Breastfeeding My Preemie

By Badass Courtney

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The day William was born. 

When I got pregnant with my rainbow baby (baby after my miscarriage) I was so excited and scared. I knew I wanted to breast fed. I assumed I would have a normal pregnancy and breast feeding would just be simple and easy. I mean it’s natural right? Well, on April 3rd my little boy made his entrance 9 weeks early (31weeks 4days). I was devastated. He was sick, needing oxygen to breath and IV’s nonstop. I knew this would change my whole breastfeeding experience. I had him all natural (even though he was small this still makes me proud of myself) at 8:08pm. He was beautiful, came out whining to my surprise. They kept him in the room for about 7 or 8 minutes. He was kept on his cord a little longer than typical. They told me that was good for him. I never got to hold him in the delivery room. They let me touch him before taking him away to NICU. I touched his little foot. They told me I had to wait at least an hour before I could be wheeled down to go see my little boy. When I saw him for the first time I cried. I’m not one to cry in front of others, it was so hard seeing this little boy hooked up. I never saw a preemie or inside of a NICU before him.

aetyuFirst day attempting to breastfeed William.

Around 10:30 the lactation consultant came and talked to me. I was told he was way too little and sick to breastfed or bottle fed any time soon. I pumped for an hour and 45 minutes that night. I got an ounce of colostrum. I walked it to the NICU that night. I didn’t care I was sore; I wanted my son to have it. I wanted to see my baby again. His nurse told me how great that was. They cheered every time I brought my milk in. When I would pump I would look at the first picture I have of him. The only picture I had at the time. This would stimulate me to make milk. I held my cell phone in one hand and propped the pump up. It was awkward for me but it worked. The second day I got to hold him. I help him skin to skin for four hours. I remember going back to my room and pumping 3ounces. After three days I had to go home, my baby had to stay. The NICU was 40 minutes away. My whole life literally became about pumping every two hours for him. It was something only I could give him. After 4weeks the doctor decided he was finally ready to attempt to latch. At first he would latch fine, fall asleep on my breast but then would experience Bradycardia, where his little heart rate would drop and he would turn pale. This scared me so bad.

etrWilliam today. 

After four days they decide to use the weight scale to see how much he was getting. I was so excited to see myself what my baby was taking in. He was order .50 every three hours. I was thinking to myself if he only takes .25 I will be so happy; that means he’s getting there. When they weighed him I was devastated. The scale showed .08. I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt like a failure. I rocked my son after that and told him how sorry I was. The next day I decided I wanted them to bottle feed him my expressed milk. This was the only way they would take out his feeding tube. He went home after 6 weeks, 45 days exactly, in the NICU. He went home on bottles of expressed milk. After about a week home I noticed a big decrease in my milk. I was so busy being a new mom I couldn’t find time to pump every three hours and take care of him. I decided to put him to my breast in hope that he would stimulant more milk. The nipple shield became my very best friend. We have gone from feeding tube, bottles, nipple shield to bare breast. My son is almost 4months and he has been getting my bare breast for about 2 months. He’s gaining weight like crazy. I was extremely lucky with my supply. My son has NEVER needed any type of formula. He has only ever received my milk. I’m so proud of my son today. I’m so in love with my little boy. We baby wear, bed share and breastfed.

sdthWilliam today.  

 

The Badass Exclusive Pumper

By Jaymie Roberts

When I was a little girl, I would “breastfeed” my Cabbage Patch Preemie. I would lift my shirt and put the hard plastic face to my flat chest. To me, this was how you fed a baby. Twenty years later, I was pregnant and instead of playing house I was growing a baby—a real one, not the plastic kind.

I read the books. I bought nursing tops and a huge stack of organic cotton nursing pads. I bought an expensive nursing brassiere that very closely resembled Mrs. Doubtfire’s. I stocked the kitchen with fennel tea, Guinness stout, frozen cabbage leaves, and coconut water to ensure my milk arrived. I did everything I could think of to prepare for breastfeeding. I just forgot to prepare for the possibility that I couldn’t.

I would soon find that the make-believe breastfeeding of my youth more closely resembled reality than I ever could have imagined. A flat chest was traded in for milk-filled breasts, but a plastic doll was replaced by plastic flanges. You see, I couldn’t breastfeed my baby.

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Camille was born after a twenty-five hour planned homebirth. It was exhilarating to know that my body had grown her and that I had the intervention-free birth that I wanted. As a result, I had the most amazing baby lying wide-eyed on my now empty belly. I could not wait to put her to my breast and feel her nurse, but that moment would never come. Camille would never latch.

To feed her, we made a makeshift supplementary nursing system (SNS) out of a nipple shield, catheter, and syringe. Every two hours, I would use the hand pump to draw my nipple out, put on the nipple shield and put the tip of the catheter in, attach the other end to the syringe, and put her on the breast. My fiancé would stand over us, slowly pushing expressed breast milk through the SNS. By the time one feeding was done and I pumped, it was time to do it all over again.

We received a tidal wave of bad news in her first two weeks of life, proving that her life outside of the womb would be anything but intervention-free. Camille was diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS), characterized by a cleft in her soft palate, micrognathia (a small lower jaw), and glossoptosis (a tongue that falls back into the cleft, causing an airway obstruction). At ten days old, she had her first echocardiogram, which showed two congenital heart defects—an atrial septal defect (ASD) and a ventricular septal defect (VSD). The holes were quite large and would require open-heart surgery. At eleven days old, her craniofacial team informed us that she would need surgery to repair the cleft and received special needs bottles to use for her feedings. We were devastated.

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My baby’s birth defects made weight gain a struggle and I felt like I was constantly defending my baby and her size. I became obsessed with her weight gain, weighing her daily—sometimes twice a day. I recorded all of her feedings so that I knew exactly how many milliliters she was getting. Our cardiologist wanted her to be as big and strong as possible for surgery, without doing permanent damage to her heart. So much blood, sweat, and tears went into every gram gained. In my mind, if I could get her to gain weight, I could keep the surgery at bay, like it wasn’t reality.

I couldn’t feed her at the breast, but I was determined to feed her from the breast. My life revolved around the pump. Feed her, pump, feed her, pump, and then feed her again. I exclusively pumped for three months before I found out it was a thing and that other moms did it. I exclusively pumped for two weeks without a pumping bra (I didn’t know they existed), holding the flanges to my breasts for the entire length of the pump. During those first three months, I pumped an extra 1,000 ounces that I had to dump down the drain because of too much lipase. I pumped for months with raw, chaffed nipples before I figured out I should lubricate them with coconut oil. I had no idea what I was doing.

Throughout this terrifying journey, I would constantly hear things like, “You’re so strong” and “I don’t know how you do it.” The truth is, I’m not that strong. You get through it because you have no other choice. I took it day by day, busying my mind with what I could control. How much did I pump today? How much did she weigh this morning? This afternoon? How much did she eat? How much did I eat?

I hate that pump. So much of my family’s life is wrapped up in pumping, like the tubing is tangled around us and we’ll never break free. But I also love that pump. That pump is what made feeding my daughter possible. That pump saved me from the darkest moments of my life. That pump is what got me through handing my baby over to a nurse and saying goodbye for seven hours while she had open-heart surgery. That pump is what got me through seeing her whimper in physical pain for hours, and then emotional pain for weeks. That pump is what got me through having to perform a delicate and intricate dance with wires and tubes every time I wanted to hold my baby or she wanted me to hold her. That pump is what got me through the seven days I lived in the pediatric ICU—the worst seven days of my life—where I continued to pump around the clock for her. And that pump is what will get me through her next surgery.

Breastfeeding may look different than I had planned, but I am giving my daughter Mommy’s milk the only way I can. Each time I finish a pumping session, remove the tubing, take the bottles off the flanges, unzip my pumping bra, and remove the flanges from my sore nipples, Camille giggles with excitement. She knows exactly where her milk comes from and that makes it all worth it.

When They Need You to Fall Asleep:  Self-Soothing and Other Myths

By Wendy Wisner

Does your baby or child need you to fall asleep?  Is nursing the only thing that does the trick?  Rocking?  Back patting?  Cuddling?   Holding hands?   Just lying there silently in the dark?  Have you been told you just need to leave the room at some point and let your child learn to self-soothe?  Have you been told you are doing your child a disservice by not teaching him or her this very important life skill?

I remember when my first child was a newborn.  Like most sleep deprived parents, I googled stuff about infant sleep.  Was he getting enough sleep?  When would he sleep longer stretches?  Was there anything I needed to do to make things better?  Basically, would I ever sleep again, and if so, when and how?

adrhyMy big boy and me.

Every single website that came up said I was doing it all wrong.  By nursing him to sleep (even at just a few weeks old) I was creating a bad habit.  They said he would never learn how to “self-soothe,” fall asleep on his own, or sleep through the night (because I was — gasp — nursing him every time he stirred, to comfort him, not just to “feed” him).  I was supposed to put him down “drowsy but awake” and then he was supposed to figure out how to fall asleep himself.  This might involve some crying or fussing, but I was supposed to “tough it out” for the sake of fostering “good sleep habits” in my baby.

I spent about an hour freaking out about this.  I knew I would never do any of it.  I was brought up with a family bed, and parents who taught me that children need comfort at night as well as during the day.  I had fond memories of falling asleep in the big bed with my mom and sister.  But as a sleep deprived new mom, I was pretty concerned about this being the only solution out there for me to get some much needed sleep.

I somehow slogged through the first few months, listening to my instincts and continuing to nurse him on demand, both day and night.  By six months or so, we had a good routine going.  I would rock and nurse him in the rocking chair, and then bring him to bed.  It often took him awhile, but usually he was asleep in thirty minutes.

Of course, some nights were really hard, hours of incessant rocking and nursing to get him to sleep.  I would get that itchy, restless feeling in my body.  I’d want to jump out of my skin.  But my instincts told me that this was what he needed, so I did it.

The frustration was just as quickly replaced with joy: feeling his body give in and fall asleep in my arms, his deep sleep sighs, kissing his dreamy head.  I realized (and I continue to realize every day of being a parent) that it was ok for me not to like every minute of it, that it was ok for frustration to exist with joy.  Just because you sometimes experience negative feelings about parenting, doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or need to change anything.

And as for my kid, was I doing harm by never teaching him to “self-soothe” or sleep without nursing?  Would he be dependent on me for longer than he was supposed to?  Well, it depends on what your definition of “supposed to” is.

asfghOur awesome famiy bed (and our little guy napping).  My older son has a bed in our bedroom and in his own room. 

I nursed him to sleep till he was about four years old, at which point, he would nurse, and then pop off to cuddle and talk.  He weaned from breastfeeding completely at five years old.  But even after he weaned, he still wanted me to cuddle with him as he fell asleep.  And at seven years old, there’s much less cuddling, but he likes me to stay in the room with him until he’s all the way asleep.

I recently wrote a piece on my blog about lying with him until he falls asleep.  I was surprised that this was a bit controversial to some people!  Commenters and on and offline were concerned that perhaps he was a little too old for such “hand holding” and that the fact that I was expressing any mixed feelings about it meant that I should just cut myself a break and teach him to go to sleep on his own.

Well, it probably goes without saying that what I do with my kids is what works for me and my family and may not work for yours.  Really, as long as you are giving love to your kids, whatever that looks like, you are awesome.  I admire all kinds of parents, many of whom make different choices than I do.

But a seven year old who still wants mommy to put him to sleep?  Crazy?  Weird?  Not quite right?

How about normal?  Do you know that he’s not the only one out there?  I know many, many two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six-year-olds, and quite a few seven-year-olds who need their parents to put them to sleep sometimes or always.  Like extended breastfeeding, it’s just not something readily discussed but it happens all over.

And you know what else?  I used to be one!  My husband used to be one!  We both “weaned” from needing parent help at bedtime in our own time.  We both eventually did sleepovers with our friends, went to sleep-away camp, went to college.  We’re champion sleepers but we still both prefer to have another warm body to snuggle with as we drift off.

It’s interesting that writing about lying with my seven-year-old until he falls asleep is such a “confession,” because, when you think about it, is there anything more normal and natural sounding than that?  We just lie there and talk.  He falls asleep.  I leave the room and eat a sandwich.  It’s a funny world we live in.

Do you still parent your toddler or older child to sleep?  What works for you and your family?

 

***Wendy Wisner is the author of two books of poems, Morph and Bloom (2013) and Epicenter (2004), as well as a chapbook, Another Place of Rocking (2010).  Wendy is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and blogs about breastfeeding, motherhood, and writing at www.nursememama.com.  She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.

You can find Wendy and her work at the following links:

http://www.wendywisner.com/books.html

https://www.facebook.com/morphandbloom

http://www.amazon.com/Morph-Bloom-Wendy-Wisner/dp/1625490410/

http://nursememama.com/

I Need Your Help

I have thought long and hard about what The Badass Breastfeeder has become. I have come to accept that with the addition of Exley to my family I will need to prioritize my time more than ever. I want to pull out the few aspects of The Badass Breastfeeder that are most unique and helpful and focus on those. But what are those? I can say what they are for me: my blog sharing what I learn about myself and parenting along the way and the Facebook page where I share pics, articles, blogs, etc. that support my parenting values. But I’m not just doing this for me anymore. I need you. And I figure who better to ask than the very people I need on my mission to normalize gentle parenting and breastfeeding. Would you mind answering a few questions?

  1. What do you feel is the most useful part of The Badass Breastfeeder?
  2. What would you like to see more of?
  3. What would you like to see less of?
  4. Is there something that The Badass Breastfeeder can provide that you can’t get anywhere else?
  5. Is there anything that The Badass Breastfeeder is doing that you already get somewhere else?
  6. How do you propose we accelerate the movement to normalize gentle parenting and breastfeeding?

***Please answer these questions on the website or on Facebook. Please do not message me or e-mail me on this subject. Thank you!

Abby, The Badass Breastfeeder

Ask an Expert: Nursing Aversion

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“How do you overcome nursing aversion? I’m 10 weeks pregnant, and when I’m exhausted and my 16 month old nurses, I cringe.  I want to throw up, my skin crawls.  I end up crying.  It’s so uncomfortable.  I don’t want to quit nursing, but I’m about to because this is miserable!”

Nursing aversion is something many moms experience when they nurse during pregnancy.  Whether it’s from your changing hormones, change in milk volume (a drop in supply is normal during pregnancy), fatigue, or emotions about it all, it is very understandable that the nursing dynamic would change during pregnancy.

What to do?  First, maybe knowing that it’s normal will help some.  Also know that it does get better for some women after the hormonal onslaught and fatigue of the first trimester.  Some women find that the physical discomfort starts to get better when they start to produce colostrum (around the start of the third trimester).

Make sure you are taking good care of yourself.  Eat well, stay hydrated, make napping or sleeping in (when you can) a priority.  While nursing, try deep breathing, meditation, or distraction to get your mind off it.   Some mothers sneak in a book, a little online time on their phones or computers — whatever works at redirecting your thoughts.

It’s certainly ok to set limits with your daughter.  Some moms will allow their child to nurse to the length of a familiar song, then stop (the ABC’s and Wheels on the Bus are good ones!).  Others find counting helps.  Both help your child measure time and know what to expect.  If you limit nursing times, offer extra snacks and extra cuddles!

It helps also to take things day by day, since there are constant changes during pregnancy.  Be gentle with yourself and with your child.  You are just at the beginning of learning to care for yourself and both of your kids.  You will find your balance.

unnamedWendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.

Ask an Expert: Baby Refusing Bottle

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Ashley Treadwell, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“My darling daughter has gone from refusing the bottle to launching into hysterical crying when her Daddy attempts to feed her. It’s the only time he gets to feed her and is sorely missing his bonding time with her. It breaks my heart to see how sad it makes him when she screams whenever he tries to feed her, and whenever mommy leaves. Help!”

Hi Shannon,

You didn’t specify how old your daughter is, so some of this information may or may not be appropriate!  I know how frustrating it is when baby refuses a bottle – it’s so stressful for both mom and the caregiver trying to feed the baby.  Here are a few tips to try:

  • If your baby is old enough (5-ish months +) – try a straw sippy cup.  Sometimes the novelty of the new cup is exciting enough for baby that they’ll be happy to drink out of it.  You can teach a baby to drink out of a straw by using a regular straw you’d get with a fountain drink – draw a small amount of water up into the straw and close end with your finger, holding the water in.  Place the straw near the baby’s mouth, and when she opens up and sucks, move your finger to allow a small amount of water to flow through the straw.
  • Try a faster-flow nipple (if your baby is already breastfeeding well, over 3-months) – often the flow from mom’s breast is faster than a slow-flow nipple and babies grow frustrated!
  • Try leaving the house just after you’ve nursed baby, so she doesn’t associate the bottle with you leaving.  Get out of the house for more than a couple of hours – have lunch, see a movie, get a pedicure!  Leave a bottle for your husband and your cell-phone on (just in case) – if you’re gone for longer than a couple of hours, baby may be more likely to take a bottle.
  • And as with all things baby-related, know that things can change very quickly!

unnamedAshley Treadwell is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), blogger on the topic of breastfeeding, and advocate for judgmentfree breastfeeding support for all mothers. Ashley lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, Tim, their two girls, Jane and Evelyn, and their dog, Grace and cat, Abby. She loves running, everything related to cooking and feeding her family, spending time with family and friends, and bad reality television.

Wean That Toddler

I’ve noticed that anytime I speak about hardships in breastfeeding the first thing some people say is “it looks like it’s time to wean!” This demonstrates to me a gross misunderstanding of weaning.

Maggie Cuprisin Photography_Theuring072

Weaning is a process. Usually, when done gently, you don’t just wake up one day, decide to wean, tell him no more boobie and solve all of your problems. Weaning is done over a period of time, taking into consideration your own feelings as well as the child’s. Weaning can be traumatic for a child. For many children breastfeeding is everything. Weaning is a choice to shift a child’s entire world.

Weaning is also a decision. A big decision. A final decision. Many children wean on their own with no intervention from the parent. Some parents decide before this happens that they want to intervene as a result of their own feelings. This is a decision that can only be made by the parent. Weaning can be traumatic for both mother and child. Because this decision is based on personal feelings it is impossible for anyone to recommend it to another person. It’s actually harmful and inappropriate to suggest to another person that they wean their nursling. This breastfeeding relationship is unique to each set of mother and child.

You see, no matter the issues a mother is disclosing to you it is impossible for you to know if this is the right decision for her and her child. She is possibly struggling quite a bit, but weaning may open another door to more intense struggles if done before a mother and child are ready.

Maggie Cuprisin Photography_Theuring061

This comes up quite a lot when discussing nursing aversion. I hear that it must be my body telling me it’s time to “wean that toddler.” In fact, nursing aversion is more likely linked to hormonal changes that happen anytime in a mother’s life due to countless factors if not pregnancy and postpartum. The reality is we don’t know what causes it. It’s an intense struggle to manage. Actually, it’s such an intense struggle to manage that making a decision to wean at the wrong time could cause even more undue stress on a mother and nursling.

We must stop slinging this word around. Saying “just wean!” is like saying “just breastfeed!” If only it were that easy. If only the decision and process had anything to do with you. It’s easy to say when you are not the one making it happen.

Weaning is not a joke. It is not an answer to anything. It is not a quick fix. It is a personal decision made by mother and child at a time when they feel they can do so successfully and positively without trauma. We want people to respect our rights to breastfeed, breastfeed in public, breastfeed beyond infancy, co-sleep, etc. We, in turn, must be willing to respect the rights of a mother to make the decision for herself and her child about if and when weaning is right for them.

In short, quit telling people what to do.

Abby Theuring, MSW

*Photos by Maggie Cuprisin Photography. Please visit her website and Facebook page. 

Dear Moms at the Park

No, this isn’t one of those judgey posts about seeing Moms at the park on their cell phones or what they say to their kids. Who am I to judge anyway? I snapped at my toddler this morning making his already rough morning even worse. No, I can’t look down at anyone from any Gentle Parenting Tower.

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This is a thank you letter. Thank you for helping distract my toddler when he started to meltdown and you saw me struggling with my newborn. Thank you for talking him into playing chase with your little girl to give me some moments of calm. Thank you for offering him a snack when I had no hands to get one. Thank you for not giving me a dirty look when I was tandem nursing said toddler and said newborn. Thank you. Just thank you. Thank you all for making this a little bit of a village today.

Abby Theuring, MSW

MommyCon: Mothers to Pump in Public

**MOMMYCON AND ACELLERON MEDICAL PRODUCTS TO SET FIRST BREAST PUMPING WORLD RECORD

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On August 2, 2014, MommyCon and Acelleron Medical Products are partnering to set the first-ever world record for breast pumping in Boston, MA.  Mothers will gather at MommyCon Boston 2014 to pump breast milk together, in public.

Presented by Acelleron, the goal of this record-setting event is to bring awareness to the benefits of human milk for human babies, as well as bring mothers who pump breast milk together.

By pumping milk in a public display, each of our record setters will be making a statement that shows that pumping is normal and a wonderful way for working mothers, as well as babies who are unable to latch, to benefit from human milk.

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“Hosting this record shows mothers around the world that they aren’t alone. Breast pumping mothers are rarely recognized for the work they put into feeding their child, or for the milk they may donate to breast milk banks. By hosting a pumping world record, we are banding together to show that breast pumping is something to be proud of,” says Alexzandra Higgins, MommyCon Founder.

The event will begin at 10:30am at the Revere Hotel, 200 Stuart Street, Boston.

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MommyCon is a boutique style convention dedicated to bringing modern parents and mothers-to-be together. Focusing on natural and organic parenting methods while creating realistic expectations in this modern world. Seminars and workshops include; babywearing, birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, car seat safety, natural health and medicine, baby gear, green-proofing and more.

For more information about the Acelleron Breast Pumping World Record or MommyCon Boston 2014, please visit www.mommy-con.com or email community@mommy-com.com.

I Forgot to Help My Newborn: Breastfeeding the Second Time

It makes sense that things would be easier the second time around. I heard this from many Moms with more than one child. “It’s so much easier with the second one!” We are much more relaxed this time. We don’t try to be quiet in the house, we don’t listen to the advice and we don’t stress about every little odd thing that Exley does. It’s been smooth. A lot smoother than the early days with my first son, Jack.

Except for breastfeeding.

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Exley passed all of his meconium by day 2 or so. Then his poop turned green as he began to pass the “transitional stools.” But then they just stayed green. For like a week. I kept expecting that they would turn yellow, but each diaper change it was just seedy green poop. I e-mailed my friend Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA. She told me that once Exley came that I should reach out to her if I needed anything. I wasn’t going to mess around. When breastfeeding Jack I took every piece of bad advice and went home and cried that my breastfeeding relationship with him was going to end. I didn’t know where to turn except to the internet and that was just a huge wasteland of confusing information. So I was quick to get reliable help this time.

Nancy wrote back and said that the green poop wasn’t an issue in and of itself. As long as Exley was gaining about an ounce a day and having at least 3 to 4 poops a day then all was probably hunky dory. She suggested starting some breast compressions in the meantime just to help Exley get a bit more milk. A few days later I took Exley to get weighed with another lactation consultant friend of mine who ran a local breastfeeding walk-in clinic. He had gained 4 ounces in 10 days. My heart sank. How could this be happening again? Not this weight problem, Jack didn’t have that, but just breastfeeding issues in general. This was my second time. I was supposed to be immune to problems. I latched the baby on and I was supposed to trust my body and my baby. Isn’t that what everyone says!? (Including me). One thing was for sure. I was confident in the help I was getting from new friends. I knew that they wouldn’t steer me wrong. I knew that they respected my wishes to breastfeed and were going to work to make this successful for me. Even with all the worry I carried for Exley, I felt less isolated than with Jack because I had surrounded myself with people who put my wishes and my son as their top priority.

Maggie Cuprisin Photography_Theuring023

My friend also did a check for lip and tongue tie. It looked as though Exley may be tied, but not severely. And even if he was it didn’t automatically mean that this was the cause of the problem; only about 25% of babies with lip and tongue ties have breastfeeding problems. I decided to try some other interventions first. I called Nancy when I got home and she said that he had gained some weight and so there should only need to be a few tweaks in order to get back on track. She asked how tandem nursing was going. I said, already having felt the magnitude of this decision, “it’s a cluster fuck.” She suggested being more mindful about when Jack nurses and from which breast so that Exley was always getting a full breast. Great idea, I had not been doing this. She suggested working on Exley’s latch. I had done a lot of work with Jack on this and knew how to do it. Awesome, done. She asked how the breast compressions were going. I described what I had been doing. She described back to me that I would continue to do this when I switched breasts. Uh, switch breasts? This very common, simple and necessary breastfeeding technique had completely left my brain. I forgot to be switching him from breast to breast! Ugh, how could I be so dumb? I was stunned that I could forget such a simple, almost instinctual, technique. Breastfeeding a toddler is mindless. I never think about what Jack is doing. He does it all himself. Even switching. He unlatches and says “Dis boobie,” and points to the other one. This had been my normal breastfeeding life for 2 years. “I think we may know what the issue is,” I said to Nancy.

Now I had a solid plan. I would do these things for another week and get him weighed again. That week was pretty bad. I was so anxious. What was wrong with Exley? Did he have some disease? What if he didn’t gain weight? What if there was something serious wrong? Even after identifying issues that were obviously leading to the slow weight gain I still became completely fearful and irrational. This may have been my second time around, but this was my first time with this new baby. I was just a new Mom. Like everyone else. Vulnerable, scared, confused. I thought back to all of the breastfeeding advice I had given. I was so confident and calm when it was someone else’s baby. I have so much faith in other mothers being able to get through the rough times. It’s all so different when it’s your baby. It’s so emotional. The fears are irrational. It’s hard to see straight.

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I became completely obsessed with breastfeeding Exley. I hid from Jack sometimes so that Exley could eat even though Nancy assured me that Jack was doing nothing but helping boost my supply. All of my lactation consultant friends assured me that continuing to breastfeed Jack was a safe decision. I stared at Exley every time he ate to make sure he was getting milk. I played with his latch at every feeding to get it perfect. I immersed myself in breastfeeding.

I had become so confident in this whole “trust your baby and your body” mantra that I didn’t even lend Exley a hand to get him started. I latched him on and figured he was good to go. “He knows what to do! He’ll just do it all himself. I trust my baby!” Oy. I was feeling pretty down about it. But the amazing thing about reliable and trustworthy support is that they do believe in you. They won’t judge you or push any other agenda. I want to breastfeed and so Nancy was going to help make that happen. She said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s pretty common for a second time Mom to forget how much help a newborn needs.” That comment really helped alleviate the guilt. It was true. I was so far removed from the newborn days that I just… forgot.

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I waited through each day until the following Wednesday came when I could visit my friend who would weigh Exley again. When that day came I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to put him on that scale. And when I did my eyes popped out of my head. He had gained 11 ounces in just 1 week! Holy moly! It worked! When you think about it I didn’t even do that much. A few tweaks as suggested from a professional and everything was fixed. Just like that. By his 1 month birthday the breastfeeding struggled had been sorted out. And that made the difference for me. Not that I was immune to problems or that as a second time Mom I was supposed to have all of the answers. Just that I had been down a rough road before and knew how to protect myself this time. And the answer to that was to reach out for help and be willing to accept it.

With my first son I don’t think I knew how to accept help. Even in the moments when I knew I needed it I don’t think I knew what it meant to accept it. I have always done everything myself. And I have always been pretty good at whatever I was doing, which, as a social worker, usually surrounded helping others. But me? Need help? Never. Giving birth rocked my world. Breastfeeding brought me to my knees. The process of learning how to breastfeed and then how to be a mother showed me clearly that this cannot be done alone. We need each other. I learned how to open myself up. To simply ask for help. And most importantly listen, follow through and accept what is being said to me.

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You might be reading this saying “well, we can’t all have Nancy Mohrbacher to rely on.” That’s not true! Nancy has developed an amazing, low cost, easy to use, app for iPhone and Android called Breastfeeding Solutions. I also wrote a review for it. I highly recommend this for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to get that reliable help early.

Abby Theuring, MSW

**Photos courtesy of Tiny Bubbles Family Photography by Leslie. Please visit her website and Like her Facebook page. 

**And by Maggie Cuprisin Photography. Please visit her website and Facebook page.