our breastfeeding journey (so far)

Wowwweeee. We are in the MIDST of so. very. much. I read a quote today that said, "surround yourself with more tacos, and less negativity." I don't think that could apply to everyone at this very time, any more. With Election Day tomorrow, our personal struggles... all of it... needless to day, we had tacos for dinner tonight.

Anyways, breastfeeding.

Nora found my breast and latched minutes after she was born. It was the most beautiful and amazing moment. It was instinct. I didn't have to teach her at all. I was able to nurse her twice, then I had to go to the hospital for repair of my fourth degree tear (yes, it hurt). I ended up being admitted overnight (that is a whole other long annoying story) without Nora, who stayed home with my mom. During that time she obviously had to be bottle fed, with donated breast milk (huge thanks to my midwife's daughter).

As soon as my mom knew I was headed home, she didn't feed Nora, even though she knew she was getting hungry so we could have a sooner chance to nurse again. I walked in the door and just cried and she breastfed beautifully. No problem. 

(While I was in the hospital, the doctors pumped me with precautionary antibiotics [another part of that long annoying story]... but I wasn't taking any probiotics to counteract them, which I guess I should've done, since I had no infection or anything).

So those first couple weeks were pretty great. My boobs were huge for the first time ever, milk was everywhere. I pumped wonderfully. Nora nursed perfectly. No latch issue. No tongue ties. Nada problems. Then, Nora started cluster feeding, and I figured that's why I was in so much pain. My nipples started hurting excruciatingly bad at night (when she cluster fed) and I was losing my mind. It hurt so bad. They were so sensitive, the shower water made my whole body cringe when it hit my nipples. Seriously awful. 

So at this point I just used nipple shields to help ease the pain, nipple butter after every single feeding, and still... the pain was unreal. I ended up going to a lactation consultant, and she suggested a few things to help Nora (she thought maybe the pain was from a poor latch or position), and to rid my diet of all dairy to help her reflux. She mentioned something about thrush, but because there were no signs of thrush in Nora, she dismissed the idea.

A few weeks went by, and the pain only got worse. Then, yeast infection, and toe fungus. toe fungus. Seriously?! My body had literally been taken over by yeast. I later learned it was because of the crazy amount of antibiotics, with nowhere to go and nothing to fight. The antibiotics that were supposed to prevent infection, caused my whole body to get infected... ugh. We began giving Nora a bottle every night when the pain was at an all time high. She still loved nursing, and was fantastic. We continued using the shields, and nipple butter, and all the things. Lots of water. No dairy. And gentian violet... but nothing worked. And then my supply started to drop.

I finally got a prescription to get rid of the yeast for good, and it worked! Yay! No more pain! No more yeast infection! No more yucky toenails... But my supply dropped even more. We started giving more bottles, because Nora would still be hungry after nursing, but I was pumping less per session... so we eventually ran out of my pumped milk. And my nursing sessions were less and less filling for Nora. I was heartbroken.

Nora and I were still both dairy free, so we supplemented with goat milk baby formula. I felt like such a failure (I wasn't)! I wanted to give up so many times. I felt like there was no point in continuing to even try nursing. I wasn't able to pump anything substantial, and Nora would nurse then cry from still being hungry (trust me, it wasn't just gas). We were both just constantly stressed. During this time, she learned to love bottles. It's a lot less work to get milk and get a full belly fast. I'd still nurse early in the mornings and a couple times throughout the day, and sometimes right before bed (though she'd wake up later the next morning if we gave her a bottle instead).

At any rate, emotionally I just couldn't be done. I started eating oatmeal every day, taking supplements to help bring my supply back up (Milk Thistle, Fenugreek, Fennel), and Mother's Milk Tea. Plus being sure to have plenty of healthy fats throughout the day (eggs, avocado, and cheese when we reintroduced dairy)... well, my supply came back up! When it was low, I would hand express at any given moment, and nothing would come out. Now, I hand express just slightly, and milk sprays. Yay! Problem now is, she's smack in the middle of her fourth developmental leap, teething and some hardcore nipple confusion. As soon as she started completely refusing the breast, I knew we had a problem. 

I get it. The bottle is so much easier. She doesn't have to work at it... but mama just isn't ready for breastfeeding to be out of the picture. Nora is sixteen and a half pounds. Pees and poops as she should, and hits new milestones every week (sometimes daily). She's growing and thriving, and I have to constantly remind myself that I am winning. I am a good mother. I am enough for my daughter. And I will fight to make this happen until I truly can't... even if that means it's next week as opposed to next year. We'll see. I'll learn to be okay with the outcome, no matter what it may be. 

I just want to look back and know that I tried as hard as I possibly could for us both

I'm still not able to pump anything. I'm still trying several times a day (so weird that I was able to at the beginning), but if you have any pumping advice, I'll take it. Milk comes when I hand express, but I cannot for the life of me get a letdown while pumping (I've done the looking at photos and videos of Nora and of her nursing, start and stop for an hour, tea, supplements, distracting myself with netlfix or reading, and relaxing)... what have I missed?! She's latched without a fight a few times in the last couple days after lots of skin to skin, swaddling, laying down, and we're continuing to work at it. I'm also hoping I can connect with a lactation consultant this week :)

Everyone's breastfeeding journey is so different. Every baby is so different. Our story is not what I expected, but it's ours, and I love it no matter how hard it may be in the moment <3



baby, motherhoodMary Salas