Saturday, November 15, 2014

THE CHRONICLES OF A BREASTFEEDING MOM

I expected breastfeeding to be easy.  How hard could it be to pop a boob in a baby's mouth?  Ugh.  There was so much (basically everything) that I didn't know and learned the hard way.  Thanks to some lactation nurses, a dentist, Google, and a couple of friends who were pros, I survived.  (And I can't forget the superior support my husband gave me through out it all!)

Within moments of being born, Violet was diagnosed with a tongue-tie (and later a lip-tie).  Violet's tongue-tie kept her from being able to suck properly causing her to practically choke when nursing.    Her lip-tie prevented her from getting and keeping a good latch which caused her to suck in a lot of air.  It also kept her from being able to hold a pacifier and she desperately wanted to suck to soothe. 

Because of the ties she had lots of gas and reflux, which meant lots and lots of crying.  Nursing her took upwards of 45 minutes every two hours and burping took 20 minutes...sooo when you have to feed a baby every 2 hours that meant if at 12:00 a.m. she started nursing, she didn't finish till 12:45 a.m.  Burping ended around 1:05 which gave me about 55 minutes to sleep before the next time she needed to eat.  Don't forget about changing diapers.  To say it was exhausting is an understatement.  I have literally never been so tired in my entire life.  I didn't even know what sleep deprivation was until this time.  I might have thought I did, but boy did I not.  

For me, the ties made breastfeeding really, really painful.  Like, I needed to bite down when she was latching just to keep from screaming.  And that's with a nipple shield.  Without it, I was in tears.  I hated breastfeeding during this time.  To this day it makes me sad to think I hated what was supposed to be a beautiful bonding experience.  

Violet was 2 weeks and 6 days old when we had her ties revised by a dentist.  When Violet was born, no on in the state of Louisiana performed laser revisions.  We would have had to travel to Texas.  (Let me just add that it would have been a nightmare to travel with a crying, refluxy, gassy baby.)  Amazingly though, the stars aligned, and it just so happened a dentist in Baton Rouge was being trained and preparing to begin performing laser revisions.  We hit the jackpot.  Seriously.  Those 2 weeks and 6 days are the most horrifically memorable times and I am so grateful my breastfeeding relationship with Violet survived it.

Despite everything I've said so far, the decision to have Violet's ties revised wasn't an easy one.  The thought of putting her through pain was overwhelming.  If any moms out there aren't sure if they should revise, here's why we did:
  1. Violet was already in pain every day from the gas and reflux her ties were causing.  
  2. Drinking from a bottle wasn't a solution.  The only part that got better with her drinking from a bottle was I wouldn't be in pain anymore.
  3. Considering how tight her tongue-tie was, she would without a doubt have speech problems when she started to talk.
  4. Her lip-tie could (and likely would) cause food to become trapped in her gums causing tooth decay and dental issues.
  5. Breastmilk is a mom-made wonder food.  
Was the revision painful.  Yep.  I wish more than anything she didn't have to go through it, but I know she benefited from it.  Literally the evening after her revision, she nursed without a nipple shield and it wasn't painful.  Her gas and reflux almost immediately disappeared.  And nursing sessions dropped down to only 20 minutes, then 10 minutes, then less than 5 minutes long!  It took a few months to really master her latch (with both me and a pacifier), but it wasn't stressful for either of us.  If I had to do it again, I would, and if any future babies need revisions, I will.

About 3 months postpartum, I noticed my letdown was taking so long.  Every nursing session became a stress event for me.  Would I be able to feed my baby???  On top of it, I noticed I was losing a lot of hair.  I know they say hair loss is normal, but I really felt like I was losing so much...like maybe I should wear a hairnet in the kitchen.  And the scariest symptom I was experiencing was rapid weight loss.  One week I was losing the annoyingly slow expected amount of weight for a breastfeeding mom, the next I was down to 97 pounds.  I researched my symptoms (which also included irritability, night sweats, muscle soreness, forgetfulness, difficulty falling asleep at night and extreme fatigue during the day) online, and though nothing was clearcut, I self-diagnosed myself with postpartum thyroiditis.  Postpartum thyroiditis is actually not all that uncommon, yet it is grossly underdiagnosed.  I'm still on the thyroid roller coaster---hoping to get off soon!  Prayers please!  (If you suspect you have postpartum thyroiditis, get with an endocrinologist ASAP.)

My goal from the beginning was to exclusively breastfeed Violet for her first year of life.   Minus a three day nursing strike in her 11th month, I was successful!  My advice for new/soon-to-be moms who want to breastfeed is to seek help if you're having a tough time.  Ask friends or family who've breastfed, look for support groups on Facebook, and talk to lactation consultants.

Hopefully my struggles experiences can help another new mom who maybe comes across this blog at 1:05 in the morning after feeding her baby for 45 minutes, burping for 20, and can't fall back asleep because her boobs hurt so bad she's trying to Google an answer!

Now for some pictures of our sweet Violet.