Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adventures in Breastfeeding

...or my milk jugs bring all the boys to the play yard.

It's National Breastfeeding week and of course I wait until the end of the week to post about it. This is my photo contribution to this week. This photo will also be used for National Spit-up on mom's shirt week and Generally Looking Like Crap While Caring for Twins week. But let me just talk about breastfeeding for now.

My adventures in breastfeeding did not start right away. The boys were born at almost 34 weeks gestation and had been in NICU for a couple weeks before I even got the chance to nurse them. Dean was two weeks old when I was given the opportunity to breastfeed him. I was saddened and joyful at the same time. Happy that I got the chance but disappointed that he would not latch. I was so discouraged that I did not want to try with Samuel.

When I brought Dean home, I continued trying to breastfeed him but I was more concerned with him getting enough nutrients that I really didn't try all that hard. I was told by the pediatrician, lactation consultant and other mothers, especially the La Leche League moms, to keep trying and that one day it would click.

And wouldn't you know it, one day it did. It was ironic that Samuel clicked first. Because he was so much smaller, I thought he would not be able to latch. Sam has such a small mouth, I thought surely he would not be able to fit my mammoth mammary in it. I put him on the breast one day and he went to town. I was so happy, I cried. Dean finally came around a short time later.

It was hard enough trying to feed one baby that I never tried to feed them both at the same time. I even bought a special twin nursing pillow and tried to use it one day. I was still on maternity leave and Rod was at work. I got the pillow situated and tried to place them both on the pillow. I will just say it was so cumbersome and so difficult trying to get them situated on the pillow and keep their head supported. I gave up on that very fancy, very expensive pillow.

The boys will be 6 months old in a couple of weeks and my original goal was to make it to 6 months. I have decided to keep nursing for as long as possible. I love it. Not enough to nurse them until they are 8 but enough to keep going for another 6 months. It truly is a bonding experience. I know breast is best for baby but it also helps me. I feel closer to my boys and it gives me a chance to spend one on one time with them. It is the only time I slow down and take the time to revel in their babyness. I cherish that time with them.

I decided to put together things I have learned about breastfeeding:

Dual nursing takes a special skill and extraordinary hand eye coordination - which I do not posses. I have only tried nursing them both at the same time one other time. We were at the beach some weeks ago and both were so fussy that I had Rod help me get them situated on me. It was such an ordeal and after 5 minutes of laughing and 10 minutes of them nursing, I had to call it quits.

A hospital grade pump is a must - If you only plan to express milk for a few months, then rent one from the hospital or lactation consultant. If you plan to go longer, invest in a good pump. I am still renting the Medela Symphony but if I had known I was going to go longer, I would have just spent the money to purchase it. I also bought the Medela pump and go back pack to take to work and pump. My company offered a substantial subsidy so I took advantage but this portable model does not have the same horsepower as the Symphony. It sucks but it doesn't suck if you catch my meaning.

Make sure you have all your components in place before proceeding to pump - I happened to have forgotten to put a bottle on one of my pumps and as I was clickity clacking away on this very laptop, I started to feel a wetness seep through the fabric on my thigh. I look down and saw my milk spewing out of the breast shield onto the floor. Not only did I feel like a moron, the cats won't leave me alone.

Improper positioning and latching hurts like a kick in the crotch - get help if it is hurting and it discourages you from continuing. I sought advice from the hospital lactation consultant, the La Leche League and the Internet. There are times when Dean and Samuel chomp down on me or bat my nipple around like a hockey puck and I just have to grip my teeth and work past it.

Nipples can heal pretty quickly but just not quick enough - My nips have gotten so red, sore and cracked that I have to take a break from nursing, otherwise, they will surely fall off my boob. Lanolin is your friend. Get it. And get tubs of it. I am sure there are many brands but I have only tried Lansinoh and Medela. I prefer the Medela brand because it is not as thick so it glides on more easily and doesn't feel like you are dragging sand paper across your nips. There mus be some healing powers in Lanolin because after 24 hours, the nips are as good as new. Or at least they are like the nips of a 22 year old.

Organic cotton nursing pads may not have a faux nipple but they are fabulous -I tried the disposable ones and they were a little itchy around the edges. I found some organic cotton pads at Babies R Us and they are great. They are comfortable and thick enough to absorb whatever leakage may happen.

Mother's milk tea tastes funky but it works - I researched ways to increase milk supply and found this tea in addition to Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. When I take all three in the recommended dosage, I am a milk producing machine. I try not to take them close to bedtime because I would be at dangerous levels of engorgement by the time I wake up.

Engorgement may make my boobs look fantastic but it is excruciatingly painful - I have gotten better at timing my pumps and nursing so engorgement seldom happens to me anymore. There are times when I get hard knots where the ducts get plugged or they are making lots of milk but I just have to grit my teeth and work the knots out.

Working out knots in your boob by kneading and massaging them does not make me feel sexy - so stop staring at me. This is more aimed at hubby so enough said.

A breastfeeding doll is not appropriate for small children - No matter how open minded I am, this just disturbs me.

People who make inappropriate gestures regarding pumping are jerks - I was at work and going into my private pumping room to put my stuff down. I came back out to go wash my hands and saw a peer make cow milking gestures to another peer. I said from across the room that I saw it and didn't think it was funny. He made a half assed attempt to apologize from across the room and I have not spoken to this person since. It was a highly sexist, crude and inappropriate thing to do. He's an ass and if I wasn't so high class and professional, I would make donkey noises at him.

I am not comfortable nursing in public - I always go somewhere private to nurse because I do not want to flash anyone. I have a hooter hider that seems to provide adequate coverage, but I just know that a strong gust of wind will come out of nowhere and everyone will catch that 3 second shot of boobage and it will end up on youtube.

Breastfeeding has been an incredible experience - for me and babies. It is not for everyone and I have spoken to a number of women who chose not to do it. It is an individual choice and no one should be judged for their decision. Bonding with baby can happen with breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

There are about a half dozen more things I am sure I learned, I just can't think of them. Here are some links about breastfeeding that I find useful.

World Breastfeeding Week

How to Breastfeed

Breastmilk storage guidelines


sarah said...

What a precious picture...I'm glad you stuck with it. :o) Love your points - describes it in 'real life' for certain! said...

I just wanted to say way to go! Breast feeding is hard and I think there is a real lack of information out there...or at least a lack of real moms actually talking about it. I'm nursing my second baby now. The first was very difficult but I am so glad I stuck with it and I'm glad you did too! I am sure it was hard esp. with twins who were born early. Great post!