Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Got Milk?

I haven't posted in a long time, mainly because every time I wanted to write something, I'd think, "Wait -- I should get caught up on posting about the last 6 weeks first!" And then I never posted. So, rather than try to do a boring chronological story about everything that's happened since LL was born, I'm going to slice things a little differently. We're going by topics. Today's topic: breast feeding.

Week One was all about latch. Turns out I'd never really examined my nipples, so never discovered that they were both relatively inverted, which made it hard for LL to grab hold. After getting advice from every nurse who walked into my hospital room, and three lactation consultants (LCs), we were left with a bunch of conflicting advice and a whole lot of frustration. The first few days home were up and down -- one feeding would be great, the next feeding he'd never figure out how to latch. Then suddenly, at one week, things clicked. Weeks two and three showed awesome improvement. Then in Week Four, one breast started to hurt a little when he latched. By Week Five, I had shooting, burning pain in my right breast, the start of similar pain on the left, and it would ache even between feedings. I self-diagnosed thrush, got me and LL both on medication for it, and set about sterilizing everything in sight, but the problem kept getting worse. Today, we met with yet another LC, who confirmed the thrush, gave me additional advice on dealing with it, corrected some lingering latch problems, and answered a whole lot of questions. Things are again looking up.

Overall, despite the intermittent problems, it's actually not been as bad as I imagined. Many friends had told me horror stories about hating to breast feed and feeling near-constant pain in the early months, so despite the current thrush infection, I'm glad that the experience has been relatively pain free and rewarding. I haven't had to supplement at all, so to date, LL has only ever consumed breast milk. And Manischewitz, at the bris, which he loved. And, now, thrush medication, which he also loves, so clearly he doesn't have a very discerning palate. But, you know, mainly breast milk. I've also managed to pump a fairly large stock for the freezer, so that S can occasionally feed LL a bottle in the middle of the night while I sleep, though to prevent the thrush from reoccurring, we're going to have to trash much of that supply, which breaks my heart.

I can't leave this topic without a word about lactation consultants. I had heard stories from several friends about lactation nazis -- LCs who do little more than make you feel horrible and guilty about everything. So, I was initially hesitant to meet with one at the hospital. The nurses convinced me, though, that it was absolutely necessary to meet with an LC in order to figure out LL's latch problems as quickly as possible.

The first LC was bad -- she came into my hospital room and told me that she didn't have time to meet with me. That instead of wasting her time, I should just attend the hospital's breast feeding class, which meets on weekday afternoons on the maternity ward. I pointed out to her that I had given birth on a Friday afternoon, it was now Friday evening, the next class wouldn't be until Monday afternoon, and the nurses were convinced that I needed immediate help to correct my nipples. So, the LC glanced at my breasts, then told me that she definitely didn't have the time to deal with a problem like mine. Then she left. Yeah, you can imagine my state of mind for the rest of the day. ("My breasts are so bad, even a LC can't face dealing with them!")

The second LC was even worse. The nurses, horrified that the first LC hadn't actually worked with me, requested that someone else come to meet with me as soon as possible. When this LC showed up the next evening, she immediately started berating me for my bad manners for insisting that she see me that day, when she had many more important patients to attend to. When I finally got the chance to explain that LL was losing weight at an alarming rate, unable to latch, and my nipples weren't shaped right, she gave a big sigh and agreed to take a look. She then gave me a speech about how I should expect excruciating pain for a while, but I should just suck it up, because that's what mothers do. Um, yeah.

The third LC came to my room on the day we were to be discharged, following hospital policy. She was nice and calm, but mainly just negated everything everyone else had told us over the previous five days. ("The nurse told you to do WHAT? Oh dear. Well, it's not your fault, but really -- don't do that.") When she left, we were mainly just frustrated and confused.

When we got home, I sat down with The Nursing Mother's Companion, which had been recommended to me before giving birth. Reading that book and picking and choosing among the advice we'd gotten at the hospital eventually got us to the point where LL was eating well, but it was a frustrating week.

Which is why, a month later, I grimaced when S suggested calling a LC to figure out why I was suddenly in so much pain. But, LL's pediatrician recommended a particular LC to us, and we met with her this morning. And she was fabulous. Comforting and supportive and helpful. She met with us for an hour and a half, way beyond the call of duty. She answered all of my questions, and explained everything so that I know not just what to do, but also why. Awesome.

When we were in the hospital right after LL's birth, S told me that he got a lot of advice from friends and coworkers about what his job would be after the baby was born. Today's experience notwithstanding, he says that he definitely knows what the best advice was. I now pass it along to you, keeping in mind that I am a committed breast feeder:

The husband's number one most important job after his wife gives birth should be protecting his wife from the lactation consultants.


  1. did anyone tell you about gential violet for hte thrush? It helped me. It may/could help you. I had the same experiences with LC until i met THE ONE ... she is my fav and i call only her or advice.

    Keep up the good work.

    They really tell you that you have to throw away the milk??? I was never told that

  2. Seriously? The LC told you that she didn't have time? What in the world does she think the hospital employs her for?!? Anyhow, I'm glad that you were able to get the breast feeding to work. (Yay for grad school teaching us how to fend for ourselves?) Good luck!


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