Monday, June 27, 2011

Breastfeeding the First Time Around: "Training Wheels" and Returning to Work!

Our first night at home was relatively uneventful. Of course everyone was exhausted, but I was glad to finally be home! My mother in law met us at the apartment ready to help out, and served us dinner and helped clean up. She helped with the baby as much as she could too. I believe at this point, I basically was just giving P the samples of formula from the hospital. I had the manual pump that was a gift from the hospital, but that was so much work just to express just a little teeny tiny bit of milk!

The next day, I called the lactation consultant who had given the free breastfeeding class that I attended a few weeks prior. She agreed to meet with me that day, and I went into her office feeling hopeful, but ended up in tears at some point. I never would have imagined that breastfeeding could have been so frustrating! She even had real trouble getting him to latch, then finally, he latched, and nursed for several minutes! He quickly fell asleep, though, and we were back at square one.

While she was helping me get situated with him, she began to not seem very hopeful about our breastfeeding relationship. I heard her say in amazement, "he does not associate you with food at all!" It was discouraging to hear her say that, but I was just not interested in giving up. I ended up renting a pump from the boutique where her office was. She advised me to just keep pumping every couple of hours, and to let her know when I was up to two ounces every two hours. She wanted me to focus on building up my supply, rather than focusing on getting him to latch while still struggling with not enough milk.

So that's what I did. Every two hours, I would "set up shop" and start pumping. Sometimes people would visit, and I would have to excuse myself to go take care of business and make the baby's next meal. He quickly caught up with my production, immediately drinking what I would produce. I had a can of sample formula that I had received by mail sitting in my kitchen, so once the hospital samples ran out, we opened the can. As my supply was growing, I pretty much only used it if I didn't have a chance to pump or if we went out somewhere.

Within a week or so, I met my goal of two ounces every two hours. I called Mary, the lactation consultant, and she advised me to try to reintroduce him to the breast. I had been given a nipple shield, so she advised me to use that since he was used to bottle feeding at this point. I tried offering him the breast when it was time for a feeding, and sometimes he would latch on and sometimes he wouldn't. He would move his head back and forth and get frustrated really easily at times, and then we'd both be crying! Then I would try giving him part of a bottle, then switching back to offering the breast after he had a little bit to eat. That seemed to work pretty well.

During that time of trying to teach him to breastfeed, I had a couple of really hopeless-feeling moments. I remember being in the car with him after another meeting with the lactation consultant thinking "if I don't breastfeed him, it won't be the end of the world or anything". I just decided to take it one step at a time. I could not focus on the big picture, just on what was right in front of my face at that time. I was desperate to get him used to nursing, especially since I would be going back to work shortly.

Thankfully, by the time I returned to work at three weeks postpartum, he was exclusively nursing with the help of a nipple shield. It's kind of like breastfeeding "training wheels". It was so liberating to be free of the pump! As Mary said to me, "I'll bet you're tired of feeding him twice, huh?" (Pumping, and then feeding him the expressed milk). Was I ever!

Thankfully, my employers were gracious enough to let me bring my son to the office with me. I had worked out a new schedule, going from full time, to part time. I worked five hours a day, four days a week. I had a personal office, but it actually had a big giant window, so it wasn't very private! My employers installed mini blinds so that I could have some privacy during feeding times. They're kind of my heroes! I'm not sure if I would've done so well without their support. I was still using the nipple shield when I returned to work, so there was quite a bit of fumbling around when it was time for a feed. To say it was difficult to be discreet would be an understatement!

Finally, within a couple of weeks, he was able to advance to nursing directly without the shield. This really made life so much easier. My supply was plenteous, and it was pretty much smooth sailing. No more washing of pump parts, bottles or nipple shields!

That first month or so was rough, but I'm so glad we persisted.

What challenges did you overcome in the first several weeks?