Friday, August 17, 2012

Breastfeeding: Third Time's the Charm

I'm passionate about a few things, breastfeeding being one of them. I know it's the perfect super food for babes. I know it's best for mom, best for babe, best for the family, best for the world.
Despite these knowledges, I've never been too successful with breastfeeding. The first few days of nursing Lydia started the same why it did with the first two: latched like a pro, no real issues, nursed all the time.

Nursing Lydia for the first time
And then it started. It always starts with the nipple pain for me. Luckily, this time, it only started on the one side. My right side, to be precise. I got a bleb. Oh it's a real thing, let me assure you. A bleb, or milk blister, is well, what it sounds like. "It occurs when a tiny bit of skin overgrows a milk duct opening and milk backs up behind it." Of course, when baby latches or when you pump, the blister gets a little larger. Sounds painful, right? Let me assure you, it is. I grit my teeth through nursing on that side, but we did fine.

Then it got worse. The bleb was healing just fine, but I got a crack on the underside of the same nipple. Holy crap. I'd rather lose a finger. Seriously. So my best friend/breastfeeding cheerleader brought me a nipple shield to try out. Much better. The initial latch was still painful, but no issue nursing through. I followed each feeding with a little soak in a saline solution and then coconut oil. To my surprise, the crack vanished within a few days of treatment. Of course, it seemed like WEEKS. I'd hand express on that side as well since it didn't seem to me like she was emptying the breast with the shield. With my supply issues, I didn't want to make that worse.

Which brings us to our supply issues. With Esther, I started supplementing at 5 days because she wasn't getting back up to her birth weight and her pediatrician was concerned. Obviously I didn't know any better. With Abigail, I completely switched her to formula at two weeks for two reasons: I could tell she wasn't getting enough and my nipples were SO DAMAGED that I couldn't handle it anymore. In both of these instances, I didn't have the support or resources that I do know. So with Lydia, (at the recommendation of my lactation consultant) I'm taking a tincture called 'More Milk Plus' and another called 'Goat's Rue,' both from  I've also been eating tons of lactation cookies (YUM! I made some myself a few days before Lydia was born, but had two friends lovingly make me some too!). I've been getting lots of rest and eating right (both things I'm not generally great at).  The More Milk Plus has the usual supply boosters in it: fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, and nettle. The Goat's Rue is good for mamas who haven't experienced breast tissue change in pregnancy (I never have). They are both absolutely disgusting, but worth it. I'm hoping, we won't have the same complications we've had in the past with slow weight gain.

We've also been seriously working on the latch situation. Lydia's latch definitely has something to be desired. It's pretty shallow. My awesome Lactation Consultant found her to have a tongue tie almost right away. We got in to see an oral surgeon as soon as we could and he confirmed the tie and released it right away. So we're working on positioning and trying to get a better latch down. Even today, the day after her release, her latch is seemingly better! I think most of our issue, however, is that I'm an old dog. I nursed Esther for 6 months and Abigail for 2 weeks - holding both of them incorrectly with no one to say otherwise. So it's very hard for me to relearn my techniques, even though I KNOW it's wrong. So we're working on that. That breastfeeding cheerleader I mentioned made me an awesome pictorial reminder. Everyone needs at least one breastfeeding cheerleader.
Wrong vs Right!
All of that said, let me conclude by saying breastfeeding is worth fighting for. There is so much help and support out there! You just have to find it. Which was my issue with the first two. I had no idea, little knowledgeable support (although the people around me weren't un-supportive) and no clue where to turn.
Even before you give birth, educate yourself and your support team. Your husband can and should be your biggest lifeline. You may also find having a girlfriend that's 'been there, done that' helpful as I have.

Here are some of my favorite supports:
La Leche League - find your local chapter!
Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) - a great online reference
BreastFeeding Inc - a great online
Lactation Cookies!
And books!
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
The Nursing Mother's Companion
Breastfeeding Made Simple
Making More Milk
Mother Food

If you should find that you do need supplementation, even for a while, consider breast milk in lieu of formula!
Visit Human Milk 4 Human Babies to find a donor near you!

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