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Adventures in Breastfeeding

Let me first start by saying that this is *not* a story on thinking breast is best or that breastfeeding is superior to formula feeding families. I fully support any way a parent chooses to feed and nurture their baby. This is just my very personal journey into the land of breastfeeding. I thought I would share to show others that they are not alone in all the ups and downs of nursing.

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10 years ago I never set out to be a breastfeeding mom. I quite honestly was not on board with it at all, but once my sweet little Sterling was born and the nurse placed him on my chest and asked if I was going to nurse him, so I decided to give it a try.

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I had no idea what the heck I was doing and let me tell you, that was the most painful experience EVER!

I pushed on with the help of a lactation specialist and was able to correct his latch, but things seemed to be going south fast. Sterling was allergic to milk protein and he was miserable.

His doctor was quick to prescribe a special formula that had the proteins broken down and as a first time parent I just went along with it. This left me feeling terrible. I spent nights crying thinking I was not good enough to feed my own baby. This was a stark contrast from just four months prior when I was not even wanting to try. I know now how crazy that thought process was, but at that time I was a hormonal mess with no sleep and a new baby that cried almost 24/7, so my thoughts were a little wild to say the least. Sterling went on to be a very easy formula fed baby and by a years time he was off formula and onto regular milk.

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Onto baby # 2 my adorable Stryker. I was determined to make this breastfeeding thing work after my go at it with Sterling ended in 4 months time. Stryker was a natural and everything went so smooth from day one.

Eight months later his teeth came into the picture. Yikes! Teeth do NOT go well with nipples. I can attest to this fact firsthand. I cannot even tell you how many times I was bit, but it left my poor breasts as a human baby chew toy and I could not deal with that much longer. Thankfully for me and my breasts, at a year old Stryker decided he was done nursing and weaned himself fully. I was feeling slightly guilty about being happy, but WOO HOO! I had no regrets this time and the experience was beautiful though a little painful towards the end.

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Baby # 3 Sweet baby Steele. Oh how this child threw us for a loop. He is our little preemie miracle. He was having a heart issue that was stumping all his doctors. His heart would not beat quick and it was skipping beats randomly, he was having premature atrial contractions(PAC).

Nothing was wrong with the heart structure that they could see and after 5 days of constant monitoring in the hospital I was off to an emergency Cesarian section. Steele was barely 34 weeks. He came out needing some help breathing and I was sent to recovery. I did not see my little guy for 15 long hours.

The nurses told me nursing was probably not likely at this point( due to his gestational age) and that I would have to pump and not expect to get very much at first.This had me a bit concerned, but they were still very much on him getting my milk once he was able to have it. At this point he was on TPN,so he was not being fed anything by mouth.

In those first few days of his life I was going to do whatever it took to make this breastfeeding thing to work because I knew it would be worth it. I never felt more determined in all my life. I have never been so scared in all my life either. I think the uncertainty of his heart and his fragile state made me go into turbo drive. I dove right in and pumped every 2 hours to get my supply up for him and like a champ he latched on the very first visit I had with him. I also in turn was an amazing super pumper(yippie!)

Once I was discharged… empty handed (most awful and heartbreaking day of my life) I made sure I was in that NICU with him every single day from at least 8am until 5:30pm when it was time to go get my bigger boys from their after school program. I did this for all 15 long days of his stay with the help of my husband.

Steele did so well that we were able to skip the feeding tube altogether and his TPN was no longer needed after a few days. I felt so relieved. Steele was discharged on day 15 after a minimally eventful NICU stay. His heart slowly corrected itself and things were going so smooth.

Fast forward six short months later, during one of our nursing sessions I noticed a lump (AHHH!) I had no pain or any other symptoms, but my Maternal Grandmother had breast cancer as did my Paternal Aunt, so a lump became very alarming to me.

I called my doctor right away and he got me right in. He examined my lump and decided he did not know what it was. He thought that it was possibly a blocked duct which is common, so he told me not to worry and to go home to massage it and use a warm compress and warm showers all while continuing to feed often from that side. He also set up an ultrasound for me to get a better look at the lump and a mammogram if the radiologists could not tell what the lump was by the ultrasound.

I had to wait a week for that appointment, and by now I was in fear I really might have breast cancer. I tried not to let anyone know how scared I was, but believe me, I started freaking out. I was so happy to get my ultrasound, only to have the radiologists not be able to tell what it was and now the size was concerning to them because it had grown, so they immediately sent me for the mammogram.

I never in a million years thought at 34 years old I would be getting a mammogram, but there I was getting one. I will admit it was not as bad of an experience as I was anticipating. The radiologists came to speak with me after he read the mammogram. I was about in tears by this point and he could tell. He handed me a pamphlet all about breast cancer and biopsies. He decided he was not 100% certain what it was and now wanted me to do a core biopsy of the lump with a General Surgeon. Ugh the news was getting worse by the day. I went home in tears after that visit,thinking the possibility of breast cancer was high, even though the doctors and nurses kept telling me my age and the fact I am nursing was in my favor.

After another week I was able to get the core biopsy done. I was told I could not lift Steele at all for 72 hours and that I was not able to breastfeed him from that side for two weeks. Two whole weeks! This was not plausible in my mind and I was panicked. Steele had refused all bottles for months now. This was a nightmare. I was so upset, I went home and started doing an investigation of my own trying to find any reason as to why I had to wait two weeks to nurse my baby after a core biopsy. I felt 2 weeks was crazy to wait.

I knew if I waited I was going to dry up on that side or worse, dry up all together. I found medical articles online and contacted my OBGYN, then I felt better about things. I was able to start nursing after 24 hours with no ill effects to me or Steele. This was good, but at this point all the stress I was under started effecting my supply. I was now needing Mothers Milk Tea and fenugreek pills to help with my supply. I even started eating oats and got some lactation cookies.

After 3 long and crazy days I was called by the Surgeon with some wonderful news. I did not have breast cancer, but I did have mammary duct ectasia (ruptured milk duct) that in turn caused mastitis, so all I would need was a high dose of antibiotics and everything would be great.

I started taking the antibiotics and my poor little guys tummy did not like it. He got a horrible rash that we battled for weeks and I wound up getting Thrush on my nipples as well. Talk about bad luck! I thought nursing with a bad latch was the most painful thing ever but wow, thrush felt like razorblades or shards of glass inside my nipples which was way more painful. By this point in my breastfeeding journey I was thinking I was never going to make it to the goal of 18 months I had set for us. Things kept coming our way and the hurdles were starting to tear me down.

My husband is such a wonderful man and he cheered me on through it all and he was my constant breastfeeding supporter from day one. He had the faith in me, so I kept on going. I knew it was the right choice for Steele too. I was so excited when we made it to 8 months, but by 9 months things were not so great with Steele’s tummy and his pediatrician thought it may be a milk protein allergy. This doctor was not like the one Sterling had. He was very informative and said I could take dairy out of my diet and see how he was. He had us do this for 2 weeks, then come back.

Things were a little better, but still not normal, so he told me to give up dairy and soy and if that was not working we would try eliminating eggs as well. I did all he said and it turned out Steele is highly allergic to eggs. He had to go to the allergists and that was the findings, so this means no eggs for me as well and we now have to carry an EPI pen around because if he ingests eggs or touches eggs or anything with them, his little body breaks out in hives and he swells up all over (scariest thing ever!) I am sure many of you can understand this whole allergy thing. I hope to never see it happen to him again.

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As you can see by now I had gone through so many ups and downs with breastfeeding, but Steele and I are still going strong at 19 months old. This boy still wakes up all night long to nurse and I cannot say it bother’s me anymore. I have now switched my focus onto the time this has given me with him. When I feed him, I stroke his beautiful wispy curls atop his tiny head and I just try to suck it all up.

He is my last baby and I do not want to miss a single moment of that. I think in the beginning of my breastfeeding journey 10 years ago with my oldest, it was all about feeding to feed and love my baby and now that I am older and have gone through so many ups and downs with it, I have a more broadened picture of what nursing is to me. Sure, it is not all butterflies and rainbows,but it is something magical and truly beautiful that I am so very blessed to be able to do. I know not all people can nurse or even want to and that is fine,but for my family this has been the best decision I have made and I am so very glad that I had three chances to do it, even with the outcomes so different.

I have also come to the conclusion that I am a stronger Mother than I thought I was and I am ready to see where this whole extended breastfeeding thing takes us. At this point it is all up to Steele.

Dawn Maltin is a Loving wife and devoted stay at home mom to three amazing little boys. Her philosophy is family first and everything else second. She is a self proclaimed craft-a-holic. When she is not knee deep in family adventures you can find her making,baking and crafting just about any and everything. If she does not know how to make something, you can be sure she will learn and master it before too long. She also has a love for fine dining,travel and reading.
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One Comment

  1. What a beautiful article. Thank you for sharing! Quite motivating too.

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