Sunday, October 25, 2009

Carnival of Breastfeeding: What I Wish I'd Known Then
If I'd Known Then . . .

Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! This month's theme is "What I Wish I'd Known."

Please visit the other carnival participants, listed below.

(More entries will be added through the end of the day on October 26, 2009, as they are posted - check back!)

Peeper will be one year old tomorrow. As you can imagine, if you are at all familiar with my breastfeeding story, there are quite a few things that I wish I'd known a year ago.

Some of the things I wish I'd known are just general knowledge about the types of breastfeeding issues that Peeper and I faced, others are more specific to our personal experience and some, of course, are things that no one could have possibly known.

But it sure would've been easier if I had.

I wish I'd known, before Peeper was born, that having a lot of "book-learnin'" about breastfeeding (which I did, for someone who'd never done it), being absolutely determined to breastfeed (which I was), and considering myself a lactivist (which I do) were no guarantee that it would all come easily. Or that it would come easily at all.

I wish I'd known that Peeper would be born at thirty-six weeks, so I could have learned more about breastfeeding issues common to near-term preemies.

I wish I'd known, when Peeper's birth weight was higher than anyone expected, that I should have asked them to reweigh her, because when she weighed a pound less the next day, the pediatrician suspected that the birth weight was wrong, since he didn't think she looked like she'd lost 20% - but then he treated her as though she had.

I wish I'd known, the first time I pumped, that I shouldn't expect to see much results right off, so I wouldn't have been so disappointed when I only fogged up the sides of the bottles, and couldn't even collect a drop of colostrum to give to her.

I also wish I'd know that, very shortly, I would be able to pump enough to keep up with her.

Then, I might have had the confidence to refuse the 8 ml or so of formula that we gave her along with a comparable amount of breast milk in her first finger-feeding.

If she'd not already had that, I would not have given her a formula-feeding a few days later, when she'd "caught up" with what I had pumped, nor would I have had Shrike give her formula on Election Night, when she was eight days old, while I was at a party celebrating.

(I'd have had her call me when she ran out of breast milk, so I could come home and pump some more.)

Those three feedings probably totalled about two ounces, and that is all the formula she's ever had, but I will always regret it.

I wish I'd known that I even could refuse or question anything the pediatrician "suggested."

I wish I'd known that breast pump flanges are not one-size-fits-all, and that I should only turn the suction up high enough to get the milk to start flowing. Using flanges that were too small and too much suction in the first week or so tore me up, and my nipples didn't heal until Peeper learned to latch and I stopped pumping. A better start with the pump would have saved me several weeks of excrutiating pain.

I wish I'd known - and had pediatricians who acknowledged, or I'd had the nerve to insist when they didn't - that cup or syringe feeding were viable alternatives to bottles when Peeper was not latching, and finger feeding was too hard for her. That would have avoided the nipple confusion that it took us six weeks to overcome.

I wish I'd known from the beginning that DoulaK would be my go-to support person, and hadn't wasted my time with the lactation consultant who was much less helpful.

Speaking of DoulaK, I also wish I'd picked up the phone and called her more often, when I was having a rough time. I certainly did call, but not as often as I probably needed to. Luckily, she called me to check in fairly frequently - often just when I really needed someone to talk to.

I wish I'd known that a nipple shield would be our salvation, and I'd not been so scared to try it - but I wish I'd also somehow known exactly when Peeper had gotten big enough that she'd be able to latch with it, because it certainly wasn't happening when she was brand new.

I wish I'd known, the first time I nursed her in public - clumsily juggling baby, breast and nipple shield, that with a little practice we would get so used to it, and be so good at it.

I wish I'd known about Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex before I started experiencing it.

Of course, I could not possibly have known most of that, but I also could not have known that Peeper would eventually learn to breastfeed - and we'd never look back.

I could not have known that the Baby Who Wouldn't Latch would become the Baby Who Won't Unlatch.

I could not have known that we'd be bottle-free from six weeks on, that we would exclusively breastfeed until just past six months, and that we'd still be going strong at her first birthday.

I could not have known that Peeper and I would more than make up for the bonding we missed in the first six weeks, when I spent all my time pumping, then handing over the bottles to Shrike, because I just couldn't bring myself to give them to her.

Nor could I have known how much it would mean to all of us that Peeper and Shrike were able to bond so strongly in that time, when she was doing most of the parenting, and I was sitting on the sidelines, just lactating and crying.

I could not have known that overcoming our rough start would be one of my proudest accomplishments, and what I consider to be one of the most important things I've ever done.

And I certainly could not have known the love and the joy and the, for lack of a better work, rightness that I feel when Peeper nurses.

Whether she is hungry, or sleepy, or has woken in the night, or bumped her head, or just happened to see my breast and decided she'd like to have a bit of that, nursing fixes everything, makes it all better, makes it all right, for both of us.

Of course a year in, I know that there are still plenty of things that I don't yet know.

Mostly, I don't know how long she'll continue to nurse; when or how she'll wean.

Or how I'll bear it when she does.

Other Carnival of Breastfeeding Posts
(Keep checking back - more will be added through the end of the day on October 26, 2009)


  1. I enjoyed all the newborn pictures. It's awesome that you've made it a whole year after such a rough start! Way to go MOMMA!

  2. The pics are great! I also agree on the flanges for the pumps and it ticks me off that you have to pay a big nipple surcharge. :-( But glad you had a Doula K to go to...

  3. Oh, that last line brought tears to my eyes!

    I'm glad someone else feels the same way about a little formula supplementing — I also had a crappy start to breastfeeding, due to bad advice, where Mikko got a few servings of formula, and some people must think it's goofy just how much it bothers me that he had any. But it just kills me, because he didn't need any and I didn't want him to have any, so why on earth did he?! It all comes down to something similar to your experience: I wish I'd known that I even could refuse or question anything the pediatrician "suggested." Yes.

    We had a similar issue where Mikko's birth weight was probably inflated from some IV fluids I'd had during labor, and yet they still freaked out when he lost even a little bit. I wish they'd be a little more reasonable there.

    Oh, well. Here's hoping your experiences written out like this will give some other new mama just the information she needs to get past her obstacle. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hobo Mama - Your situation sounds so similar to ours. I think Peeper's weight might have been inflated from fluids, too (probably should have said that in the post - might go back and edit) altho she'd only peed once in that time.

    Robin - LOL at "big nipple surcharge!"

    StrwberryJoy - Thank you.

  5. Another beautiful and inspirational post! I think so many of us have been there, lactating and crying, wanting to provide the best for our babies and frustrated as hell when it didn't come easily. I am so thankful it worked out beautifully for you and me both, and yes, I can only imagine how difficult it will be when your baby no longer needs you in the same way.

  6. I'm so happy to "meet" someone else who has experienced the craziness that is D-MER. I thought for the longest time that I was alone, and it's especially hard when every breastfeeding story I heard was how positive and beautiful it was - and here I was, feeling quite the opposite.

    It's soooo much better now that I know it's not ME, but an actual and legitimate problem.


What say you?