Thursday, April 25, 2013

Breastfeeding Adventure

I wanted to do a post devoted to our experience with breastfeeding for the purpose of
a.) remembering how in the heck I did it!
and b.) to share my story so that I might help any breastfeeding moms that read my blog.

I want to say right now, up front to any men (aka Marcus and my dad ha!) that read my blog that this is probably a post you will want to skip. I will resume my normal Georgia updates/pictures tomorrow :)

I also want to say that I am breastfeeding and I am very thankful that I can but it is not for everyone. And I understand some women physically cannot. This is not a self-righteous post and I am no expert (as you will realize after you read this), I am just sharing my experiences and what worked for us! Housekeeping aside, now we can proceed.

When we found out that I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. Or at least attempt. I have been exposed to many breastfeeding successes and failures within my profession so I went in open-minded but determined.

I set a goal to breastfeed Georgia through her first year of life in order to provide her with only breastmilk as her main nutrition until we can transition to cows milk at her first birthday. I know the benefits of breastfeeding like the back of my hand. Being a dietitian I earn a living encouraging mothers "breast is best". Practice what you preach, right? I definitely felt the pressure expectation to perform when the time came.

At my hospital we practice kangaroo care which is just a technique where baby and mommy (and daddy can have a turn too) are skin-to-skin during the first hour after birth. During that time baby typically has their first "meal". Georgia Grace was a champ! She latched on beautifully and ate for the desired amount of time (15-20 minutes each breast). As soon as Georgia was born she pooped all over me and her so we had a hungry (and dirty) girl on our hands ha! 

Throughout our 2-day stay in the hospital we were picture perfect at nursing. Her bilirubin levels were excellent, her weight loss was within normal limits, and she was already sleeping 3 hours at a time indicating she was eating a sufficient amount to keep her belly full.

It wasn't until the first night we were home from the hospital that we hit our MAJOR road block. I went to nurse her before "bedtime" and she was not interested. At. All. I knew she was hungry because it was time for her to eat again but she wanted no part of the breast. We concluded that she probably developed nipple confusion when we introduced the paci the night before. I was already home from the hospital and it was night time so I knew my options were limited as far as speaking to or visiting a lactation consultant.

One of my breastfeeding mommy friends gave me the BEST piece of advice that I have received to date related to having a baby. She recommended to start pumping the day that your milk comes in to build up your supply. Pumping signals your body to produce more milk due to the more frequent stimulation that you are receiving beyond what baby requires. I had started doing that just that night so I had an ounce or two on hand. After multiple attempts at nursing to no avail, I made the decision to give her breastmilk from a bottle.

She took to the bottle immediately. It took her 2-3 bottles before she really got the hang of it but it wasn't from lack of effort. At first she would almost get strangled on the flow of the milk so we had to be careful when we fed her but she caught on quickly.

I was so relieved that she was eating again but we still had a big issue on our hand. My daughter would drink the milk but I really had no milk to give her. My milk had just came in that night so I had no stores built up. I had a can of formula that I was given from the hospital "just in case" but I really didn't want to introduce that in fear that she might would show a preference and start refusing my milk all together. Talk about a very stressful night.

So I had another BF'ing friend that had a baby 7 weeks older than Georgia. She was also pumping and freezing any excess that she had (and she is still BFing today, Abbott is 7 months old-yay!). I was desperate so I woke Marcus up at 3 am and asked him to drive to Sara's house to pick up some milk for me. He didn't ask any questions, he could tell from the desperate plea in my voice to just go. He compared the situation to how he felt like a drug deal would go down LOL!

 I know some people think that I am crazy but I am ok with that. Breastmilk is a "universal food". People get pretty judgmental and up in arms when they hear about "sharing milk" but it really is not a big deal. Do I recommend taking milk from someone off the street? No. But do I think it's ok to use milk from another mommy that you know and know they live a healthy and safe lifestyle? Absolutely (We joke that Abbott and Georgia have a forever bond since they shared breastmilk ha!). "Liquid gold" is one of the best gifts that you can give your child and if that means driving to the country in the middle of the night to fetch a few frozen bags to get you through, I say go for it! [Ok, rant over. Just had to get that off my chest. :)]

I started pumping every 3 hours to build up my supply and within 2 days I was making enough that I was starting to make extra-yay! I reattempted to nurse Georgia but every attempt was unsuccessful. I will admit that it still saddens me that I was not able to physically nurse her longer. I wish I could have experienced more of the bond that nursing provides and I know in the first few weeks it would have made my life a lot easier if I could have just nursed instead of doing both. I will add that my mom and mother-in-law alternated staying with us every night for the first full week and they were a HUGE help. Huge. I don't know if we could have done it without them. I am so thankful for this gift of their time and mommy lessons.

I will say that I did find some personal benefits from exclusively pumping. I am a numbers person and I like things black and white (Type A to a fault). Knowing exactly how many ounces she was getting per day gave me peace of mind. It also allowed Marcus (and others) to start helping out with feedings earlier than we expected. My original plan was to exclusively nurse until about 4 weeks and then start introducing the breastmilk bottle for preparation for when I went back to work at 10 weeks. I know some moms have a hard time going back to work because baby prefers mom over the bottle. That definitely wasn't our case.

That brings us to today. Georgia will be 6 months old in 5 days and she has still only received breastmilk (besides her cereal). And I am estimating that I have 3 months of milk frozen. Yup, I am a jersey milk cow, or so others have given me that name ha! I credit my ginormous supply to the early and frequent pumping that I established early on and oatmeal. I had read that old-fashioned oatmeal will boost your milk production and I could tell a difference in my supply for sure. I eat oatmeal every morning now. Today, I only have to pump 4 (sometimes just 3 if our day is crazy busy) times a day- once before I leave for work, twice at work, and once at night. I yield about 35-40 ounces per day. Georgia is drinking approximately 30 ounces per day so my excess is not what it once was but I'm ok with that considering I am not having to pump every 3 hours anymore (hallelujah.). I still use Kelly Mom as a resource-it is full of information backed up by credible sources.

My goal is to still get her through her first year of life on just breastmilk and transition her to cows milk at that point. I am hoping that by July I can retire the good ol' breast pump to storage and not have to look at it for a while! The pump has been good to me but we need a break from each other ha! I am so thankful for the modern conveniences that made breastfeeding possible for me because without them I would have probably been a breastfeeding failure story.

So that is my breastfeeding experience with Georgia. Very untraditional but equally rewarding and successful. I think everyone has their own unique experience with the end goal being a healthy, thriving baby! I can confidently say we have achieved that so far and hopefully we can continue that. I never thought 6 months ago when we were so stressed about our breastfeeding situation that I would be writing this post but I am so happy that I am able to! I will cherish this gift I am giving my daughter forever.

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