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

In Their Own Words: Daniella

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. 
 
Daniella is the mother of a six-month old boy, Samuel. Aside from spending time with her two main men (her husband and baby), she likes to collect nail polish, watch cop dramas, and pin lots of things on Pinterest.  Today she shares the long journey her family took from exclusive pumping to exclusive breastfeeding…that is, until she goes back to work again as an elementary school teacher this fall.  Enjoy!
 
As cliché as it sounds, the day my son was born was the best day of my life.
 
 Even after the issues I had with my gall bladder, constantly worrying about my blood pressure, getting induced two weeks early because of my high blood pressure, and an emergency C-section, everything was worth it after hearing my son cry for the first time.
 
Even though he was born two weeks early, my son was perfectly healthy. As soon as we were reunited after recovery, I immediately stripped my gown off so we could do some skin-to-skin time. Soon after that he nursed for the first time. He nursed like a champ! He latched on perfectly and was eating every hour or so. We had a little trouble getting him to latch on my right side due to a flat nipple, but that was the only bump in the road.
 
The trouble started when he was two days old. Our night nurse and my husband took Samuel to get weighed and came back with bad news: He had lost too much weight and looked jaundiced. He weighed 5 lbs., 3 oz. at birth and had weighed in at 4 lbs., 6 oz.  Our nurse was worried about his coloring so the doctor ordered blood tests to make sure everything was okay. His bilirubin levels came back at a level of 14*, which worried the doctor because he was so teeny. She also recommended we supplement his feedings with formula since my milk hadn’t come in. The plan was to feed him to get his weight up as well as getting his bilirubin levels down. We also had to put him in a bili-bed for at least 24 hours.
 
I was heartbroken. I did not want to give my baby formula, yet I knew that he needed to eat in order to get his bilirubin levels down. I conceded, but felt terrible. I felt like it was my fault. I also knew that if he was in the bili-bed, I wouldn’t be able to nurse him on demand because he was in the nursery. At this point I was running on only a few hours of sleep, hated being in the hospital, and would do whatever it took to get my family to go home.
 
So we formula fed. Samuel didn’t seem to like the taste of the formula we were feeding him, which made me feel a little better. I didn’t try to nurse him the first few hours because no one said anything about it; they just talked about feeding him formula. By the grace of God, the nurse that came in on the next shift asked me about breast feeding.
 
“Are you nursing him?” she asked me when my husband and I walked in to feed him.
 
I told her that I was nursing him, but hadn’t yet since the night before when he was put into the bed.
 
“What? No, you need to give him your milk; it’s the best thing for him right now! It’s what he needs to get healthy and back into your room! Who’s your nurse? I’m going to call her and tell her to get you a pump so you can give him that instead”.
 
I went back to my room and was set up with a Medela Symphony breast pump. I was given a quick lesson on how to use it and started pumping.
 
My milk had come in (yay!) and I was pumping about .5 to 1 ounces every three hours. We fed Samuel my milk first, followed by formula. A couple of days later, he weighed 4 lbs., 11 oz., and had bilirubin levels of 7. We were finally allowed to go home, yay!!! Our pediatrician instructed us to continue pumping, give Samuel my milk first followed by a couple ounces of formula and we would evaluate what to do about supplementing after our appointment two days later.
 
At his follow up appointment Samuel weighed 5 lbs., 3 oz., and we were given the ok to stop supplementing with formula and to only feed him breast milk. The nurse practitioner even told me I could stop bottle-feeding him and nurse him exclusively. I was so happy, but inside I was absolutely terrified. What if he wasn’t eating enough? What if I couldn’t produce enough milk? What if he lost too much weight and had to go back to the hospital? I decided to keep pumping so I could keep track of how much he was eating.
 
Because our son was having trouble latching, he would get tired and frustrated at the breast which usually turned into a massive meltdown. I made an appointment with an IBCLC to get my latch checked and to get an expert’s opinion that I was doing this nursing thing right. I was confident that I would come out of the consultation a new mother. I was positive that I would leave and never have to feed my son using a bottle (at least until I went back to work!).
 
However, I left the consultation with some disheartening news: the Lactation Consultant (LC) thought that Samuel had a posterior tongue-tie which affected his ability to latch properly, which led to his frustration and the resulting meltdown. She gave me the name of a pediatrician who specialized in tongue-ties and urged me to meet with him to get confirmation about Samuel’s tongue.
 
I was a wreck. Why was this happening to me? All I wanted to do was nurse my son. It’s how women are supposed to feed their children, right? So why was this so damned hard?! I cried on the way home. My mom tried to comfort me, telling me that she only nursed me for 6 months, my sister for 3 months, and my brother for 2 weeks, and we all turned out fine. If I decided to stop nursing everything would be fine she insisted. Lots of people formula fed their children and no one would judge me for deciding to stop.
 
I talked to my husband about it when he got home from work. He told me the same thing my mom did. I told him how I couldn’t give up. I felt like a failure because I had to have a C-section, I wasn’t bonding with my son, I felt terrible all the time because my pain meds made me feel like crap. I wasn’t going to give up. Even if he couldn’t nurse, I would just continue to pump and bottle-feed him. I would NOT give my son formula if I had been blessed with a milk supply that provided way more than he needed.
 
We talked about going to see the pediatrician that the LC recommended to see if baby did in fact have a tongue-tie. My husband was against it. He agreed with our doctor: Samuel was just so small and had such a teeny mouth, surely he would grow bigger and nursing would become easy for him.
 
Over the next few months I continued to pump 8-10 times a day. It was exhausting. It seemed like all I did was pump, clean pump parts, feed my baby, change his diaper and rock him to sleep. Repeat, repeat, and repeat.  It was so tiring because I was home alone during the day. I remember counting down the hours until my husband would come home from work so he could help me, especially on those extra trying days. Now I knew why so many women who struggled in the first few months gave up trying to breastfeed their babies. I was too stubborn to give up. I was producing at least 5 ounces extra a day. If I would have struggled with my supply, it made sense to stop or supplement, but I felt like I had no excuse.
 
Pumping was so hard. Luckily my husband stepped up and helped however he could. When I would wake up every three hours in the first few weeks to pump, he would feed the baby so I could go back to sleep as soon as I was done. He encouraged me not to give up. Samuel was thriving and getting bigger!
 
I was jealous of a couple of women in my family who had babies around the same time as me. They were able to nurse easily with relatively no problems. I was so angry, why wouldn’t my baby nurse? What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me? Like I said, I’m really stubborn, so I wouldn’t give up. I was also sick of having people ask me why I was pumping.
 
“Why don’t you just nurse?” they asked. Ugh!!! If they only knew! My husband and family were extremely supportive. My parents and siblings would watch the baby when my husband was working and I had to pump. They didn’t mind if we couldn’t go out of the house for very long because I had to pump so often. They made the fact that I was exclusively pumping seem so natural. I also got support from a coworker who told me that she was so proud of me for not giving up (thanks for all of your kind words D.K.!!! They helped out so much more than you’ll ever know!!)
 
Eventually I was able to scale back on the number of times of the day I needed to pump. I also continued to seek out help. I met with an LC at our pediatrician’s office. She insisted that he had no tongue tie. Another IBCLC at a hospital said the same thing. Just keep putting him to the breast they insisted. He’ll eventually get the hang of it.
 
I tried to continue putting him to the breast, but it was a nightmare. Already used to the fast flow of a bottle nipple, he would get frustrated at trying to nurse. He would MELT DOWN. Trying to nurse him always ended in both of us sobbing. I actually thought a few times: I will never nurse my baby. I will be hooked up to a pump for the next year of my life.
 
When Samuel was about 6 weeks old, we met with another IBCLC. After witnessing a meltdown, she suggested taking a look in his mouth. She felt around and mentioned that she was positive that he had a posterior tongue-tie, albeit a very slight one. She recommended we see a pediatrician that specialized in tongue-ties to get him checked out. It was the same pediatrician that the first IBCLC recommended!
 
I made an appointment as soon as I could. My husband and parents warned me: Don’t get your hopes up. After 8 weeks of bottle-feeding, Samuel might not want to nurse. I tried not to get too excited. We met with Dr. Agarwal and sure enough, Samuel did have a tongue-tie! We got it fixed and as soon as I got home, I tried to nurse him and we had another epic meltdown. I cried and cried. I had put my son through all of that pain (I could hear him screaming in the waiting room) and he still couldn’t nurse. I kept trying over the next couple of weeks, but no luck. I resigned myself to the fact that if I wanted my son to get breast milk, my best friend (my pump!) and I would be hanging out for the next year.
 
Breastfeeding success at 12-weeks oldOne day, when he was about 12 weeks old (right before I went back to work of course) Samuel started fussing when he was in my arms. I tried to comfort him but nothing would work. Soon he started rooting at my chest, something he hadn’t done since he was in the hospital. I mentioned it to my husband. He suggested I try to nurse him. It couldn’t hurt, right?
 
I got set up and put him to my breast, bracing myself for the screams. He nuzzled my breast, opened his mouth, and latched on. He started to suckle and I started to count down from ten, waiting for him to pop off and start crying. He never did. He stayed on and nursed for about ten minutes. I couldn’t believe it! I started crying, I was so happy. I made my husband take a picture and sent it to my sister and cousin/Bradley™ instructor, the two people besides my husband who were my biggest supporters.
 
A few minutes after he was done, he latched on again and nursed for a bit longer. It had finally clicked!
 
Since I had to go back to work, I continued to pump and bottle feed. I occasionally nursed him, but decided to wait until I was on break to put the bottles away.
 
I met with the first IBCLC that I saw way back when I had a tiny newborn. I wanted to make sure that he had a good latch and was actually taking something in before I stopped pumping for good. She observed that he had a great latch, took in about three ounces in five minutes and told me to stash the pump!
 
The next day I only nursed him and never looked back. Samuel nurses anywhere from 6-10 times a day and is getting so big! The first few days were messy and hard, but you would never guess that we had trouble nursing at first.
 
Instead of pumping every few hours, I now spend my days playing with my newly mobile baby who enjoys napping with my breast in his mouth. I don’t complain though, my favorite thing to do is snuggle with him on the couch while he sleeps/eats. We have a new bond that I treasure more than anything else.
 
I continue to pump once a day. I don’t have to, but I am scared that this will all change and I won’t have anything to give him. I’ve also been able to donate milk to a couple of women. I want to continue to do this, so I’ve created a mini stash in our freezer.
 
My journey from exclusively pumping to exclusively nursing has been long and tiring. I would do it all over in a heartbeat though. It has taught me to be strong and to fight for what I want. The feeling of knowing that your child is thriving because of something that your body is creating is one of the best in the world. It’s so empowering! Along my journey I have also become somewhat of a “gentle lactivist”. My husband playfully teases me whenever I have some new tidbit about women and breastfeeding to tell him. He is my biggest supporter though, and I know he is so proud of me. He is also incredibly selfless. I know that the opportunity to feed our son was something he treasured, and I am so thankful that he set his feelings aside in order for Samuel and I to try and nurse exclusively.
 
To any woman who is having trouble nursing: Don’t give up! If you feel strongly about not giving your child formula, consider exclusively pumping. I had never heard about this feeding option until I started. There is so much support out there, you’d be surprised!
 
To the woman who wants to be able to stop pumping and just nurse her baby: Don’t give up! I truly believe that if you keep trying, it will click. If not, no biggie. Any breast milk is better than no breast milk at all. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know for a fact that if I didn’t have the support that I did, I would have given up in those early weeks. I don’t think anyone would have blamed me for stopping.
 
I want to end this post and thank my family for all of their support. It meant everything to me.
 
I also want to thank Samuel for being the calmest baby when I dragged him all over town trying to find a solution to all of this.
 
To my cousin Krystyna, thank you for being someone who I look up to. I had never seen anyone in our family nurse their children, and you did it so fearlessly. I will never forget the first time I saw you nurse in front of our giant family and act like it was no big deal. You have taught me to parent how I want to and not care what other people have to say.
 
Lastly, I want to say thanks to my husband. Thank you so much for never doubting me or pressuring me to do something I didn’t want to do. Without your support I never would have made it this far. Thank you for encouraging me to keep trying, even though nursing seemed to be going nowhere and for comforting me when I cried. You are an incredible father and husband. I know it hurts you when Samuel cries for me and wants me to comfort (nurse) him, yet you graciously give him to me because you know it’s what your son needs right now. You are my rock and I love you so much!
 
 
Disclaimer: 
Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonThe 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®.

 

1 Comment to In Their Own Words: Daniella:

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Sarah on Tuesday, August 07, 2012 8:10 PM
That is an amazing and inspiring story Daniella!!! I was seriously crying while reading this. It is well written, so positive, and so well rounded. If I read this as someone who had chosen to formula feed, I would not feel at all judged by you, but rather I think I would feel empowered by your words. As a breastfeeding mama I am DEFINITELY inspired and empowered by your story!
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