My Journey Through a Decade of Breastfeeding – Peaks and Valleys

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would share my own breastfeeding journey with TLLS readers. It hasn’t been an easy trip for me or my 4 babies. Theres been many set backs and many tears(valleys) but its been equaled with just as many smiles and memories(peaks). Many woman have zero difficulties when they begin to breastfeed. Many women have some and many have more then I can count on two hands! It takes a special determination to stick to breastfeeding. You have to have a passion for it to make it work. I had to learn how to gain this passion. This blog post will be lengthy seeing that Ive been a breastfeeding mom for 10+ years. Bless you if you make it all the way to the end! lol

Turn back the clock 11 years(2001). You’ll see a 20 year old, newly married military wife who JUST moved across country with her beloved to a new duty station. 2 months after settling in, I found myself on the phone with the Naval hospital head nurse and she was congratulating me. I was pregnant! Over that 8 month span of pregnancy I didn’t even think about breastfeeding. I didn’t have to. Its in my blood. Its all I knew. My younger brothers and sisters(Im the oldest of 9) were breastfed and my aunts, cousins and even my grandmother breastfed their own children. And being the close family we were, no one ever covered up.

I gave birth to my son after 19 long hours of labor. They had broken my water way too early which caused me to run a maternal fever through the last few hours of labor. Once my son was born they showed him to me and whisked him away to make sure there was no complications from the fever(Neonatal sepsis, Chorioamnionitis, etc…, both which can cause problems for mom and baby). I didn’t get my son back until almost 2 hours later when I was in recovery. I would attempt to latch him on to my left breast and we would have a successful and beautiful connection right away! But when I attempted to latch him onto my right side, we would have a problem. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a position to put him in that didn’t hurt when he would attempt to latch on. I cringed in pain every time. I asked the nurses to send in a Lactation Consultant the day before we were discharged and one never came. I was a young fresh mom who didn’t know how to stand up for herself and push for the help she needed. I was set up for failure from the get go. Thanks Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital… for nothing! (Ill get into my AH-HA! moment when I realized YEARS later what I was having issues with at the end of this blog)

My son breastfed for 14 months before he self weaned. But in that 14 months I resorted to the left breast at night and a few times a day mixed with formula when we would go out(formula was given off and on after 6 months of pure breastfeeding). The few times I tried to nurse him off the right side left me in pain. My son suffered from colic the first 4 months. Mix this with my severe postpartum Depression, D-MERs, 9/11 and a husband who had orders to be deployed overseas to war. My first few months of breastfeeding were not fun. My son also had a lot of asthma issues and was in and out of the hospital a lot for upper respiratory infections around 8 months and on. Why do I mention this? Because, there is a link. But thats a whole new post. He is 10 now. Happy but still has medical issues with his breathing.

Fast forward 2 years(2004). You’ll see me holding my newborn baby girl. She was given to me right after birth and we attempted to feed a while later when all my pain meds wore off because after 13 hours of labor and narcotics, I was TIRED! I would have the same success and failure with breastfeeding except I didn’t even bother to ask for help because of the let down of support I suffered before. Even though this was a civilian hospital, that bad experience was still fresh. This is why it is SO important for Lactation consultants and hospital staff to be educated and on track with breastfeeding support!!!

I would breastfeed this sweet baby girl for a total of 4 months. Here Is where it gets sad and where I get mad at myself. I switched her to formula and baby cereal at 4 months because I was tired of breastfeeding her. I was lazy. I didn’t want to do it and waste MY time.

**OMG!!! Did she JUST say that?!**

Yes. I did. I was lazy and it was all for selfish reasons. Ill admit it. Not proud of it but its the real reason. I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago when I really got to thinking about it for this post. I used low supply and depression medication as an excuse all these years. I feel horrible for it. My daughter was born with a kidney defect. I cant imagine how hard it was for her one functioning kidney to have to process that formula. The formula caused her to be constipated and have belly aches. But now, she is a happy, healthy 8 year old. No major health issues other then her kidney.

In 2008, we would welcome our 3rd son into our family on a cool Thanksgiving morning. He was given to me right away. We nursed through out the night. Still wasn’t able to feed off my right side. My poor right breast got so very little attention. I would nurse off it long enough to empty it so engorgement wouldn’t hurt as bad but that was it. With this breastfeeding experience I would have a new obstacle to overcome – reoccurring mastitis. That was the second most painful thing I ever experienced when it came to breastfeeding. The fevers, chills and pain were just ridiculous. I also had to do a total lifestyle change in what I ate because this little guy ended up having GI bleeding from a dairy sensitivity at 3 months. I had to take out every bit of dairy in my diet. I had to become a label reader on all the food I purchased for myself. I’m a HUGE milk lover. Dropping that from my diet was HARD. But I did it. I lived through it. My sons tummy got better and we were MUCH happier for it! He nursed for 27 whole months. Not 1 drop of formula! I was determined to make this 100% work. And we did! He self-weaned last February after a hospital stay that occurred from a seizure and blood disorder issue they found. He nursed in the hospital and then it tapered off. It was bitter sweet for me. I turned around one day and realized he hadn’t asked to nurse in a whole day. Then a week. Then nothing.

My 4th child was born 7 months ago. She has been exclusively breastfed up until last month when she started showing interest in solids. But even then, she gets breast milk as her main source of food. We started out just like the others did. Left side was a win, right side hurt like hell. I was so tired of this problem though. 3 weeks after I had my daughter, I sat down on my couch and started to try and nurse her off the right side. My husband would look over at me with tears rolling down my face and ask what was wrong and I would look up and tell him “I’m so tired of this hurting me. Ive suffered with this problem and no help with all my babies and this is my last one. Ill never get a chance to nurse again after this. I have to make this work!” I was determined to find out what I was doing wrong. Was it my hold? Was it her latch? Was it my nipple? What?!?!

I took her off my breast one day and examined my nipple. It didn’t take more then 1 second to figure out what was going on. AH-HA! I had a half flat nipple. The lower portion of the nipple was laying flat and the top would pop out. This was making her latch on the top part of the nipple sticking out which in turn was painful because of uneven nipple sucking! So there was the problem. All these years and I finally got it. Something so simple that caused me grief for so long. The remedy was to pump before latching her to that side. It would pop the entire nipple out enough that she could latch properly. A change in position and we were off! A slight change in dairy consumption again on my part due to yet another dairy sensitive baby but it been bliss from then on out!

I did however become aware of the condition called D-MERs that I had taken on also. I thought I was crazy for what I was feeling but when I read an article posted on Facebook about D-MERs the lightbulb went on and I felt a HUGE relief! I knew what was wrong with me, FINALLY!! I could work through it with the resources that http://d-mer.org/provides and knowing I wasnt alone.

Its been a journey full of peaks and valleys. My babies are all growing strong and I’m learning as I go. There is no ‘expert breast-feeder’. We all face challenges and we all have our triumphs and failures. The important parts are that we don’t give up too soon and to have a support system we can count on during our travels through the difficult valleys and to celebrate with us when we reach our peaks.

Thank you all for caring about your babies and being determined to give them the best nutritional and emotional start in life. This isnt a knock on moms who truly struggle and just cannot breast feed for whatever medical reason. I really do believe there are women out there that just cannot do it. They put their full effort into it but in the end have to make a decision. You are not a failure. You are not alone! You are amazing!!!

I want to thank my husband for being my support system throughout this journey. He really is the best travel partner I could have ever asked for in all this.

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