Disclosure :: This post is part of a series for World Breastfeeding Week and is sponsored by Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
Working on my third, I am still so amazed by the fact that my body can grow a baby … A HUMAN BEING. It is pretty dang mind blowing. I am just as fascinated with the fact that my body can continue to keep a baby alive with breast milk. I was overwhelmed with curiosity and admiration for breastfeeding long before I had babies or was ready for babies. Breastfeeding was one of the things I was most jealous of while going through infertility. And I earnestly looked forward to breastfeeding my first. Since my breastfeeding journey has ended with my first, breastfeeding has been one of the things I have longed for most. It has been a large portion of my grief, and now a focal point of my determination.
Here is my breastfeeding story:
Going into my first delivery, I was over prepared for my breastfeeding journey. I had taken live and online classes during my pregnancy, brought my breastfeeding gear to the hospital, and had researched issues I could be up against. I knew that I would have to work hard to breastfeed with my polycystic ovaries on board. But I was ready.
I ended up with an emergency c-section, but within 30 minutes after delivery, baby latched. Baby latched like a champ.
Here is where it gets rocky, though. I ended up with more surgery time and in the ICU twice overnight without my baby within the baby’s first 72 hours of birth. That meant that my dear husband had no choice but to offer formula. Baby had to eat.
While in ICU, I pumped every two hours — in between blood transfusions — 13 total. Each time I got back to baby, I offered my breasts, and he continued to latch like a champ, in spite of already having several formula bottles and cultivating a friendship with a pacifier. But, with these personal medical set backs, and maybe with my personal medical history, it took a full week for my milk to come in.
We continued to offer the breast, supplemented as little as possible with formula, and visited the lactation consultant.
I do not remember much from the first two weeks, but I do remember that we did as much skin-to-skin and breast time as possible.
Then I landed myself back into the hospital. They call it wound dehiscence. I will not go into detail for both of our sakes but just know that my c-section wound couldn’t hang. And it was majorly infected. I caught a hospital born infection when I had to go back into surgery after my c-section.
I had an additional surgery and spent 3 nights in the hospital away from my two-week-old baby. I have tears in my eyes typing this because those 3 nights were some of the hardest I have ever experienced. It was not at all what I had prepared for. Baby was perfectly healthy, but I was not. When arriving in the ER, they administered several medications. While they knew I was a new breastfeeding mama, they told me that I could not save any of milk. Baby would have to be on formula while I was away. For the 3 days that I was away, I pumped every two hours and dumped the milk that had just come in.
Before leaving the hospital, I was enrolled in Home Health and had to get a PICC line to administer medication — medication that my baby could not have. I continued to pump and dump.
While I was away, my husband had established a formula feeding routine with our baby. He rocked it out. But, my pumping routine did not follow their feeding routine. I was up at different hours than they were, which meant that we were up roughly every hour. I was not in the best health shape and it was a major struggle.
Around the two week mark of pumping and dumping with at least another two weeks ahead of me, I called it quits.
While it was the best decision for my physical and mental health at the time, it is still one of the biggest regrets in my life. It makes me so sad still, almost 3 years later. I am far enough removed from the situation to forget the physical pain and struggle but can still remember the heartbreak of ending my breast feeding journey with my first sweet babe.
I am still so sorry.
I got pregnant for my second son shortly after my first babe turned one. And I promised anyone who would listen that my breastfeeding journey with him would be different.
Well, I was right.
I suffered with incompetent cervix and delivered Theo just shy of 20 weeks. You can read more about Theo here.
The doctors told me that my breast tissue was not prepared to deliver my baby, so my milk probably would not come in. Well, since it took a full week for my milk to come in the first time with my full term baby, I was not worried.
On day 2 after delivering Theo, my milk came in stronger than it had ever been in my month long breastfeeding journey with my first. I was leaking all over the place. So many tears and breast milk with no baby to feed.
I considered pumping and donating. It seemed like the only way to make a terrible situation for the better.
I ended up not being strong enough for that.
As I type, I am 25 weeks pregnant with our rainbow baby. I have been on modified bed rest for a bit and have had lots of time to research. Here is what I know going into my third trimester and delivery with Baby Number 3 —
- Any amount of breast milk that the baby consumes is a win.
- You do not have to breast feed or formula feed — you can do both.
- It can take time for milk to come in and that is still OK!
- The more skin-to-skin and latch time the baby gets, the better.
- Relaxation and patience are KEY.
- Sometimes things are completely out of your control and that is OK, too.
But, most of all I know that I WILL NOT GIVE UP. Come hell or high water. Whether I have to cluster feed every hour on the hour, pump exclusively, and/or supplement with formula, God willing, I will breastfeed this baby. Not only for the baby, but for me.
If I get the chance, so much healing will occur during those late night and early morning feedings, and I cannot wait.