In Their Own Words: Katie
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

In Their Own Words: Katie

Kandid Katie perseveres through breastfeeding challenges to nurse her baby This post was written as part of Sweet Pea Birth’s "In Their Own Words" series. For more info on the ITOW or if you want to participate, contact Krystyna Bowman: krystyna{at} sweetpeabirths {dot} com. Today's post is about persevering through breastfeeding challenges.  The breastfeeding ITOW series runs through the month of August. 

Katie Newton is an alumni mom from our Fall 2011 Class.  She and her husband have three children.  See more of Katie's "random thoughts and mutterings" by visiting her blog, http://kandidkatie.blogspot.com/

When Ellie was born, I was going to breastfeed.  There were no caveats, like "if we can."  There wasn't even "I'll try" in front of it.  That's just what you do, and I was going to do it.  She came out and latched like a leech.  She was a champion feeder.  By her third day, however, she started getting fussy at the breast.  She'd eat for 5 or 10 minutes and then start crying and wagging her head.  I was so tired and emotional that I reluctantly said "yes" when Mike asked if I wanted him to go buy a pacifier.  She happily took the pacifier after every feed and often in between feeds.  (I'm blessed with an overabundant supply, so this did not affect our breastfeeding relationship to my knowledge at the time.)   

 Things were not all sunshine and lollipops, though.  Ellie screamed.  Not every-baby-cries screams.  Blood-curdling screams.  Any of the twenty-four hours of the day were game.  Her skin was burned with eczema.  This was not colic.  This was suffering.  It was not until weeks later, under the guidance of a very knowledgeable lactation consultant, Debbie, that I learned about food sensitivities and that Ellie had some bad ones.  I found this out by doing the elimination diet which, while restrictive enough, is almost unbearable as a vegetarian.  I ended up going wheat free and dairy free for over a year, also not a picnic as a vegetarian, for the sake of my daughter.   

 Around two weeks after Ellie's birth, breastfeeding suddenly became excruciating.  When she latched, I felt paralyzing electricity throughout my torso.  It got so bad that I would crumple into a crying, hysterical mess of a panic attack in the ANTICIPATION of her need to eat.  After discussing the issue at length with my first lactation consultant, Mary, she thought I had an intraductal yeast infection.  I did two or three rounds of antifungal medication (under the care of my OB) with no improvement.  I also pumped exclusively during this time but for one breastfeeding session to make sure Ellie was still willing and able.  She was.  After three weeks of no relief, Mary directed me to her associate, Debbie.   

 Debbie felt like the cause was Raynaud's Phenomenon.  She was right.  Not only was Ellie's breastfeeding triggering the "attacks," as I call them, because that's how they feel, but my pump flanges were way too small and basically ripping off my nipples a little bit every time I pumped.  Additionally, Ellie had a tongue-tie, but it never got fixed because the go-to doctor had apparently lost his mind (a story for another day).  Thankfully, it stretched on its own over time.  (Interested side note: I discovered only recently, with Ellie almost 4.5 years old, that she also had a lip tie.  We never looked for it, so we never saw it.  She ripped it by accident one day.  Problem solved.)   

 Now that I had the causes uprooted, I started the healing process.  I kept my nipples warm and covered (which really complicates showering, by the way...I've since gotten a Shower Hug, which helps immensely).  I did salt water soaks, which is no dignified practice.  Most of all, I waited.  By the time Ellie was seven weeks old, I felt brave enough to give breastfeeding a go.  Ellie latched on like we never had a break, and it didn't hurt.  I was flooded with relief.  But then I started seeing the symptoms of food sensitivities again, big time.  The screaming and gas and fussiness at the breast were back.   

 Once again, Debbie came to rescue.  She recognized I had oversupply.  She educated me about block feeding, which is feeding on one side exclusively for a number of hours instead of counting feeds.  (There's more to it than that.  Please consult a lactation consultant.)  I had to go to the maximum recommended block before I saw an improvement.  I did this for a number of weeks before it stopped working.  No, my supply didn't go crazy.  Ellie turned four months old and suddenly had an opinion.  She decided she only wanted my fast-flowing side during feeds in public.  (Yes, sides can differ greatly from one another.) She was always a down-to-business eater, and this way she could maximize her time observing the world outside her home.  I had to plan ahead, feeding the right side at home and remembering to feed the left at home if we weren't going anywhere...it was like learning to breastfeed all over again.  Thankfully my supply was pretty stable at this point.  The pacifier also helped us deal with the oversupply, but I still wish we hadn't used it.   

 Ellie was still nursing at least 8 times a day at 14 months old, when I found out we were expecting Mikey.  I dreamed of tandem nursing the two.  I daydreamed, planned, read up on how to handle the challenges.  I was partway through Adventures in Tandem Nursing when Ellie's nursing dropped by half.  Instead of 8-12 times a day at 14 months, she was now nursing 4-6 times a day at 15 months.  Then 2-3 times a day at 16 months.  Then, one weekend, she nursed once on Saturday, once on Sunday morning, May 31st, and she was done at only 16.5 months old.  For a week I offered the breast, but that made her angry, even if she willingly got in position first.  I was DEVASTATED.  I blamed - and still blame - the pacifier.  I blamed myself for letting her have the pacifier.  My head was spinning with confusion and disbelief and outright denial.  I was a complete mess.  For a month, my husband could only rub my back while I cried.  I felt like my child had died.  My response was primal...   .

..and compounded by my knowledge that I would not get to tandem nurse my two children.   

 After that first month that felt like the end of the world, I focused on thoughts of nursing my new baby and the possibility that Ellie would be interested again when she saw Mikey nursing.  He came almost exactly four months later.  He was a little reluctant to nurse after delivery, but gentle determination on my part got him going, and he ate a good first meal.  We spent the next 36 hours in the hospital thanks to the unnecessary use of antibiotics (another story for another day).  In that time, Mikey nursed once or twice.  (In case you have any questions, that is NOT acceptable for a newborn, and no, we did not have him circumcised.)  The lactation consultant was so backed up that she didn't get to us until the end of that time.  She watched him think about latching and said he was doing everything right.  I argued that he wouldn't nurse.  She shrugged and said he'd get it.  My gut said no, but my heart wanted so badly to believe she was right.   

 On the third day, I changed his diaper and saw red.  Literally.  Red "brick dust," a sign of dehydration.  My heart broke.  Not only was I not getting the breastfeeding relationship I dreamed of, I was hurting my child through delusion and hope.  I started to pump.  For ten months, I tried everything to get him to breastfeed.  (He was also tongue tied, severely, but the repair - by a wonderful, not-crazy doctor - did not help.)  This was stressful enough without the additional medical sucker punches that just kept flying.  He was aspirating, so he had a feeding tube for ten weeks, from five to seven months old.  Breastfeeding dreams quickly fading.  He had feeding therapy with professionals who had no intention of getting him on the breast.  Breastfeeding dreams circling the drain.   

 He had 3-5 doctor visits and 3-4 therapy appointments a week, leaving little to no time to pump, let alone work on breastfeeding.  Before he even got the tube, we were supplementing with formula because I couldn't produce enough even with the hospital-grade pump I was now renting.  Me, with my oversupply, and I couldn't extract enough milk for my child.  By ten months, he was lucky to get an ounce of my milk.  I gave up.  I still pumped for four more months, but I was only getting a half ounce a day at the end.  There just wasn't time during the day, and I had to choose sleep at nights.  I returned the pump when he was 14 months old.  (He also had food sensitivities, so I was dairy free for the 14 months I pumped.)   

 I continued to produce milk for about seven more months, and my hope held out for that long.  It wasn't positive hope.  It was desperate, painful hope.  I longed for another baby so that Mikey might become interested through example.  Don't get me wrong; I wanted another baby just because I was ready for another baby, but that nagging hope was like an accelerant.  When Mikey was 18 months old, we got pregnant on our first try.  As was God's will, I miscarried right at five weeks.  We tried again the next month and succeeded again.  I focused my thoughts on having the birth I wanted and declared, regularly, that this baby WOULD breastfeed like a pro.  I prayed every night that she, Angela, would be normal and healthy and a breastfeeding champ.   

 Angela was born on Monday night in a tub at a birth center.  No drugs.  Delayed cord clamping.  Uninterrupted bonding.  At first she fussed at the breast.  I started to panic but had the clarity to recognize a stuffy nose.  Once she was lovingly suctioned, she latched right on and nursed for two hours straight.  I thanked God and tried to ignore her clicking sounds and the familiar electricity feeling.  We went to my parents' house that night, and I slept upright in a chair and fed her on demand.  The pain and clicking got worse with each feed.  She started to struggle to get enough.  I got in ASAP to see Debbie.  Angela had a terrible posterior tongue tie and a lip tie.  I called the wonderful doctor, but he couldn't get me in for over a week.  I couldn't bear the pain, so I started finger feeding.  This was all on the Thursday after she was born.   

 Saturday night around 9pm, when I realized it would be hours more before I got to eat dinner, I let Mike give her a bottle.  This crushed me.  I saw my breastfeeding dreams once again circling the drain.  I kept reminding myself about Ellie's success after the bottle and focused on the next week's appointment.  That would fix everything.  Finally the big day came.  I excitedly handed her over to the doctor, waited for him to confirm the diagnosis and prepared myself to witness the procedure, just as I did with Mikey.  He confirmed the diagnosis and then instructed me to schedule the procedure.  Wait, what?  It would be another week before he could do it, as he changed his policy about doing it at the first appointment.  I bawled.  I'd given one child to him before, and even though it didn't help, here I was, fully trusting him again, and he was treating me like a first timer.  I was furious.  I understood his position, but my dreams were fading with each passing day.  Plus, Angela was starting to refuse the bottle, and feeding was becoming a concern.   

 We managed to keep her fed until the procedure.  I wasn't allowed to watch this time, but it was over very quickly.  When i went back in the room, the wonderful doctor was cuddling and rocking my baby and chattering on excitedly about how successful it had been and how deep he'd had to go.  But there was little improvement.  I gave it time, a week, but it seemed to get worse instead of better.  Debbie said that there was still more tie there.  I scheduled another appointment.  Another week of waiting.   

 During this time, I put Angela on the breast almost daily since a feed or two a day didn't cause too much damage.  Finally we went to the appointment.  The doctor agreed there was more or it had reattached.  He agreed to try again.  At his other office.  The next week.  I didn't cry this time.  Crying didn't help.   

 We went in for our fourth appointment.  Angela was six weeks old.  Everything went as before.  The doctor went as deep as he could but still couldn't get all of the tie.  I didn't care.  I knew this was it.  I knew he "fixed" her.  She started breastfeeding perfectly that afternoon.  She still clicked because her palate was - and is - still high, but there was no pain.  She was able to eat her fill.  God had worked a miracle.   

 Angela is now 19 weeks old and eats like a horse.  I struggled with oversupply and finding my block feeding balance for a couple of weeks and even battled postpartum depression for a spell as my hormones worked themselves out.  She has food sensitivities, too, so I've had to do the restriction dance again.  I haven't been a vegetarian since the day Mikey was born, so the diet is more forgiving.  I've learned to take tons of pictures of my nursling because I am so awed and grateful to have this relationship.  I'm still sad that I haven't had my tandem experience, but I hold out hope for another baby.  I also tell Angela that she'd better nurse until she's four or five, but I'm just happy to know there is nothing standing in the way of her deciding when she's ready to wean.   

 I make milk.  What's YOUR superpower?    

For the pre-quel to this post, visit Katie's blog:  http://kandidkatie.blogspot.com/2011/02/it-may-not-be-loss-in-your-eyes-but-im.html    

Disclaimer:  
Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson  The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  
This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®. 

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