May 18, 2009

No Pain, No Gain

I am breastfeeding Melody. I had wanted to breastfeed Julian, but I was uneducated about it and had little help and support, so after 2 weeks of excruciating pain I gave him a bottle of formula. While pregnant with Melody, I came into contact with a number of breastfeeding resources (WIC, La Leche Leage) so that I wouldn't be alone if I had problems again. I knew that getting help right away would be really important. Once Melody was born I had the exact same pain that nobody could explain. We checked mine and her anatomy, the latch always looked fine, and I made plenty of milk. But she made me bleed. It's about as painful as it gets, I think - I mean that's an incredibly sensitive area to begin with.

At the 8 day mark I gave her some formula. I thought I was done with nursing again. I felt like such a failure. But I had a bit of relief, because when you're dealing with the kind of pain I was, bottles of formula are easier. For the next month I gave Melody formula about 75% of the time, and nursed and pumped the other 25%. I don't really know how I didn't dry up; I was really lazy with the pumping. I consider it a blessing. And when she was 8 weeks old I decided to nurse her full time and see what happened. Somehow after a couple of weeks it didn't hurt at all anymore! It was so exciting! All I had wanted to do was nurse my daughter, because it is what God intended, and it's proven to be so much better for the baby. For a number of months life got easier, as my baby nursed normally. Then, at 8 months, I began having pain again. We thought I had a yeast infection, so we tried medications, probiotics, and Gentian Violet (an alternative treatment that stains everything purple for a couple of days - very messy and annoying). I didn't know what to do. This time I didn't feel like a failure - I felt mad! "I worked so hard for this, God! And then you allowed me to think everything was fine. Didn't I prove myself? Didn't I earn it? Why does it hurt again?" Over a few weeks the pain lessened to a more manageable level. It's been about a month since the pain began again, and it isn't too bad anymore. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn't. I don't know why. My friend and La Leche League leader (Bobbi) thinks I may just have an over production of yeast, and to get rid of it I would need to get really crazy about my diet and eliminate white sugars, milk, and breads. I'm not doing that. I already have no self control over my diet. I won't succeed. So I deal with the on-again-off-again pain.

It's very frustrating. I'm to the point where I've decided I don't want to have anymore children - solely because I do not like breastfeeding. Beyond the pain, there's the fact that I can't be away from her, ever, for more than 2 hours without pumping beforehand. I hate pumping. And the last 2 times I've pumped, she wouldn't take the bottle anyway. I do feel this is part of the design, though - I don't feel moms should work (when it's possible), because I believe the infant should be with the mother continuously the first year at least. So that fits hand in hand with the way infants nurse. But that doesn't mean I enjoy it every minute, or that it doesn't get exhausting! So for these reasons (but really, mostly the pain) I cannot imagine having to go through this again, and Melody's probably not going to be done for a year or so from now. I don't want to do it again. But knowing what I know now, and experiencing it when it doesn't hurt, I know that I also couldn't have another baby and formula feed. So for now, fear of the pain is keeping me from having any more kids. Not that I'm ready now, but in 5 years or so this fear will still lay heavily on my mind. And I'm fairly sure there would be the same pain, since I had it with both kids and there was never an explanation for it.

I have a real love-hate relationship with breastfeeding Melody. I am a serious breastfeeding advocate, though. I think it's incredibly sad how many babies aren't breastfed for the mother's convenience, or just because she doesn't know better. There is something wrong with our country that first time mother's are choosing formula, out of preference and not need, and pediatricians don't say "You know, if you're interested I could explain to you how much more beneficial breast milk is to your baby". Formula is just accepted. But I can't help but think of formula as the biggest experiment on mankind with unknown long term results. Human babies were not made to drink this man made concoction.

However, having said all that, I couldn't possibly blame someone that has tried to breastfeed and struggled for turning to formula. Because I've been there, and even last month it crossed my mind. I sometimes envy moms that I see who just hand their child a bottle. It would be so much easier at times. But I know what is best, and I can't take that away from her. Even though it's sort of a pain, in more ways than one.

(Purple Melody after a Gentian Violet application)

1 comment:

  1. i love the picture!! she's seriously too cute :) and so very proud of you, in more ways than one!