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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Breast Feeding = Winning

Hey, friends!  It's been a few days again, I know.  Sorryyyyy!  We've been busy...doing exactly what, I'm not sure, but we have been!  My parents have been in town the past few days, and Dan's family is coming into town today to meet Miss Lilly and we are so excited to see them!

I wanted to do a quick (let's face it, my posts are never quick) post about breast feeding, since I've mentioned it in several previous posts.  While I think it is a very personal choice, and would never judge anyone for doing anything differently, after a lot of research as well as discussion with my doctor and Lilly's, Dan and I decided that, if it worked out (big "if"), breast feeding was the way we wanted to go.  This was the result of a lot of factors that I won't get into here in the interest of time, but the main deciding factor was that there are a lot of benefits for both Mom and baby. 

So you know how in the movies - and really in real life - it looks like the baby just knows what to do, and breast feeding is a breeze?  One of the first lessons I learned about being a mother is that breast feeding is NOT, in fact, a breeze.  It is a lot of work.  I mean a LOT.  And it is hard.  And frustrating.  And exhausting.  Even after the class we took and all of the help we've had from the nurses in the hospital, lactation consultants, Lilly's pediatrician, etc., I guess I just didn't realize that it is decidedly not one of those things that just comes naturally and easily to both Mom and baby.  I've stuck with it so far, because it's important to me to do so, but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I've thought about giving up every time we feed quite a few times to date.

So, a little back story on Lilly: she is what they consider a late pre-term baby.  She was born literally the day I made it to 37 weeks gestation.  What this meant for her is that all of her basic development had occurred, but she didn't get that extra cooking time in the womb to hone important skills like breathing on her own, for example.  In fact, going into labor, the doctors prepared us for the worst by listing off all of the potential things that could occur due to slight under-development that would cause her to need some extra care.  We thank God every day that she is beautiful and healthy and didn't need it!  So, normal (full-term) babies are expected to lose up to 10% of their body weight when they leave the hospital or within the first week.  That is, 10% is the threshold - if they lose more, that's when the doctors get concerned.  For pre-term babies, the standard is different - they only like to see them lose 6-7%.  Lilly was born weighing 7 lbs 6 oz.  When we checked out of the hospital, she weighed 6 lbs 15 oz, and the next day at her first weight check she was down to 6 lbs 12 oz - basically, she was close to 9% down, which is more than her doctors were comfortable with. 

In the first 24 hours of life, babies generally are not interested in eating.  Per the doctors and nurses, this is partially due to the fact that they are used to eating whenever they want in the womb (so they may still be full), and partially due to the fact that the birthing process literally wears them out and they are too tired to do anything but sleep.  This is why it's okay that your milk doesn't come in for a few days after birth - they don't need as much at first.  In the hospital, we worked with the nurses and lactation consultants on feeding Lilly.  She latched really well, but wouldn't eat - either got too fussy and frustrated or fell asleep and wouldn't wake up.  The doctors think that it just tired her out too much.  Due to the fact that she was early and so little, the pediatrician asked us to start supplementing with either pumped breast milk or formula (15 ML per feeding) until she got back up to birth weight. 

I had been pumping anyway to try to get my milk to come in more quickly, so most of the time we would feed her what little colostrum I pumped as well as some additional formula.  At first, we let her suck on my pinky and fed her the breast milk and/or formula through a curved syringe, in an effort to not confuse her as well as to teach her she had to work for it (i.e. sucking).  My milk came in two days after she was born, and without getting too personal, let's just say I have plenty to spare.  The new problems were twofold: (a) there is so much milk that it was overwhelming for her and (b) she was too lazy at this point to want to latch correctly and eat.  We introduced a nipple shield at the suggestion of the lactation consultants and the pediatrician, and she did really well with it.

The nipple shield was a good quick fix, but created a new problem: she didn't want to eat without it.  This isn't really a problem except that I would rather her breast feed without it (feeding takes a lot longer with it, and additionally what happens if we go somewhere and I forget it and then she won't eat?).  At her third weight check last week, she was back up to birth weight and we got the OK to stop supplementing.  We also met with a lactation consultant and her pediatrician, because I wanted advice on how to wean her off of the nipple shield.  Of course when we went to our lactation appointment, she fully cooperated and breast fed like a champ.  My spirits were high and I was so excited...until we got home and she pitched a fit and went back to refusing to eat without it.  The pediatrician told me point blank that I was being too hard on both of us.  She said that Lilly is eating better than a lot of one-month-old babies that she sees, so who cares if she has to use a nipple shield?  Not to mention that she still would not technically even be here had I not been induced, so the fact that she's eating so well is a blessing in itself.  

So, I tried to be more open-minded and less frustrated.  I have been feeding her using the nipple shield, and she's been doing great.  If she's in a good mood, I've tried feeding without it until she got too fussy.  She was still not interested in the breast sans shield.  I think it may be that the nipple shield is so much bigger that it's a lot easier for her to eat, and also she's just really lazy when it comes to eating.  It is not the end of the world if I have to use this thing forever - I was just hoping not to have to.  So we were going about our feeding business as usual...until yesterday.  Yesterday, she ate three times without it!!!  I was so excited I could barely stand it.  Since then, we've had to use it because I'd rather her eat more quickly and go back to bed in the middle of the night, but the bottom line is, we're making progress.  Today, she's fed twice - once with it and once without.  We're getting there!  Proud Mama, here.

Anyway, so that's where we stand: still in the in-between.  Sometimes we use it, sometimes we don't.  And sometimes (gasp!) we even give her pumped breast milk in a bottle, because sleep is more important.  Poor thing, I'm sure part of the problem is that she's used so many different types of nipples so far that she is just confused.  But we're working on it, and we'll get there eventually.  And guess what?  If we don't, it's not the end of the world.  I know, you're probably wondering who the impostor is that is writing this blog.  I'm just trying to focus on keeping her happy and healthy, and I will do whatever it takes to maintain that.  So far, the best advice I've been given is to give it two weeks before giving up all together.  We'll see how it goes...wish us luck! 

I will say before I wrap it up that her being on the breast without the shield is slightly on the unpleasant side.  Trying to get her to latch correctly (she's regressed since the hospital, and who could blame her?) is painful to say the least.  Two products that I haven't been able to live without throughout this process are:

Johnson & Johnson nursing pads.  These were recommended by Elisabeth and I can't live without them.  I've tried a few other brands, but I've found that these are the most absorbent by far - which comes in handy with the obscene amount of milk I'm producing (I shouldn't complain, because it's a good problem to have, but literally one night I stuffed my bra with maxi pads to try to combat the leakage.  Oy!  A sight to see, for sure - Dan was highly amused.).  I've only been able to find these on Amazon and at Target.

Lickety split healing balm (nipple cream).  Plenty of people use Lanolin, and that's also what they use in most hospitals - it works fine as well.  Lickety Split was recommended to me by Michelle, and I LOVE it.  It's sold at a store in Charlotte called A Milky Way - or I think you can also get it directly from the manufacturer.  It's organic and not only feels divine but smells delicious (like lavender).  Hop on over and get some today,  Moms.  I promise it will change your life!

Hope you're all having a great weekend!  We had Lilly's newborn photo session this morning with Becca Robinson, and I can't WAIT to see how the pictures turned out.  I took a few on my cell phone to give you a sneak peak.  Obviously, the ones she took will be much better - I just took these standing behind the photographer on my iPhone - but I can't stand the cuteness:

Penguin hat courtesy of Miss Brenda

Tutu made by Aunt Meredith

Monogrammed bloomers from Auntie Meagan

Happy Saturday!



  1. I used the nipple shield with Corbin for the first few weeks because his mouth was so small can guess the rest of this sentence :) but one day we both just didn't need it and I haven't touched it since! Hang in there - sounds like you are doing great!

  2. I also had to use the nipple shield with my lil Corbin. He was about 11 weeks old and I just tried to see if he would nurse without it...he did and he didnt use it again! :) BF is frustrating, but stick to it! Corbin is almost 13 months and I'm still nursing him! The benefits are fabulous! Corbin has NEVER been sick. I have friends that have babys the same age and their kids are always sick! Just try to stick with it!! Good luck!

  3. Hang in there. I had to use the shield with Easton until he was 4 months old! Then with Levi until he was 8 weeks. Every kid is different but she will come around. I'm with you though on it being very painful. It seriously killed me with my first. Its a little easier this time but it still is definitely not my favorite thing to do. But you are an awesome mommy for sticking it out!! Good luck.


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