Friday, July 6, 2012

Why I advocate so hard...

I'm sure that is a good many people who are tired of hearing the benefits of breastfeeding.  Tired of reading my posts.  After I read a recent posting on I was inspired to tell my story. 

There are a good number of reasons that I feel the need to advocate.  First, because I feel there is a need to normalize nursing in public.  If you google, "breastfeeding is" in the search engine, you will find, "... gross, ... hard...exhausing". (I recently leard this).  That is not very encouraging for a nursing mom looking for help. I nurse whenever my baby is hungry- where ever this happens to be.

Second, my son had a difficult time keeping food down.  He dropped off the growth charts and I was told by many people that this was because I had a, "low supply".  That was absolutely not the case, and with the care and help from an amazing chiropractor- my son was able to be back in the 25th percentile within 8 short weeks.  However, I am so fearful of how his health would have been had he not been breastfed and at least able to digest some of what he was taking in.  (He would LITERALLY vomit up anything that went in his mouth).

And lastly, because I feel people need to see that there are other options besides formula when the going gets tough.  Pediatricians, well meaning family and friends ALL misinformed us.  And had it not been for an amazing group of women and my own gut- things would be much different.  So, here is Brendan's story:

I made a promise to my son that I would do WHATEVER IT TAKES to nurse him as long as he wanted.  It certainly has not been easy, and I could have given up about one million times by now.  If it weren't for that promise that I made to him, and a group of incredibly supportive women online (facebook's BRAS group *Breastfeeding Resources And Support*) it would have been so easy to do so.  My son was induced a little early due to preeclampsia.  I had been placed on bed rest for a few months, and my blood pressure was no longer being controlled by bed rest as well as having a ton of protein spill into my urine. 

When he was born, his sucking reflex was not fully developed.  Because of this he had a terrible time getting milk and even more horrible latch.  I pumped and used a nipple shield to work with the latching issues.  The first midwife (yes, I'm a strong believer in midwives- but this lady was an idiot) told me that because of my nipples, I would be unable to breastfeed!

In addition, my son took 3 weeks to go back to birth weight.   I had high blood pressure due to the preeclampsia and was pumped with pitocin/antibiotics during labor/delivery that much of his birth weight was inflated due to water weight.  I was advised by his pediatrician to supplement with formula.  I was told that since I could not pump more than 2 ounces that he was not receiving enough milk.  (Thankfully, I knew better).  I found Human Milk for Human Babies and found a gracious mom who was willing to donate milk instead of formula- if we needed to use it.  Fortunately, the doctor was wrong and we didn't have to. 

After 3 weeks, I thought things were starting to get easier.  BOY WAS I WRONG! To compound the problem, I had caught an infection from the hospital in the incision sight when the OBGYN gave me an episiotomy (against my wishes).  My OBGYN was treating me with breastfeeding safe antibiotics, but they were doing nothing.  I was changed to another breastfeeding safe antibiotic, and nothing (I tried a couple other antibiotics after this as well).  Come to find out, it was MRSA.  I was advised to stop breastfeeding so I could take the medication required to treat the infection.  My heart was SHATTERED.  I was being treated in the emergency room at this point (long story, but I felt terrible and it was a long holiday weekend) and I agreed to get the script for the medication while I did my own research.  In fact, the ER doctor, who clearly knew nothing about breastfeeding, told me to go home and pump enough to store up while I was on the antibiotics.  REALLY???? As if anyone could go pump 10 days worth of milk in one day.   It was an amazing ER nurse to came to talk to me as I was crying about having to make this decision, **that to other people seemed so trivial and did not understand my grief**, who told me I didn't have to give up on breastfeeding. She told me she was still nursing her baby at 13 months and that there were options that I had.  She informed me about, "power pumping", to keep my supply up  in the event that I didn't nurse during the 10 day antibiotics/shots.  She also advised me to speak with my son's pediatrician (because he would know better than the ER doctor who simply looked the medication up in a book and said it was 'contraindicated').  This stranger was the one who gave me hope- and understood the deep pain that I was feeling.  My son and I had worked so hard to get him nursing over the last few weeks that I didn't want to give up.  I called and spoke directly with his pediatrician.  He told me that while it is contraindicated, I could continue to breastfeed under close supervision of him.  He monitored my son for any kind of jaundice, which he never ended up getting. I continued to nurse on the MRSA approved antibiotics/shots and he was fine. 

I thought I was in the clear.  UNTIL….. my son and I got thrush.  By this point I had been on about 6 different kinds of antibiotics.  I had been using coconut oil, but it was not enough.  I called the pediatrician and we both received some medication to treat this.  Ok, I thought, we have got to be in the clear now.  Nope!  About one week after the MRSA was treated, I came down with a bad case of mastitis.  Back to the doctor I went for MORE antibiotics, which caused another case of thrush (despite me and my son taking probiotics).  By this time, my son was about 3 months old. 

The thrush was treated (for the second time) and we were in the clear… for a month.  I came down with another case of mastitis. I thought that for sure things would get much easier from here.  Around this time I was able to wean my son off the nipple shields.  Oh what a glorious day that was! But a month later, ANOTHER CASE OF MASTISIS! (are you keeping count?  This is #3) But this time I was able to treat it naturally with colloidal silver and oil of oregano. About 3 months later, when I began my monthly cycle again, my supply dropped.  LOW.  I was only pumping ½ ounce total and my son was crying in hunger.  Thankfully to some gracious friends I was able to supplement with donated breast milk.  A truly wonderful midwife wrote me a prescription for domperidone which I immediately filled. Domperidone along with fenugreek and lemptaden was able to increase my supply back to what I needed for my son.   My son is now 2 weeks shy of his first birthday and we are STILL NURSING with no signs of weaning in the near future.  Just writing this brings me to tears.  I am so incredibly thankful for the group of women that I have met to support me and give me good solid information.  I am also proud of myself, for not listening to the doctors when I didn’t feel right about it. 

I’m sure there are some things that are missing from this story.  So much of this past year was just a blur.  People who are determined to breastfeed can do it.  There has to be a “WHATEVER IT TAKES” attitude not an, "If I Can" attitude.  Sometimes, that mantra was the only thing keeping me nursing from day to day.

** Disclamer, I know there are people not physically able to nurse.  This is not meant for them.  However, only 1-2% of the population actually can not nurse.  I am not bashing formula or a parent's decision to use it for various reasons.  Dr. Nancy summed up my thoughts perfectly when she posted, "So many people out there using these challenges as “excuses” propagates myths about breastfeeding. When women hear “Oh I tried to breastfeed but I didn’t have enough milk,”  it sets them up for this as a possibility in their lives. When they have challenges they think oh I guess I can’t breastfeed instead of seeking out solutions.  Those of us who understand that this “excuse” is rarely a whole truth tend to become judgmental of that excuse because we know that there are many solutions that could be tried if that mom wanted solutions.
Yes, less judgement of moms in general is what is needed here.  I think it is  judgement about making the choice not to breastfeed that is driving the perceived need for excuses.  If you choose not to breastfeed just say it.  If you think you tried everything but are not open to solutions say that too.  “I tried nursing and I have decided that I want to feed my baby differently”, end of story no excuses.  If you think you tried everything and you are open to solutions have a dialogue about it.   “I have tried nursing and have been having challenges, this is where I’m at.”    More honesty about it would create less animosity, I think.". 

There needs to be more open discussion so women actually looking for help have it!  I personally know a couple of women who didn't have a choice but to formula feed- and part of it is becuase they didn't know there were other options.**

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