Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm the youngest of the group and I claim the hardest nursing experience medal! :)

Kangaroo care with Olivia after trying to nurse. 2 days old

My name is Christa and I'm the youngest of the bunch (by 5 months ha-ha). I have no fun nicknames so Christa will do just fine. I have a 23 month old named Olivia and my husbands name is Shane. Olivia will be 2 in October.

Prior to my daughter being born, I figured I'd breastfeed for about 6 months. I don't know how I came up with this number, or why on earth I thought it sounded like a good plan but that was what I thought. Once she was born, that completely changed. I should start by introduction by giving you a brief history of how Olivia came about. It wasn't as simple as a roll in the hay and a positive pregnancy test. We tried for a year, and had to go through infertility treatment to conceive her because I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I finally got pregnant in March of 2008 and was due in December 2008. I had a pretty high risk pregnancy, with low progesterone, gestational diabetes, PSD (pelvic symphisis dysfunction) and then at the end, severe pre-eclampsia. I was diagnosed and hospitalized with pre-eclampsia on October 20, 2008. Exactly one week later, at 33 weeks and 5 days, my blood pressure had risen and sustained to 260/180 and they induced me. I had always intended on having a totally natural delivery but after about 25 hours of labor, I asked for an epidural. After about 48 hours of labor, I ended up with a c-section. Olivia was born on October 29 and weighed 4 lbs 9 ounces. I saw her for about 10 seconds before she was rushed to the NICU and then didn't get to see or hold her again until she was about 7 hours old.

I realize that is a lot of background information but it's important to lead me up to my breastfeeding journey! When I finally got to see and hold Olivia, she wasn't able to feed because of a medication I had been on while in the hospital called magnesium sulfate. She had to wait 24 hours before any food could be given to her. Before she could even eat, the nurses had brought me a breastpump and had me hooked up to it, pumping colostrum, which was stored in small syringes for her when she finally could eat. By the time Olivia was cleared to eat, I was eager to breastfeed her. I was in the NICU holding her and brought her to my breast with a lactation consultant present and we got her on my breast...and she fell asleep. She was barely able to latch on. I was absolutely crushed. Aren't babies supposed to latch on and eat right away?? We tried constantly. I would get up every 3 hours and try to make it to the NICU to get her to latch on but even if we could get her to latch, which was never a proper latch, Olivia would fall asleep right away. She was just too weak to latch on. After a few days, they asked if we wanted to do bottles. I said ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I wasn't going to give her bottles! I was going to breastfeed. But it came down to this--if she couldn't eat, she couldn't go home. So several hours later, and many many tears, I decided to give in to the bottles. I still tried breastfeeding her every time I was in the NICU but it just didn't work. So I continued pumping and she would get my milk from a bottle. We brought Olivia home when she was 7 days old.

For about 6 weeks, I continued trying to bring her to my breast, in hopes she would latch on. We had a few half hearted nursing sessions with a nipple shield but my milk was so fast flowing that it would get overfilled with milk and always falls off. Everytime she would refuse my breast, I would hand her over to Shane or my mom and they would bottle feed her while I sobbed with my breastpump attached to me. Eventually I stopped offering her my breast and just decided to continue pumping. We did have to supplement because the pump just didn't provide the supply and demand nor the latch that a baby did and try as I might, I couldn't get my breasts to give me what my tiny baby needed. I didn't have any education on what I was doing and I was totally flying by the seat of my pants. There is a lot I know now that I didn't know then, but hindsight is 20/20 I suppose!

By the time Olivia was about 5 months old, I'd suffered pretty bad depression about failing to get her to latch, several nipple infections and my supply was so completely low that she was getting about 1 bottle of breastmilk a day. I contacted La Leche League (LLL) and the lactation consultants (LCs) and asked if babies were able to latch on after having spent so much time at the bottle. They said it was worth a try but it probably wouldn't work. I knew that if I didn't get her to start breastfeeding, it would only be a very short time before she had to be completely on formula. On April 16, 2008, when she was 5.5 months old, I came home from work and sat on the couch cross legged. I took down my shirt and brought my almost 6 month old up to my breast.

Like she'd been doing it the entire time, Olivia latched on like a little pro!!!!!!!!!!! She breastfed for exactly 7 minutes before detaching herself and SCREAMING her head off. I had my mom prepared with a bottle, so we finished her feeding with a bottle. A few hours later, before Olivia was super hungry, we climbed into bed and I brought her to my breast again. This time she latched on again with no issues and had her entire feeding from JUST breastfeeding. I was still nervous she wouldn't continue so for quite some time we always had a bottle ready but she never had an issue after that. At almost 6 months old, my 34 weeker latched on and breastfed like a little professional piggie!! I can't even express to anyone how this felt. It was probably my number one biggest achievement of my entire life. Within weeks, my milk supply increased to the point where our freezer was full of breastmilk and I even looked into donating milk. We loved nursing and since we co-slept, Olivia fast learned how to pop the boobie out of my sleep bra and latch on while we were both sleeping.

A breastfed baby is a happy baby.
Olivia, a few days after she latched on.
I nursed Olivia up until February of 2010, when she was 16 months old. I'd wanted to nurse her longer (so much for 6 months right?!) but we wanted to have another baby and the medications I had to take were not safe for breastfeeding babies. So in February of 2010, I weaned her (much to my sadness and her complete lack of caring it seemed ha-ha) and then lo and behold, 2 weeks later....I was pregnant with baby number two...with NO fertility drugs!

Now I'm 26w2d pregnant with our second girl and actually on strict bedrest for pregnancy induced hypertension. We're preparing for the possibility of another preemie and I have my Medela pump and style ready to go. If we have another preemie with latch issues, you bet I'll go through it all again but this time, I am more eduacted and I definitely will not stop trying to get her to latch on.


  1. Oh, my, did that bring back memories... I went into pre-term labor with my twins at 24 weeks, but we made it to 34 before they were born. One twin stayed in the NICU for 12 days, the other for 21. I pumped, too, but kept putting them to the breast. It paid off, we've been nursing since 8 weeks! Good luck with your new little one on the way, and thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Did you go to a Roseville LLL meeting when she was about 6 months old? I recall a woman with a similar story and always wondered what happened and hoped that baby kept on nursing. If that was you, great! Well, even if it wasn't - still great! What a wonderful story!!!!

  3. Jennifer, why yes, that was me :) And she kept nursing until 16 months!

  4. WOW.. what a story!! Can barely see the screen through my tears lol! :)

    I didn't know you had PCOS too! Have you checked out the PCOS sites on facebook? There are several good ones that have supported me quite well.. though they are, in general, very slow ;(