Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Save the Boobies

Okay, first of all, I'm talking about breastfeeding. So for some of you, skip this post but promise to come back next time !!!  I realize that not everyone is okay with breasts, milk production, and the act of breastfeeding. I was one of those people and don't judge you :o) I was always embarrassed when my mom would just whip out her breast to feed my little sisters without a care in the world. I would look the other way when a woman was out in public nursing her child. I totally understand the issues and even up until the little man took his first breath I would honestly say I still had some issues with the subject of boobies. 

It's funny how once you have a child you really stop caring. It's not even that I don't care, it's that I see it so differently now. Having a child transforms you in a way that no other action can. You let go of your self image issues. You are awakened to the fact that no one really cares and that your private areas are one of a hundred million billion that are in the world. I'm not saying I'm completely rid of my insecurities about my body. But I have come to terms with myself and that "it is what it is". This is not to say that that I am okay with bare boobs in public-- I think that there is still a place for blankets or nursing covers :o) But after having your vajayjay exposed for all the hospital staff to see, having random strangers help you maneuver your massively engorged breasts to your child's mouth, suddenly your issues really aren't that big of a deal.

I was torn with writing about my breastfeeding experience because its something that was a big emotional struggle for me. It's something very personal and unfortunately something that can make mom's feel really inadequate when it doesn't go according to plans. I come from a mother who breastfed like a dairy cow. She made it look so effortless and enjoyable. I figured it would be this amazing experience like it was for her. Every mom is so different, and so is every baby. Just because your sister nursed for a full year, doesn't mean you will. And its okay if you don't.

I saw breastfeeding as the ultimate way of bonding with my son. I mean, whats better then knowing that you are the one providing him with what he needs to grow and flourish. I was providing him with immunity and reducing his risk of ear infections, coughs and colds. I mean that lady in my breastfeeding class must have spouted off at least a dozen amazing benefits of breastfeeding. There was no way I was going to poison my son with formula!! (my thoughts after leaving breastfeeding class)

I have seen friends and family members rock it like it was the most natural thing in the world. I have also seen a few struggle and battle with their little ones but eventually get the hang of it and figured I'd eventually catch on. I was determined that no matter what I would breastfeed this little guy! My first mistake. Be open to options! You never know what will happen. Our little guy had a severe case of jaundice and had to be under the lights around the clock except for feedings. This left our feedings rushed because I was so worried about getting him back under the lights that I didn't pause to enjoy the moment with him. This was the nursing staff that created this panic within me. Reality: he wasn't going to die if I took an extra 10 minutes to get the latch right, but they made me feel that way. We also eventually had to supplement after each feeding with formula to help his little body get rid of it. I went crazy with every bottle he was given because I was afraid that it was sure to ruin him for breastfeeding.Reality: the lactation people create this because they genuinely want and believe that what a mother produces is enough. I wish I had trusted my instinct and taken the extra time to create a positive feeding experience. 

Now, my reality. Breastfeeding was the hardest, most demoralizing part of my first 6 days of mommy hood. I was battling a severe case of anemia that left me passing out if I sat up too quickly. I had been shredded internally trying to get this little guy out. All of those things were bearable with some rest and prescription strength Motrin. I was dreading my child waking up because I knew it meant I had to feed him.  That made me feel like a horrible mother. I mean, how could I selfishly choose formula over the health and well being of my child. Not to mention the physical well being of "the girls" (my breasts). He was my son, so what if my nipples were cracked, scabbed and bleeding. He HAD to have my milk!!! Mistake number 2, I should have pumped at the first signs of nipple damage. I felt like I had to push through the pain and that eventually it would get better. Yes, your nipples have to toughen up, but cracking, bleeding, and toe curling pain is NOT normal. On a pain scale I was at a 9 or 10 with almost every feeding. If I had pumped and allowed my body to recover I know it would have never gotten to the point where it did.

I had lactation consultants come in once we were up in the maternity ward. It was the first real feeding since I delivered and knew it was important to get it right early to avoid bad latches and problems down the road. I asked them all my questions, and of course while they were there he latched like a champ and it was a wonderful moment. As soon as it was just me and him, the razors came. We would struggle through endless wrong latches and each and every time I would think I had it, but within two or three "sips" the razors would return. The maternity ward was packed and I was unable to get a lactation consultant back before the next feeding so I would ask the nurse for any tips. She showed me the same thing, and he did great, as soon as she walked out of the room, the latch slipped and the pain was back. I was determined and would try to push through the first 30 seconds or so because eventually the pain would go away. Maybe this was normal and I just needed to toughen up. Mistake number 3, don't go home without being comfortable with breastfeeding. Sure your going to be nervous, have normal anxiety about doing things on your own. You should at least feel like you know what your doing. I should have camped out in front of that lactation office until someone could help me get it right on my own. You need to be able to do it with your own two hands. At 3 a.m., when your home, your not going to have a professional by your side holding his head or navigating him so he is perfectly centered.Everyone says have your husband help and learn so that he knows when its right, but unless your husband is some sort of miracle man he won't know. My husband watched and studied each time I had someone coach me, and he was no better at getting him to latch then I was.

I finally got to the breaking point but was still so determined to not give up I had my sister in law come to help me figure this out. I knew she had struggled with her little one and had just recently stopped breastfeeding so things would still be fresh in her mind. She came over, held his head and voila-- He latched--painfree I might add!!! It was heaven. I wanted to cry. This was everything that I had wanted. Sure it was 5 days late. But finally, we did it!!!! I felt empowered, invigorated and ready to breastfeed till his first birthday. She left, I was happy and a few short hours I was excitedly awaiting the cry of my precious baby boy and the next feeding.

We sit down, just the two of us, I did exactly everything that she had just shown me and---- razors were back!!!! Your kidding me right?? I took him off carefully, took a deep breath and thought it must have been a fluke. I mean a mere two hours earlier we did it. How could we not get it this time---- razors. Okay, maybe I had him too far to the left, razors.... too far to the right.... RAZORS... too low RAZORS..... too high RAAAAZZZZOOOORRRRSSS!!!!

Before I knew it the tears were flowing. He was crying, I was crying. He was frustrated, I was frustrated. I called for my husband and told him to go get the formula. I wanted the two of us to make it out alive. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I had nothing left to give and knew that if I was going to be the best mom for him, it meant formula. By this time my nipples were so damaged pumping was not an option. I tried to manually express but the pain was just as ridiculous as it was for him feeding. My biggest tip, don't be a masochist. There are a thousand things that you can do to screw up your kid. Formula is not one of them.

Today, we are in heaven. Everything about mommy hood is wonderful. Sure its formula and a bottle, but I'm happy, baby boy is happy. He is healthy and while its only been a little over two weeks of formula I am 100% completely okay with "poisoning" my child with formula. When my little guy is staring deeply into my eyes and I am feeding him, its our time. Since I have let go and realized that this is the perfect fit for the two of us, we are in heaven. I feel just as bonded and connected with him as I imaged I would feel with breastfeeding. Not to mention at 2am I can wake up my husband and tell him "its time" without my head ever leaving the pillow!

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