The Art of Breast Feeding

Let me first start off by asking, why doesn’t anyone talk about how hard breast feeding can be?!  Seriously, breast feeding has drained me physically, emotionally and mentally.  There were a couple times I literally thought I was going to snap.  Before I had Sam I felt breast feeding would come naturally because that is what God had intended.  It truly is a learned art.  Also, it is a major sacrifice for the woman.  You are literally tied to that baby every 2-3 hours.  Here’s what the past 4 weeks have looked like.

Week 1

Everything was going so well.  I was so worried because I had a c-section that perhaps Sam wouldn’t latch on right away, especially because they had to give him a bottle of formula right after he was born due to his sugar levels being low.  However, when I was finally released from recovery and able to be reunited with my son, he took to the breast immediately.  I laid him on my chest and within 5 minutes he started inching his way down, rooting, wanting to nurse.  It was awesome.  I felt so relieved.  I brought Lanolin oil, pads and Medela soft shells with me to the hospital.  I’m really glad I did because you are feeding so frequently those first couple days and my nipples weren’t too happy about it.  A lactation consultant came to my room everyday, sometimes multiple times, to see how breast feeding was going and to show me the proper way to have the baby latch.  They always stated, “It should never hurt.”

Around day 5 my nipples were really screaming.  I switched up nursing positions from the football hold to the cross cradle and that really seemed to help.  A little after a week everything started feeling so much better.  Little did I know they were about to get way worse.

Week 2

I had suspicions of a UTI and so I made an appointment to see my OB.  The culture came back negative but just to be on the safe side they put me on an antibiotic.  2 days after being on the medication I broke out in hives all over my body.  It was so itchy and I thought for sure I was allergic to the antibiotic.  Although I stopped taking the medication, I was still breaking out in hives just about every night right around bed time.  Again, I thought it was probably the medication clearing out of my system.  Then breast feeding started to get really painful again.  The initial latch would make my eyes water and toes curl.  It was horrible.  By the end of the feeding my nipples felt as though they were burning and they itched so bad.  I never felt like I could get him to latch on properly.  I then made an appointment with a lactation consultant to see what the issue might be.  She informed me I had Thrush and so did Sam.

I was a bit relieved as I now had at least an answer to why things went south so suddenly.  I called my OB and the Pediatrician to have them call in prescriptions for Sam and I.  I was still nursing Sam even though it was so painful, however, that night I had total mental breakdown.  I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.  I told Ryan that we had to bottle feed Sam for a couple of days until I could get our prescriptions and get this under control.  Luckily, I had been pumping after the morning feeding for the past 2 days and had enough milk saved to get us started.  So every 3 hours we would give Sam a bottle and I would pump.  What we didn’t realize is that Sam downed his bottle within 3 minutes!  Which didn’t allow for enough time for his little belly to register that he was indeed full… So we learned to drag out the bottle feedings to 20 minutes by burping him numerous times, giving him his pacifier halfway through and to always, always end the session with him drinking from the bottle.

{I purchased Born Free glass bottles for Sam.  Eventually, Sam will be going to daycare and the majority of his feedings will come from a bottle.  I didn’t like the idea of heating a plastic bottle every time he needed to eat.  The bottles are specifically made for breast fed babies to make the transition back and forth from breast to bottle a little easier.}

The pharmacy was running behind and stated they wouldn’t have my prescription filled until that Monday (my breakdown was on Thursday night).  It’s a compound so they have to make the ointment themselves.  I begged them to try to have it filled before then because I have a 2 week old baby that I’m trying to nurse.  Yeah, I picked it up on Monday.  Also, at this point I’m still breaking out in hives just about every night.  Some nights it would be just a few and other nights I would look like this.Pretty, huh?  Since I hadn’t taken the antibiotic in a week, I knew it wasn’t the culprit for the hives.  After a bit of research I realized that my body is allergic to breast feeding!  Rather, the hormones that are released while breast feeding my body has an allergic reaction to.  Well, that’s just fantastic.  Talk about emotional, mental breakdown.  The only way to deal with it is to take Benadryl, which is a drowsy medication.  Yeah, an already sleep deprived mother should totally do that.  Also, there are risks of Benadryl drying up my supply.  Still, I wasn’t willing to give up.  Once I picked up my prescription I started nursing Sam again immediately.  I could tell things still weren’t 100% so I made another appointment with the lactation consultant and I just didn’t feel Sam was latching on properly.

Week 3

I met with the lactation consultant and she pointed some new things out to me.  One, Sam is a master at flutter sucking.  She told me to get him off the breast and switch sides once he starts doing that for an extended period of time and isn’t truly nursing.  That was genius.  Because I pumped for about 3 days I knew exactly how much milk I was producing.  My left breast usually has around 3 ounces of milk every feeding.  However, my right breast only produces around 1 ounce.  I always start him on the right and let him finish on the left.  He now only nurses for 20-25 minutes and he’s finished.  Two, go get My Brest Friend to help support Sam while he nurses.  Totally worth the money.  Every day things were looking better and brighter.  I was actually starting to enjoy feeding Sam and not cringing every 3 hours.

Ryan still gives Sam a bottle every night.  One of the BEST pieces of advice I was given was to let my husband take one of the night feedings.  It allows me to get a good stretch of uninterrupted sleep (although I still wake up to pump for that feeding).  So Ryan will typically take the 10pm-midnight feeding, which gives me the opportunity to go to bed around 9 and not have to nurse Sam until 1am-3am.  It’s so glorious to have those couple of hours where I just have to worry about myself.  I know Ryan is taking care of Sam and I just focus on getting some zzz’s and waking up to pump for 10 minutes.

I can now say I love breast feeding.  It doesn’t hurt anymore and it looks as though the thrush is clearing up for both myself and Sam.  It is such an emotional experience because I felt as though this should just come naturally.  This is what God intended so why doesn’t it just work?!  I remember telling my mom, “I’m not giving up on this.  I don’t care if I have to pump in order for him to be breast fed but this child is going to receive my breast milk damnit!”

I am still breaking out in hives just about every day.  I’m just dealing with it right now and I’m hoping the issue resolves itself within a couple weeks.  Fingers crossed.

Everyone who has breast fed tells me it is a wonderful experience and bond between you and your baby and I am now starting to see that.  I wasn’t so convinced a couple weeks ago.  I do understand why some women choose to formula feed their baby’s.  Breast feeding is a major sacrifice for the woman.  Your husband might be able to get a good stretch of sleep but no matter what you have to feed that baby at least every 3 hours in the first couple weeks.  It’s just you and the baby.  This is one area that someone can’t step in and take a turn for you.

I look forward to each day watching Sam develop and grow.  He’s starting to crack little smiles here and there this week.  I cannot wait for that first laugh 🙂  I’ll leave with a picture of Sam and Henri… best friends.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Breast Feeding

  1. I stumbled upon your blog and was wondering how long your hives lasted? I’m post partum 8 days. Second baby and I broke out in hives on the side of my thighs. It’s really weird and I’ve given up on the pain killer and only using ibuprofen. Any info would help. Thank you.

    • Hi Monica!
      I’m so sorry that you too are dealing with hives. It’s kind of a good news bad news situation. My hives lasted through out breastfeeding. However, they calmed way down. To the point where I didn’t even notice them and they weren’t coming everyday but they were still apart of my life. How is everything going now for you? Are you still experiencing hives?

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