Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I Needed to Hear vs. What I Wanted to Hear

I decided to tell this story in honor of World Breastfeeding Week.

It wasn't even a year ago when I faced the moment that decided whether Little Man would continue to be breastfed or not. It was September and my little boy was three months old. Until this time, he had spoiled us. He nursed a lot, I had plenty of milk, he slept 10-12 (or more) hours straight at night...he was happy. We had our bout with colic and reflux and my dairy free diet helped.

So that September we took a trip to visit my husband's parents. We flew which was probably the first mistake. Flying stresses me out. I really HATE to fly. Then we had to rent a car and drive another four hours to their house. Myself and my son were exhausted, plus he was having explosions out of his diapers left and right. They were disposable...what did I expect?! I never had this issue with cloth diapers.

The next morning after we got there, I woke up at 9am when my son woke up. My breasts were empty. Try as he might, my little boy nursed, nursed and nursed and was unable to fill his tummy. I had some pumped milk from our trip in the fridge, but only about six ounces. I filled up his bottle and gave it to him.....and I was worried. Where was my milk? Why was I empty?

The next few days I spent doing nothing more than lying in bed or on the couch nursing with Little Man. I knew the BEST way to get my supply back was to nurse him a lot. When he was sleeping, I pumped. I was only able to get .5oz-1oz at a time, but at least there was something. Little Man was content to nurse...he was still being exclusively breastfed and he wasn't getting what he was obvious in his cries.

Then I got food poisoning and my son got rotavirus. At a time when he needed his mama's milk more than anything, my supply dropped even lower.

I KNEW that all my son needed was absolute unrestricted access to nursing. I knew I had to be completely selfless and think of his needs. I drank water and ate oatmeal to battle dehydration from throwing up. I will confess I gave him water too, just to keep him hydrated...but then it was right back to the breast.

I missed out on a lot that vacation because of my supply issues. And I felt bad for missing out on visiting with my family. I could tell it frustrated my husband and everyone around me. Then the suggestions for formula started. I knew formula would only make the situation worse so I instead found a local La Leche League and met with two leaders. They were my angels. They encouraged me and helped me and soon, we headed back home to Texas.

I thought when we returned home that I would be able to relax and my supply would return. It took it a little over another month to return.

During that time I was exhausted. My son was nursing for 20-30 minutes every 45 minutes. He wasn't napping more than 30 minutes at a time and he was waking up at night every hour. Even with co-sleeping, I still wasn't getting rest.

I asked for advice among mothers I trusted. Do you know what I wanted? I wanted them to tell me that one bottle of formula wouldn't hurt. I wanted to hear them say "Formula will be okay. You need the rest."

But none of them said it. Instead they all encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing...that it would pass and that I would be glad I stuck with it. I didn't want to hear to keep breastfeeding. I was tired, I was exhausted. I was emotionally and physically drained. I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to use formula.

But no one ever did. And I'm so thankful.

Shortly after my son turned five months old he began napping twice a day, 1.5-2 hours each nap. I took advantage of those naps to either sleep myself or relax --- read a book, watch a movie. I do NOT do housework while my children sleep. My supply also began to return. Very slowly but I could tell Little Man was more satisfied after each nursing session. I was also able to pump more and I began to rebuild my freezer supply.

My husband was an enormous help. He held our son so I could get some rest. He helped with housework, he helped cook dinner. He encouraged me and supported me. He stood up for me when people inquired as to "Why are you nursing so much?" and the ever-annoying "When are you weaning him?" questions. He sat by me when I nursed in public. My husband is a big man...I doubt anyone would say anything negative to me while he is around, he has that whole intimidation look going for him. ;) He stood by us and protected his family. I'm thankful for his help.

Sometimes when a mom is struggling, it's easy to suggest formula. Formula is NOT poison and it's not the end of the world if you REALLY need to use it. But in most cases, it's not necessary. Sometimes what a mom needs more than anything is someone to just LISTEN to her.

We all know complaining isn't attractive, but sometimes it is good to vent out frustrations, air them out, make them leave your mind. Sometimes a mother needs someone to let her vent and talk her way out of her frustration.

What a mother needs is encouragement and support. Unless she ASKS for suggestions, don't offer. She needs to hear "This is okay. You are doing good. You are a great mom. Hang in there, it will pass." She needs to hear sincerity in your voice and see the care in your eyes.

If you want to do something for a mother who is struggling with breastfeeding, offer to make her a meal or clean her house. Maybe take her some decaf coffee and sit and talk with her. Offer to hold the baby so she can shower or catch a quick nap. If she asks for suggestions and help then give her good, solid, correct advice. Don't give into her fears or worries, instead explain that her body is created to make milk in order to feed her children.

And if she chooses formula, don't make her feel guilty. I do not sugarcoat things, especially the formula issue. If a mother asks me my thoughts on formula, I will tell her. But I'm not going to berate, belittle or disrespect her because that's what she chose.

Support mothers, support mothers, support mothers. That's what they need. Mothers do not need to be told what to do. Most of them already KNOW the answer. But they do need encouragement to keep going when things get tough. I'm thankful for the women who helped me and supported me.

My son is almost 14 months and he is still going strong with nursing. We nurse a lot and I LOVE that time together. I'm so glad I have it.


My little man will be 26 months next week. 26 months...and guess what, he's still nursing! Next month (September) we are going to be going back to see my husband's family. I still remember the name of those two lady's from La Leche Leauge who have me so much encouragement during the roughest point. I'm hoping to see them and give them thank you cards. And big hugs.

In honor of world breastfeeding week, think about who was your angel during tough times with breastfeeding? Who helped you? Is there a way you can thank them.....more than likely they don't even realize how much of an impact they made on you! I doubt these ladies realize that I thank God for them everyday...I really do!

Happy Breastfeeding!!! ;)



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

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  1. I love this, Kym! Such truth and honesty.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Kym. So many moms really need to hear these things - and sadly, so many just won't ever have that chance.

    Beautiful work!

  3. I've had my nursing struggles with my son and needed to vent sometimes too but whenever anyone mentioned just giving up I felt insulted, even though I know they were only looking out for my welfare. I'm glad that I had enough great support as well to soldier through the tough times and now I can proudly say that we are still nursing at 14 months. I think too many women do not realize how resilient they can be and they jump straight to milk alternatives as soon as an issue comes up or have a little pressure from others. Breastfeeding is definitely something worth fighting for!

  4. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by supportive friends and family - I'm glad you had that experience, and good for you for sticking with it mama :)

  5. Wow, I'm so jealous of the support you got. I'm currently struggling with doubt and opposition while nursing my 5 week old baby girl. My mother-in-law is pushing for formula and the pediatrician thinks our baby may have reflux. Baby's spewing everywhere, I think I might have an overabundant milk supply and i'm trying to fight off thrush with little to no support from my husband. He expects me to ignore the in-you-face advice but I can't. Maybe I need to find a LaLeche League group here.