I had always wondered what it would be like to breastfeed. I will be honest and say, I was a little skeptical and nervous, upon doing so. I had heard so many horror stories from friends. They told me about the pain, mastitis, engorgement, the let down of your milk and so forth. The only reason I wanted to breastfeed, is because I knew how good it would be for my baby.
A little while after giving birth to Penelope, I knew it was time for her to eat. I took a deep breath as Penelope latched on for the first time. I knew at that instance there was more to breastfeeding, than just the feeding aspect. There was this special bond that immediately took place. Feeling her soft skin touch mine was perfect and more special than I could have ever imagined.
Being in the hospital was a little bit of a blur. I didn't know how often or for how long I needed to feed her. The nurses would come in and ask if I had fed her. I usually would respond with no because she was sleeping peacefully. This is before I learned she had jaundice. As time went on Penelope had a harder and harder time latching on. I didn't know if it was something I was doing wrong or if it was because she was a little premature.
Thankfully my lactation specialist was an angel. I will warn you, she grabbed and pulled me in places I never knew possible. She was determined to get my baby to eat. She kept on telling me how important it was for her to get the colostrum. Penelope seemed to be getting worse as time went on. She wouldn't stay awake long enough to eat and latching on was becoming more of a problem. This is where the lovely shield came into play. I had heard of these things but had no idea I would need one. There again I thought I would be just like my mom and my baby would nurse perfectly.
The shield seemed to help Penelope latch on better but she still continued to struggle to stay awake for her feedings. Don't worry this is where is gets interesting. My lactation specialist would squeeze and squeeze me until something would come out. She squeezed my colostrum onto a spoon and then would spoon feed it to Penelope. I thought to myself, whatever we have to do to get this baby to eat.
Things didn't get much easier in the breastfeeding department, while at the hospital. My mom kept telling me to wait until my milk comes in. She said she won't be able to guzzle fast enough. In the back of my mind I thought that would be the golden ticket. I was determined to breastfeed and formula was not going to be an option. Right before leaving the hospital they informed us that Penelope's bilirubin count was continuing to rise. They told me she needed to eat more to get her numbers to drop. I started to feel the pressure but didn't want it to show. I had heard that babies can feel the stress from their moms and in turn can have a negative effect on their breastfeeding.
We went home from the hospital in hopes my milk would come in and this would all be behind us. Penelope continued to sleep. My mom and I continually worked on trying to get her to wake up. We would strip her down to just her diaper and would get a wet wash cloth to rub on her feet. A few days went by and my milk still hadn't come in. I started to panic. I of course thought the worst. I didn't think I was going to be able to nurse. I called a lactation specialist and asked for advice over the phone. She advised me to power pump and take some supplements.
This is where the lovely breast pump came into play. That thing became my best friend, not. In between still trying to get Penelope to nurse, I had to pump after each feeding for ten minutes. Twice a day I had to power pump. This consisted of me pumping ten minutes on and ten minutes off for an hour. It was fun, let me tell you. I seriously felt like an around the clock feeding machine.
We had to follow up with the pediatrician to see if P's bilirubin levels had gone down. Unfortunately they continued to rise and she was a few numbers away from having to go under the lights. The pediatrician said that I was going to have to supplement. I had a melt down while at the doctors office. I felt like a failure. I had been trying my best to feed my baby and my best just wasn't good enough. We decided to go meet with the lactation specialist that I had in the hospital. She was so sweet and went and got us some pre-mixed bottles. We fed one to P right away. The poor thing guzzled the entire bottle in a minute tops. She had been starving. I felt horrible but at the same time relived that she was getting some nutrition. We took the additional formula with us and were on our way.
Feeding became my full time job. Now I had to try and nurse, pump and then feed Penelope her bottle of formula. As soon as I was done with this process it was time to do it all over again. I was starting to get exhausted, but I didn't care what it took, I was going to breastfeed.
There was one night I couldn't find my shield. I about died. I didn't know what to do. Penelope was screaming but I didn't want to turn to the bottle right away. I wanted her to still need me. I left Penelope with my mom and went on a search to Target to find a new one. I got to Target and couldn't find one. I was so upset. I came home and luckily the shield had reappeared.
Throughout this process my milk finally came in. I think it took over a week. All of the power pumping had paid off and the supplementing of formula helped Penelope's jaundice to go away. For some reason I still have yet to have a let down. I guess some women just never experience that.
Throughout the past few months Penelope has still had the hardest time nursing. She has had to have the shield on. For while there she was doing okay without it. That is when she contracted RSV and was so congested. It was impossible for her to breathe and eat at the same time. I knew she was struggling, so I had to bring back the shield. I was sad because of the progress she was making.
I had so many emotions during this whole process. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I hated when people would ask how Penelope was doing with the nursing. I always had to tell them she was still having a hard time. If only people knew how hard I had been working on getting her to eat.
I would have panic attacks if we had to leave the house. I knew Penelope wasn't capable of nursing in a public place. I tried feeding her with a coverup on and that didn't work. She would throw her arms up and expose me. It was impossible. I didn't mind giving her a bottle but I still needed to be relieved. I become so susceptible to mastitis. I got it twice and didn't want to get it again.
For the past couple of weeks she has become so distracted when eating. I have figured out that if the tv is off and no one talks she is okay. On a positive note it has helped me to focus on her and soak up the bonding time.
When P would nurse she would drip all over herself and me. We would both be covered in milk and would have to change our clothes a few times a day. I started noticing that she wasn't getting either of us soaked anymore. I thought maybe her latch had finally improved and we could try the no shield thing again. Before all of this started happening I had given into the fact that she would need a shield to eat. I started to come to terms with this and realized it didn't matter. All that mattered is that she was eating and growing.
Well I decided to give it another try since she wasn't dripping milk everywhere and would you believe it, she did it. Not only for one feeding but for two days full of feedings now. A new leaf has finally turned. I am over the moon happy. This breastfeeding thing has taken work. My mom and Tyson can attest to this. There were many prayers and blessings that took place for this to all come about. I have learned so many lessons on patience and persistence. I know that with both anything is possible.
It was amazing to go shopping today and step into a dressing room and not have to worry about a shield or a bottle. Penelope ate quickly and I was fully drained. It was perfect. I feel on top of the world. There is really nothing I wouldn't do for my baby. I know some would have given up a long time ago, but this was important to me. I am so happy I stuck things out.
"If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence."
Co-founder of Amway
"We should have a nature like water. Water can be forceful, yet it is always the first to yield, moving quickly around obstacles and relentlessly seeking the simplest path. With time and persistence, water will wear away the tallest mountains and transform the landscape."
Life can be rough at times. There are many times and different circumstances where I have wanted to give up. As long as I pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other, there is always a forward motion. Who would have thought breastfeeding would intel so much. I will always cherish it though. I love holding my baby close to me and hearing her breathe. I know this is such a short period of time in our lives that we get to share with one another. She is my whole world and I wouldn't change a thing.