Breastfeeding...2016 Shared Stories

 

Stories

My breastfeeding experience wasn’t perfect.

Prior to becoming a mother, I absolutely knew I would breastfeed my child.

I read a lot about it. I actually participated on a breastfeeding committee. I knew the research; breastfeeding was best. As long as I was able, there was no doubt I would provide my child with the optimal start in life.
However, being knowledgeable about breastfeeding and actually breastfeeding were two different things.

If I had to write a test about the how, when, where, and why, I am confident I would have passed with flying colours.  In practice however, it was a bit anxiety provoking, and in the early days, affected my confidence as a mother.  

The birth of our daughter was traumatic. It didn’t end up the way I had planned. Shortly after her delivery, I began to hemorrhage and was taken into the operating room.  I can’t remember now if they gave her sugar water or formula while I was sedated, but I vaguely remember coming back to my hospital room after surgery and the nurse asking if I was up to trying to feed my baby.  Yes! And though I wasn’t able to get up out of the hospital bed, her dad lovingly laid her beside me. She knew exactly what to do. I couldn’t get up to change her diaper or do much else, but I absolutely could nurse her.  For almost a week, I relied on everyone else to do things for my baby, but I could feed her.

Once home, I continued to breastfeed while I healed post-delivery/surgery. Physically and emotionally tired, breastfeeding became both an evolving challenge with the development of thrush and mastitis, and an opportunity to spend a lot of time holding and loving my baby. There were times where I wondered if the pain, purple nipples (from the gentian violet) and sleepless nights were worth it, but reflecting back, I am grateful I persevered.

I was able to continue because of the support and reinforcement I received. The public health nurse validated my efforts, and gave positive reinforcement to my husband and me for our commitment. She answered our questions and coached us along. My family doctor did the same. He told me thrush and mastitis were temporary and treatable. He continued to point out the benefits and confirmed for me that she was getting enough to eat.

Support from colleagues and friends in the form of short visits, encouragement and meals dropped off at the house was instrumental. I could focus on my baby and do what needed to be done to make sure we were both getting what we needed. Then as days went to weeks, I was up to going out. Breastfeeding was easy, convenient and I was feeling good about it. My daughter was thriving.

I joined a baby’s group where many other mothers were nursing their babies as well. As a group we would go out after and eat at a local restaurant or a coffee shop where we got to socialize and feed our babies-whenever/wherever.
My breastfeeding experience wasn’t perfect.  There were a few bumps in the road early on, but with the help of supportive family, friends and knowledgeable people along the way, I was able to give her the best start to a healthy and happy life.

When I was pregnant in 1984, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I knew that it was the best thing that I could do for my baby’s health and well being and the best thing I could do for our finances. I am a big believer in all things natural and disagree with manmade interventions of our foods. Most people do, so why would they choose a manmade formula over their own breastmilk? We can never duplicate mother-nature. When will we learn? Even today there are recalls of formulas. And breastfeeding is so convenient. Always the right temperature and ready whenever and wherever you are.

I guess it really helped that my mother breastfed all of her own children. My mother was very proud of me when I decided to do the same. However I did not know how long she breastfed for. When I continued to breastfeed after 6 months, I got a lot of “Don’t you think she has had enough?” I was surprised and disappointed in her reaction. I got the same and worse when I continued up to a year, from everyone. I ignored them all and continued to breastfeed for 5 solid years, non- stop and in tandem for several months when our second daughter was born. All three of us loved it. The bond we had and still have to this day is unmatchable. There was no sibling rivalry. And into their growing years beyond those breastfeeding days we have always been very open and close.

The best advice I can give to a new mother who wants to breastfeed is do it for as long as it feels right for you! And for those having trouble getting started… Relax! Your milk will come in and there is so much support out there to help with issues. You can help yourself by reading as much as you can about breastfeeding and talking to other mothers who have breastfed. You will love breastfeeding.

Good luck. Mother nature is on your side.

Breastfeeding has been one of the hardest and most painful things for me. It hasn't been easy for us and I have cried many tears over it. Some days I hate it. But most of the time? I love it, despite, or maybe in spite, of all we have been through.

When my daughter was born, she immediately latched. My midwife asked if it hurt and I told her, "a little." She then adjusted my daughter's chin and things felt better. But try as I might, I could not get a pain free latch on my own. I began to dread my baby needing to nurse. I would cringe when she cried, and then curl my toes in agony as she nursed. Everyone told me it would get better so I kept pushing through. After a couple of days I began to pump and would alternate bottles and breastfeeding to give my nipples a break. But I didn't want to do this for forever.

I had no idea while I was pregnant that breastfeeding could be so hard so I never thought to learn about it, nor did I know where to go for help. I didn't even think to call my midwife for help so I began looking for resources in my community (not Grey/Bruce at the time) on my own. Everywhere I looked there were LC's charging $150 for a visit. It was Christmas and we were in the process of selling our house and buying a new one. I didn't have money to spend. I found a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor who saw us for $30. Unfortunately my baby slept through the appointment. I went home though and tried the things we talked about with no success.

Then I discovered the local hospital has a LC so I went there. Except it was only for babies under 7 days old. My baby was now 3 weeks. Instead I saw a public health nurse who assured me everything looked fine and it should get better soon. I was told to come back if I was still having problems. I went back a week later. A different nurse assured things looked fine, but this time told me if things didn't get better, I was to come back to see what they could figure out. I left feeling frustrated since I was already back because things weren't getting better.

I finally spoke with my midwife who arranged for me to see a LC covered by OHIP. I was so optimistic thinking I would get some help. The LC looked for a tongue tie, and even though my daughter had one, told me it wasn't severe enough to effect breastfeeding. She then proceeded to tell me my problem was oversupply and handed me some printouts from the Internet that really didn't tell me anything.

I went home and researched all I could about tongue ties. I then sought a second opinion, travelling 3 hours in a snowstorm. When I got there, I was told my daughter would probably be better off just with some "bodywork" done (massage, sacro-cranial, chiropractic care, etc.), though she would laser the tie anyways since I came all that way. Not knowing at the time if my husband's benefits were going to cover it, and because I came for a second opinion and once again was being told lasering the tie probably wasn't going to fix our problems, I chose not to since it was over $400.

I went home and started massage therapy for my baby. She was already being seen by our chiropractor. Although the massage therapist felt some tissue release, breastfeeding didn't get any less painful for me.

A few weeks after we started massage, we ended up moving to Hanover. While settling in, I traveled back to see the original breastfeeding counselor I had seen. She assessed my then 4.5 month old and said there was still a fair amount of oral restriction. I went back home, and saw a LC in this area who said everything looked fine so it was probably the tongue tie causing my issues.

I made an appointment with another dentist to have the tie lasered. The dentist told me I probably wouldn't see an immediate improvement (she'd been nursing "wrong" for 5.5 months by that time). However, right after the tie released, the dentist told me I might because her tongue was more severely tied that it had seemed at first. I nursed her in the dental office and felt a significant improvement.

Unfortunately though, it still wasn't perfect. Fast forward to today, where my baby is 9.5 months, and I can finally say we are starting to get perfect, pain free latches. Certainly not all the time, but they are happening more and more often. It gives me hope that one day my nipples won't be sore anymore.

Sometimes I sit and wonder what would have happened if my daughter's poor latch had caused under supply instead of oversupply, which came with its own problems (I spent the first 6 months with leaky, engorged breasts, had a baby with terrible gas, etc.). Some days I think maybe I would have been taken more seriously when I said there was a problem, but more often than not, I think I probably would have just been handed formula. Don't get me wrong, formula is definitely needed, however I think what is needed more is better education about breastfeeding for health care practitioners. Easier access to LC's. People willing to listen when a mother says there is something wrong.

 

Public Health responds…

You make an excellent point that health care professionals need more breastfeeding training. While your story speaks to the fact we still have a long way to go, we are seeing progress in our region to ensure mothers are supported to start and continue breastfeeding. Many health care organizations are implementing the Baby Friendly Initiative. Launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, this is a global effort to improve the standard of mother and infant care, and in doing so, increase breastfeeding rates in the process. A major component of Baby Friendly involves education of health care providers to better support families to breastfeed. Locally, the Grey Bruce Health Unit, the Hanover Family Health Team and the Hanover and District Hospital are working on their Baby Friendly designation, with several other area organizations planning to do so. Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound recently achieved their designation and is one of only four hospitals in the province with this title.

Stories like yours highlight the importance of this work and the need for it to continue. Thank you so much for your submission!

Grey Bruce Health Unit

Hi my name is Caitlyn and here is my breastfeeding story.

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my second child when after an OB appointment and an ultrasound we found ourselves on our way to London, unsure of what lay ahead. We had recently discovered that after a normal easy pregnancy that I was low in fluid and baby was predicted to be very small. We were sad because we were looking forward to giving birth in the Hanover hospital, we had such a wonderful experience there with our daughter, but our baby was going to need the help of a NICU. At 5:37 am my son Christian was born via emergency c section . He was 4lb and 0oz , and this is where my long journey to breastfeeding began. I knew I wanted to breastfeed him, I breastfed my daughter for a year and loved the bond and the convience of it. But this was a different story, Christian was very lethargic and had very little interest in eating. He was on a tube feed to get his strength up and I felt helpless looking at him in the incubator. So I set my mind to making as much milk for him that i could, even if he had to get it through a tube. I would hand express as much colostrum as possible and then when my milk came in I pumped and pumped every three hours. Day three of his young life I was able to put him to breast for the first time. He did not latch well but we got it eventually and I cried tears of joy. They were short lived however , Christian was not able to get much from me and they wanted more in him at a feeding then he would take from me. For the remainder of the 17 days it was a rollercoaster. Some nurses would encourage me to breastfeed and we would have good days working on his latch , other days unfortunately I had nurses who thought I was wasting my time and should just bottle feed him completely (he was receiving bottle "top ups " at this time). I did not believe that was for us, he was no better at bottle feeding. Although I knew it was needed for his growth I was unfamiliar with the regimented feeding plan that you have to stick to in the NICU. I would feed every 3 hours then I was given 20 minutes for him to take what he needed and if pre and post weights showed he didn't get enough after 20 min he received the rest in tube form, with my daughter we fed on demand. I was at a loss Christian was taking less from me and more from the tube every day, then I had a nurse who was also a lactation consultant suggest a nipple sheild. It was wonderful, he was able to latch stronger and longer. The nurse practitioner and I decided to try feeding on demand and within 48 hours I was taking my 4 lb 12 oz little man home. The next months consisted of nursing, then offering a bottle (which he never took) and then pumping the excess because he was taking so little. It was exhausting and frustrating and so many days I wanted to give up. I was lucky to have support from my lactation consultant and my Dr and family. He was still small and not on the curve but he was happy and alert and more and more he only wanted to breastfeed. After several weeks of twice weekly weight and checks my daughter and I decided that while he was still on the small side, he was making his own curve, and otherwise he was fine and at that point he was refusing the breast that I would just treat him like a normal baby and just breastfeed him all I could. There was no looking back, he got better and better at it, he no longer wanted the nipple sheild, and any chance I had I nursed him. Eventually I was able to wean off the pumping and regulate my huge over supply I had created. Then one day it hit me, after 3 months he latched and it didn't hurt, was easy and a strong latch and he nursed big gulps. We had made it. He is now 6 months old and 12 lbs. He nurses like a champ and while still a little man is healthy in every way. I had a huge stash of frozen milk from all my pumping so I donated 974 Oz to the human milk bank at Mount Sini hospital in Toronto.

If I were to give advice it's to trust your mothering instincts and be true to yourself. I am so happy I stuck it out, breastfeeding has helped me bond closer with my son and watching him grow has been empowering.

I was blessed with a beautiful little boy in November of 2011. After a long and stressful labor he finally arrived late in the evening. I was ecstatic to meet our first child and was so relieved that I was able to birth him naturally. Shortly after he was born we tried to put him to the breast and noticed that he was struggling to catch his breath. We rushed him to get medical help and spent a very long 12 days focusing on his recovery. I was determined to strictly breastfeed my children and made my intentions very clear, but I felt at times that this desire was undermined. This only added to my stress level as a brand new mom.

As my son was unwell, he had a very difficult time latching. Feedings were taking far too long as he was very weak and exhausted. I also suffer from inverted nipples which only added to the stress of the situation. It was then when I decided to go with “Plan B” – pumping. I purchased a hospital grade pump from the pharmacy and spent endless hours pumping for my little boy. When your milk first comes in and it is glorious colostrum that is full of nutrients and antibodies, the last thing you want to do is waste a single drop. I would pump my colostrum and feed it to my son, only to have it insisted that I “top him up” with formula directly afterward. This would make him sick and he would vomit up all of the precious colostrum. This was so frustrating.

I truly wish that I was more supported in my plan to breastfeed my son. I was so relieved to finally go home after nearly two weeks of frustration. I was however very grateful for the diligent healthcare that my son received in order to gain back his strength and wellness! Although, I feel that nursing should have been recognized as a more prominent aspect of his recovery.

When we got home, I was determined to try nursing without the pump and tried for weeks. With my inverted nipples and my baby being used to the bottle, we decided that continuing to pump and bottle feed would make the most sense for our family. I continued to put him to the breast for comfort and skin-to-skin attachment and he was able to draw some breastmilk, although we kept his main source of feedings through the bottle. I pumped for four months for our wee babe and was very discouraged when my milk supply started to decrease every day more and more. Little did I know, it was because I was once again PREGNANT! I continued to pump until my milk was completely dry and was disappointed when I was forced to switch to formula. But…this is life. I was busy counting my blessings and I had no idea how bountiful this new blessing would be!

I was expecting twins!

That short eight months passed by so quickly as we were so busy with a new baby while preparing for the arrival of two more. It really was a blur of love, stress and tears and more joy that we knew what to do with.

When the twins arrived, it was three weeks after my son’s 1st birthday. I had three beautiful boys under 13 months old and what an adventure it was! My aunt took my son for me so I could give birth and stay at the hospital. Luckily we were home within six days. I pumped for them as well as they were so small and my breasts were engorged with milk. I felt that given the circumstances and my prior understanding of my body, that this would be best. With a new (and more confident) attitude about my children’s needs and my rights, I felt like I was able to stand up for myself this time around. I believe that this benefited our family greatly. When my mild supply started to diminish, I was prescribed Domperidone by my doctor with the help of our amazing home visiting nurse. I can honestly say that we would not have been so successful without her support and care. I am so grateful for my home visiting nurse as I’m sure so many are.

The Domperidone increased my supply so greatly that I had an over-abundance of milk. I was able to pump 12-15 ounces every two-three hours (enough for my twins and my one year old son). What a blessing. We continued to pump and feed for the next 14 months and I feel so grateful for this success. My boys are healthy and vibrant and I know that I owe it all to my persistence and the natural perfection that is a mother’s milk.

Don’t give up. There is hope! There is help! Your children will thank you for it!

I have breastfed three kids. All three have been different; with number one we lived in another province and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We didn’t get enough help with breastfeeding. She latched wrong. We both got thrush, then she got teeth. I didn’t know where to turn for help in this other province. At three months old my milk started drying up. It was super hard. I cried a lot but ended up breastfeeding her until she was 11½ months old. You think after all of that I would be an expert.

With number two things went pretty smooth. She cried a lot so I ended up overfeeding her and she threw up a lot. I breast fed her until she was 11½ months old.

Seven years later, I found out I was pregnant again with number three. His birth was eventful to say the least. He stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the nursery. When I got down there he was so tired he wouldn’t latch. My health care provider was super helpful. It took two days to get him to latch, he didn’t latch right. Some professionals tried to help but I felt useless because he kept being frustrated and he was crying. I got to go home and struggled on my own. I came to a breastfeeding group. Hearing other people’s stories makes you feel not so bad. It helps to know you’re not alone. I couldn’t believe that I struggled with him after having two other kids. I didn’t think boys would be different then girls. He is seven months now. I struggle with him biting me because he has six teeth. I am happy the group is back up and running. I wish there was more help for people so they knew they weren’t struggling alone.

Having three other children before this baby prepared me for what I thought was going to be an uneventful infancy and I joined a local breastfeeding group to help with anything that I may have forgotten. But nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

As labor and delivery goes, I would say everything was normal for me. And the moments after were magical. As soon as they could, my baby was placed on my bare chest for our first part of bonding. My health care provider stressed that I should latch her for feeding as soon as possible. I noticed right away that she didn’t open her mouth as wide as it needed to be, but I was able to maneuver my nipple into her mouth and into a nice looking latch.

For the next few days I struggled to get her to stay latched. It was suggested that I use a syringe or small cup to get more colostrum into her. As days went by, my baby wasn’t showing normal growth. And she always seemed hungry. By two weeks she has not regained her birth weight. I could not see a problem because she was draining my breasts and they were becoming engorged again. So it was decided that I would begin pumping to increase volume while increasing frequency of feedings as well as supplementing the pumped milk back to her with some formula. By three weeks I was breastfeeding for about 45 minutes, pumping and bottle feeding every 90 minutes. I was growing very tired and run down.

I had to try harder or they would have to hospitalize my baby. I agreed I would try, but I couldn’t see it happening. The next day, in tears, I begged and pleaded for them to admit us because I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I didn’t want to be in the hospital, but I couldn’t see any other way.

Just shy of one month my baby finally gained back her birth weight but by her first month she had dipped back below her birth weight. They sent me to the hospital to consult a pediatrician. Upon arrival and after the intake bloodwork and tests, they found she was dehydrated and an IV was given. I told them what I had been doing -breastfeed, pump, give the breastmilk back and supplement with formula. When they realized what I was doing they put her on an increased calorie intake. She has been on this special diet ever since. Shortly after they found out that she was not sucking and swallowing properly, an NG tube was put into her nose to help with feeding but we still tried to breastfeed and bottle feed as well. Once we got her hydrated enough, I was able to relax a bit.

Over time she rejected the breast and the bottle because they frustrated her – the breast before we were released from the hospital and the bottle shortly thereafter. She is still on the NG tube but is taking to self-feed solids well.

It is our hope that all this will resolve itself and she will grow to be a very beautiful little girl.

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