Wednesday, February 12, 2014

To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed, That is the Question

Throughout history, breastfeeding seems to cycle in and out of popularity.  Presumably breastfeeding started with the first baby, and in ancient times was the only option a mother had for nourishing her baby. However, somewhere along the way breastfeeding came to be looked at as a practice for the lower classes. Instead, the wealthy often hired wet nurses to nurse their children. This practice lasted until the bottle was introduced in the early 20th century. When my mother was pregnant with me she was discouraged from breastfeeding by my father and many of those around her. My father was not too keen on me being tied to my mother’s breast. I guess that he thought this would hinder her (and maybe him) from having a full social life after baby. When I became pregnant, I felt that there was pressure on the other end of the spectrum. If you do not want to breastfeed, and are brave enough to say so out loud; you can often feel judged. I am a big believer that moms should support each other and should not be so quick to judge others. Motherhood is the hardest job, especially during the first few weeks and months of a baby’s life. Women need the support of others in their same situation, and not the judgement that they so often receive.

With that being said, this post is about why I chose to breastfeed. I hope to outline to you my thought process when deciding to breastfeed. I also hope to shed some light on what that first month of breastfeeding is really like. I don’t want to scare anyone away, but I do want to be honest.

Why I Chose to Breastfeed Baby P

1.     Bonding
When I was doing my research on breastfeeding in the early stages of my pregnancy, I read a lot about how breastfeeding helps you bond with your newborn baby. I remember feeling slightly skeptical of how breastfeeding could really bond you closer to your baby than motherhood in general. Is that to say that a mother who exclusively formula feeds her baby will not be as bonded with her child? I think not. Does it mean that her child will be less bonded with her? I also think not!

What I will say is that breastfeeding does require an incredible amount of closeness with your baby on a whole other level than bottle feeding. In the first days of your baby’s life you will feed them on demand. It can seem around the clock. What I found, once breastfeeding was well established, was that I yearned for that time with my child. As good as it felt to sometimes get a break from Baby P (if only for my nipple’s sake), I found myself counting the hours till it was time for her next feeding. I fell in love with her scent, her warmth, and the sound of her sweet wheezing as she nursed at my breast. Therefore, I am no longer so skeptical.

I have also read that babies who have been exclusively breastfed will wake more throughout the night when their mother is away from them during the day. They do this in order to get in that one on one breast time. This seems like a good indicator that it creates a strong bond between baby and Mom.  I do not doubt that breastfeeding leads to a strong bond between mother and child, but I do not think that not breastfeeding will mean that the bond is any less strong.

2.     Immunities and overall health of the child
There are countless studies confirming that breast milk can help reduce childhood illness. This is a fact, and not something that should be overlooked. For me, this was the number one reason that I wanted to breastfeed Baby P.

I was formula fed. I was also a very sickly baby. I had multiple ear infections that resulted in two sets of tubes. I still get ear infections. I also had gastrointestinal issues that have followed me ever since.  I am not saying that the sole reason is because I was not breastfed. I am not even saying that they are related. However, when I thought about my unborn child, I thought that I would do anything to save her from the possibility of having these same issues. If breastfeeding her for 3,6, 9, or  even 12 months could prevent pain for her, then I would certainly bite the bullet. It seems like a small price to pay for the comfort of your child. This was my line of thinking.

3.     Benefits to the mother
Studies have shown benefits to the mother when breastfeeding. Perhaps the most awesome benefit is that it helps your uterus return to it’s pre-pregnancy size much quicker. This means that it will also help you lose that pregnancy weight and get your sexy back! I should mention that this is not a reason alone to breastfeed. I have heard many a friend say that they wanted to breastfeed just to lose the weight. What they don’t realize is that breastfeeding is really rough. If this is the only reason you are doing it, then I fear that you will be setting yourself up for failure.

There is also evidence to suggest that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s chances of getting breast cancer. I think we can all agree that this is a win-win situation. If it lowers the risk, then that is certainly a plus in my opinion.

Financial Reasons
I will never say that I chose to breastfeed Baby P because I wanted to save money, but this is the reason that my hubs got on board with the plan. He was not always so excited about the thought of me being tied down to the baby to the extent that breastfeeding requires. However, now he is all about it. When he saw how much cheaper this baby was then my stepson (formula fed), he was very supportive of my feeding plan. 

The Truth About the First Month of Breastfeeding
            Here is the awful truth; Breastfeeding is HARD. I mean, it is really hard! It is especially rough in the first few days. Here is why. You are exhausted after just giving birth, you are inexperienced, your baby is inexperienced, and your milk has not come in. All of these reasons are reasons that many mothers stop breastfeeding before they even leave the hospital. Here are some things that you can expect in the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding:

1.     You nipples will be sore, and I mean SORE.
They will get dry. They might crack and even bleed. It will get to the point that the thought of letting your newborn suck on them will bring a tear to your eye, and actually letting them nurse will bring them streaming down your cheeks. Here is the good news, you get used to it. Once your mature milk comes in, baby doesn’t have to suck so hard to get their meal. Then, you start to feel some relief.

How do you bide the time until the milk comes in? Buy some nipple cream and use ice packs or heating pads depending on which feels better for you, Always remember that it is totally and completely okay to cry.

2.     Your baby will lose weight.
This fact was very hard for me while in the hospital. My nurse made a huge deal about how Baby P had lost 7% of her birth weight (they like you to stay under 5%). Here is the scoop—all babies lose weight while in the hospital. Also, since the baby weighs such a small amount. Just an ounce could be the difference between 5 and 7%. Therefore, I shouldn’t have been too worried. I was almost pressured to give Baby P formula because of the nurse’s remarks, and for nothing. Within 7 days of birth, P had regained all of her weight!

So what do you do? Stick to your guns! Once you get home, start to watch your baby’s output—count their dirty diapers. At four days old, your baby should have 3 to 4 dirty diapers and around 5 wet diapers a day. This is after your milk has come in. If your milk has not come in by 7 days postpartum, then you should contact your doctor and consider some kind of supplementation for your baby. There are some women whose milk just never really comes in.

3.     You will feel like you are nursing all the time
In truth, you kind of are! In the first three weeks you should feed your baby when they are hungry. This does not mean waiting until they are crying. Early signs of hunger include lip smacking, rooting, and hands near and in the mouth. In my case, Baby P naturally wanted to nurse about every 2 ½ to 3 hours. I knew that I wanted to get her on a schedule pretty quickly, so this was perfect for me. Starting at week 4 I worked on getting her to follow my schedule. I woke her in the morning at a time I decided on, and she ate every 3 hours throughout the day.

So how many times will you feed a day in the first few weeks? 8-12 feedings. Until your milk comes in, try to get your baby to nurse 20 minutes on each side (BTW—this is hell, and why your nipples will be so sore). Once your milk comes in, try to get them to nurse 10 to 15 minutes on each side. If you are doing the math that is about 160 to 360  minutes daily that you should be feeding your baby. I can never get Baby P to nurse longer than 20 minutes total. This is because she is able to empty my breasts fairly quickly. Every baby is different, so just do what works for you.

4.     Your baby will be very sleepy
Newborns are very sleepy, and this causes a problem when you need them to eat. I have a hard time getting Baby P to stay awake long enough to take a full 10 minutes at each breast. This is very common for babies in the first weeks of life. However, if you are wanting to establish a schedule, it is important that your baby takes full feedings. There are several things that I have found to work with my babe.

1.     strip them down to only their diaper.
2.     Change diaper in between breasts
3.     Burp after each breast or if baby detaches before taking their 10-15 minutes.
4.     Swivel or rotate baby’s head while nursing. This rubs your nipple along the roof of their mouth and stimulates the sucking reflex.
5.     Compress/massage the breast while nursing. This squirts milk into baby’s mouth and stimulates sucking reflex.
 You will be extremely hungry and thirsty
            This is because you are using extra fluid to produce your breastmilk. You are also burning calories like crazy. You should drink about 8 ounces of water every time you nurse. This will replenish what is being taken. Do not drink too much, though, because that has been shown to reduce your milk supply.
            Make sure that you watch what you eat while breastfeeding. You should limit caffeine and spicy foods. There are some foods that are linked to stomach issues in infants. They include: milk products, peanut butter, peanuts, and onions. Try to limit these things until you are sure they do not affect your baby.

6. Your baby may develop reflux
            Reflux is characterized by spitting up a good amount after each feeding, and painful passing of gas and stools. Baby P would arch her back and be very fussy after eating. Your doctor can prescribe medication for your baby, but may recommend you cut out some of the above mentioned foods from your diet.

For those of you who are on the fence about breastfeeding, I recommend that you do your research. The hospital where I delivered Baby P had a free online breastfeeding course. I learned so much about holds, latching, breast milk storage, and countless other things in this course. I also read countless breastfeeding blogs and Pinterest articles. You really do not want to go into breastfeeding unprepared. I know a girl that did not have any idea about breast milk storage. She had absolutely no stockpile after three months of breastfeeding. This made her very tied down to her little one. I also am a BIG fan of Mommy and Me groups. It is a huge comfort to talk to other Moms who are going trough the same things.

I hope that this post has shed some light on breastfeeding. My goal is that you all use it to make an informed and educated decision for yourself and your child.


P.S. Here are some pics of Baby P...You know, just because she is beautiful!


Monday, February 3, 2014

My Birth Story~ The Truth, Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth!

Giving birth is one of the scariest things that you will ever do as a woman and as a mother. There are so many possibilities--good and bad that will swim through your mind as those final days of pregnancy draw near. I did not have a typical labor. My doctor says that my labor was in the 90th percentile. Nevertheless, in the days before I gave birth I found myself scouring the Internet looking for posts just like this one. I wanted to know all of the possibilities--the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can decide for yourself which category mine falls into.

In the last final weeks of my pregnancy I had become very uncomfortable--shocking, I know. Baby P was very large and very active, and this meant painful jabs at all hours of the day and night. While pregnant, people had offered up their horror stories about labor induction and pitocin all to frequently. However, when I was 39 weeks I had decided that I wanted her out immediately. I know lots of moms would curse me saying that I had no concern for the well being of my baby, but I have a few choice four letter words for you ladies! The truth is that I knew my body, and I knew my baby. My pregnancy was blissfully uneventful. My blood pressure sensational. I was active and healthy. I had only gained 25 pounds. The doctors had assured me that she was already plenty big. I wanted her out.

Starting at the beginning of my ninth month I had started a few rituals to help my body progress towards labor. Since I was a first time mommy--I knew that it would take a lot to make this baby come before 40 weeks. I had little fear of premature labor. I knew baby P was stubborn, and she wouldn't come on her own. So I walked every other day, pumped my breasts with a breast pump twice a day (to the point that I had 10 ounces of colostrum saved up by the time Baby P made her entrance--more on this later).

And guess what... at 39 weeks and 4 days I was still only 1 centimeter dilated and 80 percent effaced. My doctor refused to induce out of fear that it would lead to a C-section, and I was CRUSHED. With my due date looming just 3 days away, I was very pregnant and miserable. I spent that last weekend of my non-mommy life sulking and kicking all my preparation activities into high gear. We took brisk, long walks that were so painful I thought I might go into labor on the side of the road. I pumped longer and more times a day. When I went in to the doctor the following Monday at 9:30 am (a day past P's due date) I was certain he was going to send me home. Instead, he checked me out and said, "Do you want to have a baby today?"

I was instantly nervous, scared, excited, and a million other emotions all rolled into one. There is no way to truly describe it. Even now it all feels like one big blur. We rode the elevator down and giggled quietly together. We were going to have a baby today. The anticipation was too much. We were so excited. As we began the short walk across the street to the hospital for registration I dialed my mother. I told her I would be induced today, but that the doctor said the baby probably wouldn't be here until around 8:00 tonight. She told me she would work until lunch and then head on up. My husband called his parents and they were also too excited to wait until later that night.

We checked into the hospital and I put on my hospital gown. They hooked me up the fetal heart rate monitor and the monitor that showed my contractions. Then about 30 minutes later they put in my IV. This was the longest section of my labor. I sat there from about 10:30-12:30 with no pitocin and no labor had even started. I was antsy. I wanted to get this show on the road! I kept asking the nurse what the hold up was. She said, "we are waiting on the doctor to come over and break your water before we give you the pitocin. I was so anxious to hold my baby girl that I was angry that they had not given me the medicine in what I considered to be a timely manner. Looking back, no one should be in a hurry to get that stuff. The horror stories weren't wrong. It makes the contractions longer and significantly more painful.

At around 1:00 the doctor came in and broke my water. They gave me the pitocin, and told me to wait until I had dilated to a 4 for the epidural (I was at a 3). In my mind I was thinking, "ok, no big deal. I can do this for one lousy centimeter." The first contraction I felt with the pitocin lasted two whole minutes and had me writhing in the bed and screaming with tears running down my cheeks.

My husband left to pick up my step-son from school early. We had promised him that other than the two of us, and all the doctors and nurses, that he would be the first person to hold his baby sister. We were unsure how quickly the process would go, and didn't want to take the chance that he would not be nearby when she entered the world. When my hubs left I had just had my first real pitocin contraction. By the time he came back I had already gotten my epidural and was resting comfortably. How long did I last you ask? About 30 minutes. Some of you ladies may laugh, but that was 30 minutes too long in my opinion. In that thirty minutes I had already dilated to a 4. I asked for the epidural, and within the minute the anesthesiologist was in the room prepping me. I have to say that the epidural was pretty much painless. Other than those 30 minutes of contractions, the worst part of the whole process was the IV. So here is my shameless plug for drugs during labor. DO IT! I would do it over and over again.

So what does the epidural feel like? It is very hard to explain. You feel everything, but you feel no pain.   What???? I mean that I could touch my leg, and feel that I was touching it. I could feel Baby P's head as it was coming out, but I did not feel any pain associated with it at all. Some women say that they are afraid they will not be able to push because they are so numb. I could feel exactly what muscles to use, and I was able to use them to push her out without problem. A little more on that later...

So how long did it take to dilate completely after that? About 2 hours! That's right, you heard it here! I am not exaggerating. This is the part of my labor that is atypical. Most people do not dilate that fast with pitocin. However, my family responds well to the drug. My mother delivered me in 4 hours with pitocin, and my aunt delivered my cousin in 2. So, I had an idea that this would happen. I was sitting in the bed, blissfully numb talking to my in-laws when I started to feel Baby P's head in the birth canal. They had only checked me 45 minutes or so ago and I was still between 4 and 5 centimeters. So I sent my parents, step-son, and in-laws to the cafeteria for a snack, and called in the nurse to check me. She protested a little saying that there was no way I had progressed much further in so short a time. I said, "I'm telling you that I feel her head and I feel like I need to push." Sure enough, she checked me and declared me complete. They sat me up and wheeled away the bottom portion of the bed and sent in some other nurses to prepare me for pushing.

When she came back in about 10 minutes later I was feeling pretty uncomfortable because I couldn't push and had a strong urge to do so. Even though the epidural takes away the pain, it does not take away the pressure of the baby's head making it's way out. It's not really painful, but it is uncomfortable. The nurse came in and said, "the doctor is right outside waiting for my cue. We are going to start to push, and you may push for two hours or so. I just want you to be prepared". She then lowered the top half of the bed so that my head, shoulders, and torso were lower than my bottom. They put both of my legs in stirrups. There was a nurse on my left side holding one foot, and my hubs was on the other. He was instructed to pull my legs back while I pushed. He did NOT look happy about it. I destinctly remember yelling at him mid push to pull my leg back further. He was afraid he was going to hurt me. The nurse instructed me that we were going to do 3 big pushes per contraction. I was to curl my body up like I was doing a sit up, bear down, and push as hard as I could while holding my breath.

The first contraction came. I curled up placed one hand on the back of each of my thighs and pushed three long hard pushes. I remember my hubs just kept saying "wow" over and over again. After the first  contraction was over the nurse looked at me and said, "You are going to have this baby on the next contraction. I'm going to get the doctor." I was shocked. This was all happening so fast that it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was about to be some one's mommy.

The doctor came in and I scolded him because I had warned him that my family labors fast. He told me that this never happens, but that he was happy he would make it to dinner on time. While I waited on him to get ready I was told not to push through the next contraction. This was harder than actually pushing because the urge was so strong that it made it more uncomfortable not to push than it was to push. The doctor took his place at the end of the bed. I pushed once and was told to stop. He told me he would have to cut me a little because I was starting to tear. So he cut me and told me to barely push. I gave a tiny push and heard him scream stop. I then heard the gargling wail of Baby P. Her head was out. I then got the ok to push again and then there she was. They plopped her on my tummy and began rubbing her off. She was this goopy, purple, wailing little monster.

There are no words for how you feel in that moment. It is a very surreal feeling. I heard myself saying, "hello baby girl." In my mind I just kept thinking, "That's my baby, I just had a baby." Before I knew it she was gone over to get her bath and tests run. I looked over at the hubs and he was choking back tears. It was a very sweet moment. He asked me if I wanted him to go take pictures. I told him that I did. Then I made small talk with the doctor while he delivered the placenta and stitched me up. I joked with him, that it was just, "too easy." Truthfully it was--too easy. However the recovery for me was not easy at all.

The next afternoon I began hemorrhaging in my hospital bed. I did this four times before the medication they gave me finally got it under control. This made me dehydrated, and severely weak. Couple this with the lack of sleep and the fact that Baby P had pretty severe jaundice, and my hospital stay became a nightmare. I was unable to get in and out of bed without practically screaming out in pain from my episiotomy incision. That was undoubtedly the worst part of the whole birthing process. In fact, after I got home I ripped a few stitches trying to get up off of the couch and was in tears from the pain. It took three full weeks to heal. IT WAS HELL!

Next, the jaundice. Baby P had jaundice and had to sleep on this UV light slab one night in the hospital. She hated the thing and screamed the whole night. Also because of her condition, I was heavily pressured to supplement my breast milk with formula. To the point that the nurse made me cry by telling me that I was starving my baby. Luckily, I had those ten ounces of colostrum that I had pumped while pregnant. We used this to supplement the next couple of days until my milk came in.

By the time we got home, things started to settle in. It was still really rough until my milk came in. Baby P cried pretty much every two hours out of hunger, and I felt a lot of pressure from those around me against breastfeeding. However that ceased once my milk came in and Baby P gained all her weight back in four days! (that's right... she was a champ).

My hope is that this story will give you a view of labor that you haven't seen before. I wanted to be as honest as possible because that is what I was looking for in the days before I delivered. Just remember that when it is really bad, it will get better! Stick to your guns! You know your body the best. Make them listen to you. You know what is best for you and your baby.

Caroline :)