Tag Archives: nursing

Breastfeeding: Second Time’s a Charm?

I saw this article on Babble today, 9 Reason I am Dreading Breastfeeding. (Again.), and had such a visceral reaction that I was compelled to comment for maybe the fourth time ever. Then, as I thought about what I wanted to say, I realized it was way too much for one tiny little comment box. What I needed was a post purge.

While I was lucky enough to not have to deal with reflux and I did eventually make it to a point where I actually enjoyed nursing, I might have written every other word of this article. Just reading it brought back so much emotion and, now that I am expecting my second baby, some serious anxiety. I too am more than a little bit terrified of how my next breastfeeding experience will compare with my first.

When Olivia was born, the nurses at the hospital exclaimed over how easily she took to nursing, how strong she was, how well I was doing … for two glorious days I thought I was nailing this mama thing. And then we went home and it all went to shit. She went on a feeding strike for 24 hours, leaving me an exhausted, panicky, blubbering mess sitting in the pediatrician’s office and Olivia labeled a “failure to thrive.”

What followed was a litany of good times: plugged ducts, nipple shields, tongue tie, over supply, bleeding, thrush. My daily routine read like the troubleshooting section of a breastfeeding book.

Then there was the pain. Oh, the pain. I had friends who were also nursing at the time who reported some discomfort and soreness. If only. Picture someone putting your nipple in a vise and then slowly driving a dozen tiny nails into it. Yep, that was more my reality. I dreaded each feeding and cringed in pain, tears running down my cheeks, every single time.

Things got so bad that everyone I knew was trying to convince me that it was okay to give up. My husband, my parents, our pediatrician, my OB, my lactation consultant, everyone. Many of these people saw my struggles firsthand and I think, especially for my husband, they just hated to see me in so much near-constant pain. But I was determined.

And then something amazing happened—it just … got better. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or even the cause, but sometime between months four and five I finally got what everyone was going on about. I continued nursing my daughter until she was 13 months old and was genuinely sad when she decided to give it up.

I am praying that things are easier this time around. But if they aren’t, I like to think that I’m a little older, a little wiser, and I have more than a few tricks up my sleeve—like popping soy lecithin supplements the minute this little girl is born to help combat the plugged ducts!

At least this second time around, I have something that I definitely didn’t have with my first: some perspective. To know what to expect. To give myself a break. To know that I can make it through it and that, when I do, the reward is being able to stare down into my baby girl’s eyes without a care in the world.

Best Public Nursing Spots (If You Want a Little Privacy)

To continue our posts for Breastfeeding Awareness Month. . . 

A friend of mine recently had her first baby and posted a status update on Facebook about nursing in the Anthropologie dressing room while shopping. Breastfeeding definitely gives new meaning to a quick shopping trip, as in be prepared to do it if you’ll be out longer than a couple of hours.

I breastfed my daughter for over a year, but it took me quite a while to become comfortable with nursing her out in the open using just a cover. Nursing was so painful for me at first that I often sat in tears while Olivia ate, and that wasn’t something I wanted to share with every shopper that walked by me in the mall. So I became adept at scouting out the most nursing-friendly stores, restrooms with lounge areas, and lactation rooms that afforded me a little bit of privacy. I also became an expert at nursing in the backseat of the car in a pinch!

I eventually worked my way up to claiming a bench outside Lord and Taylor as my favorite nursing spot at the mall, but until then, this was my go-to list of the best public nursing spots. Please leave a comment to add your favorite(s) if it’s not on the list so we can help some new mamas out!

Nordstrom (nursing room in the women’s restroom as well as a lounge area)
Baby Gap (nursing/dressing room)
BuyBuy Baby (Mother’s Room)
Babies R Us (Mother’s Room)
Lord and Taylor
Saks Fifth Avenue

Did you have a go-to nursing spot when you were breastfeeding, or do you currently? Leave a comment to share! 

How to Get Rid of Plugged Ducts

Since August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I thought I’d do a series of posts focused on nursing. As a new mom, I was beside myself when it came to breastfeeding troubles. So I am paying it forward in the hopes of helping another new mom through a tough spot.

I nursed my daughter for 13 months, and plugged ducts were the bane of my existence nearly the entire time. I once had one so bad that it was larger than a golf ball! The lactation consultant at our pediatrician’s office told me if it didn’t clear up within 24 hours (I’d been dealing with the pain at that point for about three days), I would have to go to the ER! I was able to clear the duct so it never came down to a trip to the hospital, but those were some of the most excruciatingly painful days of my life.

Here’s hoping you never, ever have to deal with plugged ducts, but if you do, here are a few tips and tricks that worked for me.

Heat and massage. This is a package deal because neither works as well without the other. Try warm compresses and then massage your breast in a circular motion, pushing the plug toward the center. You can also try massage while laying in a hot bath. One method that finally brought me relief was to lean, submerged, over a huge bowl of hot water and massage downward. I will warn you that the massaging hurts, but if it clears the duct, it’s so worth it.

Lecithin. This supplement is what finally helped me prevent plugged ducts. You can get it in capsule or granule form (I recommend the capsule) from Target or Walmart. I took one 1200 mg pill three times a day like clockwork.

Try “dangle feeding.” As if you don’t already feel like a cow, this method just perpetuates the feeling that you exist solely for the purpose of milking. But while it feels strange, it did work for me once. Lay your baby on his or her back on the floor and get on all fours over top. Allow your baby to nurse in this position to allow gravity to help clear the plugged duct.

Don’t stop nursing! I made this mistake the first time I had a plugged duct. It hurt so badly that I stopped nursing on that side. BIG mistake. Even though it hurts, try nursing on the plugged side first. When your baby is really hungry, the suck reflex is stronger, which could end up helping you out. If it’s just too painful to nurse, at least pump on the blocked side. The one thing you don’t want to do is allow more milk to back up in there.

Take care of yourself. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done when you have a little person (or two or three) relying on you for everything, but it’s really important. Be sure to get some rest, drink lots of water, and eat healthfully. Ask for some temporary help if you need it to give yourself a break. I wasn’t very good about doing this at first, but once I did, I think it really made a difference (both for my recurring plugged ducts and for my sanity).

Try Ibuprofen. A plugged duct causes major inflammation, so some Ibuprofen can help with both that and the pain. Check with your doctor to find out exactly how much you should take.

While it may feel like the plug will never go away (my longest one lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of four days!), it does eventually clear up, so try not to panic. If you start to run a fever or show other symptoms, call your doctor. If after several days of nursing and treatment you still have a plugged duct, talk to a lactation consultant or your doctor. There are medical procedures, such as ultrasound, that can help in extreme cases.

Guest Post: When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out

I had a pretty difficult time breastfeeding, which I talked about here. My friend Shannon also had a less-than-ideal breastfeeding experience with her first child, but she had to deal with a grief and a guilt that I never experienced. Breastfeeding didn’t work out for Shannon and her son, and she agonized over it for months. But time gives us perspective, and Shannon has been kind enough to share her story in the hopes that it will help other new moms who might be struggling with breastfeeding.

© Jerry Bunkers

Breastfeeding is supposed to be a natural bonding experience between a mother and child.   I went into childbirth with no doubt that I was going to breastfeed my son. After all, there is so much research supporting breastfeeding and its positive lifelong effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”   Because of this research, I was determined.   No matter what, I was going to breastfeed my newborn son.

Like many things in life, what I expected did not happen. Not even close. The agony started in the hospital.  My son, Finn, would not latch, and lactation came in to help us with every feeding.  Finally, the head lactation specialist said, “Well, I don’t usually recommend this, but I guess you are going to have to supplement with formula.” The first pang of guilt coursed through me.  Am I doing something wrong? Will my baby be okay even though I gave him formula?  These thoughts raced through my mind.  Lactation continued to visit and, because I work in the hospital, I knew that we were the lost case of the weekend.  My son was the only full term baby in the Newborn Nursery who would not latch and needed 24/7 help with breastfeeding.

I was given discharge instructions to have Finn attempt to breastfeed while my husband simultaneously squirted formula through a syringe in the side of his mouth.  This was an agonizing experience for both my son and I, and it was clear that it was not working.  In tears, I looked to my discharge instructions from Lactation.  The bottom line of the sheet said, “No matter what, do not give in and give a bottle!” What was I going to do? I felt so helpless and scared.  I knew my baby needed to eat, but I felt so inadequate giving him a bottle because I felt like my chance at breastfeeding would be blown forever.  After a few breakdowns, I finally gave in.  Finn took the bottle and was so happy. He was finally able to latch easily and enjoy a feeding.  I began to relax slightly. My restless newborn was actually happy.

Fast forward another month.  At this point, I had given up on breastfeeding completely after consulting with Lactation several times with no success. I was pumping and giving breast milk via bottle.  I felt pretty good about this, because hey, even though I was not breastfeeding, at least Finn was getting my breast milk.  Well all of a sudden, at month two, Finn began to break out in a terrible rash around his mouth and neck and refused to take a bottle.  After several appointments with specialists and frantic phone calls to our pediatrician, we realized that Finn was allergic to both milk and soy and could not tolerate breast milk.

Finn was started on Nutramigen, a hypoallergenic formula that is dairy and soy free.  My son’s temperament changed completely in 24 hours.  My fussy baby that screamed for 8 hours a day was now a happy child.  On one hand, I was so relieved.  However, I also felt so lost because that meant I could no longer offer breast milk. I continued to pump and save my milk, hoping that maybe one day Finn could use it.  After two more weeks of pumping, I finally stopped.  My terrible, agonizing journey of breastfeeding was over, but my feelings of inadequacy continued, especially with probing questions about nursing.

After this experience, I have realized that most people ask about breastfeeding after you have a newborn.  Let me tell you, for a mom who is having difficulty with breastfeeding, this is not a welcome question.  I felt like I had to justify putting Finn on Nutramigen for several months after I stopped nursing.  So many people asked why he was on formula and gave me a strange look when I said that I was not breastfeeding. I felt like I had to go into the long-winded explanation that I just described as to why I couldn’t nurse.

I know that, for many mothers, breastfeeding is the clear choice.  However, this does not mean it is right or even possible for everyone.   New mothers are extremely vulnerable, and the judgment that some people pass about breastfeeding can be enough to put a new mother over the edge.  A new study in the August  2011 edition of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology finds that women who struggle to breastfeed in the first two weeks after giving birth are more prone to postpartum depression.  My experience supports this study.  I am usually such a happy person and was not myself through this feeding struggle.

If a mother is not breastfeeding, it could be for a variety of reasons.  People need to respect that and not pry so much into other people’s lives and experiences.  When a woman has a newborn, people need to be focused on the miracle of life.  As long as the baby is healthy and thriving, who cares if they are getting breast milk or formula? If the baby is healthy and happy, that is all you can ask for as a new parent.

Will I breastfeed my next child? I certainly am going to try.  However, if it does not work out, there is no way I am going to go through that grief, agony, and guilt again.  I am going to focus on enjoying my newborn.  Having a newborn is one of the most amazing experiences, and there is no way that I am going to let breastfeeding get in the way of this incredible miracle.

Will New Study Help or Hurt Breastfeeding in America?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Lev Dolgachov

News broke this week about a small Scottish study that says that exclusively breastfeeding for six months may not be the best recommendation. The study, conducted by Aberdeen and Stirling universities and published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that by recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding (as the World Health Organization currently does), we are actually setting new mothers up to fail.

I have very mixed feelings about this study and the press it has received. On the one hand, the study focuses on communication, support, and setting realistic expectations. Having had a very difficult time with breastfeeding in the beginning (as I talked about in this post), I can completely relate to the pressure, feeling guilty for not “getting it right,” and the need to be up front with pregnant women and new mothers that breastfeeding does not always come naturally and is not always sunshine and rainbows.

On the flip side of the coin, I worry that this study is going to provide an excuse not to breastfeed and may lead to more new mothers giving up on breastfeeding too soon. The study itself isn’t the problem here—it actually outlines fairly convincingly how this point of view may help improve the number of breastfeeding mothers and how long women stick with breastfeeding by adjusting the expectations and ratcheting down the pressure on new moms. No, the problem here, in my opinion, is how this study is being presented in the media. In a quick Google search of this story, the top headlines include:

Breastfeed exclusively for first six months? Surveyed moms say no way

Many Women Say No to Breast-Feeding for 6 Months: Survey

Exclusive breast-feeding may just be too hard, study says

Study of the Day: Breastfeeding for 6 Months is an Unrealistic Goal

If a pregnant or (worse) struggling new mama comes across one of these headlines but, for whatever reason, doesn’t dig deeper to see what the study really says, what impression are they going to have of breastfeeding? Will they throw up their hands and quit before even trying?

I don’t think anyone could or would argue against breastfeeding being the best option, but new moms are a fragile bunch (at least I was) and a little sensitivity and responsibility on the part of the media could go a long way toward the public’s perception of this and other breastfeeding studies. I understand that headlines need to be sensational and grab the reader’s attention, but they should also give a glimpse of accuracy.

What do you think—will this study and the way it is being portrayed in the media help or hinder breastfeeding in America?