Clinical Day.

Last Thursday, I had my first clinical day on my path to becoming an IBCLC.

For those of you not acquainted with the breastfeeding world, that stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  I spent from 7:30 am until 5 pm helping new mommas learn how to breastfeed their babies.  It was incredible.

There were so many things I took away from my first day.  I wish I had written this the same day, but I didn’t get home until after 11:30pm, and I crashed into bed.

First, it surprised me how ambivalent some mothers were about breastfeeding.  They are ONLY on the lactation schedule if they have specified that they are choosing to breastfeed.  However, several of the mothers we went in to see first thing in the morning were happily feeding their new infants formula.  One mother in particular, when asked why she wanted to breastfeed, remarked “Because it’s better for my baby than formula.”  Meanwhile her little one was sucking away at a bottle.   A few moments later, the baby began coughing, choking on the formula, and spit out the nipple.  The LC I was shadowing took that as an opportunity to offer to help the woman latch the baby on to breast.  With very little effort, they achieved a perfect latch and the woman stated she had no pain.  She was being discharged that day.  Who knows if she will continue nursing when she leaves.

Second, it surprised me how much more there is to lactation services in the hospital than simply helping mothers breastfeed.  So many of the patients we saw required something more than just help latching – supplementation of their babies who had lost too much weight, help learning to pump, help using a nipple shield, discussions about what to do when their hospital stay was over.  It struck me how such a huge percentage of women had to have more than just latch support.

We saw the mother of a baby that was about 30 hours old.  She had lots of trouble keeping the baby awake enough to actually nurse.  She would achieve a good latch and her infant would promptly fall asleep.  We spent nearly an hour with her showing her techniques to wake the baby, and still felt like the baby needed constant or near constant stimulation to stay awake enough to nurse.  We offered to go back for her next feeding to assist again so she would have two good feedings before discharge.  At the next feeding, her baby remained sleepy and difficult to rouse.  She was offered a nipple shield as a tool to help the baby feel the nipple in her mouth… and it was suddenly a different baby!  In a matter of seconds, the sweet newborn sucked with vigor and energy, and appeared to be transferring milk as there was colostrum left behind in the shield when latch was broken.  It was incredible to see this mother’s confidence suddenly soar; previously she had been unsure and already contemplating formula, where now she was again excited about her ability to feed her baby.

There were so many more.  I wish I could write about them all, but this post would span pages.  At the end of the day, I felt so consumed by my emotions.  Humbled by these mothers that open themselves up to our help, and trust us with their breastfeeding relationships.  Unsure of my ability to rise to the needs of these mother-baby dyads.  Overwhelmed by the struggles that women face despite the urgent, desperate desire to nurse their children.  And so, so excited for what the future holds for me.  I’m so terribly thrilled about the passion I feel to do this job, to make this work.  I can’t wait.

The Cold, Hard Truth.

I’m a liar.

I didn’t mean to be.  I thought I was telling the truth.  But I wasn’t – I lied.

And I’m not sorry.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words… these are worth millions.

Ruby and I have been breastfeeding.  Exclusively.  For nearly two weeks.

I don’t know what changed.  I don’t know why it happened.  I said I was done, and I meant it… until I tried again.  And something was different.  Perhaps I had given up the fear of failure.  Perhaps I was no longer hurting in my heart.  Perhaps Ruby just knew.  I don’t know why and it just started working.

Ruby and I took a 2 day nursing vacation.  We started giving her my milk in sippy-cups whenever I’m not here.  I pull her hands down gently when I need to.  I make every effort to nurse every single time that I can.  And it just keeps getting better.  Her latch keeps getting better.  Her patience keeps getting better.  She doesn’t pinch, she doesn’t pull back.  It. Doesn’t. Hurt.

I have been SO EXCITED to write this blog post.  I have been LOVING taking pictures to share.  I have been terrified that if I breathed a word, if I mentioned it, it would all fall to bits.  I wanted to wait until I’d worked enough shifts, until I’d successfully come home and nursed again enough times that I felt like I no longer needed to hold my breath.  I don’t know that we’re entirely past that point… but we’re getting there.  Every day we nurse, we’re getting there.

I want and need to thank every single person that has helped us on this journey.  Every cheerleader.  Every encourager.  Every supporter.  Each one of you helped me take it one day at a time, push for one more try, not give up in my saddest, darkest moments.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without you.

Thank you.  Thank you so, so very much.  Thank you for this.

 

At Peace.

It’s been two weeks since our journey to Albany.

Ruby’s tongue has healed beautifully. There is no evidence of any tie. We continue to pull/stretch her tongue several times a day to be sure that there will be no readhesion. She appears quite pleased with her re-found tongue mobility; especially when eating solid foods.

And yet… once again, my sweet dream of a quick fix, an easy solution has gone awry.

For the two days I was gone, Ruby nursed exclusively. I didn’t bring bottles and I didn’t bring a pump, so all of her feedings were at the breast. When I got home, I continued to nurse her without offering any bottles, and it felt like nursing was getting better and better. Her patience at the breast improved, and she seemed less frustrated. She nursed for longer periods without pulling or pushing away. It started to feel like we were on an upward trend…

… and then I had to go back to work. Always, I end up going back to work. Ruby ends up getting bottles, and I don’t get the chance to nurse her for 48 whole hours. When I got home after the first weekend back after the clipping, I ran a warm bath. It had been several hours since my last pump session, so I was quite full and Ruby was quite hungry. I stripped her down and we got in the tub together. We relaxed, stayed calm, played. I didn’t offer her to nurse, and I didn’t put any pressure on her to try. I just wanted to enjoy some motherbaby love time and see what happened.

She very quickly made her way over to the breast and showed her interest. She pinched and grabbed at my nipple, trying to pull it to her mouth instead of moving in to latch. I helped her get into a comfortable position and she brought her mouth to breast… sucked a few times, got angry, and quit. She didn’t try again. I offered the breast a while later and she turned her head away again. With not a few tears in my eyes, I handed her over to her father, who had a bottle prepared, and I went to pump.

That night, I continued to try to nurse her while co-sleeping, as I have always been. She was brutal. She pinched and pulled. She cried on and off the breast. She seemed frustrated and angry, and I didn’t know what to do. I simply kept offering the breast over and over again until she finally latched, and then I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the pain of her pinching and pulling back in order to keep her calm enough to go back to sleep. Every nightwaking was this way. I spent most of the night crying too.

Every time I say I’ve reached the end of my rope, I find more rope. Again and again, I’ve found more rope. There might be more rope out there this time – perhaps someone else has more rope to give me. Perhaps someone will be able to help me find more of my own. But right now, I’m grasping on to the wispy threads of the end of this ratty rope, and I don’t feel like fighting any more. I don’t feel like hurting. My hands are tired of hanging on.

I’ve been pumping lots and lots of milk. We’ve been cuddling and snuggling during bottle feeds. She will still sleep in my bed. Not much else will change… but at the moment – this very moment – our nursing relationship on hold. I wanted to write “over” but I can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe that will change. Maybe it wont. But right now I am at peace.

And if anything changes… I’ll be sure to let you know.

20110919-085916.jpg

Ketchup.

I have intended to sit down and write every single day since we got back from Albany.  I have lots to say.

First, our trip went flawlessly.  AFTER we got over the 2 hour delay in CLT on the tarmac, the rest of the trip was smooth as silk.  Dr. Kotlow and his whole staff were amazing, as usual.  They stuck around to wait for us because of our delay, and Ruby’s procedure was done in mere moment.  Ruby was un-phased and back to smiling within minutes!

Ruby with Dr Kotlow after the procedure.

Immediately after, Ruby and I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of my sweetest online friends for dinner.  I can’t even begin to describe how thrilled I was that Kimberly and her husband were willing to drive over two hours to get to Albany just to meet Ruby and I.  Have I mentioned before how much I love twitter??  We had such an amazing time.  Ruby and Kimberly’s sweet boy were angels during dinner, enjoying some food a la baby led weaning, and grinning at each other from their highchairs.  When the held hands?  I DIE.

Ruby and her pal! Blurry ruby wouldn't stop moving. 🙂

Beautiful Kimberly and her sweet husband Joshua were so fantastic.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like to meet someone that you just know you’d be perfect friends with.  It’s even harder to realize that, if not for the distance, you could hang out every day.  Your families could grow up together.  You could get coffee, and go on walks, have barbecues, sleepovers.  You could cry together.  Laugh together.  It’s hard to realize that despite how the internet makes the world so small, it’s actually still just a little too big.

Ruby and I spent the night in a motel in Albany and flew home first thing Thursday morning.  I’ll gloss over the airport security woman that felt it necessary to tell me that breastfeeding is “gross” and fast forward to being HOME.  I had nursed Ruby exclusively the whole time we were gone, and I felt like she just kept getting better and better.  I feel like nursing without the use of ANY other feeding mechanism would be our fastest and best bet and nursing well.

Thursday night, I took another step in a wonderful direction; I took my first class on the road to becoming an IBCLC.  It was so perfect.  I felt like I absolutely was supposed to be there.  I am so, so, SO excited about it, and I find myself eagerly awaiting the next class – even more so, awaiting the start of clinicals!  I hung around after the class and was able to speak with Gretta, our instructor.  We talked a little about Ruby and our nursing journey.  She asked me a few questions.  I lamented that we’ve given up on professional help because we simply can’t afford to spend any more money on consultations and appointments that yield no results.  She told me, “Well… I think we’ll just have to make you our special project then.  We’ll get you and Ruby nursing.  I think we can.”

And then I cried.

I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday, unable to get the chance to nurse Ruby for 3 days straight due to sleeping, pumping and eating schedules.  When I offered her the breast this morning, she bit me.  The first time she has ever, and I yelped.  It made her cry.  Two steps forward and a quick jog backwards.  This blog has gotten much longer than I had intended, so I’m signing out!  This is the current state of things, and thanks for letting me catch up!

A Last Hurrah.

Well, here we go.

I’m typing this from the airport. Ruby and I are headed back to Albany to have her tongue tie re-addressed.

A few weeks ago, I emailed Dr. Kotlow pictures of Ruby’s tongue, stating that I thought she ha re-adhered. He agreed and told me if we could make our way back out, he would divide the tie again with no charge.

It has taken me this long to get everything lined up and secure tickets, but now we’re on our way. We are flying stand-by and not returning until tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a long two days. Please keep your fingers crossed that there will be a seat for us.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I dont know that this will fix our problems… but it can’t make them worse, right? I feel like this is my final big effort to make things work. If it doesn’t, no one will ever be able to say I didn’t try hard enough. I won’t be able to say I didn’t try.

Wish us luck. I’m excited, nervous, a little scared… mostly hopeful.

20110907-105811.jpg

Nursing Video

Ok.  I’ve been filming Ruby nursing for a long time.  I don’t think I’ve ever, before now, had a video that adequately demonstrates what a session is like for us – a typical, frustrating session.

I hesitated to post it, because there is a ton of boob.  Really, a ton.  And Ruby was bottomless, but I covered that up.  (It took FOREVER.)  But I want everyone, all of you who have tried to help and offered suggestions, to see what it’s like to attempt to nurse her.  She desperately wants to – she cries when I unlatch her, when I take it away.  This nursing session was just over an hour from her previous feeding, so she’s not overly hungry or ravenous.  She’s not distracted.  This is completely typical.

I’m trusting my community and my lovely followers to know themselves, and also those of you whom I work with that troll my blog: if you don’t want to see my breast, don’t push play on the video.  That means you, Dad.

Breastfeeding Ruby – Update

It’s been almost two weeks since I talked about breastfeeding!

Heck, it’s been almost a week since I’ve posted at all.  Whoops.

Since I last posted, I had a heartbreak.  I stopped nursing all together.  I started focusing on my pumping output, and making sure Ruby was getting enough from a bottle.  We stopped practicing all of our bottle habits – paced, upright and delayed feeding – and had just started to try to let feeding be stress free.  I haven’t been upset or frustrated, and neither has Ruby.

My pumping volumes have increased and decreased, but I’m now getting to where I have 6-7 extra ounces a day to start putting in the freezer.  I’m starting to get a freezer stash again!  I’m nearly up to 50 ounces already, and that’s more than I’ve had since early in Ruby’s life where I ended up tossing 70 ounces of ‘yeast’ milk. 

All of this being said, I nursed Ruby today.  All day today.  (Well, okay… not all day.  But every feeding.)  She would try to grab at my chest, and I softly grabbed her hands and told her sweetly, “No pinching.  Nice touches.  No pinching, Ruby.”  I pulled her hand gently away every time she pinched, and told her again, “No pinching.  Touch nice, baby.”  She would look me in the eyes, little brows furrowed, and I could tell she was frustrated… but she would stop.  She began grabbing on to my shirt, or played with my lips and teeth.  She pulled at my hair… she stopped pinching.

I did this for every feeding.  Every time, I had to talk to her, I had to tell her no pinching.  Every time, it frustrated her.  Sometimes she got so upset we ended the session early.  Sometimes she relaxed and nursed.  Either way, it made me feel like we’ve maybe made some progress. 

Dang, it felt good to nurse all day.  It really felt good.

I think I’m gonna nurse all day tomorrow too.  Then, a week or so from now, I’ll take stock and see how we’re doing.

Fingers crossed we’ll be doing even better than now.

 

Wah Wah Wah.

Wow, I bet ya’ll are all tired of hearing about Ruby and breastfeeding!  I’m tired of thinking about it, and talking about it, and worrying about it.  Seriously.

So, I wanted to clarify some things.  First, and I heard this one a lot – Ruby doesn’t hate breastfeeding.  She’s not miserable.  She loves it.  She adores clawing at my chest, and pulling back on the nipple, and biting down with her gums.  She pulls at my shirt to get to my boobs.  She dives towards them like she’s starving.  She plays with them, and smiles at them, and cuddles them in her sleep.  She doesn’t hate nursing, and I’m not forcing her to nurse.  She just has NO IDEA how to nurse without hurting me.  Her behavior changes when I don’t allow her to nurse for an extended period of time, and I feel like she misses it.  It breaks my heart a little bit.  I’m not making her miserable when we keep trying… only me.

Second – I don’t feel guilty.  How could I possibly feel guilty?  I have fought and fought for this little girl.  I have questioned everything, everyone.  I have TRIED everything.  I have done everything possible to make this work; when it doesn’t, it wont be for lack of trying.  When I give up nursing and start pumping for good, it will be because I have exhausted every option, tried every trick, called on every resource possible to me and NOT because I backed out and didn’t try hard enough.  I have no reason to feel guilt, so I don’t.

I am raising a beautiful, happy, healthy, smart, funny, wiggly little girl.  She makes me smile every single day.  She loves her brother and adores her daddy.  She is growing like a weed, meeting and exceeding all of her milestones… she just wont nurse.  That doesn’t make me a failure, or make her a bad baby.  It doesn’t mean we wont survive this.

But it also doesn’t mean I wont be sad about the loss of the sweet nursing relationship I had dreamed of as I grew her inside of me.  And it doesn’t mean I wont try again with my next child.  I have learned.  A lot.   I wont make the same mistakes again.  Maybe someone out there will learn from my mistakes, and be more successful than we have been.  Maybe good will come of this.

I haven’t given up yet.  Not quite yet.  I have a plan, I have a few more cards up my sleeve… and if they don’t work, it’s okay.  We will be okay.  I keep trying because when this ends, which it will, I will be able to look back knowing fully and completely that there was nothing else I could do – and be proud of all that I did.

I AM proud.  No matter what, I am proud of Ruby Kate, and I am proud of myself.  We are doing pretty good.

And we will be okay.

Defeated Today.

I want to write blogs that make people happy.  I want people to cheer for us, and be proud of us, and be so thankful they stopped by to read.  I want to inspire moms, and empower women, make dads laugh.  I want to make people smile.

So when something doesn’t go the way I want it to, or when I’m down and frustrated and upset, I don’t want to write.  Instead, I just do nothing.  I don’t blog, and I don’t tweet and I turn my back on my friends.  I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, or to feel pity for me.  I don’t want it, so I do nothing.

Right now, I’m writing instead of doing nothing.

I worked all weekend.  This means that I pumped and Ruby was bottle-fed.  Since Saturday morning, I haven’t had the chance to nurse her, and she drank more milk than I was able to pump.  When I left Saturday evening, there were 25 ounces of milk in the fridge.  When I got home, I brought 13 ounces with me.  I didn’t even come close to replacing what she had drank, and it scares the shit out of me.  I hate myself for ever taking the steps to decrease my oversupply, because I had never, ever dealt with this problem beforehand.  It’s stressful.  And it sucks.

When I woke today, Ruby was acting hungry.  I offered her the breast, and she wouldn’t even put it in her mouth.  She played like it was a neat toy.  LIke she had forgotten the purpose of a nipple.  Like she was willing to sit quietly and patiently until I got her a bottle, and then she would eat.  I didn’t force her.  I put her in the bumbo and gave her a hunk of banana. (BLW!) I put her down for a nap.  And when she woke, I offered again.

No thanks, mama.

I prepared a bottle, and I fed it to her.  And I cried.

I cried because I want it to work so badly, and it’s not working.  I cried because I somehow failed her, at some stage of this, and allowed it to get to the point that I can’t recover.  I cried because I want to seek help so badly, and the funds aren’t there.  I cried because it shouldn’t cost us our grocery money and our car payment to seek help, to teach my daughter to eat properly.  I cried because I felt defeated today.

I don’t want to feel heartbroken every time things don’t go right.  I don’t want to be done, but my heart hurts.  I’m tired of crying.

From now on, I’m taking it one day at a time.  We will do what we can, when we can.

Because no matter what happens, she will always be my baby girl.

Nursing Ruby – Update

Wow.

I mean, really.  Wow.

Did I hope that my blog would get out there, and I would find help?  Yeah, you bet I did.

Did I have any idea it would recieve the attention, support, love, caring, kindness, suggestions, advice, and amazing offers for assistance that it did?  I had no clue.

Absolutely no clue at all.

This is the power of social media.  The power of the internet.  The absolute power of mothers who are all about other mothers.

Thank you.  Thank every single one of you.  Thank you to all the people who read our plight and didn’t have any advice to offer, but wished us well anyways.  Thank you to everyone who passed it on, and showed it to friends, and asked for help on our behalf.  I cannot thank you enough.  Thank you to every momma who had been there before, and took the time to tell me about it.  Thank you so, so much.

Since this post was written, I have read, processed and replied to over 300 comments.  There is more information here than one person can hope to absorb.  There is so much help out there.  There are so many things to try.  Since I wrote, Ruby and I have started ‘suck training’, encouraging her to suck on my finger and allow it to reach her soft palate.  She has seen the chiropractor and had her jaw adjusted.  We’ve nursed at night, all night long, and felt calmness.  Today, we had a craniosacral therapy session where I was informed that not only did she have a very high palate (adjusted!) but she also carries tightness and frustration through her whole spine.  The therapist helped her to release the energy (in the form of heat) and by the time she was done, Ruby felt like she had a fever – but she was as happy as can be.  It was incredible to witness.

I have only nursed Ruby twice since we started making changes, and I feel small differences.  No quick fixes, no miracle cures.  But we started on this journey a long time ago, and I don’t expect us to reach the end in one day.  We are learning to do what she needs – together.  I want to thank each and every one of you for taking this journey with us.