Monday, August 4, 2014

Breastfeeding Obstacles: Keep Calm and Breastfeed On


When my baby was a few months old, I was at a kid’s birthday party chatting with one of the other Moms about breastfeeding. Her comments were something to the tune of “Yeah, I didn’t really think I would breastfeed, but after my baby was born it was so easy and convenient. Same for you?”. My jaw almost hit the floor. I had been breastfeeding for about 4 months and it was hands down one of the hardest things I had ever done. During my pregnancy, I didn’t think twice about whether I would breastfeed or not. It was a given. I knew there would probably be a few obstacles but felt confident that I would be able to overcome them. What I hadn’t bargained on was things going awry from the start.
I had complications after delivery which landed me in the operating room having surgery and a large blood transfusion. Because I had lost so much blood, my milk came in late. For the first few days, my baby screamed despite non-stop nursing. When we were discharged from the hospital she had lost 7% of her body weight and I was told that was normal. At her first pediatrician visit a few days later, she had lost a full pound. My nipples were cracked, blistered and bleeding from the constant feeding. My baby was still screaming with hunger.  We were instructed to supplement with formula and we did. My milk eventually came in a week later and I thought we were home free! Alas, my nipples didn’t heal. Nursing was SO painful. I tried lanolin ointment, Lansinoh Soothies in the fridge were great, basically anything for sore nipples I could find (thank you Amazon Prime!). I asked my OB about it, he said it was normal. I asked my Primary Care Physician about it, he said it was normal too. By this stage I was dreading nursing because of the pain. Sometimes she would nurse on each side for an hour. I tried every different latch position possible. It seemed like she never opened her mouth very wide, it reminded me of a goldfish. It was like she was sucking from a straw rather than expressing the milk. It was agonizing.  I sought out lactation consultant, Ellen Simpson when my daughter was about 2 weeks old. Ellen evaluated us and suggested that she might have a tongue tie. A tongue tie restricts the tongues range of motion so the baby cannot nurse efficiently. It was a lot of work for my baby to nurse (like drinking a massive bowl of soup with a tiny straw), and that is the reason I was so sore. We went to see a Pediatric Ear Nose and Throat specialist the next day and he diagnosed a tongue and a lip tie. He clipped both in the office that day. Numbing medicine was used and she cried for a couple of minutes, but was able to nurse better immediately. Hallelujah!
When she was about 6 weeks old, she started to produce green stools and was very fussy. She had always been very proficient in that area, and very explosive, sometimes shooting poop 4ft across the room if we happened to be changing her when it happened. I noticed that when she was fussy her tummy was cramping, I could feel it against me as I held her. She also wasn’t sleeping very well or very much, and had a mild rash on her face. We went to the pediatrician and she tested positive for blood in her stool. He said to give her bowel rest by giving her only Pedialyte for 24 hours (it also happened to be New Years Eve…obviously we were not celebrating). Our poor baby was starving and not understanding why she couldn’t have her milk. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock so my supply wouldn’t be affected. It was hard for me to hold her because she would be trying to latch on through my shirt. At our follow up appointment, there was still blood so we were referred to the Pediatric Gastroenterologist. There they diagnosed her with Milk Soy Protein Intolerance, and I was instructed to remove all dairy and soy from my diet. In the following weeks, she continued to test positive for blood in the stool despite my very strict diet. I thought she must have allergies other than milk and soy, and one by one removed eggs, fish, nuts, and all the top 8 allergens (I have allergies to wheat and peanuts myself so they were already out). Week after week we went back and they would have us try different elemental formulas, none of which my daughter tolerated. One made her projectile vomit, and the other made her reflux ten times worse. She hated the taste of them so every ounce was a fight to get down. By this time she also had silent reflux and was first on Zantac, and then Prevacid. I pressed the doctors numerous times about whether she could be allergic to something else, and was repeatedly told “No”.  I didn’t listen. We saw an allergist who did skin prick testing when she was 5 months old. She was highly allergic to dairy and all grains except rice. Finally everything made sense. It explains why she continued to react even with the top 8 allergens eliminated; I was still eating oats and other grains. And she was not allergic to soy! Once the grains were removed from my diet she improved. She got better and better and at around 6 months we were able to wean her off the reflux meds.

At times I’ve battled with low supply too, and find that Motherlove More Milk Plus and “power pumping” helps. Power pumping is when you pump for 10 minutes on, then 10 minutes off, for up to an hour. It’s sort of mimicking your baby having a growth spurt and telling the body to produce more milk. Having a great pump is key! I recommend Hygeia brand. Before getting the Hygeia, I had an Ameda Purely Yours and it wasn’t very good. Both are closed systems but the Hygeia is a hospital grade pump.

My little angel is now 8.5 months old and thriving! Nursing is now pain free for both of us. My diet is restrictive but it is worth it to see her so happy and healthy. It is still challenging because I can’t eat out (mostly due to risk of cross contamination) so travel and social scenarios are difficult. I feel lucky I have been able to continue to breastfeed my baby. It has created such a close bond between us and she finds nothing more comforting than nursing. Though we have had a rocky start, I feel confident that she is getting the best start in life I can give her.

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