Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest Blog: Life Lesson #2 for 2011

Reposted with Permission from Sasha - The Other Me;

Sometimes breastfeeding isn't easy.

I was one of those women that breastfeeding had always been easy for. The occasional mild case of thrush treated with a simple home remedy over the years but nothing more alarming than that. So when I found out I was pregnant with twins and was asked if I planned on nursing them my answer was "Of course, I breastfed all my other children why wouldn't I my twins?"

On October 13th 2010 my boys, Connor & Seamus, were born and thus began my breastfeeding story from hell.

My sons were born at 35 weeks gestation after being on bed rest and medication to prevent premature labor. During my pregnancy the boys had been diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome so we had anticipated that there would be some complications at birth. The boys would end up spending a total of 3 weeks and 6 days in NICU.

While the twins were in the NICU I pumped around the clock and was very pleased to be making enough milk for both of them. Their latch was weak and it would take sometimes up to an hour each just to get a full bottle down. At the hospital the boys were born in I worked with a lactation consultant and 3 nurses trained in newborn breastfeeding assessment. The boys were transferred after two weeks to a teaching hospital to treat a rare endocrine condition they had inherited,
Pseudohypoaldosteronism. While at that hospital I worked with 2 more lactation consultants. During that time I was only successful once at getting a full nursing session with Connor and was never successful with Seamus.

Connor blissed out on mommy milk.

During the boys NICU stay a stomach virus ravaged our house. All 5 of the older children and my husband were ill for days. Somehow I didn't get sick, I dont think it is possible to wash your hands more than I did during that time. On the morning of November the 9th my boys finally came home. I should have been overcome with joy, and I was for the most part, but I was also afraid. I was afraid because all throughout the process of signing out my boys my stomach kept knotting up on me. I foolishly convinced myself that it was just my nerves and finished the paperwork to bring Connor and Seamus home. That night was hell and I blissfully remember very few details about it.

The schedule worked like this:
Feed baby small amount of breastmilk mixed with prescribed sodium chloride.
Attempt to nurse baby.
Feed baby bottle of expressed breastmilk.
Repeat above steps for my other baby.
Pump for next feeding.
Try desperately not to throw up.
Drink as much water as possible.
Sleep 15 minutes.
Start all over again.

Throughout the next day I noticed I was pumping less and less milk at each sitting. The second night the boys were home I broke down and had my best friend take me to the hospital. I was promptly given IV fluids for dehydration. I came home to pump and there was nothing. I believe this is when I finally let myself cry. I knew I had no choice but to have my husband go out and buy formula and that thought destroyed me.

You see, I am a lactivist. I read about breastfeeding, I talk about it, I belong to forums devoted to it, I buy art focused on it. I am one of those annoying moms that are constantly linking to articles and news stories about breastfeeding on facebook. Although I have only been to virtual nurse ins online I would go to one in person if there ever was one in my area, even if I myself was not lactating at the time. I have an entire section of my photo shoebox devoted to nursing pictures. One of the first pictures I took of my new nephew was of his mother nursing him. I am committed to breastfeeding if at all possible; prior to the boys being born I didn't even own a bottle.

I started power pumping, determined to get my supply back up. Meanwhile I was supplementing heavily with formula. I had an irrational rage at that powdered "stuff" in a can. I found myself wanting to pitch it against the wall in a fit of fury but somehow resisted the urge. Within a few days my supply was back, but now I faced a very real problem that I did not want to address. I had to sleep at some point. I still was not making enough milk to be able to skip a pumping session and the boys still were not able to suck well enough to feed from the breast. I made the painful decision to supplement a few feedings with formula that their dad would give them while I slept.

Although we were still having a hard time nursing we were making progress and cruising along. Then thrush hit. Not normal thrush. This was insane sent from hell itself thrush. I knew I had a major problem when I went to pump and the pain didn't go away so I looked down and I had been pumping pure blood.

Became hygiene obsessed even using boiling water to wash my bras.
Radically altered my diet.
Tried multiple home remedies
Administered several rounds of Nystatin
Took Diflucan

During all of this I noticed that the boys still had a very weak latch so I took them in to see their pediatrician. Despite being seen by countless dr's in the NICU, 3 lactation consultants and multiple nurses trained in newborn nursing assessment the fact that my boys were tongue tied was somehow overlooked.

Believing the thrush was finally gone I started power pumping again to try and bring my supply back up again.

So what have I recently discovered? Yes, you guessed it the thrush is back. But this time as I face yet another hurdle I do not feel the discouragement and the defeat I once felt. Why? Because I realize now that breastfeeding isn't always easy. I know that sometimes breastfeeding isn't always possible and that is ok. I know now that although formula is over used it is not only a necessary product but a wonderful blessing to those of us that can not provide milk for our babies and do not have access to affordable donor milk. I now understand that I can end up not being able to breastfeed my babies and the world is not going to end. Most importantly I have allowed myself to acknowledge that I can be a good mom and not breastfeed. I have ate not only a slice of humble pie, but the whole pie itself and survived. Personally I think I have became a better more understanding person because of it.

Does this mean I am going to give up?

No, not yet.

You see I still have a few tricks up my sleeve and things to try. I haven't tried probiotics yet. I also am going to start using a
SNS that my wonderful and generous friend Liz sent me in the mail for Christmas. The boys have an appointment to get their tongues clipped and most importantly I still believe we have a chance.

So why keep trying? Why is this so important to me?
American Academy of Pediatrics
World Health Organization
Also because of things you can not find in peer reviewed research papers.
Things like the contended look of peace on a breastfeeding baby's face after filling their little bellies.
The improvement of diaper odor.
No running out in the middle of the night because you realize you are out of formula.
No more panic when you are out and about with your little one and suddenly realize you are feeding them the last bottle you brought with you.
The ease and natural rhythm that breastfeeding brings to a nursing mother and her baby.

Why wouldn't I want to give it everything I had in me to try?

Below are some links that I have found helpful in my breastfeeding journey. If you are also struggling you are not alone. Look for help and know that no matter what the outcome at the end of the day breastfeeding is not the sole determining factor of how much you love your baby. Love, like breastmilk, is far more complex than that.

and of course Dr. Jack Newman linked above


  1. What a story! We will be rooting for you to come through all this insanity and get to a place where breastfeeding is easy again! Fingers crossed!

  2. Wow... your story parallels mine so closely. I feel you, mama! My twin boys were born at 34 weeks after bedrest and preterm labor. They stayed in the NICU for 12 and 21 days. I got thrush that wouldn't go away. I pumped for them for 7 weeks before they "got" nursing from the breast. My supply plummeted after a hospital stay with one baby, where I nursed him and pumped for his brother. And yes, I even had to supplement with formula during the early weeks.

    Thank you for a compassionate look at lactivism in the face of great adversity!

  3. Your story gives me hope. I have a 2 1/2 months old boy who was diagnosed with Pseudohypoaldosteronism Type 1, I need to give him sodium in his milk so I had to encounter the machine, after breast feeding my 9 years old for 25 months now I needed to buy bottles as you. My milk production is decreasing, I am drinking malta and today I will buy Fenugreek recommended by my son's endocrinologist, I need to check with him since I do not want to mess up my son electrolytes. It is very sad not being able to put him on my breasts, I did it only for a month but after giving him the milk in the bottle he rejects my breasts, not only that he needs 25 ml so I have to give him 25 oz in bottle to make the sodium not that bad, otherwise he starts doing like he has flem, my poor one.
    Wish you the best and keep us update on the pseudohypoaldosteronism treatment management.