Day Eighteen | Shanda's Journey | The Difficult Side of Nursing
When I became pregnant, I took a personal vow to myself to walk a natural path. Organic food, no caffeine, natural child birth...etc. In fact, I planned everything down to the detail of a natural home birth. My first lesson in motherhood is you can't control the path, not even a little. My daughter was born via C-section. Looking back I kind of laugh at my extreme dedication and the opposing outcome. My lesson learned is reflected in my current vow to myself which is "make it the best path possible." During my "go all natural" vow I was to breast feed for at least 3 months. "How hard could it be? It's nature's way" I concluded. Yes...first time mother, can't you tell?!
In dedication I studied how to eat while nursing, how to recognize when cluster feeding was needed, tricks of the trade passed on from generation to generation, words from the wise. The first battle was getting her to feed immediately after birth and to help her latch. My doctor had the same view and I was nursing within a few minutes of my C-section. The first 24 hours after birth I compared myself to a Mama bear in her den. Exhausted, healing, with my baby bear affixed to my chest, making her own way to feed as needed. My little girl fed well but had a bad latch and I felt the first urge to quit nursing, and I'm not even home yet.
Looking back I think the first week was the hardest. It took about that long for my milk to finally come in to the point of feeding my baby to satisfaction. Thank goodness for mothers milk bank. The cost of this second hand gold became my motivation. With guidance from my lactation nurses (heaven sent), I retrained my daughters latch and clustered fed for 36 hours finally reaching a good supply. Success!
Short lived success. 4 days of good routine and my daughter has out grown my supply. More cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is back to what I referred to earlier as Mama bear in her den, with Baby bear permanently affixed for 8-24 hours. Natures way of signaling to the body to produce more, faster. For someone who can't sit still, it's torture.
The trick for me was to focus on the positives of the moment which were simple things. The size of my baby, the way she laid on me, how she held onto me, her smiles, the depth of her stare as our eyes made contact, and of course her funny "milk drunk" face. I believe this focus and attention opened the door for the "bonding" most mention in their nursing experiences. And for me it was the key to push me past "I don't want to do this anymore" feelings that occurred every couple weeks when cluster feeding was needed.
My next big hurdle in maintaining my breastfeeding dedication was returning to work. Just prior to returning to work I began a pumping routine in order to build up supply and back stock. Pumping is miserable. There's no bonding and it cuts into the little sleep you get. (I do recommend getting the strongest pump possible; it cuts down on the time spent). To combat the misery of pumping at night I picked up a hobby, I learned to sew. So for 30 minutes at both midnight and 4am, I sewed my daughters Halloween costume. A personal trophy reflecting my midnight pumping sessions.
Pumping at work was also a less-then fun-experience. Luckily, I had my own office and was able to hang curtains for some privacy. The challenge was being consistent and coping with the hormonal implications of pumping. Nursing triggers relaxation hormones in the mom, perhaps to help us stay still. When you're not able to have caffeine, these hormones can pose a problem to contend with at work. I had to prioritize my challenging tasks before I pumped and my "brainless tasks" for immediately after pumping. I also had to fit in several meals in the day in order to keep my strength up.
No one in my office understood these challenges, and as their manager I had to push through without an alliance. I wanted to quit every week for months. I was pumping at night and during the day so the only time I nursed and bonded with my daughter was twice in the evening and weekends. Then when a male employee walked in on me pumping at work, I said to myself "that's it, I am done. I've made it six months, twice my minimum goal, this is good ENOUGH."
I researched which baby formula was best and that brings me to my next wave of motivation. The number one ingredient in most baby formulas is glucose/sugar. That coupled with the cost of $25 per container to last just one week was enough to push me and to keep pumping for my baby. For every bottle I pumped I calculated in my head the cost I saved my family and the nutrition provided for the health of my little one possibly preventing her from suffering digestive and other sugar related issues. I looked at myself as a manufacturer of preventative nutrition. It was my job and my job had calculated value. I even graded myself on my daily output setting minimum production levels and celebrating when I exceeded those levels.
Just before my daughters first birthday, she was eating solid foods regularly and pushed away from bottles and nursing. She was done. Hallelujah!!! If you've ever climbed a 14er, this is the feeling you get as you reach summit. Or if you've ever quit a miserable job. Or if you've ever won a championship or tournament. I'll say it again Hallelujah!
My reflection on my nursing experience is not sugar coated. It was an unexpected triumph and a moment that I still don't know how I mustered up the determination and motivation to continue. Never in my life did I ever have such strong and repeated urges to quit. I was caught off guard that "nature's way" did not come naturally for all women. And as a first time mother, I quickly learned you cannot control the path, you can only make it the best path possible for your little one.
For those expecting, be BRAVE, be STRONG, and be SURPRISED how far you will go for the sake of your child.
How did you feel about breastfeeding? Was it as easy or as hard and you prepared for? Leave us a comment below! If you’d like to share your story or have your own special mommy and me plus nourishment session contact me and we can start to plan your personal session.