Monday, May 04, 2009

11 Days and Still Hanging In

I mentioned in my last post that breastfeeding hasn't been as hard as I'd expected it to be. It also hasn't been as easy as I'd expected it to be. That is, while the damage to my nipples isn't nearly as extensive as it was when I tried to nurse Eliza, there is damage nonetheless. Enough nipple shredding that the lactation consultant had me mix up a batch of homemade All-Purpose Nipple Ointment (bacitracin, lotrimin, and cortizone cream) to help the healing process and prevent any yeast infections. Amelia is having problems dropping her bottom jaw far enough to get a good latch on the breast, and then when she gets latched on, she takes a few swallows and just sorta hangs out...forever. She still has some small sucks and flutter sucks, but no substantial eating is going on. Rather, she seems happy to just snooze on and off anywhere from an hour to---this is no typo--three hours! Yes, the other night, she nursed on and off from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. I only left my seat to get water and go pee. So, I've been feeling pretty blue lately, worrying about my milk supply, my seeming inability to breastfeed successfully, and a thousand other things.

For instance, I feel an enormous amount of guilt for the toll my decision to breastfeed is taking on my time with E and H. With the hours and hours I spend nursing each day, that's time that I don't get to spend with my other daughters, tucking them in at night, giving a bath, playing outside, etc., and I feel like total shit. Or more precisely, I feel like I'm caught between a rock and hard place. If I continue to breastfeed, I know it won't always take up this much time and, God willing, it won't always be this difficult. The lactation consultant (LC) gave me tips on how to keep Amelia actively swallowing while she nurses (massaging the breast, rubbing her head, switching the latch or breast when she stops), but the advice hasn't exactly proven 100% effective, and my nipples haven't shown any signs of healing, which makes me wonder if I'm doing anything right in terms of trying to get her to latch on correctly.

I'm praying daily for the strength to continue breastfeeding and for my body to heal so that breastfeeding Amelia is as positive an experience as it was with my first daughter. I'm thanking God every night for a wonderful husband, who has pretty much shouldered the entire burden of taking care of our other two children while I devote such a large amount of my time to nursing the baby. But, I'm also crying a lot and wishing it would all just come a tiny bit easier. The funny thing is, I'm actually getting a decent amount of rest each night. The baby nurses for at least an hour before I head to bed between 10:00-10:30, and if she's still hungry, I let Hubby give her a supplemental bottle of formula (though she's never taken more than an ounce or two). She sleeps until about 2:00, nurses for an hour, and then generally goes back to sleep until 5:30-6:00 a.m. That's really good for a newborn, and I'm thankful for the sleep!

Right now, I just wish I had a live-in lactation consultant...someone to tell me whether I'm doing this right or not. I can't feasibly run to see the LC every day, nor can I take Amelia to the doctor's office to be weighed every day to make sure she's gaining weight. I plan to take her every few days, though, until I'm confident she's getting the nourishment she needs.

I'm just not ready to give this up. Not ready to go through the grieving that I went through when I had to stop breastfeeding Eliza. This is my last baby, and after the problems I had breastfeeding Eliza, I'm doubly invested in giving this all my effort. I've already made it one day longer than I did with Eliza, and my strategy is to just take it one day at a time. That's all I can do for now.


canuck_grad said...

I know you said the lactation consultant told you to massage your breasts to keep her eating... but did she specifically tell you to do breast compressions? Here's some information on it:
and here are some video clips, there's at least one that demonstrates compressions:

Jack Newman is a leading Canadian breastfeeding expert, so hopefully that might help. You can also email them with a question, but I'm not sure how quickly they reply.

If you stick with it and it eventually works out, it will definitely start to be easier and take a lot less time ... I know it's hard though, it's so draining! It's hard to explain to someone just *how* exhausting it is when in their eyes you're just sitting there relaxing. Make sure you're taking care of yourself - eat well, drink lots of water, etc.

Good luck!

Lisa Dunick said...

So sorry to hear it's such rough going. You should try stripping the baby down and getting her chilly. When my son was born, by the time I got a lactation consultant to come help me get him latched on, he was in that sleepy newborn mode. We had to get him practically naked and use cool washcloths to keep him awake so he would nurse. Something about being that irritated got him to keep swallowing and kept him awake for 10-15 minutes so he could get some food into him. I can't imagine letting the baby hang on for so long-- my lac.consultant told me to avoid going for more than 15 minutes a side, at least at first, because she said I would just end up with sore boobs.

You might also want to try using a nipple shield (I know, dumb name). I had to use one at first, because he wasn't getting enough into his mouth to stimulate his sucking reflex-- I only used it for a week or so and weaned him off of it once he got the whole latching on thing going. Plus, the thin silicon shield protects you from getting overly chapped or shredded. Some uber-serious people advise against them, but having one was a lifesaver for me. And I swear it helped protect me as much as it helped my baby get something to eat.

Anyway- good luck with everything. It's a rough road at first, but it does get better. Hopefully sooner rather than later for you :)