Wednesday, November 23, 2011

{Guest Blog}: Breastfeeding and Learning to be Flexible with I Am Emme

     While we are packing up our lives and moving across the ocean to Hawaii, you get to have some amazing guest bloggers, who've kindly offered to keep you (and me) entertained. I am so thankful to have such a supportive community of moms who are willing to help out in times like these :) I hope you enjoy it!

Hi there, Milk-Friendly readers! I'm Emily from I am Emme.
I'm a hard working interior designer, devoted wife, proud mother of two and an avid breast feeder (who hasn't always had the easiest time of it) 
I'm excited to share my experiences with you and hope that my story inspires some of you who may be struggling to breastfeed. I hope my story will help you to stay at it just a little longer and to know that all your time, energy and effort is well worth it in the end. Despite your obstacles, I hope you find the joy in breastfeeding and maybe find a little something in yourself that you didn't have before.
(Oh, hi! That's me)
(and this is my three year old, Weston)
(and his new baby brother Oren)
and this is our story
     When my first son, Wes, was born he took to the breast like a champ. That first day he nursed with absolutely no problems, his latch was great and my milk came in full force. I considered myself lucky and figured we were out of the woods as far as any breastfeeding issues were concerned. Isn't that where it always goes wrong? Baby won't cooperate or mom's not making enough milk? What I didn't realize were the obstacles that could (and would) pop up down the road.
     I was young and as a first time mom I worried about everything once we got home. Including building up a supply of frozen milk for my eventual return to work. I was emotional and stressed out and was forcing myself to pump daily to start building up a supply. I could barely find time for a shower those first few weeks and I should have never been worried about pumping so soon. I had 8 weeks to be home with my baby before I had to return to work and I should have taken it much, much slower.
     I hated pumping. It took forever to do it, to clean all the pieces, and my hands were tied up for far too long when my new little baby needed me. To make matters worse, Wes developed colic. We took him to the pediatrician to find out what we could do. Our regular doctor was out and we saw a different doctor I had never met. I was sleep deprived and beyond stressed out, she suggested he might have a milk allergy and to try giving him hypoallergenic formula. She never discussed changing my diet to eliminate milk, or any other options that would still allow me to breastfeed. I was so consumed with worry and wanting nothing more than to stop the crying and to help my baby. Couple those feelings with my hatred for pumping and my trepidation about pumping once back to work and I was sold. I gave up breastfeeding that day. We bought the formula and thankfully, it did help. But, I didn't think about the options I had, I just jumped at the first one given to me. In a split second I had lost the ability to breastfeed my son and the special bond it gave us. I was full of regret.
     When I became pregnant with my second son, I was determined to do better this time. To at least make breastfeeding last longer than a few weeks. I was not going to even think about pumping until he was at least 6 weeks old. I was just going to relax and enjoy breastfeeding.

Then he was born.
And he wasn't breathing.

     Complications at delivery landed him in the NICU and only hours after he was born I was handed a pump.
     (This is the part where I learned you just have to be flexible). If I ever wanted a chance at breastfeeding I had to pump to get my supply going. My baby needed me and my milk. So pump I did.  
And actually, it wasn't bad. I was so helpless there in the hospital, separated from my baby. That this was the one thing I could do for him - and only I could do it. I was so proud of the little containers of colostrum and eventually milk that I brought with me every time I visited him in the nursery. Pumping turned out to be the one thing that helped me keep my sanity during that time.
     I eventually did get to begin feeding him myself, and just like his brother, he nursed like a champ right from the start. Again, I thought we were out of the woods. But then, just like his brother, a couple weeks after we finally got him home, the colic kicked in. If you've ever had a baby with colic you know that you are willing to do just about anything to get it to go away. My knee jerk reaction was to run out and get the hypoallergenic formula again. But then I thought about how happy the time spent breastfeeding made me and I how I didn't want to give it up so quickly this time.
So, for two weeks I eliminated all milk products from my diet (including trace amounts) to see if that would cure the colic. It didn't. He didn't have a milk allergy at all. And to think that I could have given up breastfeeding for that and have it turn out to not even be the reason for the colic, doubled my determination to continue. A combination of soothing techniques, time, patience and lots of love got us through the colic stage and in the end breastfeeding was a true joy during a very difficult time. 
     We introduced the bottle at about 5 weeks, and I pumped once a day while my husband fed him a bottle and once again while he napped to build up my supply of frozen milk for my return to work. As it turns out, this was plenty. I had a freezer full of milk when I went back at 8 weeks. I think back on the time with my first son and my furiously regimented pumping schedule at two weeks old and shake my head at the needless stress it caused. 
     I was also very worried about how pumping at work would go. Upon my return, I soon realized all of those worries were unneccesary as well. No one minds when I sneak off for 20 minutes a couple times a day to do it. Sure, it can be a hassle but I try to take the opportunity as a forced break in my work to relax and think about my baby while I'm away from him and pumping. I've got it down to such a system now that it takes no time to clean and pack everything back up when I'm done. I'm still proud of the bags of milk I bring home to him every night and knowing that I'm doing the best I possibly can for his health and for our relationship. 
     In the end, what I've learned is you can never really prepare yourself for all the challenges, expected and unexpected, that you may come across as a breastfeeding mama. Go easy on yourself, be flexible. And when you look down at that baby in your arms, and feel that special bond that only breastfeeding can give you, you realize how completely worth it, it all is. 
     Inspiring right? If you'd like to hear more from Emily, stop by her blog I Am Emme. I know she'd love to have you!


Rebecca said...

I am completely in love with this post - thank you for sharing. Everything in that last paragraph is something I think about alot. I think about all of the little struggles that are faced during breastfeeding. For me it was poor latch in the beginning that resulted in having to re-teach latching altogether, then my milk supply dipped upon return to work, then a pretty intense biting phase, etc. We all face some challenges in nursing but we as mamas have to cheer ourselves on and be flexible and find it inside ourselves to be confident during those times of struggle in order to preserve that wonderful bond with our baby. I wish all new mamas could be prepared for this when starting a nursing relationship!

Maddie said...

I am so glad you and your baby are okay! Pumping can be a challenge, especially if you don't have the best breast pump. Finding a brand that is user friendly and helps to pump out the most milk is crucial to success. Also, if you don't have a pump handy, hand pumping works well too. I'm sure you agree it was worth it. You know your baby received the very best nourishment when it was so vital for him.

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