**TMI Alert** for my friends who are wiggy about things like breastfeeding, this is not the post for you.
Ah, breastfeeding. The most natural thing in the world. They warn you that it will be hard work at first, baby acclimating to eating while figuring out how to survive post belly. Mommy having to be patient with the whole proper latch thing while recovering from labor and delivery. So, it sounds like it's going to be tough, but doable, right? I felt ready. I had a bit of resistance from some folks who didn't understand, but all in all there was a lot of support. My family was 100% behind me, especially my husband. So how could I not succeed?
At 38 weeks I went in for an ultrasound to check the position of my little guy. He had been transverse toward the end of the pregnancy, so there was a bit of worry over position. Well, the worry went from position, which was correct, to size. He wasn't huge, but there was some concern that he would be too big by term. The OB decided with best intentions that I should be induced a week pre-term, as in seven short days later. Being my first baby and not having a ton of close friends (as in zero close friends) that had gone through L&D, I was excited. No more waiting! I knew exactly when I was going to the hospital. Checked my lists and my suitcase, I was ready to go. Ah the innocence... little did I know that while Pitocin does start the labor process, it is notorious for making it drag out. And drag. And drag. And drag. This shouldn't have been too much of a surprise to me. I've always had a bit of weird sixth sense about things, most particularly breakfast foods. Apparently when I was very young, I used to wake up and ask my mom for the very thing she was considering for breakfast. But I digress. I was scheduled for the hospital on March 9th, but somehow I just knew Alex was supposed to be born on the 10th. I was only 2.5 cm 9 hours into labor. And I hurt. Realllllly bad. They won't give you your epidural until you are at least 3 cm. Finally I hit the magic number, had a really bad epi experience (subject for a later time) and went to la-la land. Skip ahead to 4:00 am the next morning (I arrived at 8:00 am the day before) and little Alex was born. To a mommy with a 103 degree temp. Not good. They let me see him for a foggy couple of minutes, then he was whisked away to the NICU for antibiotics. Breastfeeding strike one. When I was finally allowed to go to the NICU to see him (6 HOURS LATER!) there he was in his little Tupperware bin hooked to a bunch of tubes. At that point, they were running tests, administering medications, and pricking his little heels for the first of many times (by the time we left the hospital, his feet looked like they got in a fight with a staple gun and lost.) I was told to go rest and come back in an hour or so. So I listened, what did I know? Biiiiig mistake. This was my super early chance to try to get him latched. Nurses mean well, but after a while, I think they have to harden themselves into stock answers and responses. I understand, but their advice can result in serious confusion. Too many opinions, many based in their own child rearing experiences rather than fact, created serious confusion. Alex's first charge nurse was the one that got the bad ball rolling. I came back down in my wheelchair to see him and try to feed him. I got arranged, I tickled his face, but he wouldn't latch. He would arch away and cry! I remembered all the books that said not to take it personally, so I steeled myself and gently tryed again. Same response. So I took the time to just cuddle with him, unwrap him and check out all the little bits and pieces. Re-enter nurse #1. "You're going to have to get him to eat something within the next hour, or I have to give him a bottle of formula." I cried. The lactation nurse came by and asked if I was okay. I explained my situation and she said she'd be right back. She came back with a little tube attached to a syringe with formula. She taped it to me and tryed to get him to latch. This would have worked if I had anything more than a few drops of colostrum. Which is SUPPOSED to be all a baby needs the first day. But there was pressure from all sides to get him fed as soon as possible as not only did he have a bit of my temp when he was born, but he was starting to exhibit signs of jaundice. This, they explained, meant that he needed more food earlier to help fight it off. I discovered later that while this may be mildly true, it's more a case of the hospital trying CYA tactics by doing everything possible to get the baby healthy quick. Alex tried to latch when he tasted the formula, which is good. The fact that we discovered he's a barracuda eater was strike two. Kid chomped down and ate like he was in the Nathan's hot dog eating competition. But I could work with this... if he's such a strong sucker, it should bring my milk down, right? Well in hind-sight, while my OB may have thought Alex was ready to see the world, I think my body wasn't quite ready to take care of him yet. He was way too hungry and greedy each time he fed to put up with my slow milk. All he wanted was the push of the formula syringe. When we tried without it, screaming ensued. So on to the formula in the bottle we went. I cried more.
Strike three came over the next few days. I got very lucky in that they moved Alex to a private NICU room with a couch. I moved in immediately and my lactation nurse ordered up an Ameda pump. Before I go any further, let me just make two things very clear. My lactation nurse was AWESOME. She did everything possible to help me, comfort me and make this work. Second, I have an enormous respect for nurses, especially NICU ones. They have an incredibly difficult job, and do it well every single day. HOWEVER... many nurses over many days can make a tired, semi-drugged, over emotional new mommy nuts. Each one had an opinion (unsolicited, mind you) about why the latch wasn't happening, what I could do to fix it, if I should use a nipple shield, if I should use a syringe, what kind of bottle to use... I intermittently cried and snapped. By the time we left the hospital 5 days after entering it, I was determined to go home with my baby and make this work.
Fast forward 3 weeks later to a resolved Amy. Alex was far too impatient and greedy, my milk was still a bit slow, and we just didn't get the latch down early enough. I refused to make feeding time horrible for both of us, so I got friendly with my Medela pump. I had purchased the pump 5 weeks before I was due planning to use it for supplemental feedings once he was about 2 months old. I'm so glad we invested in an expensive high end pump. But let's just talk a moment about the concept behind my particular model... it's called the "Pump in Style" and comes in a black "handbag."
Now will someone please tell me what is stylish about this bag? It reminds me of a bridesmaid dress. I'm not going to cut that puce taffeta ruffled monstrosity and wear it again, just like I would never pull the pump out of this bag and carry it with me on date night. Can't they just call it a "pump in a granny bag" or "pump with straps and a zipper front?" It is possibly the world's ugliest handbag, but I just couldn't bring myself to get the one in a backpack. I kept imagining trying to pump in the front while wearing the motor on my back. I know I would never be in a situation that required this, but still!
That brings me to the Sheep Dip portion of my post. While I know Lansinoh is not actually the same thing as sheep dip... sheep dip kills fleas while Lansinoh is like booby chapstick, you can't help calling it that. Or at least I can't. Lansinoh has saved my pumping ass though. It was getting to the point about six weeks into pumping where I would dread doing it. It hurt, the pumps would slip off so I was only doing one side at a time, it was taking forever... Then I remembered that my cousin Katelyn had sent me a tube of Lansinoh. I read the label, "HPA Lanolin" eh? Sooooo, sheep dip. I tried a little out after pumping and it soothed what ailed me. The only problem was, I noticed it had completely disolved by my next session. I re-read the label "does not have to be removed prior to feeding." Sweet! I can use it before I pump! What I soon came to realize is that not only do my nerps no longer hurt, but it makes the shields stick! I'm back to double pumping, and while I still stress about volume, it's no longer the painful dreaded process it once was. So if you're reading this and can't get a latch, keep trying while you still have patience. Try a little longer after that... but know that there is an alternative if it doesn't work. It isn't you or your baby that doesn't work, it's just a fluke of the system and you can still provide that liquid gold for your baby. And feel damn good about it!