Breastfeeding….The Struggle and How Things Finally Worked for Me

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So, I struggled with breastfeeding through 3 children. Inevitably, something would happen and  I would give up before I was ready. Finally, with my fourth child something amazing happened. We are going strong and I hope to continue. Here’s my story:

With my first it initially ended…

On the advice of my son’s pediatrician that I stop using the nipple shield I was provided in the hospital. He said that it wasn’t doing him any favors and that he would have to learn how to latch onto my nipple.

You’ve got to think this was 11 years ago, the use of these was not common and a lot of people were against using anything to aid in helping nursing moms continue to nurse if it wasn’t coming directly from the breast. At least that’s the impression I got from both the pediatrician and my lactation consultant.

I stopped using the shield, and he, little teeny tiny guy that he was (4 pounds 14 ounces at birth), couldn’t latch on to my almost non existent nipple that was attached to my giant boob.

And there you have it, the first time I failed breast feeding.
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My second child started off wonderfully…

He was much bigger than my first and was able to latch on amazingly, but after a few weeks he started to slowly slip off and I started becoming chaffed.

I didn’t bring it to the attention of his pediatrician or my lactation consultant. For 1) I thought ok this has to be normal I just didn’t know because I didn’t actually make it this far with my first. 2) I didn’t really trust their advice after my first go round.

I decided to try feeding him formula every other feeding to help my nipples out a bit, thinking that maybe I just needed to let them heal a little in between feedings. That was my downfall. He started drinking more of the formula than he was taking from me and I started producing less and less milk.

Pretty soon I wasn’t producing enough for him to even get full on and he started taking formula directly after nursing. That’s when I gave up.

My third I was hell bent on making it work.

This was several years later and I had almost forgotten the pain that I had with my second, that was until around the end of the first week of nursing her.

She had a bad latch, and I hadn’t realized until then, but I was starting to become so chaffed that even taking a shower hurt.

I decided I would go ahead and talk to someone about it. I asked my lactation consultant and she showed me a few techniques to hopefully get her to latch better, she also suggested I use lanolin.

I did both and I can’t say that I remember the lanolin ever working, but I never did get her to latch on in a decent fashion and after 2 months of struggle and crying every time I had to feed her I ,again , gave up.

When I became pregnant with my fourth…

I remember looking at my husband and telling him, I will NOT be breastfeeding this child. He laughed at me, I think because he thought I was joking, but quickly became straight faced after I didn’t return the laugh.

“Well, That’s your choice.” he said.

But as the months progressed ,and the decision for this to be my last child came, I decided that I owed it to her and to myself to at least give it a go.

Soon after she was born I nursed her and I nursed every 2 hours after that.

I did have to take a short break from nursing because I had surgery to get a tubal legation and I couldn’t nurse her for about 8 hours. We supplemented with formula in a syringe as not to confuse her and as soon as I was able to nurse her again, she latched right back on with no problems.

The following day the nurse noticed that my nipples looked a little red and cracked so she brought me some lanolin and told me to use it after nursing every time. I made it routine. Every time I nursed I would apply the lanolin and in no time my nipples were healed.

She did have some other health issues that required I take her to the doctor every week for the first 3 weeks. The first week she was doing amazing. Her weight was almost where it was when she was born. The second week though she had only gained 2 ounces and her doctor was worried. He had me start supplementing again and told me I may just have low calorie breast milk, which broke my heart, because I thought for sure she was going to be the one I thrived at breastfeeding with. I couldn’t hardly get her to take the formula. I was worried by the 3rd appointment that she was not going to have gained any weight and I might have to stop breastfeeding, but amazingly she had gained 7 ounces in 4 days.  I quit supplementing. I honestly think she just hadn’t hit that gaining point yet.
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So now that I’ve told you my journey…

Here is what I think really helped me.

1)Nursing shortly after she was born. I think that really helped strengthen our connection and showed her what she needed to do.

2)Timing her feedings and making sure she ate every 2 hours helped her get on a schedule.

She still eats about every 2-3 hours during the day, and gives me a 5-7 hour break at night, which is amazing. If she does end up sleeping during the day a little past her feeding time I will wake her. If she falls asleep during feeding I will rub her head, adjust her arm, and tickle her feet to try to get her roused back up, if that doesn’t work I will take her off and change her diaper. My goal is to get her to nurse for 7-10 minutes if not longer.

I know for a lot of women it takes much longer for their babies to become full, and  I was worried about the amount of time she was nursing. To me it just didn’t seem long enough, especially when my other children had taken nearly 30 minutes, but she has proven (with her weight gain) that she is getting plenty to eat. The only times it seems to take longer is right before bed and when she is tired. I use this great app called Baby Tracker (for iOS) to keep track of her feedings and diaper changes.

3)I hadn’t pumped until recently when I thought maybe my supply had lessened, but I noticed a big difference in just a day when I pumped the same breast for about 10 minutes right after I nursed her, I wouldn’t get much but my breasts feel fuller faster.

I suggest using a manual pump like this Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump.

4)I really think this is important if you are struggling with the pain associated with nursing is the lanolin. There are a couple of different brands out there, but I have found that the Medela Tender Care works the best for me. I really feel like that nurse saved me from failure with this one.

So there you go. Try it and let me know if any of it works out for you. Or if you have any suggestions that might be helpful. Leave them in the comments below.

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