I’ve been thinking a lot about breastfeeding lately, as I prepare for the arrival of Baby Bo. Of course, everyone I know has a story about their own breastfeeding experience – with many of them suffering challenges or rather unpleasant situations. Recently, I’ve followed along (in utter fear) as Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully has dealt with thrush and mastitis.
As I think about breastfeeding again, I can’t help remembering what it was like when Littleman was first born. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby, so I read as much as I could about it before he was born. I was aware that it may be challenging, so I tried to arm myself with as much knowledge as I could. I purchased a breast pump, a couple of nursing bras and a nursing pillow. While we had a couple of bottles on hand, we decided we wouldn’t introduce a bottle until a few weeks after birth, to ensure that nursing was well established. And, finally, I promised myself that I would try as hard as I could to stick with it, but that I wouldn’t feel bad or guilty if it didn’t work out for us. It’s funny how naïve one can be…
When Littleman arrived, we were lucky enough to have some great and helpful nurses in the hospital. They showed us how to get into the proper position to breastfeed. Unfortunately, Littleman just didn’t seem all that interested. We tried regularly throughout the first night and the next morning. He really wouldn’t latch. The nurses showed me how to try to hand-extract some colostrum, but we didn’t have much luck getting anything out.
About 24 hours after giving birth, they decided I should try pumping. They set me up with a hospital grade breast pump. It was a serious piece of machinery! The plan was that I would try to feed Littleman and then pump every three hours (I can’t remember for how long). My first encounter with the pump was pretty scary. I was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed while the double pump did its business. After pumping for the specified time, I shut it off and stood up. That is when I felt a massive gush and tons of blood started to rush out of me.
I booted it into the bathroom where I felt a big clot come out of me in the toilet. Luckily my mom was visiting at the time (I’m pretty sure D had taken Littleman for a walk in the hallway while I was pumping) so mom buzzed the nurses. I was terrified. I remembered reading/hearing that breastfeeding causes your uterus to contract, but somehow I missed the part where you can bleed heavily!
The nurse (bless her heart) arrived in my room and reached into the toilet to check the clot that had come out of me. It was huge – about the size of my fist. She said it was totally normal and that I wasn’t hemorrhaging to death. Thank goodness.
After that initial time, the pumping went fine. However, Littleman still wasn’t latching and didn’t show much interest in eating at all.
I visited the breastfeeding clinic within the hospital to meet with a lactation consultant. We practiced a bit and I felt like I knew what we had to do. They weren’t going to let us leave the hospital until Littleman fed properly, but luckily we got an actual feed in on his second morning. Time to go home!
Knowing that nursing had already been a bit of a challenge, we decided to be proactive when we got home. Our pediatrician had given us the name of a private lactation consultant who does home visits. D called her right away and scheduled her to come the next day. In the meantime, we just kept trying what we had learned in the hospital. When the lactation consultant came, she helped us some more and seemed to think we were on the right track. Onwards and upwards.
I realize this is getting quite long so I’ll continue the rest of the story in a separate post. Stay tuned!