Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meeting in the Middle: Now THAT is the best nourishment!

I couldn't have put it better myself when Lauren, a new mama friend of mine, wrote, "As long as we love our children and teach them well, THAT is the best nourishment we can provide!" I asked Lauren to write a post for this series because she has two children, Alaina and Aubrey, who both had challenges in breastfeeding. Alaina has Down Syndrome which, as my friend Whitney illustrated for us, can hinder breastfeeding in many ways. And Aubrey just had a tough time with nursing altogether after medical issues involving constipation, colic-like behavior and spitting up arose. I learned something from Lauren in reading this: switching from breastmilk to formula isn't as cut-and-dried as I thought it to be! I thought that once you made the decision to quit nursing, you just picked a formula and went with it. Out of all the varieties that are available to young ones, their family found an organic brand that worked well with Aubrey's sensitive system, and she's a healthy, beautiful little girl to show for it (as well as her sister!). Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your stories...and here's hoping that your next little one is able to nurse well without the challenges you've faced with your two daughters. You said it well; the nourishment of love, support, and dedication to our children is what we as mothers need to focus on, not solely nutrition alone.
Miss Alaina

Like many women, I knew that when I had kids I wanted to exclusively breastfeed them and my initial goal was to make it to a year. When I delivered my oldest daughter, it was later that day that we were told by the doctor that he suspected she had Down Syndrome. She was 3 1/2 weeks early and was having trouble with her oxygen levels to begin with. Nothing super serious, but still stressful none the less. Regardless, I, of course, wanted to still try breastfeeding. I tried with the help of the nurses and lactation consultant at almost every feeding. My daughter seemed to have quite good muscle tone, but her larger than normal tongue seemed to be hindering our success for the most part. She was always pulling her tongue up to the roof of her mouth and was extremely difficult for her to get a good latch, or latch on at all for that matter. 
She was in the hospital for 6 days before we got to take her home, but we were lucky enough to get to stay in the hospital with her even though I was discharged as they didn't have a need for the room we were in at the time. So we would try every feeding for at least 20 minutes and have a screaming baby who was hungry and who wasn't getting the satisfaction she was looking for. We did finger feed her what I had pumped so she wouldn't get too used to a bottle, but every time we tried, the same thing was happening. So I kept pumping to keep my milk up. I knew breastfeeding would be beneficial to any baby, but especially now to mine. So at the time no matter what I wanted to her to have breastmilk, no matter how she got it. 

To say that that first week is stressful and exhausting for any new mother is an understatement. But coupled with the complete shock of her diagnosis with DS, failing at breastfeeding was too much at times. We were grieving for a daughter we thought we were going to have and all of the sudden walking a path that was difficult, painful and unexpected. At the time, making sure our daughter was healthy and loving her became our ultimate priority. Being successful at breastfeeding was honestly just too much to deal with on top of it when it really didn't seem to be working. It was too stressful on everyone. So I did continue to pump - and credit to any other mother out there that does that for any reason!! It was very difficult and time consuming to say the least. Pumping, then taking the time to feed your baby, always having to have your pump with you, always having to clean the parts plus wash bottles, it just never seemed to end! It was a job in itself on top of all the other things you have to do when you become a mother.

lil Aubrey
From what I pumped we were able to give her just breastmilk for around 5 months. Pumping just doesn't keep up your supply like nursing does and as she started to eat more, it was becoming obvious that I probably wasn't going to be able to completely keep up with her. So we actually made the decision to mix our bottles and finally found that soy formula worked absolutely wonderfully for her. She had been having a lot of trouble with reflux also and adding that formula in there, for whatever reason, cut down on her reflux and spitting considerably. So we mixed bottles and she was getting some breastmilk for her first 10 months as I weaned myself off of pumping. At first, I felt a little guilty giving her formula at all, but at the time, and definitely now looking back, it was 100% the right decision for us and our daughter. 

When our second daughter was born, I was more determined than ever to breastfeed after my first experience as I did NOT want to have to pump! Luckily, she was born perfectly healthy and took to breastfeeding well right away. It seemed so easy!! When we went somewhere all I needed was me and her! I felt like something was missing, but in a good way! Well, much to our dismay, when our second daughter was about 2 1/2 weeks old, she started what we thought was good ol' colic. Except it kept getting worse. And by the time she was about a month old, it wasn't just fussy times of the day, but was literally screaming and writhing until she completely wore herself out and went to sleep. Really, it was screaming or sleeping. And it was awful. She was spitting a lot so we went down the same reflux road as my first daughter, but really didn't much success with any of the meds. 

aw, sister love!
At this point we were still exclusively breastfeeding. I tried every diet modification under the sun to no avail. She kept getting worse, if that was even possible. We were getting nowhere with any doctor and we finally made the decision the day after she turned 3 months old to try formula. We went through 5 different formulas, from regular to soy to hypoallergenic to prescription amino acid formulas and still had no success - the screaming continued all day long. She was 5 months old before, by the grace of God, I happened upon an article online that led up to an organic formula to try. We were desperate and willing to try anything. Within the first 24 hours of giving her this formula, she was easily eating double what she had been and spitting up virtually none of it! Her cradle cap completely cleared up within 3 days of starting it also. From the time her symptoms started she also became very constipated - and was actually the most constipated while she was nursing - which seems to be the complete opposite of what you generally find to be true. She is now almost 16 months old and occassionally will struggle with some GI issues, but are very minor compared to what she was like those first 5 months.

 I realize I have just given two stories that highlight the fact that breastfeeding just did not work for our children, but I do think that is a reality for many families - for whatever reason. In both of our daughters cases, mixing bottles and quitting breastfeeding all together was again the 100% right decision for their health and happiness and our family's health and happiness too. Now expecting my third child this summer, I absoutely want to exclusively breastfeed and hope and pray it does work out for us this time - issue free!!!! But if it doesn't, I have two now very healthy, happy children to show me that it IS ok if it doesn't work. Too all those mothers out there who have no breastfeeding issues, or who work through your issues, count your blessings! To mothers who pump, huge kudos for the dedication to your babies that takes. And to mothers who give their kiddos formula, kudos to you too for doing what you feel and believe is best!! As long as we love our children and teach them well, THAT is the best nourishment we can provide!

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