Aug 10, 2012

Sometimes things just don't work out

This post might be too much for some readers (TMI), it is my breastfeeding story.  I used to feel the need to share because I didn't feel resolved about the issue.  I do now.  I share it because I don't think that bottle feeding is talked about enough. I want to share my story so if there are others out there (I know there are) can be validated and connected to others.  My mom said I should start up a bottle feeding support group like there is LeLache for breastfeeding mothers.  I didn’t really condense this or go over it too much, so it is wordy and tenses are wrong.  I still have a 5 week old and don’t have much time, but I wanted to share my experience. 

Before Tyler was born I was set on breastfeeding.  I thought only bad mom’s bottle fed.  I had heard that breastfeeding was not easy, for a variety of reasons, but that did not scare me because I knew that I had enough “determination” to get through what ever it took.  I was going to breast feed and that was it!
When Tyler was born he didn’t latch.  I met with every lactation consultant possible in the hospital.  Each had their “way” of trying to latch a baby but all were stumped by Tyler.  He was a happy content baby, until he was brought to my breast. I went home from the hospital not too discouraged because I knew I was “determined” to make it happen. 

Each feeding session I would spend up to an hour trying to latch him, I then would bottle feed, and then pump.  This would take an hour or two at a time and he was feeding about every three hours.  When latching him he would scream.  The feelings I felt at that time were unbearable.  I felt upset, resentful, angry, hurt, an incapable mom.  But for some reason, I was still “determined”.  Thoughts came into my mind that questioned why I was “determined” to do this.  But that thought scared me, thinking I was stepping down to not be the best mom I could.  So I kept on. 

After about two weeks I was exhausted and if you could imagine crying and numb.  I might have gotten Tyler to latch- maybe, maybe 30 minutes in total the entire two weeks. 

In the mean time I was pumping every couple of hours and yielding about 6 oz a day… 6 oz a day!  I know the pump doesn’t bring in milk like a baby, but what could I do, he wouldn’t latch. 
I tried a nipple shield, he wouldn’t latch to that either. And in my state of mind by that point I hated resembling “madona” as I would say.  I thought breastfeeding was to connect with my baby and he was knocking off the shield, pouring milk everywhere and screaming.

After those two weeks I was basically “forced” to stop because my mental capacities and emotional state was such.  In the next 8 months I had depression and thoughts of “could of should of’s”.  I tried the supplemental nursing system (a tube that connects to the breast connected to a bottle) at 6 weeks post partum I tried to start up my supply again and re-try breastfeeding.  I met with a lactation consultant again and by the end she told me to just bottle feed.  I felt hopeless. 

At 8 months when Tyler began eating more food and less of his bottle I felt a set of depression again and wanted to re-establish my milk supply.  I was sad that soon there would not be any hope to ever breastfeed him and was still “determined” to make it happen.  I began going to LeLache group and researching re-establishing a milk supply again.  I tried latching him and again the same response.  – which looking back this was so unrealistic, but that was how upset I was about it. 

Luckily I was blessed with peace after much prayer and attending the temple and sitting in one of the rooms that resembles heaven.  I was overwhelmed with the thought of the connection, love, and relationship that I have with Tyler.  None of it came through breastfeeding- which, before I was a mom, I thought it was breastfeeding that gave me those results.  I could finally feel peace about not breastfeeding Tyler.  I can still remember my experience there and how much it meant to me.

When I got pregnant with Riley I didn’t research or stress too much about breastfeeding.  I just had this feeling that it would work out or wouldn’t work out.   When Ry was born he ended up in the NICU.  NICU life is very, very difficult.  It is sleepless, emotionless and at the same time very emotional.  I guess one is so past being emotional that there is no emotion.  Trying to breastfeed a preemie is very difficult because they cannot suck too long (prescribed by the doctors) because they are too weak and cannot exert too many calories. 

In the NICU once he was able to be held I began latching him.  He was a much better latcher than Tyler.  He actually latched.  He had a weak suck and would fall asleep faster than most because he was early.  I pumped around the clock every 2.5-3 hours at first.  And then for the next 6 weeks pumped every 2-3 hours during the day and once at night (skipping some nights). 

Once Riley got home I still could not exclusively breastfeed him.  He was too weak and by then my milk supply and his nutritional intake was different than one another. 

I met with a lactation consultant and she worked with Riley and me. By the time he got to be 40 weeks gestational age I figured he was old enough to breastfeed exclusively.  I tried. The first two feeds were very successful.   He seemed content after each feed.  I was so excited and thought that I would be able to breastfeed my baby. 

Although, after that each time I would latch him I would get very depressed thoughts.  I felt horrible.  This left me stuck- to push through or to stop.

I kept pumping. I stopped latching. I figured I would just give him my milk though a bottle.  I was only yielding about 6 oz of milk a day. I went on Fenugreek; More Milk Special Blend (a herbal blend that had other things like Milk Thistle, Goats Rue, and other herbs to help milk supply); Brewers Yeast; Fish Oil; upped my water in take… none of that seemed to help. 

So, I got a prescription for Reglan.  I drug that helps bring in milk supply.  My milk increased by an ounce- one day I got 7 oz.  I ended up with such a stiff neck and a raging headache (peaking at an 8/10 in pain levels), which is a side effect.  I had to go off of it because I was reacting to it.

Again, I was left with the decision of what to do.  I was spending 3-5 hours alone in pumping a day to yield 5-7 oz.  My baby took about 25 oz/ day.  Lactation Consultants and nurses were telling me that every drop was so healthy for my baby- but what about how it was negatively affecting him (because how it was affecting me), not to mention my two year old, husband, myself, my house, everything in my life.    

I decided to bottle feed, dry up my milk supply.  I feel so good about my decision.  I feel relief and clarity.  Although, now that I have been on Reglan and tried to spike my hormones to produce milk to allowing my levels to drop to dry my supply- my hormones have gone crazy.  In response making me feel crazy.  I haven’t felt so out of control of my thoughts and feelings before.  Ryan has had to stay home to take care of me and the kids the last two days.  I know that these feelings will go away.  I have to ride it like I am riding a wave. They will go away, I can’t wait for my supply to dry up and my hormones to become normal again.
I met with my doctor and have explained to her my feels while latching.  She told me that I am very sensitive to these hormones… I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if my milk truly came in. 

If I only knew what I know now.  With Tyler I was so “determined” in making nursing happen.  I spent a lot of time being sad over something that I have discovered was more of a fantasy and not for me.  When I was able to experience the nursing experience I did with Riley, I didn’t even enjoy it.  I was leaking all over; it hurt; my nipples tingled all the time having let down with the screech of a car or a dog howling; I was the only one that could feed my child- and I need breaks; I spent more time feeding or pumping than I did bonding and being with my children; I was stressed about how much milk Riley was getting; I was stressed about how much water I was getting or what was in my milk that was bothering his stomach; engorgement; bruised breast; hunched over and uncomfortable; didn’t feel bonded with my baby; don’t know how to do it in public; nights are all me; couldn’t drop him off and leave for a while….

I wish someone would have let me know of the reality of breastfeeding.  I know there are good things to breastfeeding.  I know that it is best for the baby because of the nutritional benefits.  But, I don’t believe that those nutritional benefits outweigh the way it makes some of us moms feel.  Feeling depressed does not give our babies the love they need, the bonded time to hold and touch them.  And when there are other children in the picture, they cannot be so negatively affected that they are neglected and suffer. 

Some of us women do not get a milk supply; are very sensitive to the milk making hormone creating us to feel very upset; and we are just meant to bottle feed. 

Thank God for bottle feeding and such good formula. 

I used to be very upset about not being able to breastfeed, but I have come to a very realistic view on how important it is to review what is REALLY going on, what I REALLY want and what I should REALLY be determined to do.  Being determined to do something that is not fulfilling; hurts me, hurts my baby and hurts my family is not something that I no longer want.  I don’t want to sacrifice what I really want, my family, for something like my milk or a fantasy of breastfeeding (that I have discovered is not what I expected). 
I am grateful I have completed my journey of breastfeeding.  May all of you that struggle with similar problems find peace as well. 

Now- in the meantime, please let my milk supply dry up and may I be normal again!  


Heather said...

Hey Michelle,

I'm Heather - an old friend of Ryan's from college. I know exactly how you feel and can relate on the experience with my two boys. The topic should be talked about more, especially with new moms.

As for trying to dry up your milk. Buy a cabbage - peel off whole leaves and crush the veins a bit. Then put them on your chest in your bra. It is an old wives tale of "coleslaw bra." Refrigerate the cabbage and it acts like an ice pack too. Keep it on constantly. Sports bras helped - so did ibuprofen. Try and avoid letting warm water run over them in the shower. From a fellow mom with a similar experience...good luck!

Rachel said...

Such a hard decision to make and always because of the internal struggle. No one is really telling us we "have" to breastfeed, but somehow there is all this guilt! So glad you made the right decision for you and your family. Make sure that you go in right away if things don't normalize because the post partum I got with my second (I didn't have it with my first) really hit around six weeks, and I let it go for waaaaay too long thinking "it's just hormones" and I should have gotten medicated so I could heal and get back to being the mama. =)

Hillary said...

It sounds like you have learned so much about you and what's right for your family. Heavenly Father gives us challenges specific for us... though it's never fun to go through, we become stronger through them. A happy mommy is a happy family in my book. Way to go for doing what is right for you and being good with that. :)

Lindsay said...

Oh my goodness Michelle! What a horrible experience for you. I am so sorry that you had such a difficult time breastfeeing and I know how senstive of an issue that really is and how hard it is for a mother for finally give it up if her body or baby won't allow her to do so. I am so glad though that you have come to terms with it and are healthier.. or on the road anyway. I don't think people really know how emotional one can become after having a baby how messed up your hormones really are, you are not alone. Your sons are soooo handsome and I am so glad that you loved your csections as much as i do! seriously we can be spokespeople for that! I am glad your litle boy is okay as well, that is scare to have him in the nicu, geez no wonder you were emtotionally worn out girl! Let's hope things have settled for you!

Ashley said...

oh michelle!!! my heart breaks for you!!!! You should have totally talked to me!!! I'm all about the bottle! Breastfeeding isn't for everyone. I'm so so sorry you had to go through all of that. I stopped breastfeeding my second baby, and it amazes me how much happier i am giving a bottle. For some reason it was such an emotional experience for me as well... and not in a good way. I love you girl! Hang in there, things will get better!

Tess said...

I'm so glad you shared this. I love this line: "I don’t believe that those nutritional benefits outweigh the way it makes some of us moms feel. Feeling depressed does not give our babies the love they need, the bonded time to hold and touch them. And when there are other children in the picture, they cannot be so negatively affected that they are neglected and suffer."

Your mom is 100% right on you starting a bottle feeding support group.