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The Lactivist Learning About Breastfeeding...Ironic, Yes?

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

As the clock starts to tick down and I start to get ready for baby #2 to show up, something funny dawns on me.

I don't know how to nurse a child.

Does that seem funny to anyone else? The Lactivist...the person that's spent almost a year now running a site designed to support breastfeeding and educate people on the benefits of breast milk is now facing the idea of trying to learn to nurse a child just like a first time mom.

That's kinda scary.

Granted, I've got all the experience in the world with a breast pump. I can tell you what kind to get, how to pump, when to pump, how to protect supply, how to store, how to thaw, all about milk banks...you name it, I got the goods.

But I've nursed a child for a grand total of three, count em, three days.

For a variety of reasons, I really would like to nurse this time around. One, because I'd like the experience, two, because the idea of pumping with a 2 year old running around is not appealing and three, because I want to know that I CAN.

I know that in some ways, I'm more prepared this time around...

1.) I KNOW that it might be really hard work. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. ;)
2.) I won't be in a hospital, which is where my problems started last time.
3.) I've learned a lot by now about the signs of when baby is ready, the good positions, how often baby should nurse, etc....
4.) I've got support...my husband is TOTALLY on board with helping to make this work, plus I know people online and in person that will be there ready to cheer me on.

But I also have that nagging fear that it's going to be like it was last time. A sheer horror story of screaming child, zero latch and exhaustion to the point of delerium. I'm also going to have that temptation of "well the pump is right there" pulling at me...and while pumping will be easy enough the first few weeks while I have help, the reality is that moms and mother-in-laws go home and you're left with a baby that won't latch due to nipple confusion and a two year old that doesn't always understand that mommy needs to pump AND then feed baby.

Any chance any Lactivist readers have pumped for one and nursed the next?

Any Lactivist readers that didn't succeed in nursing their first child, but pulled it off down the road?

What'd you do different? Any suggestions?

On the plus side, I imagine it will give me plenty of blog fodder. ;)

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  1. Blogger a suburban housewife | 4:22 PM |  

    Quick and fast here- because this story could be long!

    My third child was born at 37 weeks- very teeny-tiny features. I could nurse for 2 and 1/2 days until my milk came in. Then I wasn't nursing my child, but drowning her. Granted, La Leche gave some good tips: lie in a position where your feet are significantly elevated above your head (to make baby work against gravity). Maybe I could do that at home, but at church or at the mall? Not so much. SO I pumped. And pumped. And pumped some more. And did it all with an Avent ISIS manual pump (11 oz. from each side, baby!!). But then I realized that babygirl didn't like the bottle so much. But when I tried to nurse her for every feeding, I had milk backed up to my eyeballs by nighttime. Solution: I put her to the breast for one feeding a day and gradually added another feeding each week. By 10 weeks or so, we were breastfeeding exclusively. JOY!! The downside? Hysterical screams at the sight of the bottle for the next year.

    With my fourth, he was a 38 weeker, but his features weren't as tiny. It was nursing heaven from day 1.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:12 PM |  

    Well, one thing I can suggest is to not give a bottle, if you need some suplementing (with pumped milk, naturally) use cup feeding, eye droppers, spoons, ect. You won't risk confusion and it is almost as easy.
    Now for my background. I am a mom of 2 boys who has nursed after trouble with both kidos. My first born (who is 4 now) nursed for 18 months following a 41 hour labor, c-section, and difficult latch. I used a nipple shield, plus pumping and cup feeding for 2-3 weeks after he was born. After overcoming those problems I though, oh, my next one no problem, right
    Wrong. With number 2 he nursed great in the hospital, aside from some pain (I called him the super-suck machine 3000) He was slightly tounge tied, and then got thrush at 1 week. I got it from him, and I almost lost my supply over the pain and problems. I rented a pump and pumped and suplimented around the clock for 3 weeks. he is a year old now and is a nursing champ. Don't give up, don't give bottles, there are other means of suplimenting that don't cause confusion and don't really take more time than a bottle does.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:15 AM |  

    This story could be long, too, but here goes the short version:

    Baby #1 was a tiny preemie with medical issues that made breastfeeding difficult. This was complicated by my inexperience breastfeeding. I pumped for 1 year for him.

    I had the very same worries as you before baby #2 arrived. When he was three days old I almost threw in the towel, and thought that I would just pump again. BUT, I did not, and we enjoy a fabulous nursing relationship. He is now 20 months.

    All I wanted, after a healthy baby, was a good nurser. Careful what you wish for! He refused a bottle when I went back to work..refused a sippy cup when older, too! Now he will use a cup and straw at mealtime.



  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:34 AM |  

    Each child is different. First baby lots o' problems, much like Sherri's, a 37 weeker and very tiny features, I pumped and pumped eventually quitting that. Baby # two, also a 37 weeker, but larger and actually pulled himself from my tummy to my breast and latched on like he'd done that before. "ooooo I want som o' that" LOL. I also would not have been able to pump, then feed with my then toddler - it takes too long to do both. Baby #3, a preemie, had a few problems with the latch due to no sucking reflex and the tongue wanting to paste itself to the top of her mouth. I let her have my pinky finger for a minute before every latch and within two weeks she knew what to do and nursed past a year, never even wanting a bottle. Baby #4, would go back a forth without a care in the world. Baby #5 - loved the boobs and nothing else. Baby #6 - we'll see, not due for 12 more weeks. :)

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:31 PM |  

    My milk didn't come in until the 4th or 5th day after pumping in the hospital. The nurses encouraged supplementing with formula since "he's lost too much weight." I thought I was breastfeeding correctly when I got home, but I thought wrong and he lost more weight. I was so devasted. Anyway, I pumped and supplemented until he was 5 weeks old (i was caught up in the holidays and company) when I finally called a lactation consultant. The LC's in the hospital were too busy. I paid a lot of money (maybe $50 for the hour, $325 for the pump and other paraphanalia) and for the next 4 weeks, I was to pump after every attempt at nursing, use an SNS (supplementing nursing system... it's a skinny tube that you tape to your finger for the baby to latch onto), no pacifiers, no bottles, and all this every 2 hrs in the day and 5 at night. By the time I was done pumping, it was time to wake the baby who constantly wanted to sleep.

    By the 3rd day, I was a wreck. Thank goodness for my parents who helped me through. I was exhausted and my baby just wanted to sleep, but here I came with my nipple shield and SNS every two hours. I never had a chance to cuddle with him because the SNS took a good 25 minutes to give him an ounce and I attempted nursing for a good hour each time. I called the LC about 50 more times and broke down and gave him a bottle after 5 days. Needless to say, for me, 4 weeks was too long of a goal. I was not in a place to enjoy breastfeeding.

    I supplemented with a bottle or if I had the will, the SNS for the next 2 weeks and finally told my husband that breastfeeding was such a mind game and I was making a decision for our baby to stop. I cried and he said it would be okay. I cried how I wanted the best for him. He told me it was okay if I couldn't and that we were both formula fed and turned out fine. Well, a weight was lifted from my shoulders and I finally relaxed. It was late and I didn't know how to stop and would call the LC the next day to ask.

    And then my baby seemed to magically latch on perfectly... there was milk flowing... I was relaxed and happy. I never called the LC except for a month or two later to ask what to do about engorged breasts when he started to sleep longer. So about a month after the LC, he became 100% breastfed.

    Sorry for the lengthy story, but I really feel this was one of my biggest accomplishments and I respect anyone who breastfeeds because it IS hard. So, my advice... if you have any trouble, talk to a Lactation Consultant. If you don't like the first one, find another. They have the knowledge of all the different things that will help (SNS, shields, domes, etc.). AND... trust your decisions you make for you and your baby.

  6. Blogger WinterWheat | 7:29 PM |  

    Hey Jennifer,

    I found your blog through a link to your post from Tuesday, November 22, 2005, on exclusive pumping. Loved it! I'm an EPer too; I'll try to make my long story short.

    I have Graves' Disease, a metabolic autoimmune disease. I was pretty severely hyperthyroid for 3 months after my daughter was born. I made enough milk, but she couldn't get it OUT. We'd do before-after weighings at the local BFing clinic and she'd take in less than 2 ounces in 45 minutes. Nothing wrong with her latch; it was all my letdown. I pumped like a madwoman because I thought it was a supply problem. I consumed enough fenugreek to scent a Waffle House.

    Come to find out when she's 6 months old that excess thyroid hormone depresses oxytocin, which we know is needed for proper letdown. By the time I was able to get more milk out, DD had gone on a nursing strike (11 weeks old). I've never been able to persuade her to come back to the breast, and perhaps understandably so: it was always a source of frustration for her. So I've been pumping exclusively for 4 months. I have to supplement with formula because whether I pump 6x/day or 3x/day, I can only get about 25 oz. I've never been one of those people who could build up a freezer stash. I'm tired of pumping and probably won't make it past 7 months, but kudos to people who do.

    Anyway, if we're lucky enough to have a second, I'll very likely be in the same situation. My plan is to work with my endocrinologist to try and get my thyroid function back to normal as soon as possible after the birth so I can nurse with a normal letdown. But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I'll do my best, but I won't beat myself up about it like I did this time. Women end up EPing for so many different reasons; it irks me when (a) they're judged for EPing at all, and (b) others assume that they EP for convenience only. Not all of us do (though I think that's a perfectly valid reason -- to each her own).

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:41 PM |  

    Your story sounds just like my sister-in-law's. Her first baby (now 2 1/2 years old) was a 3 weeks preemie who was given a bottle at 1 week in the hospital when she had to go back for jaundice. That killed the breastfeeding and she refused to latch. My sis-in-law pumped for 5 weeks and gave up, exhausted.
    I had my son a year ago and we are still very happily breastfeeding. Its truly one of the greatest joys of my life. Before my son was born, my sis-in-law said on many occasions that she wont try with the next one. It didnt seem worth it and her daughter "turned out just fine" (its true, she's a fabulous little girl).
    I think I set a positive example, because she had her 2nd baby on wednesday and I gently offered my help and support. Her son was born full term and healthy and yesterday I met him in the hospital. I sawhim nurse and what a latch! Everything looks great so far. I promised her to spend as much time as she needs with me and I will help her work on positions and latching. Im very encouraged.

    My advice: get support early on. Spend time with a LLL leader and go to meetings. And vow not to use the pump until breastfeeding is well-established. A 2-3 weeks.

    I think the breastpump, for all it has done to help working mom's and sick babies, has also had a detrimental effect. Its easy, mechanical and you can *see* the milk go in the mouth. But I know so many babies who either have nipple confusion due to early introduction of the bottle or are simply fickly preferring breast or bottle at their leisure. What a pain!

    Good luck to you and I hope your birth is wonderful!

  8. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 1:21 PM |  

    Thanks, though this is an argument that I've had with many moms...

    "And vow not to use the pump until breastfeeding is well-established."

    That's fine and dandy, if you can even BEGIN to establish breastfeeding. But the reality is that baby can't wait 2-3 weeks to get milk.

    If you have a baby that refuses to latch for whatever reason, your milk is not going to come in. It's as simple as that. Studies also show that babies don't suddenly become MORE willing to latch as they miss out on feedings, they actually become more lax and lethargic and LESS likely to feed.

    So I'll note that I'm not talking about baby is latching, but it's uncomfortable or whatever, so you give a bottle of expressed milk. I'm talking I had a baby that absolutely, positively would NOT latch and was not getting ANY milk. She was severely jaundiced and losing way more weight than she should.

    Thus it was either risk health issues to both of us to try and "force" her to nurse, or pump and bottle feed while we tried to work things out. Last time I found pumping so easy that I gave up on trying to nurse within a few days of starting to pump.

    This time, if we have to pump, we will, but we'll continue to work on latch issues until they are resolved.

  9. Blogger sela | 9:32 PM |  

    My first is two and I was not able to get the hang of breastfeeding with him. I didn't know how to position him. My nipples were all cracked and bleeding. I got engorged and it ended up as mastitis. I just had no idea what I was doing.

    My second is now four months and we've been exclusively breastfeeding since he was 7 days old. I was attempting a ubac, but ended up with a cord prolapse after laboring for 40 hours. So, baby was in NICU...well, that's a whole other story, anyway, I had to pump to get my milk in. Then, we spent about 3 days on nipple confusion...feedings every half hour. Those days were rough, but so worth it. The second time around I knew how to handle a baby, and that I could pull his mouth open and wrestle him into the right position and it was ok because he wasn't going to break. I also could tell when he was getting hungry rather than waiting until he was crying hysterically and ready to suck my skin right off! I was also much more patient with myself and I knew what engorgement was/felt like, and I just knew more about my body in general.

    I would tell this to anyone getting ready to bf for the first time: One, Definitely pull your baby's mouth OPEN every time you latch on-by the chin. If your areola is larger, you just want them to cover most of it. That works like a charm. Now, when my baby is hungry, he tells me by opening his mouth as wide as he possibly can!! And, two, give them a bottle within the first 4 weeks. Actually, have someone else give them the first bottle. And, three, don't expect a schedule like a bottle fed baby. That's the one thing I miss. At four months, my first was getting 6 oz every four hours w/no in between feedings, and sleeping all night. This one wants to eat every two hours and sleeps about 4-5 hours at night.

    Good luck-you won't need it!!

  10. Blogger Tricia | 4:52 PM |  

    Ok, I'm not an EPer, but I had the most horrible time getting started with breastfeeding. I had no milk, at all, and had to supplement with formula until the right mix of herbs and medication finally got the milk flowing 3 weeks later. I'm very lucky to have had a fabulous LC in the hospital, and have a sister who is an LC. I would not have made it without them. So two pieces of advice: 1 - Get a good LC. Visit them before the birth if you can to make sure you find one you like and who knows your history. And 2 - If you have to supplement, don't use a bottle. I used an SNS, and yes, it was a serious pain in the butt. But it kept my son at the breast while still giving him the formula he needed.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:26 AM |  

    New to your blog, but I'm a breastfeeding mama of five. That first time, I only made it 6 weeks but I made it over a year with my 5th. In fact, I made it longer and longer and longer each time.

    For me, it was a learning process. I got more educated each time, I knew my own body (its limitations) better each time. I knew that I had to work harder than the average breastfeeder - I had to pump more at work, I had to nurse more at night, I had to make sure I didn't introduce a supplemental bottle here and there because any of it would hurt my precarious supply.

    I had to know that I was one of the women with PCOS who had serious and very real supply issues. I had to take milk-boosting drugs for months and months.

    Some of those things I learned through trial and error on previous babies.

    But? Each time I just did my best. It's all one can ask of oneself. If you do your best, even if you don't succeed by someone else's standards, it's good enough.

    I may have only breastfeed for 6 weeks that first time, and 3 months that second time, and 4 months that third time, and 6 months that fourth time, and yes, I made it past a year with the 5th child. But EACH time I did my best and so I'll not short-change the value of that.

    Good luck!

  12. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:51 PM |  

    I'm hoping for another chance at breastfeeding too (we are doing another IVF and keeping our fingers crossed that it works).

    I don' t have any tips for you on this, but will be cheering you on and hoping to learn from your success this time around!

    (I pumped for for 10 months for my little guy)

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