Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's talk about "nursing" . . .

I constantly write these blogs in my head but when I get around to actually writing them, I am SO unmotivated!  Why?  I am home alone with a 6 week old (6 weeks today, can you believe it?!) and then when Ian gets home we nap, make dinner and then Lemon starts her fussy night time routine so I just feel like I have no time.  And, when she's napping during the day, like right now, I'd rather be napping to or vegging out on the couch.  I know, I know, enough complaining and more blogging!  I admire my blog friends who find the time as moms, where do they find the energy?!

So nursing.  I hate that word by the way and always just call it breastfeeding.  I know it's longer but it seems like that is what you are really doing instead of "nursing" so that's what I will call it in this post.  It has been a strange journey for me and I thought I'd write about it for two reasons - for other new moms or soon to be moms and also to get advice from moms who have done it before me (or lactation educators/consultants if any are reading).  I know that by putting it out there, on here, I automatically ask for advice, even though I didn't really ask before now, but that's ok with me and I've actually gotten a lot of messages on FaceBook from friends offering suggestions and I appreciate every single one.  I have tried a couple of things but it is an ongoing process for me so here it goes.

As I said before, I had trouble in the hospital with latching (well not me, Lemon).  I am actually not sure now if she had a bad latch or if it was just painful to be painful, because it sure was.  Up until about 4 weeks it was still pretty painful but as of now I don't have to put on nipple cream or even wear pads (even though I do, for leakage) because it does not hurt while she's doing it or after.  I even go braless at home, because I can, and my nipples feel a-ok (sorry to those men who may read my blog, just skip this post).  It still is uncomfortable when she first latches on to each nipple, more so on that stupid inverted right one, but the feeding part is just fine.  When it was painful, I would breastfeed, then put some Mother Love nipple cream on, and then some cotton pads to wear with my nursing bra.  Those are my suggestions for eventually comfortable nipples, although it may take awhile like it did for me.  Disposable pads are just not that great, especially in this AZ heat, even though you can't see them like you can the cotton, washable ones.  But the cotton ones feel better against your sore nipples and I like them because they are breathable and reuseable.

Pause . . . have to check on the baby (we don't have a video monitor yet, although I want one with night vision!).

Since it's 12:15pm and she's currently sleeping with her mouth open I feel that I have to write about her current sleeping here.  She is a champion sleeper and has been from about 2.5 weeks on (once we figured out her marathon feeding extravaganzas before bed).  She goes to bed at 9:30 (we shoot for 8:30 but most nights it doesn't happen), sleeps for 5 hours usually (the other night it was almost 6 and it freaked me out) and then is up around 2:30am, eats and Ian changes her (sometimes twice) and then back in bed by about 3:30am, then sleeps until around 6:30am (another 3 hours), is up for about 45 minutes (more eating and changing before daddy goes to work) and then is back in bed until either 9, 10 or 11am - it varies and seems to be up to how sleepy she is.  Seriously, how lucky are we?  Last night she had a rough night, daddy tried something new, so she wasn't asleep until almost 11, then slept until 4am, was up and then back asleep by 5 and then woke up again at around 9:30.  I kept her up a bit to play with her until around 10:30, thinking that maybe since it was so late she would skip her 3rd time going back to sleep, but then she started yawning and has been back in bed since about 10:45.  She is a champion.  Our nights from about 6-9pm are tough, and this prevents us from going to dinner and other fun stuff, but then she is such a great sleeper it's hard to complain.  Hopefully we can figure out a better system to make our nights easier even if she's up a bit earlier in the mornings.  I don't know (advice on this would be appreciated too!).

Alrighty so nipples.  Doing much better and I've even figured out the clicking that I mentioned before.  Those first couple of weeks, when it was painful, I used to time the baby on the boob and then take her off, because it hurt so badly.  That is why I think we had such rough nights because she was still hungry and mommy was too scared to feed her (it sounds awful but I know many mothers have been there).  So my boobs seemed to get the message that after a bit they shut off and it takes awhile for the let down to happen again, or maybe it always has and I just didn't notice it before last week.  So the clicking is Lemon being impatient, waiting for the milk to let down but it not happening and her clicking and breaking the seal, pulling off the nipple.  She sometimes even turns her head, while my nipple is in her mount, backwards, because she is tired of waiting.  She falls asleep, starts crying and does a number of moves that tell me she's sick of it taking so long.  So, I get frustrated, tell her to be patient (I used to think it was a sucking problem on her part so I would tell her, "You have to suck") and then we both just wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.  The more in my head I am about it, the longer it takes.

So, I googled it, naturally.  When I figured out it was my problem not hers (sucking) then it made it even worse.  I researched what to do and it said to try a hot washcloth, massage your boobs, try compressions while she's there, stroke your baby and look into her eyes, think of how much you love her - blah, blah, blah.  None of it worked and the more I looked it up the more frustrated I got.  I also learned that people who say, "I didn't produce enough milk" probably just had a slow let down and then gave up on the whole thing because of it.  Everyone produces enough milk, it's true, but if we don't keep the baby there, sucking away, even if there's nothing, then apparently (what I've read) your milk will adjust to this.  

So it becomes a vicious cycle - put baby on boob, she sucks until she has to wait, then she gets mad, then pulls off, then you put her back, she keeps sucking or falls asleep, then pulls off, then you get frustrated because she's hungry, so you give her a bottle (of breast milk, in my case) and then you apparently (according to my research) just told your boobs that they didn't need to produce any more milk because baby was done (unless you pump right after but it's hard to find time when you're on your own!).  So, do you not give your baby a bottle, even though they are hungry, frustrated and sick of waiting, just because your boobs might figure it out?  Or do you, because you are taking care of your muffin and that's your priority, but they you are somehow screwing up your supply?  Ugh.

Pause . . . baby check.

Do your boobs really increase/decrease supply like this?  How do they know?  Are they really that smart?  Questions I ask myself in the middle of Lemon's feeding frenzy at night when my let down has shut off, and she's tired of waiting and growing more and more upset, and then I give her a bottle and knock her out, waiting for my let down to come again (and maybe pumping so these smart pants boobs don't figure it out!).  And, what about my pride?  I just gave my girl a bottle, telling her that milk CAN flow fast (out of the artificial nipple) and that makes her think that all nipples flow fast and then the next time she's even more grumpy and impatient when she has to wait.  And why not just give her formula if I'm worried about cutting into my pumping supply (that I really should be building up for work but end up using some of at night when my let down is too slow)?  Why can't I just bite the bullet and do it?  What is my problem?  And, is she really just storing up milk to sleep that 5-6 hours straight, hence the feeding frenzy, or is she hungry?  Can we give her a soothie (pacifier) and distract her or am I leaving her starving?  Can she not fall asleep at night right away because my let down was too slow, I gave her a bottle but didn't want to give her more milk because I have to save it for the next night (sounds horrible when I write it here!).  But she can't be hungry, she has been eating non stop for HOURS - but is she?  This is the craziness that goes on in my brain, isn't it the best?!

Deep breath Allison . . . breathe.

I am crazy, I realize that.  How do I know if she's hungry at night or just eating just to eat?  How do I know that the first let down or two or three (that's about all I can do on each boob, with switching back and forth) is enough food for her?  What if I try fenugreek, an herb to increase milk, will it help with let down or at least have more milk on the first let down so she doesn't have to wait and wait for subsequent ones?  Am I not producing enough milk (even though I read that this can't be true)?  What the heck?!  AGH!

So, I have gotten out of my head this past week and it has been a bit better.  All of that above still applies at night time, but during the day we seem to do ok.  However, it just never seems like she is full, she never pulls off and seems content, even though I know she has gotten enough to eat.  She spits out her pacifiers (doesn't really seem to care that much about them) and then acts hungry even if she just ate.  Maybe a comfort nurser?  How do I know if she's really full?  My dream would be to have enough milk to fill her up, without her having to wait for it, and then she decides when she's full, every single time she eats.  Wouldn't that be lovely?  

By "getting out of my head" as I mentioned above I mean that I've had to stop thinking about the let down.  I read a really good article online that talked about all of the things I mentioned (stroking your baby, breathing in their scent) to speed up your let down and it said that it just didn't work for her, none of it, just like it didn't work for me.  The woman who wrote the article said that not thinking about it worked for her - reading a book or watching TV while feeding worked, getting her mind off of it.  And, that seems to work ok for me too, although I still have fussiness (as I said above).  Getting out of my own head has worked the best, even though I wish it was still faster than it is.  It's funny because before, when I thought it was Lemon's problem (sucking) my let down seemed to be just fine.  But then when I googled it and found out it was a mental problem, on my part, that is when it BECAME an actual problem.  Isn't that dumb?!  And why the heck is feeding your baby attached to your brain at all?  Why doesn't your stupid milk just let down and get into your baby's mouth, why does it have to be tied to your mind at all?  It's absolutely ridiculous if you ask me.  :)

 Baby check . . .

So here we are, 6 weeks old today and in an hour on my way to my 6 week OB check up.  Can you believe that only 6 weeks ago she was in my belly?  Amazing.  My boobs are currently killing me, super full and ready to be emptied, but the baby is asleep and I don't want to wake her up for another 15 minutes.  I have been taking fenugreek since yesterday afternoon and have no idea if it's helping already or not, we will see over the next few days.  I don't really need more milk, at night it's awesome because it's so long between feedings that when she eats she actually DOES get full, but I want her to get full all day/evening too, just like at night so maybe the increase in milk will do it.  Who knows.  

I will give myself until 2 months to see if I can get this breast feeding thing under control and then we will see what happens.  I need to start pumping to store up milk for school and maybe I will just go to exclusively pumping so she gets the food she wants/needs without having to wait for it, if this herb doesn't help.  Evenings are the toughest parts, when she wants it faster and more and I just don't have it right there for her, it kills me mentally.  So, maybe this will help?  I currently pump after her 1st night time feeding, at 2:30am, so that I don't mess with her supply/demand during the day or in the mornings (I used to pump after her 6am feeding but then if she was up at 9 or 10 she would get upset having to wait for milk right when she got up).  I know I should pump more, COULD pump more (like right now) but I am constantly afraid of her waking up and then eating, and then having to wait and getting upset/frustrated.  Ugh, why is this so easy for some and not for others?

So, new mommies - you are not alone in your struggles, if you have struggles.  I am here with you and am STILL trying to figure it out.  Why don't I just give up?  Maybe my own pride, maybe I want to figure this out, maybe I like breast feeding (sometimes) - I don't know and am not quite sure.  It would be MUCH easier, although I would have to pump constantly and am not sure I want to do it multiple times in the middle of the night, or try to find time during the day while watching the baby - seems tougher than just breast feeding her right now.  Experienced mommies - any thoughts?  

Here is my disclaimer before I sign off.  In no way do I want anyone to think, by reading this post, that there is only one way to feed a child.  I understand that different things work for different people - different moms and babies.  I have no idea why I want this to work so badly and have really not done the research on breast feeding vs. pumping vs. formula so I can't really make any educated assumptions about any of it.  But, this is the way I WANT to feed my baby, for some crazy reason, and I am not one to just give up the fight just yet (even though I want to multiple times a day and it would probably be better for me and maybe Lemon).  So, I don't mean to offend here, I just merely am using this podium as a place to vent and get help if someone has any suggestions.  Post comments here please (just sign up for a google email account, using an existing email) so that in the future others may read this and profit from your advice.  We are all in this together, for reals.

Thank you for listening, once again.  I DO feel better!

Now, some pics (and it's time to wake the baby, and feed her with these ginormous boobs)!  These pics were taken today, my sleeping beauty (currently) and some 6 week old smiles!


  1. I just pumped exclusively because breastfeeding took FOREVER and I just didn't have that kind of time. She's still getting the nutrition and I PROMISE she'll still think of you as Mommy and you won't lose any closeness. I fed both of my boys pumped milk and they are both growing well, intelligent and they think the sun rises and sets on me. Don't kill yourself with regret if you can't (or even don't want to) do it. She'll be a-ok. :)

  2. You know how I feel about this and no one can decide for you. However, I think if you feed or pump every 3 hours, your supply will be more consistent. Yes, it sucks to get up and takes a lot of time, but as an exclusive pumper, I have no choice. Your body only produces what it thinks our baby needs, so if it thinks she is not feeding every 3 hours, you will not produce enough. Hope this makes sense. I am happy with pumping, even though I, at first, felt guilty about it, but Ellie and I really had no choice, so I just had to accept it. Once I let go of the guilt, I felt wonderful about pumping. I hope this works for you, but if not, I hope you find peace with whatever you decide, Love.

  3. Have you had a lactation consultant come out and talk to you again? you could try calling WIC and see if you can make an appointment with the lactation consultants that work there. They helped me alot when i had problems with Owen. You are not crazy for wanting to only breastfeed Lemon. Try not to put so much pressure on your self. Could your let down be too fierce and that is why she is popping off and crying? when my baby was popping off like that i leaned back so that she was on top of my breast and that seemed to help. As long as she is gaining weight you shouldn't need to worry about your supply. If your breasts feel full then go head and wake her and feed her or just hand express some so they dont feel as full. Also it could be her positioning. try a different hold like the football hold or side nursing to get a different flow going for her. i am by no means an expert or anything but these are things that have helped me on my nursing journey.
    My baby also did the cluster feeding in the evenings and just now started to only nurse once or twice then go to bed. (she is 9 weeks old).
    This to Shall Pass. you are doing a GREAT JOB! just keep at it and thing will get better. Do what you feel is best for you and Lemon, if that means pumping then pump. HUGS

  4. So much to say!

    -exclusively pumping is NOT easy, nor is breastfeeding, of course---but especially now in the early weeks, it might be trading one set of problems for another if you are trying to pump around the clock, clean pump parts, make and clean bottles, and feed Lemon the bottle. I've known a lot of moms that try this method around 6 weeks and it's really difficult to keep it up.

    -I definitely think your stress level about this, and being 'in your head' (which is something I'm really good at, too! ;) ) is what is working against you. I just want to give you a big hug and tell you that you are ROCKING IT as a breastfeeding mom. No pressure at all. You have to do what is best for you, my friend. But if you try your hardest to build up your confidence in this area, I really think it will be easier and more relaxing for you! Easier said than done, I know. But she is growing great and seems like a generally happy baby. You have a BIG part of that, lady!

    -your boobs will always have milk for Lemon. Even if she has to wait for a let down for a minute or two, the milk will come. If you go back to pumping just once per day in the morning, about an hour or so after she feeds, you could still feed her in 2-3 more hours without issues. I sometimes pump and literally feed Cecelia 10 minutes later. Boobs are just amazing. I think pumping at 2:30 am is going to wear you out and make you feel more tired and down about it. Try your hardest to get sleep at night (and during the day!) and not to pump. If you are engorged and uncomfortable and Lemon isn't showing signs of wanting to nurse to help you out, just pump for a few minutes until your boobs feel better but don't totally empty them.

    -yes, your boobs really are that smart! supply/demand is a crazy awesome thing. They will adjust as she sleeps longer and will adjust if she needs to cluster feed. Crazy, yes.

    -it sounds like Lemon is a super normal baby, who has some fussy times in the evenings. That is ANY baby, though, regardless of how long they sleep in the morning and how much they are eating. It's easy to assume they are hungry and mad that you aren't making enough milk fast enough, but trust me when I say that most babies at 6 weeks are just fussy at night 'because'. They are growing SO MUCH and sometimes they don't really know what they want. They might want to nurse for comfort, not truly hungry, and get mad when the milk is actually there because they are full and don't want to deal with it (that is definitely the case for my girl, at least!). DEFINITELY try a pacifier, and other soothing methods if nursing doesn't seem to be working in the fussy times. She will not starve. She will get the milk she needs from you. Do not worry about preventing her from sleeping because she is too hungry---all babies I know at 6 weeks have a hard time falling and staying asleep. Totally normal! And fussy evenings are normal but HARD----as you said, it's really hard to do anything out of the house at that time. But it does get better.

    -It's normal for some babies to prefer the constant flow of a bottle instead of the start/stop flow of a breast. But I still think she could love nursing and 'tolerate' the different flow of the breast compared to the bottle. BF'ing is such a miracle and yes, it's difficult at times. But if it's something that is really important to you, I know you can do it.

    -no judgement at all if you do decide to give formula, or stop nursing and only pump. Again, it's up to you and what is best for your family. I just want you to be happy and enjoy the nursing relationship with your girl!! I really think if you can get through this 'fourth trimester' of her life, you will see that things start to settle into a nice routine with sleep, daytime activities, and breastfeeding. Just do the best you can do and go from there. Do'nt worry about blogging---napping, snuggling your baby, spending time with your hubs are ALL way more important:)

  5. Wow. I remember this all to well. My son is now 6 months old, but I remember these champion feedings when he was 6 weeks old. Actually when he was three weeks old it all started. He cluster fed starting around 5-6pm. Non stop. I got no sleep. I actually started cosleeping at 8 weeks old just to get more sleep. My nipples were cracked, sore, and just painful to the touch. I read Breastfeeding Made Simple and it says his latch is off it hurts. Well all the lactation consultants said his latch was great. Whatever not the point. The point is my nipples did get used to it. I lathered them with lanolin (which came in handy later when he had chapped lips). Also my son refused to use a pacifier, I was his pacifier. So with cluster feedings and comfort nursing, I couldn't tell the difference. I remember feeding him formula (because I thought he was starving too and not getting enough) I felt horribly guilty. But I would say around 8 weeks old, things started coming together.
    I wrote a blog or two on getting him to not use me as a pacifier. if you care to venture out there.
    and follow the tags for more posts. But I learned that what works for others might not for my son. I try to incorporate different approaches and tweak them for us.
    Your daughter is beautiful btw. Keep up the fantastic job!