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After having a fairly easy, uneventful pregnancy, I just assumed breastfeeding would be the same way. I had heard it could be difficult but I had mentally committed myself to the process, no matter what. I had a very rough start to my breastfeeding experience and even though I had taken breastfeeding classes and learned so much about it, there was little mention of how difficult it can be at the start. Fortunately, over time, and with proper instruction, breastfeeding has become fairly simple and something I really love.

Throughout my breastfeeding adventure, I learned that approximately 70% of women struggle with breastfeeding while only 30% succeed without any issues. I wanted to share my breastfeeding struggles to help other women be prepared for the parts of the process nobody warned me about – latching, and waiting for the milk to come in.

In my birth plan I had made a point of asking my doctor to bring the baby to my chest immediately after birth so I could bond and breastfeed. I had learned that those first minutes were crucial in making that connection with my child and beginning the breastfeeding bond. My son, Beckett, was not in the mood to make this connection just yet so though he was bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, he didn’t want to breastfeed. I tried not to stress out about it and was relieved when he finally did come to the breast within the first hour of his life. He latched right away so I thought we were off to a great start!

It wasn’t until later that night that we started having problems. All of a sudden, he didn’t want to latch anymore and began screaming at the top of his lungs, most likely due to his frustration and hunger. Thank goodness (or so I thought) the hospital provided a lactation consultant to come help us. I wish I could say she was amazing and did the trick, but far from it. She convinced me that Becks was having trouble latching due to the shape of my nipples and handed me a “nipple shield” and wished me luck. I was a bit perplexed. We hadn’t had an issue with my so-called inverted nipples earlier so why now had my nipples decided they need this stupid plastic thing to get my baby to eat? Regardless, I was happy to feed him and put a stop to the screaming so I took the shield and got the job done.

The next day I requested another lactation consultant to come and give me her opinion. Just like the last one, she gave me very little of her time and saw that I had a screaming frustrated baby so she essentially gave up on me and said to keep using the shield for now. I felt so confused! Upon leaving the hospital, I had met one final consultant very briefly who got the baby to latch immediately and sent me on my way. When we got home, he wouldn’t latch the same way again. I used the shield and did the best I could to just make sure he was getting the food he needed and that was all.

Because of using the nipple shield, my milk was taking longer to come in than it normally would. On that first night home from the hospital, Beckett became hysterical with hunger but as a new mom, I couldn’t calm him down enough to get him to eat more. I assumed he must have just been overly tired, as he had slept very little compared to most newborns in the hospital. He spent the entire first night at home alternating between sleeping and screaming, and ashamedly, I admit he went almost seven hours without eating. I kept trying and trying but to no avail.

At around 5:30 the next morning when Beckett woke up after a good long sleep, I prayed to every spiritual being known to man that he would take the boob and get the food that he needed. Thank goodness he did but my milk still wasn’t in! I called a lactation consultant that my pediatrician had referred me to, and though she was completely booked for the day, she made time for us knowing this was a baby who was starving and not yet getting milk.

Linda, the lactation consultant  (known as “My Nursing Coach”), was a godsend! She showed up in her hippie van known as her “mobile breastfeeding center”, fully stocked with everything one could need for breastfeeding, and Linda was full of incredibly helpful knowledge. With her help, Beckett immediately latched on, without the shield, and by the end of our two hours together my milk had come in with a vengeance! Finally he was getting the nutrition he needed and gained back the significant amount of weight he lost within the first week. Phew!

After nine weeks, I can finally say we have breastfeeding down but the issues didn’t stop after that first week. I barely dodged a breast infection twice, have had to deal with overactive letdown (too much milk) causing gas pains for the little guy, had engorged breasts that caused bleeding (that I didn’t even know about until it showed up in Beckett’s spit-up – scary!) and sore nipples. It really took me a solid two months to get in the groove completely, and I wanted to share my story so any new or expectant mothers know that they aren’t alone if they have a similar battle with breastfeeding. I have heard many other stories of women struggling with lack of milk, bleeding nipples, babies refusing the breast, etc…so just know it may not be the dream situation you hoped for at the beginning.

Becoming a mother is overwhelming as it is. Then add on the fact that this tiny person’s entire being is relying on you and your milk to survive and the whole situation can become very intense quickly. Supplementing with formula was not something I wanted to do, so if you’re like me, the pressure is 100% on you to feed this new little life. To this day, I still feel a little pang in my heart when I think about that first night home with Beckett, when I didn’t know any better and essentially let him starve for several hours. If I could do it over again, the one change I would make would be having the lactation consultant come see us that first day we were home, when the baby still wasn’t latching properly. Doing so, would have saved us a very stressful first night home and odds are, my milk would have shown up sooner.

I feel incredibly fortunate that we’re past our breastfeeding issues (for now anyway) and that I can share this incredible bond with Beckett. I hope you don’t have such a dramatic battle with breastfeeding and if you do, you have the access to help. Our insurance paid for our first visit with Linda’s mobile breastfeeding van (my husband calls it the “Boob-mobile”), so it is definitely worth looking into if you don’t get the help you need at the hospital.

Please share your stories to help educate women for their journey so they feel more confident and ready once their little bundle of joy joins us in the world.

Thank you for reading my story. Below are some tips I have learned for a better breastfeeding experience.

Written by Lana House

Studio owner, House Pilates

HEALTHY TIPS FOR BETTER BREASTFEEDING

  • Make sure you drink tons of water while breastfeeding. It is the most important thing for a great milk supply
  • Don’t go hours without eating and make sure you eat lots of healthy fats. Remember that baby is still eating what you are eating just like during pregnancy so eat plenty of healthy foods and eat often. You are burning a lot of calories!
  • Motherlove Nipple cream is AWESOME for sore and cracked nipples. Made only of organic ingredients such as olive oil and shea butter, it is completely safe for baby to eat should there still be some left on your nipple come next feeding
  • More Milk Plus by Motherlove is a fantastic herbal product to help increase your milk supply if yours is low and works almost immediately. Also works later if your milk supply seems to slow down. (They also make More Milk teas as well).
  • There are plenty of other great tips on Linda, the lactation consultant’s, website which include dealing with a breast infection, how to pump and save milk, etc… mynursingcoach.com

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Just over three weeks ago I gave birth to my first child, Beckett Harrison House. It was an amazing experience and thought I would share my experience giving birth naturally as I know it is not the most popular option, and is often viewed as something horrific and unthinkable for many. I certainly would never judge people who choose to have medical interventions and can completely understand why one would opt for an epidural, as the pain in labor is unbearable at times. In writing this post, I figured there must be some people out there who might be interested in hearing a little about my journey. I hope that for anyone wanting to give birth naturally, my story will help you realize that you absolutely can.

My labor was approximately twelve hours from start to finish. I was told that is a fairly short labor for a first time mother – it felt even shorter because I was already dilated to 5 cm when I got to the hospital (you have to get to 10 cm in order to push the baby out). I was not at the hospital for the first four hours and the labor was fairly easy; I could carry on a conversation, only having to stop when a contraction would come, about every five and a half minutes. Contractions would last about a minute at most. My guess is most women experience this stage of labor at home and feel the same way – that this stage of labor is uncomfortable but manageable. Once we got to the hospital, contractions began to get a little closer but not much more intense. I was able to play a game on my iPhone (love Bejeweled!) in between contractions and could move into different positions to make the contractions a little less painful. I would squat, sit on my giant exercise ball that I brought with me, kneeled on all fours, etc…it was definitely helpful to be able to move around. In most countries women give birth in many different positions and not laying flat on their backs. Laying flat forces the body to work against gravity and therefore makes labor more uncomfortable and difficult.

From hour six to eight, labor began to get more intense; contractions were becoming more painful and I was having shorter breaks in between. At that point, I had my mom holding one hand and Karl, my husband, holding the other. They were amazing coaches who gave me the encouragement and strength I needed to get through each contraction. Thank goodness our bodies are given the gift of breaks in between contractions to make labor bearable. I used those breaks to mentally prepare me for the next one. I wish I could tell you that this point was as painful as it was going to get…but it wasn’t.

At about hour eight of labor my water broke and labor intensity jumped to a whole new level; there were only tiny breaks in between contractions and the pressure that accompanied each contraction became incredibly intense. The tiny breaks, however, were just enough to allow me to regroup and stay focused on getting through this stage of labor. I never got to the place where I was serious about taking the drugs but it definitely crossed my mind, as this point would be my last opportunity to ask for them. I just kept reminding myself that I had made it this far and in no time, the pain would come to an end and an amazing gift would be waiting for me.

By hour eleven of labor, I had made it through the worst of it and it was time to wait for the doctor to come so I could push. Despite what I had heard, pushing was actually not painful and felt a bit relieving! I was very lucky that I only had to push about twenty to thirty minutes and had very little pain accompanying it. It was a very surreal experience pushing another life out of my body and into the world around me and felt very much like a dream. Beckett came out with eyes wide open and we shared a natural high that I had heard would be my reward for giving birth naturally. It was absolutely worth it.

I think the best part of giving birth naturally was the recovery process. I was in very little pain (I only took a couple of Motrin the first two days) and felt very alert and ready to bond with my baby. Beckett also seemed to be very responsive and awake as well which made our time together those first hours even more incredible.

Giving birth naturally was not easy. It was not pleasant. If your pregnancy has no complications, it is definitely doable and if you are thinking about doing it, know that you definitely can. Women have been giving birth for centuries without drugs, and their tolerance for pain was not any higher than ours. Below is a list of things that helped me make it through the process (which may come in handy, drugs or not!):

  • Karl and I took a “Bradley method” natural childbirth class where Karl successfully learned how to be a fantastic coach as well as what to expect in labor.
  • I packed lots of hydrating liquids including water, coconut water and Recharge (a natural Gatorade type drink) and drank liquids nonstop from the time labor began in hour one. I really believe this was a HUGE help.
  • I forced myself to eat a large meal before leaving for the hospital and also brought snacks to eat during labor. Though I was not hungry (and they don’t really want you to eat at the hospital in labor either) I knew that having the energy to get through labor was imperative and forced myself to eat small snacks such as an energy bar, a hard boiled egg and fruit.
  • I brought my giant exercise ball which was great for using during labor as well as a homeopathic “icy hot” type lotion called Sombra to relieve the muscle pain (great to have for aches and pains in general!). I had Karl rub some on a couple of times and it really helped alleviate the low back pain.
  • Having my iPhone was a great distraction when I was still in the earlier part of labor and had hours to go. Bring something to do to help the time pass when the pain isn’t too severe.
  • I asked to only have intermittent monitoring (they check the baby’s heart rate just once an hour instead of constantly) so I could freely move around for most of labor which was really great so that I could get into more comfortable positions such as squatting, sitting on my ball, etc…

I hope that no matter how you choose to give birth, you have a healthy and uncomplicated delivery.

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

Beckett’s photograph taken by BeautiesandBabies.com