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.

wrehtju

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.