nursing or i didn't think it would be this hard, part III

i have been working on this post, in my mind, for a little while now.  i don’t even know where to begin.  i guess i need to admit that i truly have a love/hate relationship with nursing the bird. it has been an amazing experience to share with her, one that i feel fortunate to still be doing, steadily, as we approach the 12 month mark.  but, it has not been an easy journey for us...

when i was pregnant, i didn’t even begin to consider that i would not nurse.  i just knew i wanted to and expected (there i go again) that we would make it happen.  i read books and bought all of (what i thought was) the necessary items to be successful from the start.  i was really excited to nurse our little girl and provide that nourishment for her.

the moment she was born and handed to me, it was amazing to watch her crawl on up and latch on right away.  she just knew exactly what she needed to do!  easy!  this was going to be such a great experience...

fast forward a few days later, after my milk had come in and we were nursing a ton.  it started to get pretty painful for me and i began to crack and bleed.  then, the non-stop crying started.  we couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  it was terrible.  at our last midwife visit, she had gained back some weight after birth and it looked like she was latching on properly but boy, it still hurt me terribly and she just would not stop crying.

then, i noticed the small white patches in her mouth.  as i researched, i learned we had thrush.  oh, it is difficult for me to even say that word now!  thrush is a yeast. i wasn’t letting myself dry off enough between feedings, which yeast loves moisture, and having cracks didn’t help either.  it passes back and forth between the baby and you and is TOUGH to get rid of.  it is also really painful.  long story short, between the pain and the thrush, it cut my supply in half which is why the bird was crying so much...she was hungry! and i was devastated.  i truly felt so guilty that our baby wasn’t getting enough to eat.

several challenging things occurred at this time:

  1. i was against taking antibiotics (to get rid of the thrush) and tried the more natural approach = gentian violet.  it was A MESS.  it dyes everything purple.  and i mean purple.  it goes on your nipples and in baby’s mouth. it gets all over and stains everything.  it didn’t work.  we had to get an anti-fungal prescription, which did eventually work. in total, it took about 4 weeks to go away completely.  even still, it took a long time to get the pain to go away when she nursed.  thankfully, i did not have any reoccurrence of the thrush, which can happen. yeast is pesky.  
  2. while trying to treat the thrush, since the bird wasn’t getting enough from me, we had to supplement.  which, i was also devastated by and really challenged by the process.  she would NOT take a bottle so, we had to use a medela sns feeder.  you put formula or pumped milk inside,  put it around your neck and tape the little tubes to your hopes the baby will suck from the tubes and you at the same time, and she thinks the milk is coming from you. i would nurse, use the feeder then pump.  we did this EVERY 2 HOURS...for 24 hours a day, for about 2 weeks.  talk about exhausting.  i couldn’t pump much so, we used formula along with whatever i could pump.  i spent most of that time in tears - frustrated, tired and purple (from the gentian violet).  needless to say, i didn’t leave the house.  which, probably made it worse.  i felt so stuck and isolated.  i am still pretty surprised we made it through it and are still nursing to this day.  but, we did it and the bird gained weight and i haven’t had to supplement since.

3. i was concerned about dairy, because i eat a lot of it, and the bird was really gassy.  i don’t eat meat and so, get most of my protein from yogurt, cheese and milk.  i cut it ALL about adding fuel to the fire.  not only was i exhausted, emotional and frustrated...i was HUNGRY.  i couldn’t believe how much hungrier i was nursing than i was pregnant.  and now, no dairy.  it was tough.  i have had a hard time eating enough and finding anything that sounded good, this entire year.  i just recently started adding dairy back into my diet.  it doesn’t seem to be bothering the bird and it really helps me get enough food !

something else i didn’t count on, as the bird got a little older, was her curiosity.  in other words...i couldn’t nurse in public (even with a cover) because she had to be in the excitement.  we have to be in a quiet, dark place, in order to keep her focused on nursing.  this meant i really didn’t and haven’t gotten out as much as i “thought” it would be easy to do.  again, it has been a little isolating but, it is what we need to do in order to get a successful nursing session in.

and, to top it all off...she will not take a bottle.  we tried and tried and it was a never ending battle and i just can’t handle seeing our baby cry because she is hungry.  so, nursing is what we do.  when i am away from home, for work, she will drink the milk i pump out of a cup, with assistance.  but, she still won’t take as much that way as she does from me while nursing. and, unfortunately, i don’t get much when i pump.  once 6 months came along, things got a little better because luckily, she loves eating her solids.  now, she eats three good meals and two snacks and is gaining weight right on task, so i try not to stress about it too much.   when i am home, we still nurse 4 times a day and are FINALLY sleeping through the night.  she is tall and lean and bursting with energy.

i have really had to learn to put other things second and be ok with dropping what i am doing in order to cuddle up with her and spend quiet time together, with her nursing away.  it is very time consuming and this can be really tough when you are used to getting things done.  most times, the stuff just doesn’t get done.  my afternoon plans are often shot when she doesn’t want to take an afternoon nap because as soon as i get her out of her crib and we nurse...she will fall asleep there for an hour.  it can feel like an eternity to just sit in the quiet and the dark.  it gives me a lot of time to think and i try my best to just enjoy those moments (although it can be hard sometimes) because, i know they are numbered and aren’t going to last forever.

i love how her cute little legs curl up close to me and she snuggles in tight during these moments we have together.  she is so peaceful, which is such a contrast to here awake moments of continued exploration, rambunctiousness and energizer-bunny energy.

sometimes i look at channing and am amazed at how amazing nursing is... that i could nourish our bird for so long on just the milk that comes from me.  it is hard to believe that our bodies can do that!  but, by no means as it been easy.  it has been tough and challenging and frustrating and very tiring.  sometimes i do wonder why i have done it.  but personally, i am so thankful we persevered and made it work.  i know not every one wants to or is able to.  i feel very fortunate to be able to continue on.  how long will we continue?  i don’t have an answer for that yet.  i don’t think there is a magic number and i am trying to learn to take it one day at a time.