Friday, May 3, 2013

My Breastfeeding Journey with Baby #2

Five years ago, when my husband and I experienced the birth of our son, we had made the decision to breastfeed.  My husband, who was adamant about not giving our baby formula, was my support system throughout my pregnancy, encouraging me to do it and being my cheerleader along the way.  I can honestly say that my fear stemmed from our son having problems latching on instead of the pain of childbirth itself!  This was my second child, and the first child we have together, and he shared articles with me about the benefits of breastfeeding.  Because he insisted on it, and I was excited about it, I also felt that he didn't quite understand that little Caleb would be dependent on me and that he (my husband) would not be able to feed him with a bottle until he was past six weeks of age.  This was the age at which babies have less tendency to get nipple confused, but Nakia was proof positive that even if all he did was bring the baby to me in the middle of the night for feedings or stay up to burp him afterwards, he was determined to help me be successful.

While in the hospital, and minutes after Caleb was delivered, he took to the breast and did what came naturally.  It felt weird at first, but my nurse gave me two thumbs up and continued to encourage my choice to breastfeed.  To better prepare myself, I inquired about seeing the lactation consultant before my discharge to ensure that my technique was efficient and that once I left the hospital, I would know what to do.  When the ladies made rounds, they showed my the various techniques that may work (football, cradle, side-lying) to allow for the milk to be expressed with ease as well as comfort for me.  It was a learning process for both myself and Caleb, but we worked as a good team and became successful.  But there still lingered a bit of fear of being able to continue once we got Caleb home.

As Caleb continued to feed on demand, I obliged but noticed that he would not always nurse from both breasts, leaving me full on one side and to the point where I became engorged.  My breasts swelled from the size of navel oranges to Florida grapefruits, with milk all the way up to my clavicle and under my armpits.  I was in pain and didn't know what to do.  I called my girlfriend Sandi who nursed her babies and she told me to get in the shower and let the warm water run over my breasts while expressing the milk to come out.  This was very painful, and although I was taking Ibuprofen to help, it wasn't enough.  I put packs of ice inside my nursing bra, used lanolin cream to ease the cracked nipples (yeah, I got those too), but my breasts were gynormous! (Is that even a word? It doesn't matter, because that's what my breasts were!!!!)

I went online in search of a lactation consultant in my area, and like angels singing in the background, I came across Becky Butler of Milky Way,, in LaPlata Maryland, and she was truly heaven sent.  We set up an appointment and my husband and I packed up our little guy to go for a visit.  Becky showed me, hands-on (literally) how to initiate contact and to ensure Caleb had a good seal on the areola and not just the nipple, which is what he was doing to crack my nipples.  He favored one breast over the other, and I needed to train him to nurse from both.  She also told me that I had an overabundance of milk, as if I was producing milk for twins and even asked if I was told that I had a pituitary problem (which I did not, I just produced an abundance of milk that could have been sold!)  I began the pumping process to get as much of my milk out as possible and start my storage and got myself on a routine that worked and the engorgement went away (still grateful for ice packs and ibuprofen).

My breastfeeding regimen worked well, and even when it was time to introduce our little guy to the bottle, my husband was even more a part of the team.  When he tried to give him a pacifier to soothe him before I returned home from an errand, Caleb refused.  He never took a pacifier and found soothing in the thumb of his right hand at three months old.

I returned to work when Caleb was ten weeks old with my Medela Pump In Style bag and cooler, excited that I would be able to continue giving my baby the best.  This experience proved tragic for me, as I will explain to you how insensitive and negative my coworkers were towards me and my choice to breastfeed.  Working as an acute dialysis nurse requires long, hard hours and a lot of one-on-one patient to nurse ratio time.  However, there are times when you can take care of two patients at a time.  Because I needed to pump at least every four hours, I would need to be relieved so another nurse or tech could watch my patient.  One particular Saturday, it was myself, an LPN, and a technician.  There was a patient needing dialysis in ICU, which meant that if I left to dialyze the patient, it would be at least four hours more that would go by before I could pump, as no one would relieve me.  Thus, putting me at an almost five hour mark, causing me discomfort and not to mention the leakage.  The other nurse on duty suggested I "pump now" before going to care for the patient, which I found absurd being as though I had just nursed my baby at 0630 and it had only been an hour.  She didn't understand this and huffed off to the ICU to take care of the patient.  There were many other incidents and comments that I recall that eventually took their toll on me AND my milk supply, and I would come home upset and crying to my husband with my decreasing amount of milk, causing me to supplement with formula.

The gossip and negative comments floated back to me on a daily basis, and one day when the nurses were in the manager's office, I challenged them to speak up about my desire to pump and that by law, no one could refuse me to do so.  In other words, shut up about my breast pumping unless you want to take up a collection and purchase formula for me to feed my baby.  Silence rung out, and a few of the nurses feigned words of encouragement and even suggested I give them a schedule of when and how long I needed to pump.  I rolled my eyes and reminded them that since they didn't have children nor knew anything about breastfeeding, it was best to keep their suggestions to themselves.  In other words, deal with it you B word, and leave me to do what I need to do.  No one took into consideration that the area in which I needed to pump was in the labor and delivery area, which was downstairs and all the way on the opposite side of the hospital, taking me about ten to twelve minutes to get there.  Once there, I had to make sure the room wasn't occupied and then had to get set up.  Pumping required at least 15 minutes, making my entire time off the unit 25 to 27 minutes in which someone else had to watch my patient.  I had to still be considerate of the breaks my coworkers needed to take, and a lot of times I chose to use my breakfast and lunch break to pump instead of to eat.

Needless to say, after more months of the snide remarks and evil looks, I continued to pump and nurse Caleb at night.  By the time he was nine months old, I was exclusively pumping as he chose to no longer take to the breast, but I managed to pump three more months until his first birthday.  I vowed to myself that I would never allow myself to be subjected to such negative women who cared less about the well being and importance of breast is best for a nursing mother.  Although I supplemented with formula, Caleb grew well.  I should have not been surprised by their nasty ways, being as though when I was well into my eighth and ninth month of pregnancy, no one except for my dear friend Toya assisted me with pushing my dialysis and RO machine to the units or carry my supplies for me.  I continued to take on-call, and the staff in the unit always helped me bring my machines back upstairs once I was done, even into the wee hours of the midnight hour.  Even the nurse manager of the ICU complained if I dared to leave equipment behind from the night before, knowing that I would return in the morning to continue treatment on a patient.

This journey really sucked for me, but I really learned a lot.
One, I don't like working with a bunch of females.  They are unstable creatures, catty, and jealous, especially when you have things going for you.  I never asked for handouts, and I never once called out sick during my pregnancy; I showed up with swollen ankles, full bladder, and leaky breasts.

Two, there are some good people in the healthcare field that will look out for fellow nurses, and the ICU and CCU nurses and staff always made sure I was comfortable and even had water to drink and food to eat during my breaks.  (There are so many of you to name, but if I miss anyone, charge it to my head and not my heart; however, this was almost six years ago. Ally, Brenda, Karen, Shelly, Renee, Tammy, Jan, Barbara, Jeania, Amanda).

Three, don't sweat the small stuff, although it didn't seem small at the time.  You see, not too long after that, I became a better person and was able to shake off the mess that could have caused me to use ungodly words and cuss a few folk out.

And lastly, I am loved by my family and friends, and that love outweighed any of the foolishness with which I had to deal with.  I vowed to myself that I would NEVER go through this again, and I didn't.  And now, as I am nursing my third child, I can really see God's got it.  He took me through the storm so that I could see the rainbow that he put there when it was over. (Read my next blog on Breastfeeding Baby #3).