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Archive for the ‘breastfeeding’ Category

Weaning

Well, I know that it had been my plan all along, but my babies are weaned now. And I hadn’t really meant for it to be today, but they decided it all on their own. I was figuring that we’d get down to the day I started BCPs with me gnawing my fingernails off trying to figure out how to get them to stop without traumatizing them. I had these grand plans of how I was going to gradually reduce their feedings, but it didn’t really work that way, I still let them nurse whenever they wanted to, but you know? I think they just knew it was time to stop nursing, because they really stopped wanting to nurse, even when I was offering. Yesterday they nursed sort of fitfully for the last time, but really weren’t all that interested and kept pushing me away. Today, no one was remotely interested.

So I guess that makes things a lot easier. And certainly means I don’t have to worry about the HSG (which, by the way, is absolutely not a problem with breastfeeding, and yes, I do have to stop taking the metformin for the HSG, which means it was completely stupid for me to START taking it on Wednesday, but whatever… I have to stop taking it Sunday and resume taking it Thursday… Gah!).

I wonder what I’ll do with all this free time on my hands now? No more pumping, no more nursing. All done. 14 months of my life suddenly over with no fanfare whatsoever. Do I get some sort of award for this? A good stiff drink, perhaps?

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dye with HSG

Hey this may seem really stupid, but does anyone know what kind of dye is used with an HSG? And do you know whether there’s any problem breastfeeding after an HSG? My guess is there’s no problem since it’s injected into the uterus, not into the bloodstream, but, of course, it goes out through the fallopian tubes (assuming no blockages) and absorbs into the body, so who knows.

Clearly I can ask my doctor this, and obviously the two best doctors to ask this are the radiologist who does the HSG and my pediatrician… but I’d rather ask before the day of which means the radiologist isn’t the best candidate and I can’t really ask my pediatrician without knowing what kind of dye they use. I guess I’ll go acquaint myself with Dr. Google…

Clearly if I manage to wean before then, this will not be an issue.

Edit: As Chris noted, it’s an iodine dye used, either water based, or oil based. I can’t find any article suggesting that there’s any issue with breastfeeding, but I’m sure my husband will be able to answer that for me in about two seconds once he gets home. I can’t, for the life of me, think of ANY reason why iodine would be incompatible with breastfeeding, though occasionally (rarely, even) women have allergic reactions to the dye, so I guess your babies could too, if there was any way it could be excreted in the breastmilk, but my guess is that even if it could be excreted in the breastmilk it would be in such a small concentration it would be nearly irrelevant.

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Holy Mooing, Batman!

My babies are 11 months old and I have pumped 11,500+ ounces of milk.

That’s 90 gallons of milk. 

Ninety.

That’s not counting any of the milk they’ve actually gotten direct from the tap. 

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Hey, did you know that it’s World Breastfeeding Week

I’ve been breastfeeding my triplets for 10 1/2 months now, and I love it.  It makes me feel …  well, I feel like my body isn’t betraying me.  And I love that my babies are bonded to me, even Abby who doesn’t breastfeed, but gets my milk.  She shows a definite preference for my milk over formula. 

I never thought it would be possible to do this. I thought I’d pump for them while they were in the NICU and I thought maybe I’d struggle through a couple weeks at home, but I never really thought I’d make it through a whole year.  And now I find myself wondering if I’ll be ready to give this up when they turn a year old next month. 

I have these three babies – these three that started out teeny, tiny, helpless babies, that have grown from as tiny as 2 1/2 pounds (Abby) and are now as big as 20 pounds (Sam) and I helped do that!   

So, um, go me!

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What the Frick?

Fever?   Check.
Mysterious Breast Pain?  Check.
Hard, warm, red area on my breast where the pain is?  Check, check and check.

Hello?  Déjà vu much?  Haven’t I been there, done that?  Like just recently?  The last few times this has happened, I’ve just let it go.  I’m wondering if I should call my OB since this is so close on the heels of the last episode.  I just feel ridiculous. 

I hate fevers. 

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Nursing

My babies are nine and a half months old.  Do you know what that means?  It means they are rapidly approaching a year.  How is that even remotely possible?  How did this happen?   With the rapid approach of their first birthday, and the dramatic changes in their eating patterns recently (much more solid food, much less milk intake), I’ve been sadly collecting my thoughts about … (*gulp*) weaning.  Ohmygosh.  Just typing that word makes my eyes brim up with tears.  I never thought I’d be this attached to breastfeeding – particularly with triplets.  While I’ve grown a little tired of my pump (Maggie Moo),   I’m not sure I can imagine the day I actually decide to put her away for good (until the next time?).  In fact, the very thought of it, though I have thought of it, makes me physically ill. 

Nevertheless, the time is coming and will be here sooner than I know it.    There are some things that I’ll definitely miss.

Sam, no matter how frantic he is beforehand, will snuggle right in and calm down immediately once he finds exactly the right position.  Lately, though, he’s taken to wanting to nurse in the MOST awkward positions:  his most preferred position is to be kneeling in front of me, which isn’t comfortable for me AT ALL; if he can’t kneel, he wants to lay on his stomach facing me… I don’t know if you can QUITE imagine how awkward a position this is, but trust me, it’s awkward.  Still, once he’s settled, he snuggles and snoozes and eats to his heart’s content; he’s so lovable, it’s hard to deny him this simple pleasure, even if it IS very uncomfortable for me.   Lately, at night, he’s fallen asleep nursing, and I know they say never to nurse a baby to sleep, but it’s so yummy, and I don’t care what "they" say, it works for us.

Ellie, despite all her problems in the beginning, is no longer failing to thrive.  She’s a champion nurser and so much calmer than her brother.  While Sam will frantically and voraciously climb toward me, Ellie patiently waits for me to be ready, but then eats like it’s her last meal ever!  She holds my thumb with her little hand while she’s nursing and doesn’t let go and she crosses her little feet down  on my other side and it’s so adorable.  When she’s done, she’s so drowsy and calm and beautiful I sometimes just stare at her until I realize how much else I have to do, but I never feel like I’m wasting time staring at my precious baby.  This is time I earned, after all.  This is time I begged for.  If I don’t enjoy it now, time may slip away and I’ll miss it all together.

While I rarely nurse them together anymore – they’re too big and unwieldy and seem to prefer the individual attention anyway – the times when I do it I realize that it truly is something I should do occasionally, because they are so precious together.  They each eat at their own pace, with their own style, but together they form one unit, as their hands find each other in the middle.  When they grow tired of holding hands, sometimes Ellie will place her hand on Sam’s head and just hold it there; if she moves it, he starts to fuss and doesn’t calm down until either her hand is replaced or their hands find each other in the middle again.    The same thing happens if I nurse one on one side and bottle feed Abby on the other side, if I lay her down football-style on the side of my lap.  It’s a thing of beauty, really, to see them so attached to each other.

Even Abby, though she doesn’t nurse, gives me reason to pause.  She still shows a true preference for my milk versus formula, which gives me the strength to keep pumping, even on the days when I can’t figure out how to fit it in.  I find the time, because I know little Abigail loves my milk and drinks it happily, while fussing if given formula.  While I’m sorry that I ever had to do any supplementing at all, I know that I did the best that I could.  Abby almost never gets any formula anymore, because her preference gave me the strength to re-double efforts to pump and pump often, no matter what.  Sam and Ellie do still get supplemented some, but far less than they used to, particularly since their volume of milk intake is going down now that they’re eating three pretty sizable solid food meals per day. 

All of these things make it very hard for me to even consider weaning a possibility.  I so want to just let them dictate to me when they’re done.  But I admit, it’s getting harder, and with everything going on with the J-man it’s even harder still.  So, my guess is that I’ll be shelving Maggie Moo in late September, and slowly (oh so slowly) moving Ellie and Sam to a point where they don’t nurse at all after that.  I’m sure I will sob and sob when the time comes.

I’ll miss the time I have with my babies.  I’ll miss the closeness and the snuggliness I have with my babies.  I’ll miss knowing that my body isn’t, for once, betraying me, but rather, finally doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing.  I’ll miss being able to directly nurture my babies – Oh I know I’ll still nurture them in a myriad of other ways, but it’s different, and you know it, too.  I’ll miss knowing that I can, in an instant, fix all the world’s ills at least in my son’s universe, just by moving my shirt up and letting him snack.  I’ll miss being their favorite.  I’ll miss watching them snooze on my lap in a milk coma.  I’ll miss all that and more.

Still, there are things I won’t miss…

Have you ever heard of Raynaud’s Phenomenon?  It’s something I’ve dealt with all my life, but I never actually thought much about it.  Until, you know, I gave birth.  Did you know Raynaud’s Syndrome can affect you while breastfeeding, too?  Ouch.  I won’t miss that.  Seriously, it bears saying again:  Ouch.

I won’t miss the constant battles with thrush that we had for the first six months.

I won’t miss the several bouts of mastitis that I had.

I won’t miss that mysterious pain that I had several times that no one ever managed to explain (though I didn’t mind seeing the young, hot OB/GYN to help diagnose…or fail to diagnose… the problem).

I won’t miss being bitten, or scratched, though I know that the babies don’t intend to hurt me.

But I’ll still miss it.  And I’ll still be so sad when we move on to a new chapter of our relationship.  I cannot believe that they are old enough for me to even consider that word.  That evil W word.  And if I didn’t so desperately want another baby to share my love with, I might not even be willing to consider that horrible word, but I know that everything I do in my life is a choice, and a matter of balancing options.  You take some bad with all good, and for me, nursing has been a world of good.

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So you’d think after nearly 8 months of breastfeeding triplets, I’d have this breastfeeding thing down pat, right? No problems, no issues… I’d be an old pro. But when you ask a question of a woman who has PhD, APRN, CPNP, and IBCLC next to her name and her answer is “Unfortunately, there is much we do not know about breastfeeding and some of the breast issues that can accompany it,” well, then you just know you’re out of luck, don’t you? And when you ask the same questions of your OB, and he also shrugs and says, “Unfortunately, there’s a lot we just don’t know about breastfeeding,” well, you know you’re totally screwed.

Let me back up. There is much you don’t know, and some you do, so let me review and fill in the blanks.

So to review, in the NICU all the babies had TPNs and then eventually gavage (NG Tube) feedings until eventually I was able to breastfeed them. When they left the hospital, they all freaked out and said, “This breastfeeding thing is hard work” and they all forgot how to do it. After many tears, Sam and Ellie became champion breastfeeders. Abby never figured it out again. She was my tiny baby and always had the hardest time forming an effective latch (let’s face it, her tiny mouth, my, um, not-so-tiny breast? It was destined to fail). I worked hard with her, but it never happened despite repeated efforts with various techniques, various tools (SNS, finger feeding, cup feeding, syringe feeding, etc.), multiple lactation consultations, and 7 months of trying. Now that she’s got two teeth, well, I’ve officially given up with her despite assurances from multiple sources that they’ve seen babies figure it out as late as 8 or 9 months. Nope, she causes me significant pain just biting down on my finger (she actually broke the skin on my finger tonight!) with those little teeth, no WAY am I subjecting my nipples to that abuse. So we’re done trying with her, end of story. So she gets pumped milk.

I call the pump, who’s name is Maggie Moo if you’ll recall, my fourth baby. That damn pump. I used to love pumping, because I’m a total freak. I got a weird satisfaction out of being able to SEE that my body was actually doing something it was supposed to be doing for once. Watching the bottles fill up with this strange white substance that nourished my babies made me feel like I was accomplishing a great miracle, and I absolutely loved it. But I’ve really come to hate pumping, which I admit makes me feel somewhat guilty, because what right do I have to hate something so crucial to my babies’ basic needs? But hate it, I do.

Breastfeeding itself is a strangely satisfying experience also. I love to watch my babies eating and going from frantically hungry to patiently satisfied in just seconds. I love to hold them so close and know that I’m nourishing them. I hated when Ellie was “failure to thrive” that I had to give her a certain number of bottles per day no matter what, because I really missed that time breastfeeding her, and I’m grateful to have that time back. I love the middle of the night and morning feeds that best, because we’re not in a rush… we lay in bed together and I let them nurse to their hearts’ content and switch of babies whenever the first one is done (for the morning, that is… Ellie never eats in the middle of the night… Sam does, and he’s very snuggly for those feeds).

And it’s that closeness and snugglyness and the knowledge that in this way my body has chosen not to betray me that makes the rest of it worth it. The rest of it? Oh yes, the rest of it. Let me tell you about the rest of it, because therein lies the mystery.

I remember while the babies were in the NICU I was running ragged one day and I’d been at the NICU so long that I’d missed one pumping session (I was still then pumping every 2 hours religiously, so they kind of ran one into the next back then). I came home to change and eat dinner during the NICU’s shift change before heading back over there and as I was pulling my shirt off over my head my arm brushed over my left breast and I screamed in pain. What the Hell Is That?? I cried out to my husband. Fortunately, Seth is smarter than me, and he immediately jumped up and said, “You must have a plugged duct. You need to pump and you need a heating pad.” How the friggin’ FRICK does my husband know this stuff??? Sure enough, he was exactly right. I will never forget the pain from that plugged duct, though, because it was really shocking how much a little milk backed up in a duct can hurt! I vowed never to allow that to happen again (hah!). Little did I know, that was just the first of the many times that I would experience breast pain over the course of my breastfeeding experience.

Oh yes, there were the two, possibly three, bouts of mastitis that I had. And I can’t begin to describe the JOY of mastitis. Hard, red, ouchy horrifying region on my breast, high fever (104+!), pain, pain, pain. The only thing you can do is breastfeed constantly (fortunately, I had lots of babies to help me out with that one, but who wants to breastfeed babies when you’re running a high fever?), use warm compresses, massage (OUCH) the area, and pray for death until it goes away. Oh, and take antibiotics. There’s that, too.

We had the standard latch issues which led to sore nipples (hey, this is my blog, if you don’t want to read about my nipples, go somewhere else!), but we eventually got past that. What no one told me was that when the babies got to be a certain age (oh, say, I don’t know, 7.5 months?) the babies would become somewhat distractible, to say the least, and they become big slackers when it comes to latching. This leads to lousy latches, and SERIOUSLY PAINFUL nipples.

And the thrush. OH, the thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection, but what they don’t tell you about thrush is that it’s a bitch to get rid of and it comes with sharp, knife-like stabbity pains that radiate through your breasts and make you want to DIE A MISERABLE DEATH because at least then it would be over! And when you’ve got three babies who keep passing it back and forth and back to you and then you give it back to them, and you keep sterilizing their pacifiers, but you can’t sterilize your own breasts, and it just goes on and on… Well, it’s a vicious cycle. I went through at least five separate incidents with thrush, and each was more miserable than the next. I was in tears every time I breastfed, but if I stopped breastfeeding, I got a plugged duct (and hey, if you keep doing that, you can end up with mastitis! See the vicious cycle here?), so suffice it to say, not breastfeeding and just pumping was not an option (and besides, pumping wasn’t so pleasant, either). So yeah, THRUSH SUCKS. Nothing really seemed to help thrush either, though two weeks on diflucan did finally wipe it mostly out and that combined with Nystatin and a lot of prayer, well, I don’t have it now, so clearly soemthing worked eventually. The pediatrician said eventually babies just seem to outgrow their propensity for developing thrush, so hopefully we’re done with it for good. Here’s hoping.

Then in March I had pain in my left breast that wouldn’t go away. The only way I can explain it is that it felt like a deep bruise in the breast tissue, but there was no external bruise. There was no hard, lumpy spot, so it definitely wasn’t a plugged duct (plus it lasted about 3 weeks). The LC I spoke with at the time thought it COULD be related to the thrush that I was battling (I doubt it), or COULD be low level mastitis (who knows), or COULD be oh who knows what. The bottom line is that it ultimately resolved itself.

And then about two weeks ago, the pain came back. And it’s pretty significant pain. IT HURTS. Like owie, owie, ouchy hurt. The pain was accompanied by fever… as one escalated, so did the other. And since the pain lasted for over a week, I finally gave up and called my OB/GYN’s office. They completely misunderstood my initial description and offered me a nipple cream and I reiterated that this is not nipple pain that this is pain IN the breast tissue and it hurts like HELL. The nurse recommended that I come in for a breast exam. Well, why the hell not? I mean, after all, I’ve had doctors poke and prod every other part of me… I may as well have some random doctor handle my breasts, too, right?

And, so, in I went. And basically? The doctor, who was rather nice (I’d never met this member of the practice before), shrugged and said, “Unfortunately there’s a lot we just don’t know about breastfeeding.” He said that producing this much milk for my little army for this long is probably putting a lot of strain on the breast tissue, and that hurts. He gave me a script for pain medicine and told me to treat the pain as needed when it happens, but couldn’t give me any other answers.

As a last ditch effort, I checked with the lactation consultant at the agency where I work. You know, the one with that LONG list of initials after her name? Yeah, her. And even she seriously just said, “Unfortunately, there is much we do not know about breastfeeding and some of the breast issues that can accompany it.” It astounds me that something that seems so basic – breastfeeding – can be such a mystery to doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, women, babies, everyone.

And THAT is the mystery of breastfeeding. For what it’s worth, the pain in my left breast cleared up on Monday. Today I’m in serious pain on the right side, and hey! Just for fun, we threw in a fever, too. I give up.

When all is said and done, though, I still think it’s worth it. I love feeding my babies. I love that I can. I love that I do. I love that my body didn’t betray me this time. I love that I’m the only one that can do this for them. I love the closeness that I have with them. Even with Abby – because even though she won’t latch… I’ll tell you one thing, that baby LOVES my milk. She seriously prefers my milk over formula. She HATES formula and LOVES my milk. And I love that about her. It’s really great. It’s totally worth it.

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