Category Archives: Lactivist

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…

Last night I was thrilled to go to my first-ever LLL meeting.

I’ve practically lived breastfeeding for the last 3.5 years. I started researching and learning when I found out I was pregnant. I breastfed Puddin’ as well as I could. I’ve kept researching and learning since she stopped.

But I literally had nothing good to contribute to the conversation.

I pride myself on gathering information, putting it together, thinking it through critically, and then forming an opinion on X, Y, or Z.

Last night I was corrected on every point I made. If I said X the answer was X *and* Y. If I said the answer was Y, it was really Z instead…

How many other times do I just completely miss the point? How often do I lose important pieces of information? How often does my brain discard half of the answer, only to leave me with the second half?

I’ve made all my breastfeeding posts private now. They’re still there… but I certainly don’t want to chance giving someone some information that could either booby-trap them or information that just wouldn’t help them at all.

I think I’m also done with anything else requiring brain power. No more political discussions. No more activism. If I can’t get my facts straight and present those facts to others, then what’s the point? Cause more confusion? That’s never been my passion… I know that I’ve never been a teacher – I’ve never quite been able to clearly relay to others what I’m thinking or how I came to a conclusion – but my god, you guys… I can’t remember the last time that I’ve been so blatantly proven wrong. Repeatedly. On a subject about which I thought I was knowledgeable…

I’m tucking my tail between my legs and apologizing. I’m sorry if I mis-lead any of you; that certainly was not my intention.

As for this blog… it’ll still be here, and I can assure you that it will still be a hodge-podge of whatever has me thinking that day. I also promise that it still will not make sense, but at least I’ll keep my posts about my feelings and life events… at least I don’t have to worry about hurting anyone with those.

Tori Story

Just a funny little story to share in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. . .

Last night when I came home from work, Tori joined me while I changed clothes – as per usual. When I took off my bra, she pointed to my breasts and exclaimed, very excitedly, “Bow-bows!”

I chuckled at her.

Then she stuck both hands out in the classic “I’m gonna grab ’em!” pose, scrunched up her nose, and started giggling.

Silly girl. It may have been forever since she nursed at this point. . . but she’s never forgotten the “bow-bows”.

I’m not going to lie.

I’m not going to lie.

The Breastfeeding 101 Series is exhausting now that I’ve gotten down to the “nitty gritty”.

I suppose this is why I’m not a journalist. I applaud bloggers that research their hearts out and publish informative pieces day after day.

I shall continue. . . but I had to take a break.

Have you tried Swagbucks yet?

Search & Win

I know a lot of you have tried the “Do Surveys for Money!” and “Submit for a free sample of blah!” gimmicks out there. If you’re like me, you haven’t had a lot of success with actually getting money or free samples from these sites.

Well here’s one that actually works.

I get the most Swagbucks from my searches. When I’ve got a lot to search the web for, I head straight for Swagbucks’ search engine. (It’s powered by Google but you have to look below the link to see if it’s a sponsored ad or not.) You get awarded Swagbucks at random for searching. I even use my Swagbucks search engine when I’m going to familiar websites like WordPress, Facebook, and Yahoo. I just type that into the search bar and then go to the site from there.

You can also do surveys on the site, take a daily poll, do tasks, things like that. And you’re actually awarded Swagbucks, unlike those other survey sites that say “Hey, we’ll give you a dollar!” and then, twenty minutes later, you find out you haven’t qualified for their survey.

Ahem.

Back to the point, just give Swagbucks a shot. Click here and go look around. I’ve already redeemed some of my Swagbucks for music prizes, and I’ve got a lot of other things from the Swagbucks store on my wishlist – things like a Wii, a Keurig Single-cup Coffee Maker, and a Dali poster.

This site really works! Try it out! (And if you join from these links, I’ll get a referral bonus when you use the search!)
Search & Win

Struggling with Advocacy

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

I’m still struggling to find my place within advocacy.

I’ve cared about issues before, but I’ve never been this passionate about them. I feel as though my eyes weren’t opened to the truly important things until I got pregnant with my daughter. (It may be because before the birth of my daughter, I was more than just a little selfish!) Just as soon as I saw her – small, beautiful, and perfect – I knew that I had to be her advocate. She had not the voice to be her own. Suddenly a fire was lit beneath me.

Breastfeeding Symbol

Breastfeeding Symbol

The two issues about which I’m most passionate are breastfeeding and anti-circumcision (yes, even though I had a daughter). My mother breastfed me for 18 months and told me many stories as I was growing up, so I was raised thinking of breastfeeding as normal, natural, and a perfect time for bonding. My passion for anti-circumcision has much younger roots; when I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband said he didn’t have the choice to be circumcised. He wishes the choice was his own. His statement led me to do my research. I found out that the “pros” people list as pros are either a really long stretch to believe or they have no scientific reasoning behind them. They are merely aesthetic.

That being said, I still don’t know exactly how to advocate for these causes. It helps if you know a little bit about my personality. I’ve gone from the younger version of April that used to talk constantly and never censored a word that came out of my mouth to a new April who listens twice as much as she talks, would rather not hurt anyone’s feelings, and who would certainly not ever want to be involved in confrontation if not absolutely necessary.

Whenever I advocate for breastfeeding I don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone who made an educated decision not to breastfeed and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone who tried but was unable. When I advocate for the end of circumcision, I don’t want to offend people who have done their homework and still made that choice for their sons.

In short, I don’t want to tell anyone “You’re wrong for doing that! You were given breasts to please your husband, and then feed the baby that results from that pleasure! And while we’re at it, foreskin is not a birth defect, so why are you giving your son cosmetic surgery?!” I believe that even though I happen to think that breastfeeding is the primo way to go and circumcision doesn’t have any medical benefit, what I think may be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. Why couldn’t it happen again? How do I have any room to judge? I know I make plenty of parenting decisions that 100% crunchy moms wouldn’t agree with, but I still do these things because I’m positive that my child will not be harmed. I’m sure that the parents who do not breastfeed and the parents that do circumcise their sons feel the same way.

Preserving Genital Integrity

Preserving Genital Integrity

Because I want to step so softly, how do I advocate these days?

I write. I write in a public forum where everyone and their mother can see the thoughts going through my mind. I write stories about the reasons I’ve chosen to do things, rather than the reasons you should not choose the roads I have decided not to take. I try to give useful information in my blog and post information on my Facebook page that will facilitate a mother’s ability to breastfeed if she wants, and I try to provide information that lets people know how I came to the conclusion, with my husband, to not circumcise our son if we had a boy. I let mothers-to-be know “If you’re interested in breastfeeding and you want more information on circumcision, let me know!” and leave it at that. Honestly, I’d rather just plant the seed and allow the mother to come to her decision on her own rather than beating someone over the head with information until they’ve decided they’d rather avoid me than have to listen to my ideals.

Overall, my intent is to provide information about these issues in a loving, informative, and non-judgmental way. I hope that in doing this I can be a voice for those who are too small to speak their own minds. I hope I’m being a strong advocate for my daughter; not only for right now while she can’t speak, but also so that she knows she can grow a voice of her own later. And I hope that in the meantime I’m not being unreasonable or condescending in my tactics.

To be honest, I’m still not sure if I’m doing this right or not. I’m not sure that I shouldn’t be picketing. I’m not sure that I shouldn’t be shouting from the rooftops and via all the electronic media we’ve been given today. I’m not sure that my advocacy is strong enough. At the times when my voice is weak. . . I hope the life I lead tells my story for me.

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don’t share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don’t parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That’s The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she’s learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the “good news” of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people’s children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter’s senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the “great divide” through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R’s of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how “The Three R’s” can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she’s been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she’s doing — and it’s a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on “holistic” — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We’re great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by “just doing her thing,” she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don’t tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.

Our Story – Persistence!

Brand New Baby

Brand New Baby & Happy Family

I wanted a completely un-medicated birth so that Tori wouldn’t be sleepy when she was born and could nurse right away. I ended up having to have a low dose of Statol late in labor, but it was no big deal – she was born in two contractions (yay!). I had them lay her on my chest immediately before they cut the cord to give her a bit more security. I had them clean her up in the hospital room quickly and then give her back to me so that I could initiate breastfeeding right away. Sure enough, just as soon as I presented her with my breast, she latched on like a champ. Because of the Statol she didn’t nurse but a few minutes before falling asleep and I’m not sure she even transferred colostrum – but hey, that was a start.

I didn’t see a lactation consultant until nearly 36 hours after delivery, despite my attempts to let the labor and delivery nurses know that I was interested in exclusively breastfeeding. When I finally saw the lactation consultant, she helped me make small corrections to Tori’s latch and helped me position her better. Unfortunately, the total time I spent with the lactation consultant was 15 minutes.

Instant Love

Instant Love

The third night I thought I would die. I’d latch Tori on, she’d suck for 2 minutes, fall asleep on the breast, I’d transfer her to her crib and just as soon as I did she’d wake up again. It wasn’t so difficult at first but I was wondering if I was starving her, I thought I was a human pacifier, and frankly latching and unlatching her repeatedly made my nipples worse. If I had it to do all over again I would have left her attached on each breast a lot longer and avoided so much the latching/unlatching dance. This is because through the near-constant stimulation, she was working to bring my milk. The next morning when I got out of the hospital my milk came in.

About 10 days in we were getting a lot faster at latching but my nipples were still *killing* me. My MIL told me to pick up Neosporin Pain. I’d apply it after each nursing session and (gently) wipe it off before she latched on again. It was a life saver. By three weeks my nipples were completely healed and we were nursing comfortably.

Sleepy Baby

Sleepy Baby

We made the mistake of offering Tori a paci when she was a few weeks old because she was nursing all the time. Literally. She’d be on for 45 minutes, I’d put her down to sleep, and 15 minutes later she’d want to come back. Repeat. We tried to give her a paci just to give me a break. That was a bad idea. Because babies suck on a paci differently than they do the breast, it completely messed up her latch. If I had this to do all over again I would baby-wear so I could continue to do (whatever) hands free and Tori could nurse, or comfort suck, or anything she wanted to do.

After the paci snafu it took 3-4 days to correct her latch. By that time the growth spurt was over and she was sleeping a more predictable 1-2 hours between feedings but somehow we developed thrush. It felt like a lifetime before we completely cured her of her thrush. Then, suddenly (and too soon), Tori was six weeks old and I was looking at having to return to work in two more weeks.

I started pumping in hopes that I could build up her first day’s supply before going to work. I screwed this all up and, long story short, I ended up giving her all the milk I’d pumped from a bottle almost as soon as I pumped it. I tricked myself into thinking I had a milk supply problem because I couldn’t get ahead of myself. I did NOT.

Milk Drunk

Milk Drunk

When Tori turned 8 weeks old, I went to work for the first day and got a frantic call from Josh about 10 am. Tori wouldn’t drink any of the milk I’d frozen for her. I made an emergency trip home with what milk I’d collected that morning and she drank it no problem – I wondered what the issue was since she was taking a bottle no problems before. Turns out I had a problem with lipase. We had to overcome that issue. Then a week later I got Mirena inserted because doc advised me that it was a great long-term birth control and because it very rarely affected milk supply. Within two weeks of getting Mirena my milk supply really did plummet (which I should have known – I’ve always been *extremely* sensitive to hormonal forms of birth control; if you aren’t sensitive don’t worry – but if you are sensitive, any form of hormonal birth control can completely screw with your supply). Then I started taking *more* meds to increase my production.

I had only been back to work for a week or week and a half when Tori started refusing the breast whenever I was home to offer it to her. Tori learned very quickly that bottles were easier to drink from. In offering her the bottles too early (and too consistently), I also created a bigger problem that I came to deeply regret. I’d created nipple confusion (or, more accurately, nipple preference.) I’d put her to breast and she’d scream and kick and cry (so would I). I felt so rejected. When I tried to work her out of this nursing strike, she’d strangle from an overactive letdown I had created with all the milk production meds, get more frustrated, and then she couldn’t be coaxed back to breast for the rest of the night. If I had this to do all over again, I’d wait until it was *necessary* to introduce the bottle to her and I’d limit her time on the bottle, meaning I’d run home from work on lunch and nurse, nurse before work, directly after work, etc. so that she’d have as few bottles as possible.

Awww

Awww

The only relief I had from her nursing strike was at night. We bed-share, and, while she was asleep / too tired to fight she’d roll over to me and dream-feed. That’s the only thing that kept my milk production up long-term because after using the production meds so long (and not knowing that was causing my daughter to drown!), I’d messed with my breasts’ idea of what kind of supply they should have, the meds lost their efficacy, Tori wasn’t nursing *enough*, and, my breasts gave up and my supply crashed for the worst. On her three-month birthday Josh and I had to start supplementing with formula.

That lays out the song and dance until she turned one. I stopped pumping at work but she continued dream feeding at night. Within two months she gently weaned herself – going from two nursing sessions a night to just one, and finally in October, at fourteen months old (exactly) she nursed the last time. I tried offering the breast at night for a few weeks since then but she didn’t want it anymore – just her paci. (Insert sad-face here).

All told, my beautiful daughter was exclusively breastfed due to my crazy pumping schedule for the first three months of her life. She was supplemented with roughly 25% formula until six months old. Past that she received 50-75% formula . . . but . . . I never gave up. I gave her every ounce of Mama milk I could until she was a year old. I must say I’m quite nostalgic about our breastfeeding relationship and the hours I spent on the breast pump. I’m also proud of what we accomplished together – but I admit I’m filled with a little regret. If I’d known then what I know now every step of the way, I could have avoided a lot of the boobie traps placed in my way.

That’s precisely why I’m trying to assist any mothers expressing interest in breastfeeding with my new blog series. I hope that the moms I’m helping can overcome any obstacles and breastfeed for as long as they, and their little bundles of joy, wish.

You can find this and other breastfeeding stories at My Practical Baby Guide.

Sweet Nurser

Sweet Nurser

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please click “BF 101” on my topic cloud to see all the posts in my Breastfeeding 101 Series, or choose the topics about which you’re most interested by following the track-back:

Breastfeeding 101 Series (Intro)

BF 101: Preparing During Pregnancy

BF 101: Helpful Resources

BF 101: Labor and Delivery Can Affect Your Nursing Relationship

BF 101: The First Few Days

BF 101: The First Few Weeks

BF 101: Growth Spurts

BF 101: Birth Control

BF 101: Sleeping through the Night

BF 101: Working Mama

BF 101: Pumping and Milk Storage

BF 101: Nursing Strike

BF 101: Supply Issues

Confidence Is Underrated

Two weeks ago I sat in a WIC class surrounded by approximately ten mothers and one mother-to-be. The leader of the class asked the mothers who were still breastfeeding.

I immediately reminisced about my first visit to that very class when I sat determined to breastfeed for a year and one mother sitting in front of me turned to me and said, “Oh, honey, if you’re like me you won’t make it past two weeks. It hurts too much! Naw, that’s not for me!” 

Honestly, I’m not still breastfeeding my daughter who weaned herself just two months prior to the class. . . but I lied. No other mothers in the room raised their hands when we were asked who was still breastfeeding and I wanted to show the mama-to-be that it is possible to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. I raised my hand and said I was still breastfeeding my 16-month-old daughter. The leader asked what I liked about breastfeeding. The question caught me off-guard and I stammered something about not having to get up in the middle of the night to prepare bottles while my daughter waited, crying. If I’d had more time to prepare, this is what I would have shared with the class.

There was certainly a learning curve, and it wasn’t always comfortable, but breastfeeding has fulfilled the lives of my daughter, me, and my husband more than I could have ever imagined.

The gifts that breastfeeding gave my daughter are obvious. Breastmilk was gentle on her stomach, unlike formula. Breastmilk comforted her when she felt poorly. Breastmilk sustained her and helped her grow. Breastmilk kept her healthy and protected her from the germs I brought home from work.

Breastfeeding gave me sweet, beautiful times to cuddle my daughter and look into her beautiful eyes. It gave me time to slow down, stop, and enjoy her company. It taught me patience and perseverance. It gave me a greater sense of purpose. It gave me something about which I could be passionate. Breastfeeding gave me a sense of accomplishment that I’d never known – after all, not only did I help my beautiful girl grow in my belly, but I also helped her grow once she met the world for the first time.

I would have never guessed that our breastfeeding relationship could have been a gift for my husband as well. After I told him the benefits of it he was on-board. He was able to see my commitment to our daughter. He was able to see a mother nurture her babe in every sense of the word. He was also able to gain his protective, father-bear instincts when it came to defending us and our choice to breastfeed.

Little did I know when I made the decision to breastfeed that it would be the best decision I’ve ever made.

More importantly?  

Breastfeeding helped me learn my body and trust it. . . and gave me confidence in myself.

Favorite Breastfeeding Moment

Every part of breastfeeding has endeared me to my daughter. (Yes, even the torture of sore, cracked, bleeding nipples at the beginning brought me closer to her and enforced my desire to breastfeed.) My favorite nursing memory, however, comes at the end of a very trying 3.5 month-long nursing strike.

I was almost at the end of my rope. Every time I held my sweet six-month-old daughter at my breast, she screamed like I was trying to hold her up-side down by her toenails. It seemed the very thought of getting near the breast upset her. I didn’t know what to do. I was exhausted from working a 40-hour week and keeping up a killer pumping schedule.

One night with a heavy heart and heavy eyelids I brought my beautiful daughter upstairs to call it a night. I put her on the bed and undressed (always sleeping topless so that she had an all-access pass to the breast). When I finished I picked her up and hugged her. I told her “I don’t understand why you don’t want Mama anymore, Puddin'” (it’s near impossible to not take a nursing strike personally), “but I’m right here if you want to cuddle and nurse.” As we laid down together on the bed, something great happened. Before I could even position myself on the mattress, my little girl reached out to my breast with both hands. I laid down beside her and she smiled, took it hungrily, and nursed herself softly to sleep. I thought my heart would burst!

At this point my little girl will only nurse through the night and I’m still pumping like crazy during the day to meet her needs, but that one evening was enough to lift my spirits and let me know that my little girl loves me – she just loves her independence as well.

Circus Act

I’ve always considered myself a strong person. I’ve been proud of how much I have tolerated and still managed to come out on top. (Well, not necessarily on top – but I’ve been able to keep my head relatively above water and make the most of any situation.) Part of the reason I never wanted to be a mother before I conceived Tori was that I knew I’d be responsible for another little human being and I was sure that would push me past my limit.

When Josh and I conceived Tori, I was petrified. Instantly. Life as I knew it was over. It was time to shed my old skin and re-emerge as someone completely different – as a mom. Sure, I had almost 10 months to prepare, but 10 months is nothing after you’ve been concerned with sustaining only yourself for 27 years before that.

I read everything I had time to read about motherhood. I took a childbirth class. I took three breastfeeding classes. Did I feel more prepared? Nope. I felt more terrified. I had days when I wondered, “How will I do this?” Some days I thought, “What was I thinking?” On others I simply felt amazed at what was going on within my body. Pregnancy is truly a miraculous experience. Over time I became more and more nervous about labor and delivery.

When the morning of August 2nd came and my water broke, I busied myself with laundry while Josh got his last couple hours of sleep as a non-parent. I spoke nervously to my tummy. “Do I get to meet you today, little one?” I asked as I stood in front of the washing machine and rubbed my bump tentatively. Tori didn’t answer me but my heart fluttered. As it turns out, I didn’t get to meet her that day but I did the next – August 3rd at 12:07 a.m., after 17 hours and 37 minutes of easy labor. Then life truly changed.

Suddenly I was no longer April – daughter, sister, college graduate, employee, wife. Suddenly I became a circus act – a juggler. I became all the things listed above, plus mom.

Now instead of going to work, paying bills, coming home, spending time with the husband, and going to bed – I’m getting up, taking care of Tori, being “moo-mie” (making milk), going to work, paying bills, making doctors’ appointments, being moo-mie again, running errands, paying bills, coming home from work, and then again being moo-mie, taking care of Tori, orchestrating baths and showers, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and then settling to bed with my favorite snuggle-bug.

I sure am busy . . . but life is wonderful.

Foreign Entity

When I was pregnant with T, my doctor’s office asked me what I had planned to use for birth control after I had her. I hadn’t thought that far ahead to be honest. I started talking to a lady at work about her experiences with Mirena – they were all positive, so I brought that up at my next visit.

I let my doctor know how sensitive I am to hormonal forms of birth control. I told him how many different kinds of birth control pills I’d tried, only to have to change the prescription in just a little while. I told him about my horrid experience with the Depo-Provera shot. I asked him what he thought my success rate would be with the Mirena knowing all those things; I was especially concerned since it contains the same hormones as Depo.

Doc told me not to worry. He told me that the hormones in the Mirena were so low that I shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever. That rested my mind. I planned to have Mirena inserted.

Fast-forward a couple of months. I had a few breastfeeding classes (yes, a few – I was serious) and I learned that hormonal forms of birth control can mess with milk production. I asked the doctor about that right before he was about to insert the Mirena.

Doc told me not to worry. He told me (again) that the hormones in the Mirena were so low that I shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever. Again my mind was rested. I told him to go ahead.

The Mirena was inserted about the time I started working again.

When I started working again I was keeping up with the amount of milk T needed, though it meant I had to pump seven times a day. I had to deliver the milk I’d pumped in the morning when I went home for lunch and that was T’s supply for the afternoon. It was difficult – but I was able to ensure T was only drinking Mama milk.

A few weeks later I noticed a little drop in my supply. I went and rented a hospital-grade pump (which had helped increase my volume previously). This time it did not help. On the night T turned three months old she had her first taste of formula. From that point she roughly had one bottle of formula every other day; the rest was Mama milk.

By the time T was four months old, it was commonplace for her to have two bottles of formula a day. By this point I had rented the hospital grade pump (again) to bring up my production with no results. I had started taking fenugreek, an herb that makes you smell like maple syrup, to boost my supply. I made sure I was well-hydrated. I was getting as much rest as I could possibly get. Nothing worked.

When T turned five months old, she was having upwards of three bottles of formula a day. I turned my focus toward her nursing habits. When my production initially decreased she went on a nursing strike and refused the breast all the time with the exception of nighttime. I knew that a baby nursing will increase production better than a pump ever will (because they’re such efficient little suckers) so I decided her refusal to nurse *must* be the reason my production continued to drop. With a whole lot of patience and a lot of trial and error I got T to start nursing more often. My production didn’t increase. J said, “I thought nursing was supposed to increase your production.” I said, “Honey, I did, too.” At that point I was praying we could last until she was six months old so that she would fill up a little more on solids and we would have to supplement less with formula.

By T’s six-month birthday our initial ratios reversed themselves. By this point T was only having two to three bottles of Mama milk a day and the rest was formula. She had hit her growth spurt and even though she was getting solids for the first time, her reliance on formula didn’t decrease. I cried. A lot. My first job as a mother was to nurture this little one inside my body almost 10 months. My second job as a mother is to nurture her and give her the best start I possibly could with my own breast milk . . . and I was failing. I ordered an expensive herb tincture online and tried it for one month. Other moms raved about its effectiveness. I saw no positive result.

T is now seven and a half months old. As of last Monday she was still only getting one bottle of Mama milk a day – two if she was lucky. It had gotten ridiculous. There was no way I could continue pumping for 20 minutes seven times a day to yield one to two bottles. I cried more because I wanted to give up – then I called a certified lactation consultant.

The lactation consultant told me that YES, Mirena can absolutely effect production. She told me that breastfeeding moms who have had their Mirenas removed have seen a rebound in supply. She also cautioned me – that she’d caught moms and had them remove their Mirenas when they’ve only had them in for upwards of two months. At this point I’ve had mine for five and a half.

With a heavy heart I explained everything to J. J told me “If it helps your production to remove the Mirena, I’m all for it – but more importantly, you know your body, and if you think it will help you then go do it.” I made the appointment. It’s today at 2:15. The funny thing is that ever since I had that conversation with J and I made the decision to remove it, my production has rebounded a tad. It’s almost like my body is relieved I’ve made the decision to remove the foreign entity from it and it’s thanking me already.

Tomorrow starts the hard work. I’ll be following the rules of re-lactation which means a ton of water, a ton of pumping, nursing whenever possible, being religious about taking the production-enducing meds, and perhaps the purchase of some more of the expensive herb tincture. I’ll be exhausted, but if this works I should see an increase within two weeks and I should get the full result within four weeks. If this doesn’t work I’ll be horribly disappointed – but at least I’ll know I’ve tried everything I can try. If I can continue to nurture my little girl with my breasts as my mother did for me I’ll be elated.

Let’s see how it goes . . .

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