30 July 2009

Breastfeeding. It sucks a little bit.

Do you want to know what takes two hours?

• the baby wakes up
• change his nappy
• boil the kettle
• get the expressed milk out of the fridge and stand it in a mug of boiling water to heat up
• test the temperature - too cool - put it back in
• test the temperature - too warm - take the teat off, swirl it around and blow gently on it
• test the temperature - just right
• feed the milk to the baby and hope for no vomits - if so, change his clothes
• burp the baby
• wrap the baby and put him down to sleep
• listen to the baby cry his poor little self to sleep while you get on the breast pump
• express enough milk for the next feed while squinting myopically at some mother & baby magazine article on blissful breastfeeding
• label and store the expressed milk
• fill a sink with warm soapy water and wash up the expressing equipment and the bottles
• crank up the microwave steriliser and sterilise the above
• take everything out of the steriliser and sit it on paper towel to dry off
• go back to bed.

Do you want to know what else takes two hours?

• sleep until the baby wakes again.

Four years ago, I did all this with Nat FOR A FORTNIGHT. If he fed any more frequently than four-hourly, I was going to die of exhaustion. This time, I can't keep up with all that. And I don't have to, because the Elba Plague is ensuring my milk production is so low that I'm only expressing when I can, and feeding Joseph formula whenever I have to. No use flogging a dead horse (the dead horse being me.)

Why do all this instead of whacking a baby on the breast and letting nature take its course?

Because most (my) breasts (which heretofore have not been mentioned on my blog, suffice to say I do have them) do not work that way. Even a good attachment between baby and Milk Distribution Setup hurts like crazy, and causes untold damage. This is not because I can't tell a good latch from a bad latch (I could pretty much write a textbook on lactation by now,) it's because in general, women's nipples are forced to stretch to about 2.5 times their normal length when a baby sucks on them.

Call me crazy, but I would suspect that if you took any part of the anatomy that was composed entirely of soft tissue (on the female body or the male body) and stretched it to 2.5 times its original length, it would hurt. It might even tear a little bit, bleed, and form scabs.

What? What?

I was thinking of the earlobes. Feel free to imagine any part of your own soft tissue.

So yes, Joseph did know instinctively how to feed. This does not mean that it was all smooth sailing in the first week. In fact, it meant he was a little more rough with The Milk Distribution Setup than he would have been if he'd had no clue what to do with it.

So by Saturday morning, things were pretty damaged.

* * *
Now some of my readers will find the following information distressing. Those who identify as "male" might want to skip the next bit, as might those who identify as "female." Not wanting to get too graphic, but just to say that the heparin-induced clotting problems made healing of these abrasions tricky. A pea-sized clot that had formed internally for healing purposes was, if you can believe this, sucked out so it became, as it were, external, along with copious amounts of thin blood on my hands and Joseph's shirt. That was the freakiest breastfeeding experience I have ever had in my entire life. Apparently the midwives were shocked and amazed when they heard of this at handover.
* * *

Add to this low milk production because of the virus, a caesarean scar that is more than just a little ouchy, helpless coughing fits, constant nose-blowing and an ongoing headache from sleeping on my neck weird, and things are more than a little tricky right now.

Mr de Elba is helping me with Nat and Anna-Lucia so much - he has been wonderful. The Grandmas are joining forces to provide childcare and housework that is much-needed at this point.

The families from Nat's kindy have banded together to provide meals for us for a little while, the first of which came tonight. A tray of honey-mustard chicken drumsticks. I whacked them in the oven and proceded to burn them all to a crisp.

I was getting frustrated with the dirty dishes on the sink so I filled the already-half-full dishwasher and was about to start the cycle when Mr de Elba informed me that the existing dishes in the dishwasher were, in fact, clean.

Breastfeeding turns me into a zombie.

I cannot WAIT until I am the Queen Of My Own Kitchen again. When that happens, the place will be a pigsty not because of Incapacity, but because of Laziness. And that feels like the way it should be.

Until then, you know where I'll be. Putting Baby and Milk Distribution Setup together, expressing, or sterilising bottles, expressing equipment and nipple shields. Maybe I'll even be asleep. But I can reassure you that wherever you find me, I won't be wearing a cocktail dress or high heels. More likely Granny Undies and trackpants.

I would like to add that reading http://icanhascheezburger.com/ after a c-section is not wise.


Swift Jan said...

I was so hoping breastfeeding would be a lot easier for you this time. I am sorry to hear that it is once again proving to be tricky.

Have you ever heard of or tried Lactation Cookies? My friend Tracey swears by them to help boost the supply... I will ask her to email me the recipe & I will forward it on to you.

Much love to you xx

Givinya De Elba said...

Aw, thanks. The problems we've got are the same in magnitude as the last times, but they will be of shorter duration, I'm sure!

In the last 24 hours, Joseph has been back on the Milk Distrib. Setup without even a shield a few times - this is amazing for one week old! I used a shield with Anna (no ill-effects) for 8 weeks.

We'll make it. The milk supply is up this morning too. Good rest and plenty of water, plus getting over the plague is helping.

Givinya De Elba said...

PS I would be interested in recipes for any of the following: Lactation Cookies, Lactation chocolate cake, Lactation brownies, Lactation ice-cream, Lactation meringue, Lactation pavlova or Lactation Sticky Date Pudding.


Femina said...

Let me share a story about my friend who had a lot of trouble breast-feeding her second child... low milk supply, pain, latching problems etc. She and her son were both getting extremely frustrated but she felt that she *should* persevere because 'good' mothers don't give their babies formula. The lovely nurse at the local Baby Health Clinic said, "Look at it this way... your baby is not going to remember that you stopped breastfeeding at 4 weeks. He IS going to remember if you get so frustrated by the attempt to feed that you throw him against a wall."

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

First baby, no problem.
Second baby, awful. Splitting nipple, blisters, bleeding, horrible, horrible pain. Tried all kinds of things, some which helped. Holding him like a football to nurse. Lying on my back with him on my tummy grabbing hold (funny to watch). Putting ice on my nipple to get it hard and numb so babe could latch better and I wouldn't scream. Guilt kept me trucking through it. He sound up nursing over a year (I couldn't seem to ween him, or he didn't want to ween). We both survived. He's turning 34 on Friday. ;-)

Schmoochiepoo said...

I had the same troubles breast feeding...minus the uh, blood-letting so I pumped for 4 months.
Poor hubby walked in one time, saw what the pump did to my er..milk releasers, and to this day cannot look at my nippular area the same. :)

I hope you get some more sleep soon

sewfunbymonique said...

So sorry to hear about your Adventures In Breastfeeding. Hope you heal and get your sleep soon!

Jodie said...

I would describe myself as having been a 'remedial breastfeeder' in those early weeks and so have no helpful advice. I do, however, have tonnes of empathy! As you already know, it'll get better... but I'll pray that it gets better sooner rather than later.

And another thing, it always seemed odd to me that, when you're pregnant, people will tell you every labour horror story under the sun, but somehow fail to adequately warn you about the horrors of breastfeeding. But with your blod clot story, you have performed that service beautifully!

Heather said...

Well, as my Milk Distribution System is Purely Ornamental and never was Functional in the Least Bit, I have no experience with which I may either commiserate or empathize like the commenters above.


I *did* grow up on a working sheep farm........

But, as I've managed to offend both of my younger sisters (whose MDSes were not Purely Ornamental) with attempts to commiserate via the re-sharing of anecdotes of mother ewes with mastitis or whatnot, I shan't go there with you, my dear friend.

I'll just say I'm sorry it is going so baaaaaaa-dly and leave it at that.

And just for the record (and much more seriously): joining my family the way I did as a baby and the way Kiddo joined ours, we were both formula-fed exclusively. Neither of us seem any the worse for wear, either. So, please do not have any bad feelings or guilt over formula-feeding.

I can say that many (I'm sure entirely well-intentioned) fellow mothers felt the need to comment upon my use of formula with Kiddo when she was a baby. To all those women, however entirely well-intentioned, I say "Pbbbbbbbbbbbt!" and "Mind yer own dang business!" and reiterate that I survived Formula Feeding Only, as has Kiddo.

(((hugs))) to you and baby Joseph!

Givinya De Elba said...

So true, Heather, so true. They say formula is second-best, but these days, it's a pretty dang good second best! Each of my three have now had a fair amount of formula in the early days - it's been a means to an end (keeping them nourished while waiting for the breastfeeding to come together.) They're all pretty healthy. Thanks for your encouragement.

Crazy Sister said...

It's amazing that breastfeeding ranges from easy to impossible with a WORLD of varying degrees of difficulty in between. And the hardest thing of all? BOTH breasfeeding and bottlefeeding at the same time. All the pain, and all the cleanups!

You're amazing. You absolutley flog yourself giving your babies the best! Joseph is so lucky to have you.

Sassy Britches said...

I am in awe.

Swift Jan said...

The lactation cookie recipe is in your inbox :D... I am sorry I have no chocolate cake, meringue or sticky date pudding recipes :P

Apparently the secret ingredient that boosts the supply is the yeast!! Anyhow, I hope it helps :)