personal breastfeeding experiences

3 02 2010

I wanted to jot down my breastfeeding experiences – … again, more for my own records than anything… It has been about 7 months since C2 was weaned but, I think it’s always good to share — especially for new moms looking for encouragement, support, and/or advice feeding choices, the perils and the joys of breastfeeding.


I was certainly on top of the “breast is best” literature… attended a breastfeeding clinic at the hospital where I was going to deliver.  My plan:  see how it goes – try for a week or so; if not good, switch to pumping; if not good switch to the bottle.  You can safely assume that I wasn’t 100% commited to a plan to breastfeed.  And, if all did go well — I figured I’d hang in there for about 6 months.  Frankly, the thought of breastfeeding really freaked me out — I just couldn’t get my head around it!  It was literally a day or so before C1’s arrival (he came 3 weeks early… definitely a testament to his personality!) that I made a firm decision to stick with breastfeeding — seriously, how hard could it be?

Latching C1

C1 took about 30 hours to latch well enough to get some milk… the most frustrating 30 hours of my life!  I had an emergency C-section, so fortunately we were in the hospital for about 3 days and had the support of a wonderful, persistent nursing staff (at St. Joe’s in Toronto if you’re interested) — by the time the Lactation Consultant got to me to check out our technique, C1 was happily nursing.  Yay!  But, was I happily nursing?  On about day 4 when my milk came in…. arrrgh!  The agony began!  Engorged breasts (bigger than my newborn’s head), cracked nipples, pain, pain, pain!!  And he was a hungry little boy (strange — he hardly eats now!) – frequent feedings about every 2 hours…. lasting about 20 minutes.  (Although I will never forget the time he held my mom & I “hostage” in the nursing room at Chapters for almost an hour!).  Lansinoh eased the pain – and it took about 6 weeks for the discomfort to completely subside.  There was definitely one side that was always more painful than the other.   Oh — and I have to mention… I hated wearing breast pads.  Yuck!  From an OT, posture perspective, the breastfeeding pillow (I had a Boppy®) is essential to maintain reasonable posture while breastfeeding (again another OT-related blog!).  I bought Bravado nursing bras… and they were great — nice closures…. variety of styles, colours, and materials… in fact, I wore them through both breastfeeding experiences.

Feeding C1

C1 maintained the 2-hour frequency, but by the time he was 3 months, reduced the time to about 10 minutes… very efficient little dude!  Breastfeeding was easy… and I quickly got over any modesty issues that I might have had… breastfeeding is so in vogue – everyone does it everywhere.  (That said, I’m happy I don’t have to do it in public anymore!  Lol!)  Somewhere around 5 months, I fed him almost exclusively lying down — and, despite the experts opinion about nursing babies to sleep… I pretty much always nursed him to sleep.

I had a few clogged ducts.  First time it happened, I experienced the chills, fever, achiness, and then unbelievable rock-hard, sore breast – fortunately, my mom was visiting at the time… it was brutal!  I tried the frozen cabbage remedy — ummm, it just left me smelling like cabbages.  Blech!  Hot compresses and advil… firm massage to work out the blockage.  After that, I had a few more, but could anticipate them by the tenderness I would start to feel, so was more pro-active…. never had a full-blown case of mastitis.

Attempted pumping a few times in the first 6 months — but, as many of you have experienced, barely got any milk from pumping — and on top of that, C1 would not take a bottle.  So, we were stuck together… joined at the boob!  Which, of course, on hindsight was not the most horrible thing — he was the most adorable baby boy.

Then the question of how long?  Nursing was really a comfort for C1 and I didn’t find it overly burdensome.  I planned to nurse for a year.  At the year mark, when I had planned to return to work, I thought I would keep nighttime feedings indefinitely.  It turned out that it was just a bad season for stomach bugs… so every time C1 would get a bug, I would boost his nursing schedule to increase his fluids.  (By the way, as far as I’m concerned… and this is just anecdotal… breastfeeding did nothing to boost their immune systems – both boys still got bad colds, stomach bugs in their first years – and they continue to pick up virtually every bug that comes their way when in contact with other children – to be fair, I suppose neither have ever had an infection that needed to be treated with antibiotics – but, I do know of many other breastfed babies who did.)

Finally, at 18 months, it was time to end our breastfeeding relationship!  Afterall… I was 4 months pregnant with C2… I would need a break!

Feeding C2

I thought that breastfeeding the second time around would go much more smoothly – it had only been about 4 or 5 months since I had stopped, so I figured my nipples would still be ready for pain-free latching.  Wrong!!!  Another 6 weeks of the same agony of latching!  C2 did latch within 4 hours of birth (we had an elective C-section this time and again, same amazing nursing support) – but, I was a bit lazy (my friend warned me about this!) – assuming that I knew exactly what I was doing, I wasn’t careful with my technique and allowed him to have a poor latch – resulting in the painful, cracked nipples once again.

Overall, C2 had virtually the same feeding schedule – every 2 hours, 10 minutes at a time.  He was a heavier baby, so holding him was a bit more challenging… tendinitis set into my shoulder and elbow the same way it had set in with C1.  A few more painfully clogged milk ducts along the way.  I never even attempted to introduce a bottle – nursing was all too convenient.  Both boys started their “sippy cup training” at around 5 months — although it would take about 4 months to master.  My intention was to wean at 12 months.  However, with C2, I could tell that he could really take it or leave it.  Although I had a 12-month end date in mind… he didn’t.  His latch deteriorated significantly by 11 months to the point where he was just biting and tugging on me.  *OW*!  I couldn’t go any longer.  Weaning was easy and seemed completely natural.

The net result?   My experiences with breastfeeding were extremely positive, in spite of the pain and tears… I think there needs to be more said to prepare new moms for how uncomfortable it can be in the beginning… it’s not 100% glamorous and persistence is necessary!  But, there are lots of supports in the community to access.  I am not fanatical about breastfeeding — I admit that I really liked it for the convenience more than anything… Did I feel that I bonded with my boys?  Sure… but, I think their individual personalities were strong contributing factors — I would say that I bonded far more with C2 than C1 through our breastfeeding journey, even though he weaned earlier — he’s just that kind of a guy.

Wow… so that’s my essay on breastfeeding!  Let me know if you have any questions!


who am i?

1 02 2010

I attended a ladies’ Bible study last year in my neighbourhood – what a fabulous group of women; we had a great discussion on the book of Romans throughout the year.  At the first meeting, during the obligatory introductions, I was struck by an intense realization.  My identity – at least the one I used to have – had vanished. “Hi, I’m Deirdre.  I’m an Occupational Therapist, and I’m working on my Master in Rehabilitation Science (completed last year before C2’s arrival).  I’m originally from Alberta and have been living in Toronto for almost 10 years.  I love canoe tripping, playing ultimate frisbee, taking adult ballet classes at the National Ballet School, trail racing, and I’ve completed two 1/2 marathons.  I used to weigh over 200 lbs and lost 60 lbs.  I’m a gym rat – you’ll find me lifting weights or on the treadmill at least 4 times a week.  I will always be an Edmonton Oilers fan.  I’m active in the 20-Something group at Rexdale Alliance Church.”  WHOA.  Wait a minute.  That’s not me.  Who am I?

When each of the women in the Bible study group introduced themselves, they listed how many and how old their children were and the names of their spouses.  It was only through getting to know them better over the course of the year that I discovered that among them were a lawyer, an engineer, a Yale graduate and PhD, and a theologian.  Ack!  Those are amazing achievements!!  But, what happens when the achievements and interests of our previous lives, if you will, are consumed by motherhood and buried in the domestic responsibilities of being the homemaker (in particular, those of us who have elected to stay home with our young children)?

Perhaps this isn’t true for everyone – but, for me the impact of losing and subsequently re-inventing my identity have really been at the forefront for the last three years and has represented a perpetual internal struggle, sometimes positive and sometimes not so positive.  It’s part of what makes the shift to motherhood – days that can be filled with mundane tasks, (seemingly) lacking in measurable productivity, loss of personal interests (not because of depression, but re-structured time), and altered and diminished friendships (in some instances, this has been the worst thing) – seem like it’s the toughest place I have ever found myself at in my life.

It began to affect me to the extent that I felt resentful and wistful.  I love my husband and children very much and am so unspeakably proud to be wife and mother in this family.  But, seriously… who am I now?  My identity seems to be wrapped up in who I am in direct relation to three other individuals … and not myself at all.

I believe what has made this shift manageable is the discovery of re-inventing myself.  My creativity is stretched to the maximum — I think that’s just the richest part of all of this.  What a tremendous opportunity and it couldn’t be more timely!

So, today I am 34 (for 6 more days!), a Christ-follower, a stay-at-home mom, super-wife (lol!), OT Reg(Ont.) but not working for pay, MRSc (I have always wanted that title), a huge fan of my oldest son’s artwork, a speech coach, policewoman (in my own home), super-shopper, super-saver, blogger, Wii-er, family photographer, jewelry-maker, librarian, head chef (does that make me a sous?), lead creative director, head janitor, chauffeur, personal assistant to 3 amazing men, treater of booboos, finder of toys, researcher of how to set limits with my strong-willed son (another blog post to stay tuned for)… limitless is who I am… and excited to find out more about who God intends me to be.

To encourage you Moms who may have felt the same way and wrestled with any resentment around your shift in roles… I am right there with you — and we can embrace this re-inventing of ourselves together!

And, speaking of getting creative… check out my shop on Esty: DeirdreSpeak:ArtWorks. It’s cool and I am donating 25% of all sales to relief efforts in Haiti!