Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our Breastfeeding Journey

On March 9th, 2009 my son was born at home. He was 8lb 6oz and 21inches. I did not breastfeed my daughter and was determined to try this time. About an hour after birth when things were all settled down one of my midwives helped us to latch on. He nursed very well while everyone else was cleaning up. After everyone left and we went to bed, I could not get him to nurse. When my friends woke up they tried to help but no luck. He would not even try. Through out the day we kept on trying with no luck. I called my midwife and she suggested pumping after trying and to syringe feed him. She would be visiting later at night. She came and could not get him to nurse either. We defrosted some frozen colostrum I had pumped during pregnancy and we syringe fed him that. In the morning I called the pediatrician to make an appointment to get him checked out.
(This post contains many images of a human baby nursing)

*First Latch*

The pediatrician was stumped as well as to what was wrong. She could not get him to suck on anything either. We tried the breast, a finger, a pacifier, and a bottle. Nothing would entice him to suck. She sent us to the hospital to get further testing. At the emergency room they took us right back when they heard that he was only one day old. The ER pediatrician was stumped as well. He had an x-ray done and we were all shocked by the results. He had a collapsed lung. He was admitted to the special care nursery and had his lung drained and went on oxygen. He was put on intravenous nutrition and I started to pump for him. His lung re-collapsed and he was moved to another hospitals NICU and had further testing and procedures. On his third day my milk came in!
*Yay the milk is here!*

He was finally stable enough and his suck reflex was restored so we were able to start bottle feeding. After a day of bottles his chest tube was removed and I could finally hold him, which meant we could start nursing! I soon realized that the only comfortable position for us was the football hold. He would nurse but we were having issues. Both of us were getting very frustrated. The lactation consultant came to see us but he was sleeping. She brought me a breastpump to keep. He had another round of tests and we were given the ok to head home! 
*Little Man is healing*

At home we continued to struggle with nursing. He just would not latch on. I would try to nurse, then pump, then feed him what I pumped. Repeat. The night after we got home he suddenly had an AH HA! moment and latched on. Finally he was nursing willingly without much issue. Soon after coming home we both developed thrush from the strong antibiotics he was on in the NICU. Thankfully it was a mild case and easily solved. Right after we healed from thrush I came down with mastitis. I went to go see my primary care doctor to get some antibiotics, and a friend picked them up for me. However with some advice from a LLL leader, homeopathics, nursing often, massage, and warm compresses I was able to clear up the mastitis without the medicine.
*nursing the mastitis out*

Nursing went pretty well for awhile after that. He was a little boobie monster, and was gaining up to a pound a week. Football hold was still the only comfortable position to nurse in. And remained our preferred position for the entire nursing relationship. I had a bunch of pillows and a little nursing station set up on our couch so we could just relax and nurse. After a few weeks we figured out how to side lie and would nurse in bed at night and naps. I left him for the first time at 4 weeks old with my mother while I took my daughter out to the movies. This was the first time he had a bottle since his AH HA! moment, and he took it no problem. 

At one month old he developed a rash on his face that soon started to spread onto his torso. The doctor thought it was baby acne. It just did not feel right. I decided to do an elimination diet.  I eliminated the top major allergens from my diet until he healed. Then I slowly reintroduced the foods one at a time. I found that soy was causing his hives and that gluten would give him mucous and bloody diapers. Around this same time he developed reflux and was very colicky. Our diet seemed to have no effect on his reflux, and he went on medicine. It helped take the edge off but not all the way.
*My hive boy*

Once we figured out that he had allergies I donated all of my milk that I had pumped and frozen. Over 100 ounces. 
*the one time we managed cradle hold*
*Milk drunk*

Around 12 weeks he was 16lbs. He would nurse non-stop and get very frustrated. He was started to loose weight too. Doing a few weighted feeds he was not getting much. For some unknown reason he my milk supply tanked when before I had more than enough. I started taking mothers milk tea daily and saw a slight increase but not enough. I added fenugreek and started pumping a few times a day as well. I kept increasing the fenugreek and it was starting to work. He stopped loosing and started gaining some. However, I had increased the fenugreek to much and was starting to have signs of overdose on it. I stopped the fenugreek and went to see my gynecologist. She ran some blood tests and said my prolactin levels were way to low. My thyroid was perfect. She wanted to try reglan but I was against it because of its possibility to cause depression . I was already suffering from some postpartum depression. I brought up domperidone. She had never heard of it but said she would research it. She called me back and said she looked it up and talked to some other doctors. She thought it would be a good idea and was willing to give me a prescription. Problem was no pharmacy in my state was willing to fill the prescription. She gave me permission to order from out of country.
*Happy boy*

I started the domperidone and it seemed to be working. We were still nursing constantly, pumping many times a day and drinking tea. He started to gain some more again. But after awhile he started to loose again. Upping the domeridone did not seem to help. The poor little guy was hungry all of the time. The pediatrician told us we needed to supplement with formula, but with his allergies the only formula he would have been able to tolerate was prescription amino acid based formulas. We had made it this far without formula. I was not about to give in now.
*Bigger than his head* 

*nursing while camping*

At six months, I started midwifery school. He was able to come with me to some classes in the beginning, but soon he was to distracting. I had a lovely bunch of women in my class, and some awesome teachers. I would pump while class was happening, and had all of their support. 
*Kitty needs cuddles too* 

*attack of the baby monster!*

After talking to my midwives. I made the decision to seek donor milk. One of my midwives happened to have a freezer full of breast milk from one of her clients. She could vouch for her health. I was so excited to go get the milk, but it was a hard decision to make. It felt like I was giving up. To quote my Facebook post...
"I'm thankful that I have such wonderful women around me to support me in this struggle with Alton... It hurts me to have to be able to do this, yet I feel blessed at the same time that people are willing to help us continue to keep A formula free and healthy. His first bottle of donor milk..."
*First Bottle of donor milk*

*First donation of milk* 

He devoured his first bottle of milk. And he was happy and content afterwards for about an hour. It had been a long time since he had done that. He was seven months old when we started supplementing. He was 17lbs. Only a one pound weight gain in four months. My little monkey was hungry. 
*More Milk*
The midwives put me in touch with another one of their clients who had more milk. She was a super momma who was exclusively pumping for her son. Overall we received the gift of 200+ ounces from one milkie momma and 1000+ ounces from our second milkie momma.
*More Milk*

There was so much milk we had to use both of my parent deep freezer, because our little apartment freezer could only hold so much. I continued with the meds, herbs, and pumping. I was able to produce about half of what he needed. He started gaining steadily, by his first birthday he was 20lbs! He started eating a variety of solids at a year old as well. We made it to a year! There were many times where I did not think that we could do it, but we did!
*How we spend most of our days*

*Hi Momma!*

After his birthday I decided to wean myself off of the domperidone and other supplements. I slowly cut out pumping as well. I did it for my own sanity and decided to let my body do what it needed to. We still had some donor milk left and used that until it was gone at 14 months. Around the same time that the donor milk ran out, I dried up. We were no longer nursing for nourishment. Only for comfort. 
*Sleepy guy* 

*Late night feedings*

 His latch has always felt funny but looked ok. Some time later after speaking with a friend we also discovered that he has a possible posterior tongue tie and a tight lip tie. This combined with my thyroid condition we discovered later, we believe were the root causes of our issues. In the cold weather, I also developed  Raynaud's. It was quite uncomfortable but tolerable. Thankfully when the warm weather arrived it disappeared.
*Two years!*

We made it to two years!!!!!! This was my original goal when I was pregnant. I all but abandoned this goal when we started having issues. I never thought I would see this day happen.
*Mornings. Baby nursing. Mommy reading emails*

*A rare moment when he fell asleep*

Nursing started to become very hard for me. I started dreading when he would ask to nurse and would have to say no at times because I was so touched out. I started to count to ten on each side. Depending on how bad it was I would count slow or fast. Sometime in August I decided that we had to end this. I was ready, and I was done with dry nursing. I set a date to be finished. His half birthday would be our last day. He was doing pretty well with me saying no and offering hugs or a snack instead. No tantrums. So on September 9, 2011 he nursed for the last time. At the time of me writing this it has been almost a week since he has nursed. He has only asked three times and is doing very well. It is bittersweet being done. We made it two and a half years. Over half of that we dry nursed. Through all of this I can honestly say I do not want to have to go through this ever again. But I would if I had to. It was so worth it. I am glad I did not give up and kept trying.
*Our last nursing*
In November 2011, We drove three hours to Albany NY and finally Alton's lip and tongue tie were revised by laser. Two days later, He asked to nurse out of no where. I let him try just to see if he still remembered how to. It didnt hurt like it had for the past two+ years. He has been nursing on and off for comfort since then. So at 38months old he has been dry nursing for 24 months. Two years... wow.


  1. Mama, I bow to you. What a gift you have given your son!

  2. Awesome for you Ama! You are such a loving mama! Alton is very lucky to have you. I love all the pics.

  3. Awww! I loved reading this. You are so committed to your son. Good job mama!

  4. What an incredible journey you two went on. I loved when you called him “little boobie monster” and how you were willing to go that extra mile for your breastfeeding journey and then go 10 more miles after that. You’re an inspiration to me!!!

  5. What an amazing story! I make about half of my baby's needs, too. I'm hoping to make it to two years also. You're an inspiration!