This is my story and our family’s journey to and though breastfeeding. The good, the bad, the ugly.
In 2008 I was pregnant with our first child, a son. At 18 weeks we found out that there was a problem. The baby had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). At 22 weeks when they found our son had not grown at all in the last month I was admitted into the hospital and placed on bed rest. During my 10 day stay a NICU doctor came to speak with us. He asked if I was planning on breastfeeding. I said yes I wanted to try. He then said that breastfeeding was going to be the biggest deciding factor in my baby’s life, because he was going to be very tiny and his entire system was immature and needed every chance for survival. He explained NEC, something most of us no nothing about, and how breast milk could prevent it. By breastfeeding I could save my baby’s life. Sadly, only a few days later we found that my Son no longer had a heart beat. Part of me died with him. I was induced and 14 hours later on Aug 15th 2008 at 6 months gestation my son Joel Robert was born at 11.5 ounces and 10.5 inches. His cord had become tied.
That NICU’s Doctors comments on breastfeeding has stayed with me, and will forever.
A very short time later (to short). We found that I was again pregnant. I lived in fear every single day, thankfully, my pregnancy was mostly normal. When I was 38 weeks pregnant I asked to be induced as soon as possible. I could not have her die inside me, so at 38 weeks 6 days I was induced. First off, the hospital couldn’t find my test results showing I didn’t have strep B so I had to have antibiotics, they started my pitocin, broke my water, I had a epidural at 7cm, and gave birth in 4 hours at 11:05 am. She was tiny, the doctor had made a guesstimate that her weight was around 7 pounds, he was wrong. I remember hearing him being very surprised by her size. She was 5 pounds 9 ounces and 18 1/4 inches. I was an emotional mess, talk about post traumatic stress. I couldn’t stop crying. I was so sad, so happy, and filled with so much fear. I could not hold her, all I saw was my Joel, but I didn’t want to let her go I wanted to protect this tiny girl from the world. My husband held her before she was taken to the nursery. I didn’t nurse her when she was born, and I wouldn’t be able to for 5 hours because the nursery nurses took so long to bring her to us. She latched fine, but ended up with jaundice (a “pit.” birth and delayed breastfeeding I’m sure had a lot to do with it).
I had no information, no Lactation consultant, and no one who knew anything about breastfeeding exclusivity. At 2 1/2 weeks we added formula per the pediatrician because I felt like she wasn’t getting enough food. I returned to work early, because of many things, but I pumped 3 times during work. I would breastfeed her and give her bottles. For the first 2 1/2 months slept in her room in a bed with her and breastfed through the night, but eventually by 2 1/2 months she slept through the night and I stopped the actual act of breastfeeding, at 4 months we added food per the pediatrician. At 5 1/2 months I threw in the towel.
January 2011 I was pregnant again. This time I had to use another Doctor and hospital. I also educated myself for 9 months I read and read on low supply and what to do. 13 days before our son was due I went into labor suddenly at 3:33 am I didn’t think it was real it didn’t hurt enough. I had 2 previous induced births and the natural contractions in my mind weren’t hard enough to be labor and didn’t last long enough. So I talked myself into going to sleep. Suddenly I awoke I couldn’t walk, I had to crawl. I couldn’t talk, I had to scream or whisper. I threw up. I was in labor. We got to the hospital and in the door right at 7:00 am. I gave birth at 7:19am naturally and unmediated. My Son was 6 pounds 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long. The nurses cleaned him and took his vitals and cleaned me up. Suddenly they realized “Are you breastfeeding” the nurse asked and I answered an ecstatic yes! She apologized and brought my son to me. I held and fed him for the first time and we connected. He and I laid there I’m not sure how long. I healed during that time. He and I looked at each other and I thought of my other two children. I talked to God. I knew what had happened with Leah at that point and I remembered how long it took for us to “connect”. I regretted her birth. I had taken it away from her. I didn’t trust Her, my body, or God. Her birth was the first mistake I made in our breastfeeding journey and as a mother. I felt so sorry I could not give her what was best nor had I been able to give her all of me. I made a promise that I was new. I had lost part of me but I found a new part and a much stronger person.
My son was Exclusively breastfed from 3 weeks until 6 months, I and my husband gave a small amount of formula around 2 1/2-3 weeks. At that point I sought out help, and started to attend weekly support group meetings. I was educated about “The Virgin Gut” of a newborn, and I threw out all the samples that we had been “gifted”. I met many moms and learned so much. I also got a few friends. They were and are blessings.
At 11 weeks postpartum I returned to work. I took pumping breaks every 2 hours. I had some true supply problems after My son and I got sick that effected my supply. We tried fenugreek first, then goats roe with the fenugreek, then I got a prescription for Domperidone. It worked like a charm. (If fenugreek doesn’t work for you I highly recommend Domperidone). I used Domperidone from about 5 months till 10 months when his food intake was enough for me to risk slowly stepping down off the Domperidone. At 10 months I was starting to collect 4-6 ounces of extra milk a week so I began extending the time between my pumping breaks to every 2.5 hours, as well, as weaning of the medication . I was able to donate that extra milk to a beautiful adopted baby girl of a woman in our support group. The mom was inducing lactation and wanted her on 100% breast milk if she could. Later I donated to one other child. From perceived Low supply, to real low supply, to milk donor never thought I would get there.
Our pediatrician, Bless her heart. I think I will call her Dr. “breastfeeding is never complete nutrition”, the same one who recommended formula at 2 weeks for My daughter continued to be our pediatrician. Dr. BF NcN tried pushing me to add baby cereal at 4 months. I flat refused stating that the AAP, CDC, and WHO said to wait till 6 months. At around 6 months I would not add baby cereal, but I would add “real” foods. He didn’t need the cereal according to much of the research I had read. Dr. BF NcN’s response? “hummph”, yeah cocked her head to the side and poked her lips out and everything. She then stated that if the mothers Iron is low then so is the babies. That the cereal was needed to add that iron that the mother was lacking, and told me I was going to give him rickets that cause bone defects, anemia that would cause him to be learning disabled. So you are telling me Human milk isn’t enough nor is it full nutrition? That I’m a bad mother? or both? I informed her that I had given blood only a week before and that amazingly enough my iron level was great! and that when we went to WIC for his 3 month check-in his iron was great, too… She had nothing else to say.
So we didn’t go to that next visit and we scheduled the 12 month visit with a new doctor. I made it to magical 12 months, too. Then I set a new goal of 24 months, and then till he was done. He nursed 33 months, 3 weeks and 1 day. My son is beautiful, strong, has straight legs, and learns perfectly normal and isn’t ADHD and difficulty learning like his older sister.
More than anything breastfeeding made me a better parent in the end. It set me out on a journey that has given me strength that I never knew existed in me. It changed me forever. I know now that I did not fail at breastfeeding my daughter, I DID breastfeed her. What happened is I didn’t meet my goal. I learned to set reachable goals for my self and my children, but that not reaching the those goals isn’t failure. Not reaching a goal is a learning opportunity in its self. Life doesn’t always go our way, You have to learn from your mistakes and those of others to find a new way.