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My Breastfeeding Story

The first week or so

When pregnant with my first child, I figured I would try breastfeeding my baby. As I read books during my pregnancy, I slowly became more committed to breastfeeding, and I decided I would try to nurse for a year because that's how long they say you should give a baby formula.

During my pregnancy, I didn't get much advice about breastfeeding. My friend did suggest that I take a breastfeeding class, but I didn't take one and wish I would've. I knew a pregnant mother who also planned on breastfeeding, but I don't remember ever having seen anyone breastfeed. A mom I knew who didn't breastfeed her baby gave me a video tape about breastfeeding she had gotten from a formula company, and in that way I was able to see some moms breastfeeding their babies. I am particularly thankful to the father of a baby who started refusing to breastfeed because they gave him bottles--he preferred the ease of bottles over the breast. They finally gave up breastfeeding. The father knew I was going to try to breastfeed, and he adamantly warned me about bottles and told me not to start them too soon.

Labor and delivery went pretty well, and I had a natural birth without painkillers, but when I had Ellen I lost a lot of blood, so I was kind of out of it the first day of her life. The nurse who helped me during labor and delivery showed me how to nurse Ellen within an hour after her birth, and that went really well. Ellen latched on and nursed "like a pro."

I knew I didn't want to feed Ellen on a schedule. Instead I wanted to try and feed her when she showed signs of being hungry (this is often called nursing on demand). Even though now when I look at the video taken by my father of Ellen's first day of life I can clearly see hunger signs, that day I was not able to read them. Because I did not understand enough just what the hunger signals were and because I was not aware of how frequently newborns need to nurse, I often waited too long before I tried to nurse her. I think that by the time I offered she was too upset and got overly frustrated, because when I would try to nurse her she would turn her head away and refuse to nurse even though by that time she must have been hungry... though I wasn't even really sure if she was hungry. I had read that you should never try to make a baby eat when they don't show interest in eating--advice meant for babies starting solid foods, not newborns learning to nurse, so I wasn't very persistent, and I mistakenly thought Ellen was telling me she didn't want to nurse by turning her head away.

One time a nurse heard Ellen crying and came in my room. I told her I had tried to nurse Ellen but she didn't want to, and the nurse confidently said, "She's hungry!!" She took Ellen's head and quickly put her on my breast. Ellen latched on! It worked.

The first couple days were kind of hard, because Ellen cried lots and lots, and when I would try to nurse her, often she would turn her head away, and I couldn't get her to latch on. So she ended up going much longer between nursings than she should have.

It didn't help any that the first night in the hospital a nurse heard Ellen crying, and instead of saying that I should nurse Ellen (I guess she realized how tired I was :(), she offered to take Ellen and give her sugar water. I said no (and didn't nurse her myself... I was that ignorant of how often babies should nurse!!), but a little later the nurse came back and said she needed to take Ellen and weigh her. That was the only time they took Ellen without my husband going with her (I couldn't get up myself because when I stood up I felt dizzy). He had been watching Ellen for me so I could sleep, and he was exhausted. The nurse brought her back in a little bit, and I've always wondered if she gave Ellen something, because I don't think she nursed for a while after that. The nurse asked if we would like a pacifier. At that time I didn't know the harm they can cause to the breastfeeding relationship, so I said yes. It helped a little bit, though thankfully Ellen never really liked it and quit taking it soon after we got home.

We stayed a second day at the hospital in a special bed and breastfast room they had set up for new families. We had to pay to stay there but they fixed a wonderful dinner and breakfast, and we had lots of juice to drink. It was fun... except that Ellen cried and cried and cried... except when my mother was there. Then she slept a lot. So I don't think mom realized how much she cried.

Ellen didn't like to be put down at all, so the second night of her life, so we could get some sleep, we let her sleep in bed with us. I didn't even nurse her in bed, but she liked being with us.

Even though we were keeping track of when Ellen nursed--we wrote down the start of each nursing and how long she nursed on each side--we didn't realize Ellen wasn't nursing enough. One reason for this was because I did not realize that if you are feeding your baby, for example, every three hours, then you would feed him at 3:00, at 6:00, at 9:00, etc. Instead we were wrongly figuring it from the end of a feeding to the beginning of the next, so in reality she was going longer than we realized between feedings... at least a couple times she went more than five hours. Also, since we weren't as aware of her cues as I wish we would have been, often I didn't offer to nurse her until she was too upset to nurse. And perhaps most importantly, I had no clue how very frequently babies that age need to nurse. I had it in my mind that she would probably want to nurse every few hours or so. I think that mindset probably made me less aware of her cues. She spent much of her time crying. We would sit with her and play lullabies and try to comfort her... when I should have been nursing her. I feel awful about it now. :-(

Ellen was born Wednesday morning, and on Saturday we noticed that she was a bit yellow. The doctor had us come in so he could take a look. They weighed her, and she had gone from a birth weight of 7'4" to 6'8". They said that was a lot, and that she did have jaundice, so we would have to supplement with formula. I just about freaked when the doctor told me that... I was not going to use a bottle (I remembered what that dad had told me). He said none of his patients had ever had a problem using a bottle for supplements, but if I was concerned I could go visit the lactation consultants at Tacoma General Hospital, and they could show me how to cup feed. We agreed we would do that. He told me that I needed to nurse Ellen every two hours and that after each feeding we needed to give her a little formula. So that night I started nursing her every two hours (at this time still calculating the time between feeds incorrectly).

We had to take her to have her blood drawn so it could be tested to see how much billirubin was in her blood. That was horrible. The nurse at the hospital we went to didn't know what she was doing... at least I am quite sure was not used to babies. She told me Ellen had really strong legs--she kept kicking them all over so the lady had a hard time getting the blood. I don't blame Ellen though. Poor dear had to lie there crying really hard on the bed while the nurse poked her over and over again. Later that night the doctor told me her count wasn't too bad, so I didn't have to do anything else but nurse her every two hours and supplement with a cup after each feeding.

We didn't start supplementing until Sunday afternoon when we when to see the lactation consultants at Tacoma General. One of them showed us how to cup feed Ellen. I asked how the time between nursings were figured... if I was supposed to feed Ellen every two hours, what did that mean? It was from her that I learned that I should feed her, for example, at 2:00, at 4:00, at 6:00. I was supposed to continue supplementing until my milk "came in." I think the reason they didn't think my milk had come in is because the lactation consultant had me nurse Ellen (she hadn't nursed for a couple hours). Then she weighed her. Apparently she had taken in only one once and she was supposed to have had two (or something like that??). So I was told I needed to give her formula to make up the difference. (I now do *not* feel they were correct!)

Let me tell you, having to breastfeed every two hours and supplement with formula in a cup after ever feed was very exhausting. It really made me *not* want to use formula. We only did this until later on Monday... so I supplemented for about a day. I stopped supplementing soon after one of my breasts started leaking when I was nursing Ellen. I figured my milk had finally come in (it was about five days after I had Ellen when I noticed my breast leaking). The neat thing about having nursed her so often (every two hours) is that I really feel that this is the reason I did not get engorged, because since then I have learned that frequent nursing can help you avoid engorgement. I don't think this works for everyone, but it sure worked for me!! Yayh!! :)

I still continued to nurse her evey two hours at least (or at least tried... sometimes she was way tooooo sleepy to nurse much), but a week after she was born, I *finally* became aware of one of the most important bits of information that I ever learned about mothering Ellen... she would often stop crying when I nursed her. So when she would start fussing, if I would offer to nurse her, she was almost always content. Relief for both of us. So after that I spent lots and lots of time nursing Ellen!

The first nine days of Ellen's life

Wednesday, December 13, 1995--The day you were born!! You cried a lot--your daddy did a good job taking care of you!

Thursday, 12/14/95--We stayed at the Bed and Breakfast at Tacoma General. It was really nice--you still cried a lot.

Friday, 12/15/95--First day at home. We are exhausted.

Saturday, 12/16/95--Noticed that your skin seemed to be yellow so we took you to the doctor's. Your weight was only 6 lbs. 8 oz.

Sunday, 12/17/95--We went to see a lactation consultant at TG. Started formula supplementation from a medicine cup until my milk "comes in"--a real pain.

Monday, 12/18/95--Grandma Smiley stayed Sunday night and Monday. My right breast started leaking. Is my milk coming in? Later in day we stopped giving you supplement.

Tuesday, 12/19/95--Slept pretty good this night. I am finding out that if you cry--often you stop if I feed you.

Wednesday, 12/20/95--You seem to be using me (nursing) as a pacifier. The Lactation Consultant said that is okay until 2 months--then I could give you a binky (I think she wanted to help me avoid nipple confusion)! (After the first week or so you did not like the pacifier. [I should not have given you one so early anyway!] so you used me as one for quite a long time!!)

Thursday, 12/21/95--You seem to want to nurse all day. You do not like being put down (usually not, anyways). You like to eat and be held--a real cuddler. (Hope I'm not spoiling you!) [I found out that I was not spoiling you!!!]

Update: I have a new baby, Calvin. He is such a joy to nurse! My nipples got a little sore this time--they didn't with my first baby. I think perhaps he didn't open his mouth wide enough. Also, the first day of his life, I was surprised he didn't want to nurse more often! But then the next couple of days he started nursing a whole lot. It seemed he was trying really hard to help bring my milk in. It worked because my milk came in on day three. :) At his week check-up, he weighed 6 oz. more than his birth weight.

Everything is going great. I'm so much more relaxed about nursing my second baby. I don't even pay attention to the clock. I watch his cues. Some reasons I know he's getting enough milk are because he's a chubby little guy, he has lots of wet and poopy diapers, and he has lots of drool. :)

Other Helpful Pages on this Website

My Helpful Hints for New Breastfeeding Moms Things I wish I would have known.
Demand or Schedule Feeding? My thoughts and resources on the net.

Breastfeeding Tips

Pure medical grade lanolin is a lifesaver! It soothes a new breastfeeding mom's sore nipples and moisturizes baby's sometimes dry skin. When baby accidentally scratches his face with sharp little nails, a dab of lanolin heals it in a matter of kidding! The brand I recommend is Lansinoh.
--sent in by Laurie Flanagan

Putting a little expressed breastmilk on sore nipples can help them heal quickly. Breastmilk helps fight germs, so it will help protect a cracked nipple from getting infected. Plus, the fat content in the breastmilk provides moisture. (Note: Do not put expressed breastmilk on your nipples if you have thrush... the breastmilk will feed it.)

Next to your nursing chair, keep a handy container of the necessities...saline, lanolin, nail trimmer, aspirator. While you nurse your baby, or hold her while she dozes, everything you may need is right on hand.
--sent in by Laurie Flanagan

Feeling tied down nursing all the time? Get a babysling!!! They are great for nursing in at the store, at church, the restaurant, or anywhere. It's a good way to breastfeed discreetly.

New Parents Slings Crying Family Bed Feeding Diapers Discipline Baby Wise Church

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