Monday, November 10, 2014

The obstacle course, aka Breastfeeding

People may be surprised to hear that I was not at all scared of going into labor, however, I was petrified of the pain from breastfeeding. I was equally excited to share the breastfeeding experience with my baby; to provide him with the best nourishment, while bonding with him. When Zane was placed in my arms for the first time, I breastfed him right away. I believe it was the adrenaline from giving birth and finally having my baby in my arms that initially numbed me to the pain of breastfeeding. Zane never had a problem latching; he was a natural. In fact, he had such a strong suck that my poor nipples felt like they were getting destroyed every time he fed. Over the next few days, the pain grew stronger, and every time Zane would wake up for a feeding, I'd get major anxiety just from anticipation of the pain that ensued. I told my nurse, and she gave me nipple shields to use while my cracked & battered nipples healed. The shield was so helpful, maybe even a little too helpful, because I found myself completely dependent on the shield. I did some research online, and read that the nipple shield is meant for short term use, and that prolonged use can hinder the transition from the shield to the bare breast. After a week of nursing with the shield, I decided to brave it and stop using the shield. It has paid off, and I have not gone back to the shield.

My battle with Mastitis
One day, I noticed that I had a headache for the first time this year (I had not had one single headache throughout my entire pregnancy) so I took a long nap while Zane slept. Upon waking up, not only was my headache still in full effect, but my body felt incredibly weak and achy. Then, I felt cold, and then hot and sweaty, and I knew something was wrong. My right breast was red, and felt hard and swollen, and my sister told me my symptoms sounded like mastitis. I went to the hospital right away, and sure enough, it was confirmed that I had mastitis; an AWFUL breast infection, due to engorgement or plugged milk ducts. Since my doctor knew I was breastfeeding, she prescribed an antibiotic that is safe if passed down to Zane. The nurse gave me contradicting information, recommending that I supplement with formula for the 10 days of my medication. This concerned me, so I did my research, and also reached out to my local breastfeeding support group I'm a part of, and confirmed that it is safe to breastfeed on the antibiotics. Had I supplemented with formula for 10 days, I would risk severely disrupting the breastfeeding relationship I had already built with Zane, making it that much harder on us. It was suggested that I take a probiotic during my medication, to prevent Zane from the possibility of getting thrush; a yeast infection in the mouth. Since antibiotics kill the infected bacteria, it can also kill good bacteria, and thus, causing the overgrowth of candida (yeast), so a probiotic would counteract that, by promoting the growth of good bacteria. I started taking Florastor tablets, in addition to eating yogurt everyday. I took ibuprofen to manage the pain, and took steaming hot showers and massaged the affected area. Just before feedings, I applied hot compresses (Booby Tubes from Earth Mama Angel Baby are awesome!) and lanolin, keeping the nipple moist, so it can heal. I continued to nurse on both breasts like normal, and I noticed an improvement. It was recommended by many women who have had mastitis, to start taking lecithin granules daily, to prevent plugged milk ducts and mastitis. I just ordered non-GMO sunflower lecithin through and cannot wait to start taking that.
Zane and I have come a long way on our breastfeeding journey, and I'm so thankful to be producing an abundance of milk for my little one who loves to eat around the clock.
Breastfeeding can be full of challenges, but the rewards outweigh the setbacks. I'm glad I never gave up. Breastfeeding has become such a special part of our relationship, not just physically, but emotionally as well. I can't see myself not breastfeeding him, and I would never want it any other way. I encourage anyone experiencing challenges with breastfeeding to educate themselves and to reach out to a lactation consultant or join a support group (La Leche League).

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