Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fairies and Angels and Pumps...Oh My!

When the Boob Fairy came to visit, I had no idea what I was in for.  Our midwife, Joanne, jokingly said the Boob Fairy would come to visit me between Day 3 and 4 after Ray was born and boy was she right!  I literally watched my boobs grow before my very eyes.  Porn star style.  But these boobs were NOT sexy.  Yes, they were huge, but they were painful.  Very painful.  Engorged with the new milk my body was quickly and efficiently producing, Joanne said that the body doesn't know if it's producing milk for one, two, or three or more babies, so it just produces A LOT until your baby starts to regulate the supply.   

And then there's figuring out the all important latch.  Unfortunately, on the day he was born, I let Ray feed with a horrific, gumming, chewing latch that left me in tears wailing the words..."This isn't sustainable!" I was wondering how in the hell women do this!  And some do it for years...what the hell?!

Then, the Boob Angel entered into my life.  Our wonderful doula, Jolynn Lewis, left us the number of a lactation consultant before she left, telling me how awesome she was and that she answered the phone at any time night or day.  So, at 10:30pm  I got the Boob Angel on speaker phone, hoping she could walk me off the ledge.  It took THREE of us to figure out how to get Ray to latch properly (me, Rich and our good friend Stephanie that played the role of our postpartum doula).  Rich jokes that it was like trying to diagnose the engine failure of an off-road vehicle while at the top of a snow covered mountain-- it felt as if our lives depended upon figuring this out!  When the proper latch was achieved, I sighed in relief and we all felt like we had accomplished something momentous!

The Boob Angel, Jackie Randolph, visited for an in-home consultation after we returned home from our birthing house.  After watching Ray nurse, it appeared we were on the right track.  After days of icing my boobs down after feeding, massaging them to help prevent duct blockages and compressing them to move the milk down at every feeding, my supply finally regulated and my boobs were no longer frighteningly large.  So, Ray and I settled into feeding every three hours.  That's eight feedings per day totaling five plus hours per day.  

Thus, breastfeeding became my full time job in addition to consuming enough calories to maintain my milk supply.  I know that eating high calorie foods without guilt sounds fun, but honestly, it's been hard for me to not only find the time, but to eat that much.  And for those of you that know me, I LOVE food, but I've never been one to snack throughout the day or emotionally eat, so getting enough calories each day has been tough.  Thankfully, when family's been in town to help, it's been much easier to get the calorie intake I need, but left to my own devices, I have to make sure that the right foods are pre-prepared and high calorie snacks are at the ready.

Unfortunately, at our well-baby check up last week, it turned out that Ray still hadn't gotten back to his birth weight of 8 pounds.  He weighed in at 7 lbs, 8 oz...a half pound shy of his birth weight and behind where he needed to be.   (Apparently, most babies achieve their birth weight after about two weeks.) All in all, our doctor wasn't too concerned because Ray was well hydrated and not jaundiced, but instead of feeding every three hours, she recommended we switch to an "on demand" schedule.  He began feeding about every 2 hours (that's 12 feedings per day!) and at times, he would cluster feed (which means that you could be feeding for up to 2 hours at a time!  Holy hell.).  I felt that I was doing everything I could to help the situation and sure enough, at our weigh in today, he's up to 7 lbs, 12 oz, but again, still not up to birth weight.

So, we called in reinforcements and I'm working with the Boob Angel again.  Enter the breast pump.  This thing is a trip....and I thought I felt like a diary cow before now!  We're trying to increase my supply, so I've started pumping after each feeding.  What's crazy about the body is that it responds to the demand.  So, even if there's not a ton of milk coming through the pump right now, I should see a huge difference in 48 to 72 hours.  

This breastfeeding thing is serious shit.  No joke.  I realize that the benefits of breastfeeding well outweigh the challenges, but amazingly, I think it's been harder for me than having a natural childbirth.  I was soooo ready emotionally and mentally to have a natural childbirth, but nothing could have prepared me for how difficult breastfeeding has been for me.  

However, on the upside, similar to my pregnancy license, I think we nursing Moms have a breastfeeding license.  This means is that we can whip out our boobs when necessary because it's all in the name of nourishing our babies.  Case in point, last weekend, I had to nurse Ray at our friend Dave's house.  Is pulling out my boob in his living room something I would have EVER done before?  Uh, no.  (Dave is Rich's best friend from college!  Awkwaaarrrrd.)  But now that I'm my baby's sole source of sustenance, it's no problem.  Of course, I try to remember that not everyone has gotten as comfortable with my nipples as I have (Cover up Kara!), but it's been really freeing to do what I have to do when I have to do it.  After all, it's for my sweet baby boy and despite how frustrated I've been with this process, he's totally worth it.


  1. I'm so glad you are working with Jackie---she is AMAZING and seriously she is the only reason Jake is a breast-fed baby :) I had a really really hard time bfing and had to pump to get my supply up for several weeks. It was so hard and it felt like the challenge of it would never end. I was so envious of the moms that it seemed so easy for. It was physically and emotionally SO difficult. The good news is IT GETS BETTER! It was probably about8 weeks in that it got a lot easier and now at 6 mo in, its cake and funny to think that I ever found it challenging. Keep up the good work--you're giving Ray the very best care he could possibly get! Looking forward to seeing you soon!

  2. Kara,
    I don't know if you ever read Having Faith, by Sandra Steingraber, but it will renew your faith in breastmilk if it ever flags...such a tremendous gift you are giving Ray. It's worth all the work. I can't believe doctors used to think that formula would be the best food for was certainly easier on the mamas, but not better for the kiddos. With everything that Ray will have to face in this world, in his life, you are giving him the best start possible. Keep up the great WORK, and yes, it is WORK!
    (I breastfed and pumped for a total of 33 months over course of two kids, with help of lactation consultants and lots of high-calorie snacks!)

  3. I feel you sister. It is really hard work. I am glad you got it worked out and didn't give up. When it's good (the latch, the supply, etc.) it is really good and it is such a great time with the baby. I think that we should all get a party at the end of breastfeeding to congratulate ourselves (and have more than one drink!) and I think we deserve what I am now calling a "Pump Prize."