Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Drying Up

When Aveline was born, I was prepared to breastfeed. I had read all of the books. I had researched technique on the internet. I interviewed other mothers who had breastfed to learn the secrets of success. I had no questions in my mind: we would breastfeed. The benefits were clear. Your breastmilk is the most complete food for your baby. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop ear infections and respiratory troubles. They are also fewer cases of diabetes, high blood pressure and leukemia. Breastfed babies are smarter and less likely to become obese. (Let's face it, in the obese department, with our genetic baggage, she is going to need all of the help she can get.) Most importantly to us, my milk may give her some protection from eventually developing multiple sclerosis, a disease her father has.

Breastfeeding even had benefits for me-accelerated weight loss, prevention from some cancers and stress relief just to name a few. We would also save money. Over the course of a year, parents exclusively feeding formula to their tot would conservatively expect to spend just over $700. That is using the cheapest formula and the minimum average fluid intake of the child. The average expenditure is closer to $2000, considering averages for formula and intake. We spent $40 on extra bottles and close to $90 for bags to freeze the extra.

Considering all of the benefits I discovered while researching breastfeeding, the choice was simple. We would breastfeed. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Case closed. Cerrada. I went to the hospital, my lanolin goo and breast pads packed. I knew that Aveline would need to feed in the first hour. I knew that I would need to offer her my breast repeatedly over the course of the next few days. I instructed the nurse to bring a lactation consultant in on the first day, to help ensure our success. I was prepared. I intended to breastfeed.

She was born. I brought her to my breast. I reviewed positional holds and latch techniques in my head. Nothing. She was stubborn. She suckled for a few minutes. My large breasts made the whole process laborious and akward. I was determined to feed my daughter breastmilk exclusively for the first year, so we tried again and again. The lactation consultant aided me. At one point, my husband, a nurse and Athena, the super lactation consultant, all were groping me as we struggled to get Aveline to latch. I cried. If eight hands weren't able to get my daughter in the correct position to feed, how was I going to manage with just two?

Once we were home, Dan and I continued to try. She refused. She screamed from hunger. I felt like a failure. Somewhere around 3am our first night home, Dan stumbled downstairs, weaving between boxes as he found the kitchen. He opened the sample cannister one of the formula companies had sent us. He prepared a bottle and returned to our bed. She ate it. ALL. I cried more. I couldn't feed my child. I was unable to understand what went wrong. We prepared. I read. I practiced. Why couldn't we do this supposedly natural act?

I did not want to give up easily. My child would have my milk. We continued to struggle until Sunday, the day my milk came. My husband suggested that we use the pumping machine that his sister had loaned to us. It was state of the art. I was very familiar with milking, having been raised on a dairy farm. The concept was simple. My husband and I locked ourselves in our spare room and went to work. Little did I know that this would be the first of many pumping sessions. We only got 3 ounces at that session, but she greedily drank those.

I pumped again a few hours later, and again a few hours after that. I continued to pump and wondered if this was a viable alternative to breastfeeding. I hadn't heard of anyone else doing this, so I turned to the internet. I began to do more research on pumping exclusively, but found very little information. It seemed that the exclusive pumpers, or ep'ers as they liked to be called, were the crazy uncle locked in the attic of the breastfeeding family. My doctors thought I was crazy when I told them my plan. Gauging their reaction, I decided give breastfeeding a few more tries.

The home nurse worked with me for nearly an hour on proper positioning and latch technique. Aveline screamed for most of the session. I still wanted to breastfeed. I continued to pump and feed her from the breast. Most of our nursing sessions ended with both of us in tears, hungry and tired. I dreaded feeding her, because of her reaction to my breasts and the entire act. It wore on me emotionally. A week after she was born, I made another appointment with Athena, the lactation consultant at the hospital. Athena stripped her to her diaper and weighed her. We then struggled for the next 35 minutes to get her to latch. She did. She ate for about five minutes then pulled off. Athena, convinced she had eaten five or six ounces, weighed her again. She only had consumed an ounce. Forty minutes of screaming and pain for an ounce. I think it was then I knew what I had to do.

For the next 8 months, I spent anywhere from 4-5 hours a day hooked up to a milking machine. During the early weeks, I got little sleep. Once I would get Aveline to sleep, I would spend 30-40 minutes pumping and then cleaning bottles and equipment. After that was done, I could nap for about an hour before she would wake again wanting fed. The first 10 weeks of her existence are a complete blur to me. All on which I could focus was feeding Aveline my milk, no matter how it got to her.

It has been a good run. For almost 8 months I have spent 3+ hours a day hooked up to a milking machine. I have washed thousands of bottles. I have bagged and frozen over 140 pounds of milk. I have fed over 367 pounds of milk to my daughter. That is over 500 pounds of milk I have made since she was born. That is a quarter of a ton! I have found a way around an obstacle and was able to do the best I could for my daughter. I have enough milk in my freezer to get her to her first birthday, which was my original goal. Dan suggested this last week that I should quit pumping. I have already begun to dry myself up, cutting pumping sessions slowly out of my daily routine. Slowly I am getting my life back. I am now down to pumping twice a day, a mere 80 minutes of time. The extra time is wonderful, yet, I am sad to let it go.


Anonymous said...

thats a good Mom.

Christina said...

Oh Kristi, I so know how you feel! I planned on breastfeeding exclusively as well, but it didn't work out.

First, I had to have a c-section because she was a stubborn breech child. Because of that I didn't see her for the first 3 hours. After, she would latch for only a minute or two, then let go and scream.

By our second night in the hospital, the nurse came to tell us that Cordy's blood sugar levels were falling to dangerous levels, and they had to give her a bottle of formula. I cried. We had tried for two days straight, and she had no interest. Of course, once she found how easy a bottle was, the battle was nearly lost.

At home, we continued trying, and eventually she would feed from me, but we always had to supplement with formula. I also pumped several hours each day. At three months, I had to go back to work, and work decided that I didn't need anyplace private to pump other than a filthy restroom. At that point I gave up on pumping and nursed her only in the morning and at night.

By 5 months I had dried up. I felt like such a failure. But you know, I did manage to get breastmilk into her for 5 months, which is better than nothing.

Ep'ing only is such a huge task, and I admire you for sticking it out for so long. I wish we could have continued until the first year, but I'm happy Cordy got the 5 months she did.

Joel & Jamie said...

I had a real hard time too, with Cheyanna. I have flat nipples so she could not latch on. Had many visits from the latation nurse and same issue , screaming and starving. So we gave her formula while trying to get her to feed.

After we got home from the hospital 4 days later my milk still had not come in??? Where is my milk, I figured once my milk came in it would be much easier.

So I pumped no milk , for the next two weeks I tried and tried . We even rented a super hospital pump. NO LUCK. I never got my milk.

Atleast I was able t give Cheyanna a little bit of colostrum(sp).

I still feel horrible, but what could I do.

loelsh said...

Hey, I found you through my hubby, guru's blog. I feel your pain. I also had trouble breastfeeding. I wanted to do it more than anything in the world, for all the same reasons as you.

We never had problems with latching on. We saw doctors, nurses, lactation consultants all of whom said we were doing everything right. I was the problem. For some reason, I am not able to produce enough milk.

I would feed him constantly and when I wasn't feeding him, I'd be pumping. We did the same thing with the lact. cons. who weighed him before and after feedings where we found he only consumed about an ounce. And that was after a full feeding!

When I'd pump, even when my breasts were full, I'd be lucky to get 3-4 oz. TOTAL and that was after he as a little older, so I definately should have been producing more than that.

I know I was doing everything correctly and that the problem lays in me because I had the same problems with my middle daughter(didn't bf my oldest).

That made me feel terrible. I cried and cried feeling like a complete and total failure...that I couldn't do this one thing that was supposed to be completely natural.

I continued giving him as much breastmilk as possible combined with formula. At least he was getting some. That was better than nothing.

I congratulate you on all your hard work and effort. I know from experience that it is NOT an easy or stress-free thing to do!

Good for you!!!

Laura said...

Great job... I admire your dedication!!

Very_Vera said...

great post!

Rae Ann said...

I admire your determination. I only breastfed my first for about 6 months.