
to get Jayce's medicine correct, but after we did, we could finally
have a good nursing relationship. And thank goodness we perservered...
Jayce was 17 months old, he stopped eating any kind of food except
breakfast pancakes. We were baffled. He stopped holding his spoon or
sippy cup. He started toe-walking and hand flapping. A year later, he
was diagnosed with autism.
We were sent to a Special
Needs Nutritionist. She commended us for our continued nursing
relationship and said it was the only reason Jayce was as healthy as he
was. He wasn't getting enough calories from any other food source.
mistakenly weaned Jayce thinking that he would start eating more table
food and also sleeping through the night. He was 27 months old, the same
age his sister was when we weaned. Unfortunately, weaning was not the
answer and one of the things I regret.
child with autism is very exhausting. We were not mentally or physically
prepared to have anymore children for quite a while. Yet, when Jayce
turned 5 years old and started Kindergarten in a regular classroom, I
finally felt ready to expand our family. It took us an entire year of
unexplained infertility to conceive our third baby.
time I had planned on giving birth at the local Birth Center. But baby
#3 had other plans. After failed natural induction methods at almost 42
weeks and with my water broken for 36 hours, we transferred to the local
hospital instead. Our surprise baby turned out to be a girl :) We named
her Jocelyn Claire.
Nursing was great in the hospital.
Nursing was even great when we got home. Jocelyn nursed for about 30
minutes every two hours. The only thing that was weird was how gassy she
was. And she was extremely hard to burp. Sometimes it would take me
longer to get a burp out of her than it did to feed her! She was
uncomfortable after nursing so I briefly had reflux as a possibility in
the back of my mind.
However, she did not have the same symptoms of reflux as her brother did before.
I looked to my diet instead. I removed dairy first to see if that helped, followed by wheat. No change.
of foremilk/hindmilk imbalance also ran through my mind. I know this is
a controversial topic with research now showing that there is no such
thing. Yet, searching Google took me to many breastfeeding sites that
said it was possible.
Finally, around 3 weeks old, I
gave Jocelyn her first bottle of pumped breastmilk. She took it easily
with no complaint. The miraculous thing was that she was not fussy or
gassy at all afterwards.
My goal was to only give her a
bottle once a day. I started pumping twice daily to store up some milk.
Then a well-meaning friend asked if maybe her fussiness could be
forceful letdown or oversupply? Since this was possible, I decided to
stop pumping for a bit. Jocelyn still received a bottle every day
through my frozen milk storage. That time of day was the only time she
was not gassy or fussy after eating.
I knew in my gut
that something wasn't right. When she nursed, my nipple was compressed
in that infamous "lipstick" shape. My nipple would also turn colors
after nursing... white, blue, red. The LC at the hospital suggested that
I might have Reynaud's Syndrome. It would make sense since my
extremities are often cold as ice. Jocelyn was born in January and the
cold weather definitely made my breasts hurt.
and checked and re-checked her latch. My friends and LLL leader checked
her latch. We could not see anything wrong from the outside.
Finally, one member of the group suggested a palate issue.
was still receiving therapy services from the local hospital, so I
called in a favor from one of the SLPs that works with NICU babies.
Laura confirmed that Jocelyn had what was known as a "bubble palate".
the mean time, Jocelyn's weight gain had slowed and she was even
fussier after nursing. I had increased her bottle intake to 2-3 a day
and was struggling to keep up pumping. It seems that nursing was just a
snack for her but a bottle was a full meal. She also seemed to start
preferring the bottle by 4 months old.
My friends and I
researched everything we could find on a bubble palate. Unfortunately,
there are not many things you can do. Several moms on an online forum
said that by 10-12 months, their babies' mouths had grown big enough to
compensate for having a high, round palate and nursing no longer hurt. I
was hoping to make it that long but I am sad to say that we didn't.
with the pain from the Reynaud's, I had a deep crack that would not
heal. I was treated for candida yeast infection, fungal infection, and a
bacterial infection. No medication would heal my nipple. I also had a
lot of peeling skin. In fact, after we had our final nursing session at 7
months old, it took 3 long weeks for my nipples to fully heal.
my meager breastmilk supply ran out and I had to turn to formula. I was
very upset. This is not how I envisioned how my nursing experience with
my third baby would go. I felt like a failure. I felt like Jocelyn
would think that I didn't love her as much as her brother and sister
because I did not nurse her as long.
The first time I
gave her formula, she drank all 4 ounces quickly. I had been pumping so
little before that her bottles had only been 2-3 ounces of breastmilk. I
made her 4 more ounces. And then 4 more, but she only finished two. My 7
month old drank 10 ounces in one sitting. And there was no burping,
spitting up, gas, or fussiness. Just contentment.
is when I realized that my baby's happiness was more important than my
own. She didn't care that we weren't nursing anymore. She just wanted a
full tummy and for mommy to hold her. I could still do those things;
just not the way I had planned.
I had never had a
strictly bottle-fed baby before and it was uncharted territory for me. I
still fed on demand and took her cues for when she was done. When she
turned a year old and that arbitrary age of taking away bottles came, I
still let her have one and slowly weaned her to a sippy cup of cow's
milk over a period of the next 6 months.
switching Jocelyn to bottles of formula made me want to help moms
succeed with breastfeeding even more. Yet, I also have a new place of
understanding inside me. Sometimes breastfeeding doesn't work out. Those
moms need just as much, if not more, support. It will be important for
their next breastfeeding experience.
I am continually
thankful for all the knowledge and support I have received from my local
LLL chapter. I am looking forward to paying it forward to the next moms
that come along.