I want to extend a warm welcome to our new writer, Michelle! Michelle is a new first time mom to Pengi (short for penguin) and will be blogging here about her experiences and products that she uses. Welcome Michelle and love that you are sharing your experiences here!
Much like my husband when I sent him to the store for feminine pads after I had our daughter, I was completely unprepared for pregnancy and being a mom. Until it happened to me, I had no idea HOW little I knew. For example, I thought pregnancy lasted 9 months. When I found out it was 40 weeks (that’s ten months for those playing the home game) I felt tricked! What an evil conspiracy.
There are so many things I wasn’t expecting. For example, I was always congested and had a fair amount of bloody noses. For what purpose, I ask? How the hell is my nose connected to my uterus? And another thing, when did crazy old wives’ tales start being true? They say if you have heartburn during your pregnancy you’ll have a hairy baby. I can personally verify that this is the case. I went through BOTTLES of Gaviscon that last trimester and my daughter had a ton of hair! I also aged 45 years in my joints – I ached all the time but not in a major way, just little aggravating aches that make everything more of a hassle. What’s even more aggravating is they’re never bad enough to even really complain about but after ten months (TEN!! I’m still mad about that) of constant low-grade aching even the coolest temper can be lost. Luckily I’ve been blessed with a very patient husband.
I have to say the greatest challenge for me has been breastfeeding. I had friends tell me breastfeeding would be so easy, that your baby would know what to do and it would come naturally but my experience couldn’t have been farther from that. Right after my little Pengi (we used to call her our little penguin before we knew her gender) was born they thought she had passed some meconium in the womb so they took her right away to a table to check her (meconium is the first stool an infant has – it’s very sticky and if they pass it while still in the womb it can go into their lungs and create a problem). It took them about ½ an hour and then I finally got to hold her and do skin to skin. They then quickly took her again to weigh and measure and everything. When I finally got her back a nurse came and tried to show me how to breastfeed by pushing my daughter’s head at my boob, pinching my nipple hard, and telling me to “make a sandwich”. I thought I knew what she was saying and she assured me I’d figure it out, so off we went to Postpartum.
I thought l’il Pengi was latching okay but I had a lot of pain which I didn’t think was right. Pengi had jaundice pretty badly so they wanted me to feed her every two hours or so, which I did (or thought I did). She had normal dirty and wet diaper output so I was under the impression that everything was normal. I met with the hospital’s Lactation Consultant and she told me I had flat nipples and wasn’t getting a good latch. She gave me a nipple shield but was in a hurry and didn’t check that the shield was working, She came back by right before her shift ended and I asked her to help me learn how to use the pump. She gave me a very brief outline but didn’t go into detail and wouldn’t watch me use it because it was time for her to go home. We had a nurse that night who told us Pengi’s jaundice was so bad we would have to use formula. We said we didn’t want to unless absolutely necessary. She told us that at some point she’d legally have to give her formula, seemingly trying to pressure us into giving in right then. My husband and I spent that entire night trying to latch the baby with the shield and trying to pump the colostrum. The entire night – no sleep, no breaks. My nipples were cracked and bleeding by morning and I wasn’t producing much colostrum. All of that effort produced only 2 milliliters plus whatever Pengi was able to get with the hit-or-miss latching. The nurse told us her jaundice was so bad we’d be forced to give her formula in the morning and we asked to speak to the pediatrician first. She told us that the pediatrician would tell us the same thing but we stuck to our guns.
We met with the pediatrician the next morning and she told us that the jaundice was bad but to give it a few days nursing her as much as possible but no longer than 2 or 3 hours apart. She had us bring Pengi into her office two days later. Another nursing marathon not knowing if it was working or not and Poor Pengi was crying most of the time. The pain when I tried to nurse from my battered nipples was excruciating – my husband would have to remind me to take a deep breath right before she latched to help ease the agony at least a little. We took Pengi back in and she had lost a little over a pound, so the doctor gave us a bottle of formula right then and there. I cried, sobbing in the exam room because I felt like I had let me baby suffer with hunger while I tried to get my breast milk to come in (it still makes me tear up!). The doctor said each time to nurse, give her a bottle of formula, and then pump, which I did.
I finally scheduled a visit with a wonderful Lactation Consultant recommended by my sister-in-law who came to my house and accepted my insurance. She checked my latch and asked my husband to run to the store and get a small nipple shield and a preemie nipple. She told me my nipples weren’t that flat but after you have a baby you’re more swollen so they can seem flat. I had been using the wrong size shield, which had greatly contributed to my nipple damage. The preemie nipples were so that Pengi wouldn’t get so used to the fast flow of the large hole nipples that she wouldn’t accept the slower stream my breast provided. We had also used a Supplemental Nursing System to keep her able to latch onto my breast while still getting the formula in her (you get her to latch on and then slip a teeny tube into her mouth and let her drink the formula that way so you’re sort of tricking her into thinking she’s getting it from the breast).
The nipple shield was a godsend! It helped so much with the pain and she latched right on. Once my nipples healed I was able to get her to latch naturally and stop using the shield. The LC had weighed Pengi before and after I nursed and I was only producing about half an ounce, so I started pumping every three to four hours, eating oatmeal, hummus, carrots, dried apricots and nuts. I drank a Guiness a day, drank lots of water, and started baking lactation cookies. I tried to get as much rest as I could and decrease my stress (the Guiness helped with that last part). I got up to a little over an ounce from both breasts.
I decided to try a medication called Domperidone. It’s legal in Europe and Canada and everywhere but here, where it’s awaiting FDA approval. It was originally used to treat gastrointestinal issues but they discovered that it also increased breast milk. I liked it better than the currently available option Reglan because with Domperidone ti doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier and only a tiny amount gets through the breast milk to the baby. You can get it, but you have to get it from Canada, have a pharmacy compound it for you, or find someone willing to sell it on the down-low. For the first two options you have to have a doctor’s prescription and I went to four different doctors and had them tell me no. I eventually found someone to sell it to me, but it took a few weeks and was very expensive.
I recently met with my Lactation Consultant again and she reweighed Pengi before and after and it looks like I’m getting enough to give her about 50% breast milk and 50% formula. I’m still trying to get to 100% – for example, I just now started taking fenugreek. I had hesitated on that because I had read that you couldn’t take it if you have thyroid issues (I have an under active thyroid), but I spoke with my endocrinologist and he said it was safe. I also started drinking lactation tea. I’m hoping these help, but even if not I know Pengi is getting a good amount of benefits from the breast milk she is getting, so I’m happy with that. It’s certainly has been a long journey!