Thursday, May 16, 2013

Breast is Best

**personal information about nipples and breasts (read at your own risk!) ;)   5/15/2013

     I probably should have started this post several weeks ago so that I could be sure to have all of the details fresh in my head.
     Leland is 9 weeks old now and we are nursing champions....we did it.   I am feeling like a proud Mama when I see his chunky thighs and wrist dimples.  We made it past the 6 week stretch.  We can nurse in so many different positions.  We nurse in public, sometimes with a cover, sometimes without.  We are working on nursing without the nipple shield (more on that in a little bit).  We smile and gaze into each others eyes and both breath a sigh of relief each time he latches if to say "we are a team and we can do this."

something to remember always

     I feel like I need to start this post the day that he was born...or hour 3 of life to be exact.  If you follow the blog or are friends with me you know by now that Leland came into this world via c-section.  I got to hold him on my chest minutes after he was born, but holding him for the first hour of his life and having him slowly find his way to my breast on his own was not an option like Nate and I had planned.  I was getting stitched up and Nate was having skin to skin time with Leland.  He was born at 2:59pm and I was re-connected with him about 5:30pm.  He laid on my chest and snuggled me and tried to latch on.  A couple of sucks were successful and then we both fell asleep.  He was a super sleeper ever since he came out.  Who would have thought that a sleeping baby could be troublesome to parents??  For the next 24 hours we tried to nurse him about every 2-3 hours, sometimes more.  Nathan and I would be so excited when he would eat for about 30-45 seconds! When his nurses would come in to check about his progress, we would tell him how long he ate and they would write it down.  About 24 hours after he was born the Lactation Consultant came in to visit with us.  She showed me how to hold him and how to hold my breast to help him latch.  It wasn't successful.  She went and got me the Medela nipple shield.  He latched on right away and ate for almost 5 minutes - this was such a blessing and felt like an eternity at the time!! It was the most wonderful feeling.  Now, the nipple shield.  Ask 10 different people about them and you will get 10 different answers and 10 different opinions.  They are supposed to be a temporary tool to help your child who has latch issues if the mother has  flat or inverted nipples.  Well, seeing as though mine are smaller than a pencil eraser, Leland needed some assistance.  Feeding was going "well" for about 12 hours after  his initial latch after the nipple shield.  It was about 3:00pm on Wednesday afternoon that he ate for almost 15 minutes...just Nate, Leland and me in the room celebrating the success.  We felt so great and thought we were finally getting the hang of everything! Then Leland decided to freak us out and show us that we needed to remain on our toes.  "Don't get too comfortable yet, Mom and Dad!"
     From the moment he was born we were told to watch for jitters of his arms and legs.  Not so much shivering like when you are cold more more uncontrollable shaking.  Wednesday night at 7:00pm the nurses came in for the shift change.  They were going to wheel him down to check him out and Nate was going with him.  We were "rooming in" for the last 52 hours and he was never out of our sight.  Nate went to the nursery every time they needed to check him out and weight him and give him the once over.  As they were wheeling him out of the room his arms started to do the "jitter" that they warned us about.  I asked the nurse if she thought that it could be his blood sugar.  "Probably not. We can check if you want us to and it would make you feel better," she responded.  "Yes, can you please check," I asked.  I felt like the dumb mom who is a worry wart and questioning the people who have been taking care of 100's of babies every day for many years.  Nate and Leland and the nurse came back.  His blood sugar was low.  Not too low.  40 is cause for concern and his was at a 38.  She asked us to feed him some formula.  AHHHHHHH. The dreaded word....FORMULA.  She might as well have slapped me in the face as she that.  "No." I quickly responded.  It had taken us almost 50 hours to teach him to latch on and drink for more than 45 seconds.  I thought that was the end of the breast feeding journey I had planned for.   

     Will he get nipple confusion? Will he ever latch on again?  Will my milk ever come in to feed my baby boy?  Is my milk not coming in because of my c-section? Maybe I should have been more active during labor so that I didn't need a c-section? I shouldn't have gotten an epidural.  That's probably why I needed a c-section, which is slowing the process of my milk coming in, which is why he is having trouble latching, which is why his blood sugar is low, and now I have to give him formula.  It's all my fault. 

     The crazy thoughts that can run through a new mother's head....holy crap.  Poor Nate!  I had not really slept but for about 5 total hours since Saturday night (it was Wednesday evening at 7:30pm).  I was so exhausted and someone was actually asking me to give my baby formula.  Nate and I talked and said that we would give him the formula using the syringe and slowly squirt it in his mouth while he was feeding from the breast.  It took us 45 minutes to feed him 8ml.  Holy crap.  The nurse was not happy that it took us this long.  "Why didn't you feed him all 10ml?" she asked.  It was about 9:30pm by this time.  They took him back and tested again.  His blood sugar was at 40.  Yay.  He just needed two more heel prick tests to be above 41.  She told us we needed to give him 10ml of formula faster this time.  So, we tried giving it to him faster.  He would choke and spit it out and I would cry and yell at Nate and get stressed out which really helped the entire situation.  Husbands (& partners of new moms) are real heroes.  It's unbelievable how sensational Nate was during this whole process.  Calm and collected, and polite to the nurses which was very beneficial that they didn't have to deal with two lunatics!  It took us about 37 minutes to feed him all 10ml of formula this time. They came back about 10:30pm.  Heel pricked him and his blood sugar was at 40.  I was very excited.  This meant that we needed just one more test.  Wrong  The nurse was not happy.  She said it needed to be high than that.  This is when s**t almost hit the fan.  She left is with 25ml of formula and a nipple to attach it to and told us that this is a serious situation and that low blood sugar can lead to seizures.  WHAT! I was the one who asked YOU about his jittery arms.  I asked you to check his blood sugar.  YOU told me that he was probably cold and that you could check hi "if I really wanted you to."   I told Nate he needed to get down to the nursing station and ask what exactly needed to happen and what we had to do to keep his blood sugar up.  Why was 41 and 40 not good enough?  She said 3 tests 40 and above and now 41 and 40 are not high enough.  Nate went to the nurses station and asked and she said that it should be much higher, like 50 or 60 or even 70.  The lack of sleep, crazy hormones, feeling as though someone was blaming me, being trapped in a hospital room, not having anything go as planned, and trying to raise a child were all making the situation much harder and more stressful than it actually was.  We "gave in " and let the nurse give him a bottle of 20 ml of formula.  They pricked his poor heel again and his blood sugar raised to 55.  Thank goodness! I think it was about 2:00am at this point.  We gave him 20 more mL about an hour later and they checked again.  It was up to 66. They took him to the nursery for the first time by himself and he slept there and they gave him one more bottle and checked again and it was in the 70's.  Nate and I slept for about 3 hours and they brought him back to us about 7:00am.  That was the longest 12 hours of my life...yes, longer than the 12 hours of labor I was in before going to the hospital.  He was checked out by our awesome pediatrician and he weighed 6 pounds 13 ounces.  She suggested that we offer him formula after he nurses until my milk came in.  We went home that day at 10:00am.  

     And so the real journey of breast feeding alone begins.  No nurses, no lactation consultants, no tests, no professional help.  Just you and the baby and your husband (and if you're lucky like me, your mom).  Nate and Leland and I got home about 10:30am.  Nate went to work at 12:00pm. I nursed Leland and then took a little nap while my Mom snuggled Leland and laid in the guest room with him and Linus.  Aunt Annie (my co-teacher,) came over around 2:00pm.  I nursed Leland and then I offered  him 10mL of formula.  We did that every time we fed him until my milk came in.  I had called my bestie, Suzy, around 6:00pm that evening and told her that I wasn't sure if my milk had come in or not.  She told me that I would know.  About 30 minutes later she was right!  It was unbelievable!  My breasts looked like a porn star! They were solid cantaloupes!  I fed Leland every 2 hours that night.  We only needed to give him about 20mL of formula after we left the hospital and I could not have been happier about that! He had an appointment at the pediatrician the next morning at 8:50am.  He had gained 4 ounces in 24 hours!  The doctor and nurses were very proud....and so was I! They told me to keep it that is exactly what I planned on doing! 
      The first 6 weeks of nursing are hard.  I think that my whole experience would have been easier if someone would have just told me that it's doesn't come natural to everyone, it will be hard, the first 6 weeks are like boot camp for parents, I should find a support group before you have the baby, I should find a friend or LC that I can text or call at any time to ask questions ( I have a Wonder Woman co-worker that I probably texted over 100 times!), no questions are silly, just because it doesn't feel perfect doesn't mean that I'm not doing it correctly, I should trust my instincts and follow my baby's and my heart's lead! 

     Leland was a sleepy baby and he would fall asleep while nursing 100% of the time.  Nate and I would try waking him up with wet washcloths (how mean are we), tickling his feet, rubbing his back....and anything other torture devise we could think of.  I went to a LLL meeting the Monday after we got home from the hospital, on his 1 week old birthday.  It was so wonderful.  I was a nervous wreck.  All of the wonder women there were so open and non judgmental and full of information they wanted to share! I asked questions.  I nursed at the front of people! It was awesome.  The next several weeks were filled with pain (in my right shoulder for who knows what reason), fear (was I going to get mastitis?), uncertainty (was I nursing him correctly? was the nipple shield hindering my supply? am I engorged? if I don't pump I could get engorged and get a plugged duct and then get mastitis?) These crazy thoughts went through my mind for about the first 3 weeks.  Week 3 for us was crazy town.  It was the hardest so far.  I did not believe ANYONE who told me, "if you can make it to week 6 you're golden." I thought that it would NEVER be easy or comfortable or natural.  There were days that Leland would eat every 45minutes... and one day I fed him 16 times in a 24 hour period!  When he was 5 and a half weeks old, I felt great.  We were getting the hang of nursing and working as a team.  Week 6 arrived and we had made it!  It really is true, week 6 is the golden week! If I could tell people to have one goal when their baby is born, just make it to week 6! I believe that if people can nurse exclusively until week 6 they will realize that they can make it much longer!  
      I know that not everyone feeds on demand or on cue.  We decided that this was best for Leland and for our family.  I was only going back to work for a total of 19 days.  Nineteen, 4.5 hour days.  Then, I would be off of work with him until he was almost 6 months old.  We felt that through research, listening to our hearts, and going with our gut that on demand was best.  Sometimes he would eat every 4 hours and then at night he would eat every hour.  It just depends on growth spurts and how he is feeling.  I got pretty good at trying different positions and relaxing and going with the flow that day that he ate 16 times.  It was Wednesday, April 16th, the day before I went to school for Parent Teacher Conferences.  I think it was Leland letting me know that my ONLY job right now is to take care of him and cuddle him and make sure that he is getting as much love as possible.  He will only be this dependent for so long, and I'm soaking it ALL in.  He was reminding me what is important.  The dishes and laundry and real meals can wait.  We are a CIO (Cuddle It Out) family at the Kivetts and we know that the love and cuddles he gets now will make him more independent and trusting of us later.

Whenever I get nervous, I read this and feel so much better!
      Today Leland is 9 weeks and 3 days old.  He refused the nipple shield while I tried to feed him in my classroom after the children had left for their last day of school.  He refused again when we got home.  Maybe it is true that they just work it out on their own.  We will see how this trend lasts and I will keep updating so that I can remember how much he keeps me on my toes.  He is constantly reminding me that he is in charge!  It is a sensational journey that I feel privileged to be on with him!
This group on Facebook is sensational.  I recommend that everyone who is or plans on nursing join.  They post real questions from real mom's and the community of people answering are so very helpful.  I would go through the questions and see if I could relate to any of them.  Reading 50-60+ comments from moms who are having the same struggles as you can be very inspiring.  

**images were taken from Breast is Best Facebook page. 

     Update: 5/19/2013
We have been nipple shield free since Thursday morning.  He has been latching just fine.  I am pretty sure that it is not the textbook latch that you see in pictures but it is working.  My milk supply is still up and he is gaining weight and neither of us have blisters or pain.  Hopefully this trend will continue and we can nurse more easily in public and maybe I can even get the hang or nursing in the ERGO!  That would be pretty cool!  
look at those trusting eyes


who wouldn't want to fall asleep during an evening snack?


  1. YOU are a Wonder Woman!

    I count myself lucky to have watched this journey!

    1. Well, I really don't think that I would have made it without you. Thank you.