Monday, June 2, 2008

Hospital Breastfeeding Tips, Anyone?

I love breastfeeding. I am happily looking forward to sharing this bond with a new baby. Nevertheless, each beginning was rough. There were problems with latching, for various reasons. Daniel, my first, didn't latch at all for three weeks, then not regularly for another two weeks. We persevered, despite my four-day, post partum-preeclampsia hospital stay, sans baby. Things really took off after five weeks, and Daniel ended up doing very well, never needing another bottle, and eventually weaning around 13.5 months old. He enjoyed nursing, but being an active baby, he felt like there was more to life, and began taking less around ten months.

Timothy latched on great in the hospital, but ended up being such an avid nurser, I was cracking and bleeding within a week. I had always read that this occurs when there is an improper latch, so I kept removing him and putting him back on, hoping to improve the latch. The whole time I could see he was getting milk and swallowing, and in retrospect the latch was probably fine; he just had a strong suck. I temporarily pumped and gave him a bottle, to give myself a day to heal. Big mistake. I should have continued through the pain, no matter what. He refused to take the breast for the following two weeks, resulting in a whole lot of crying for everyone. But, he latched on again finally, and nursed for 2.5 years, wholeheartedly, as though there wasn't anything more to life. lol

Emily didn't latch immediately, but we worked on it steadily, and by discharge, she was doing great. Unfortunately, my milk came in around 48 hours, and due to engorgement, she could no longer latch. I was more savvy this time, and used the small hospital feeder cup (no bottle!) and pumped breastmilk for about 48 hours, after which she latched again and all was well. Even though it made life extremely difficult, what with two young boys around and no outside help, I considered it a much more successful beginning, since the difficulties were so short-lived.

Each of my children had mild to moderate "colicky" symptoms for a full five months. When the third developed the same symptoms, I continued to research and finally learned that I had a forceful letdown, particularly on the left side, and an oversupply, which lasted, each time, until the fifth month. That's when our bodies naturally slow production, and baby grows a bit slower the rest of the first year.

I have tried to pinpoint something I do early on that triggers the oversupply. I recall that while in the post-partum ward with Timmy, a nurse came in and commented that I'm constantly nursing, while all the other mothers are peacefully sleeping. I do, indeed, put my babies to the breast frequently while in the hospital. In each case, it was their sleepiness that prompted me to do this. I kept thinking they weren't getting enough, since they were falling asleep soon after beginning a feeding. I would let them sleep about fifteen to thirty minutes, or more if I accidentally fell asleep, and then wake them and continually put them to the breast, hoping to get enough in them. I worried about jaundice, about my milk not properly coming in if they didn't nurse adequately, etc. In short, I bugged them constantly, out of misguided conscientiousness. Even non-latching Daniel, who got pumped colostrum until they discovered the preeclampsia, fell asleep soon after putting lips to the bottle.

Perhaps due to the early constant stimulation, my breasts always assume they're working for twins? How do other mothers work it out in the hospital, when baby is so very sleepy? I need some pointers. Should I just try every two hours, whether baby falls asleep or not? And is forty-eight hours early for milk to come in? Could I maybe slow that a day by letting baby sleep more at first? It seemed in the last two cases that the milk came in before baby's appetite was ready.

Whatever happens this time, we'll persevere. I just want it to be smoother in the beginning, and possibly try to figure out if there is anything I can do about the oversupply. After the latching difficulties resolved, each baby stayed satisfied about three hours between feedings. However, because of the forceful letdown, the feedings are short. Usually, baby only spends seven or eight minutes on the first side, and five minutes on the next, before becoming full. The colicky symptoms, I am guessing, occur because the milk is taken in too quickly for baby's comfort.

None of the children had the screaming kind of colic, which typically goes away at three months old. It was more of a fussiness, seemingly related to the tummy, and in each case begin around the second to third week, subsiding at five months. After five months, any fussing was rare, even though the letdown remained somewhat forceful, through the first year. But the overall supply adjusted nicely at five months.

Any tips or stories about how others have done it would be greatly appreciated.


Evenspor said...

I had the exact same problem! Same kind of colickiness right up until about five months. I also came up with the explanation of overactive supply. I don't know whether there's anything that triggers it or helps with it, though.

We also had trouble latching on in the beginning, due to inverted nipples. I finally used the the nipple shields the nurse in the hospital gave me. I didn't figure out how to wean him off of those until he was two weeks old. I know I didn't over-nurse him in those first two weeks, because those nipple shields were a pain to use and clean, so I wasn't too enthusiastic when it came time to nurse. After I got him to nurse straight from the breast, though, I was nursing all the time. When I finally figured out the oversupply thing, I started just nursing on one side each feeding, and that seemed to help a little, but it didn't solve the problem completely. (This was all two years ago, though, so my memory is a bit vague)

Anonymous said...

I don't recall having any colicky issues or over supply, but I do remember my let down being extremly hard. And painful. Even after nursing for several months I would still have to fold a cloth diaper and place it over the breast that I wasn't starting with in order to catch the leakage, which was usually substantial. That, for me, didn't go away until I stopped nursing all together.

But as far as the amount I nursed I would only feed little one when I knew they were hungry and I would time them on each side. Also, if I had started on the right side this time I would start on the left side the next time. It generally worked out to every couple of hours I was feeding for about a half hour. Sometimes more and longer periods, both in between feedings and for feedings. However, if little one fell asleep and lost suction I would allow them to sleep. If they woke up and it was close to feeding time I would try to occupy them in other fashions until time to eat. In essence training their stomachs to the schedule. It got easier as they grew and got older.

I also remember that EVERY time I got hungry so did they. LOL Of course they always got to eat first.

Good luck, God bless and I'm so very happy for your wonderful news!


Anonymous said...

The first few days, the baby is not actually hungry. They don't need to eat as much as they will at a week or so, that's why your milk doesn't come right when the baby is born, you don't need it right away. Your body only produces a little bit of colostrum because that is all the baby needs at that point. Perfect design.

In the hospital, feed them every two or three hours and let them sleep the rest of the time. That should help some.