Looking back on my breastfeeding journey with my first son and daughter this week has made me realize how much I have grown as a person through these three little people. I used to very self conscious about my body, I was a very private person, and if I’m being honest, I was very concerned with what other people might think. I never would have dreamed about posting a nursing photo of myself on social media. In fact, I didn’t even have a Facebook [or any other form of social media] account back then!
One of the hardest realizations from putting together those last two posts was how few breastfeeding photos I have of those two. With my first son, I honestly was so busy just trying to figure out the breastfeeding thing, I didn’t even consider also trying to document it. With my daughter, I had every intention of taking more photos. In fact, I’m sure I even snapped some brelfies. But alas I couldn’t find any of them. Now I wish I would have, not only for the purpose of those blog posts, but just for my own personal memories. Such fleeting moments we take for granted! I am so happy that I met my friend Stacey of Dream Photography Studio last year before Diego was born. She helped me capture some of these moments through our time spent together, some for our Mother + Child Co. project, and some just because. And I do have quite a few nursing photos this time around. I’m sharing just a few here, but you can see more on my Instagram under the hashtag #nursingdiego.
Ok now on to Diego’s part of the story. Diego and I had a great start to breastfeeding. After two babies, I felt like an old pro when he came along. We got our latch down and my milk came in within a day or so, and we were well on our way. It’s interesting because with him, I kinda just did what most lactation experts tell you to do from the beginning – I went with my instincts. I lost track of how long we fed for on which side, I had no idea how many feedings it had been that day. I just fed him when he was hungry, or before we had to go somewhere, or when he woke up. Basically whenever he needed to. [Just as a disclosure, this information is for sure something you should keep track of in the first few days of baby’s life, to have for your pediatrician visits. I am not in anyway suggesting not to follow your own doctor’s advice!]
I thought it was going to be smooth sailing from there on out, now that I was staying at home with my babes. I thought maybe I could finally make it to a year. But our struggle came in an unexpected way, when he was about five months old. There were actually two issues. First of all, Diego was dropping on his weight chart. Now, he wasn’t losing any weight, he was still gaining. But he went from the 50th percentile, to the 30th, to the 17th within a couple of months. I honestly wasn’t worried. I knew we had a good latch, good milk transfer, and that he was happy and growing. Again, third time mom here. But our pediatrician at the time said he was concerned. He grilled me with questions about our breastfeeding, insinuating that baby must not be getting enough from me. This doctor actually told me outright that I looked like I ‘wasn’t taking care of myself.’
Pause for the backstory to that and the second factor at play. This is when my extreme eczema was really flaring and I was reeling to get it under control. So yes, I looked like shit. I rarely wore makeup because I still wasn’t sure what all I was allergic to. But to sit there and tell me that I wasn’t feeding my baby enough was just wrong. We switched doctors in the practice for our next visit.
Even so, this new doctor still wanted to be cautious. At least she was a little nicer about how she spoke to me. She asked me pump exclusively for 24 hours to see how much milk I was getting. I refused to do that because pumping is not equal to how much baby is getting, plus, what a pain in the ass! I had my other two kids to care for and shuffle around. I couldn’t take a day to pump and feed bottles on top of everything else we had going on. Instead I opted to do a pre and post weight check for 24 hours. Diego got 30 ounces [average is 25]. So she then referred me to see a pediatric gastroenterologist to determine if further tests were needed and if perhaps it was an absorption issue. It took another month to get in with the specialist. He looked at my baby’s chart and measured and weighed him, only to tell me he wasn’t concerned at all. He explained to me that he looks at babies based on height and weight ratio [BMI], not where they fall on a chart of averages. Makes perfect sense to me! Diego’s BMI was perfect and all my fears were put to bed.
At the same time all of this was going on, my eczema peaked to the worst it has ever been and covered most of my body. It was literally debilitating. There was so little I could do that I really needed to do every day [like dishes, laundry, preparing meals, etc] because of the itching and pain in my hands and all over my body. The above picture was at around that time, and you might not be able to tell because I was wearing makeup and it is heavily edited to minimize the look of the redness. I knew someone who had recently gone on Prednisone for a hive outbreak and my all-over breakout started out as hives. Prednisone is a pretty strong prescription steroid and I am pretty much against any sort of prescription drugs and of course steroids if I can avoid them, but at this point I had been seeing a naturopath for months with the situation only getting continually worse, and I was desperate. One of my many concerns with the drug was taking it while breastfeeding. I got a wide range of advice from ‘breastfeed as normal while one the drug’ to ‘stop breastfeeding so you can take this drug’ and everything in between. Eventually I decided on a middle ground that I felt comfortable with where I pumped and dumped for the first feeding after the first few heavier doses and then after that fed as normal.
Unfortunately, the Prednisone did not help for me at all. BUT, I was so happy I didn’t quit breastfeeding because of the stupid drug! Eventually I did find a combo of [very safe] drugs and in combo with strictly avoiding my known allergens, that seems to be working for me and my eczema now. And we are still breastfeeding!
I wanted to share this story in particular because the whole time this was going on, I kept thinking, what if I was a first time mom? What if I was a first time mom and my pediatrician told me my baby wasn’t getting enough. Without ever having watched us feed. Just based on some numbers on a chart. What if I hadn’t fought back and just said, ‘ok, how do we fatten him up?’ and put him on formula just to get everyone off my back. What if I had weaned when one doctor told me that Prednisone wasn’t safe, only to find out it is on the approved list of breastfeeding safe drugs? As a first time mom, I probably would have done what anyone said. It is so interesting to me that even with the movement to get women back to breastfeeding, in reality, our culture is not caught up yet. We still think science can do it better. We still think that our modern bodies can’t keep up with our primitive need to nourish our babies. Well I think they’re wrong. I think, most of the time, our bodies can do it just fine. Yes, we may need help. We may have to work at it. But the work is so, so worth it.
Now I am in the unfamiliar territory of actually having some say in when we get to stop. I always wanted to make it to a year, and here we now are, less than two weeks away from that date and going strong. I am so proud of us. So we will keep going, as long as it is still working for both of us. I think [as of now] I personally wouldn’t want to go past 2 years. But we will see. Maybe we’ll go five. 😉
Thanks for following along with our breastfeeding journey this week! To end the week with a bang, I have a little giveaway going on on my Instagram for a set of these Beau Gen breastpump nipple cushions. I really wish I would have had these back when I was working and pumping everyday! They are like little pillows for your pump and even help get a better suction, which can help produce more milk! Go follow me on Instagram and find this pic for more info on how to enter!