Monday, January 28, 2013

Nursing Essie

I went to a La Leche League meeting the other night and, since I arrived late, the women went around the room and re-introduced themselves for my benefit. It was after the second woman said her name, a little bit about her baby and then declared that she hasn't given her daughter even one drop of formula and several in the room cheered, that I became frozen with panic at the realization that I would likely have to pull out a bottle for Essie while there. And not just a bottle whose contents could be mistaken for breast milk. No. I would also be pulling out my little pink 3-chamber container and carefully pouring out the powder to mix with the water. 

Please, Essie, be okay with just my breast milk this one time, I begged her telepathically. She must have heard because I was spared the embarrassment of giving my baby a bottle of formula in the middle of a breast-feeding support group. Where they cheer for not using formula.

Turned out, though, that they wouldn't have minded. When it came time to tell my story - about our epic journey to pick up our little baby and how, by the grace of God, I was still nursing when this all happened and can now nurse an adopted child - they hung on my every word and when I was finished, the very kind leader (who actually appeared teary-eyed) told me what an inspiration I am to her, and others in the group spoke up in agreement. 

I know where to go if I'm having a bad day and need a little ego-boost.

I had to tell them, though, that what I did was easy. I just stuck her on there and she latched. It's the moms who adopt who weren't lactating, many who have never been pregnant, and yet are able to breastfeed who should really be commended. I don't know I would have had the stamina for all that.

The timing for me and Essie couldn't have been more perfect. I worried for so long that I'd never nurse again after Luke and then, out of the blue, we adopt a baby before I have weaned him. My prayer - one of those prayers your heart feels but you never actually voice - was answered and here I am, nursing a second baby, a baby I didn't birth. What a gift I have been given. 

Wearing my kangaroo care shirt with Essie

When I'm asked how nursing is going, I always answer "well." But I'm aware that 'well' means different things to different people. For me, it means that we nurse first and then give her a bottle of formula if she's still hungry. It means she latches great and there's no nipple confusion. It means I nurse several times a day and I think she really likes it. 

If I had needed to supplement Luke, I don't know that I would have considered it to be going 'well;' we mother can be hard on ourselves when it comes to nursing. But there are definitely different - lower - expectations when the child you are trying to nurse was adopted. I wasn't pregnant, I didn't give birth, there aren't all the necessary hormones, my body didn't expect to have this sudden demand. Yet, here we are - nursing. 

I didn't nurse her until day two of her life. I only saw her briefly on her birth day and while I knew her birth mom was okay with me nursing, it was late, we were there with the kids for a quick visit, and it just didn't seem like the right time. That didn't bother me because I was going into it with those low expectations - whatever I was able to do would be fine. If she didn't latch, she didn't latch. I've fed a baby formula before and she is healthy and perfect. Formula might not be ideal, but I know it's also not as evil as some people can make it seem.

Essie was discharged on day two and as soon as we arrived back at our hotel, I sat down with a pillow and the baby and gave her my breast. She latched on immediately.

I nursed her that afternoon, evening, and night, although I had to wake her up for more than half those feedings. Day three was Christmas and we were spending it at the home of the lovely lady who was our link to this adoption, Leila. I was starting to get a little concerned that Essie was too tired, but I wasn't sure if that was because she was just in that sleepy newborn phase (which we never experienced with colicky Luke, so we didn't know what it would be like) or if she was becoming lethargic from not eating enough. It was on my radar that my supply was such a big unknown, and it worried me.

I talked about it with Leila, we found that her diaper was dry (despite having just eaten), and so we headed to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some formula. I was fine with it. It was about getting my baby - my very small baby - enough to nourish her, and if I couldn't provide it, formula would. Soon after, she started to wake up more, which lead to her being hungry more, and she began to gain more in the days that followed.

From the start of adding formula, I always nursed her first, then once she either nursed for 30 to 45 minutes or pulled off and was fussy (which lead me to believe the milk had slowed), I went to the bottle. Right now, she will take three to four ounces of formula after nursing.

One other little complication - and the reason, we believe, that she takes so long to nurse - is that she has a slight tongue tie. We have gotten differing opinions on whether this needs to be fixed, so as of right now it hasn't been. But because I believe we need all the help we can get with nursing, I'm going to ask her pediatrician to refer us to a doctor who will take care of it.

Despite not being afraid of supplementing with formula, I am trying to reduce the amount we are giving her. It's expensive, bottles are a hassle and it doesn't help my supply to stay in this current pattern. I think I was getting lazy and relying on the bottle a little too much. So instead of giving up when she first pulls off, I'm now trying to power through and get her to take a little more breast milk. It's been working and I have reduced the amount of formula we give her.

I'd love to get rid of formula all together, but that just may not be in our future. If I can get around to renting a hospital-grade pump (recommended by the LLL leader), I'm going to try to start pumping in between feedings to increase my supply, but that's about all I'll probably do. I'm aware of all the medications and supplements, but I haven't felt motivated to take any. Although I swear I have more breast milk on days I eat oatmeal in the morning.

And then there's the issue of weight gain, which no breastfeeding post would be complete without discussing. She's doing amazingly well in that department. She is now up to seven-and-a-half pounds. That's up two pounds from her lowest weight and she's gained a pound in the last week-and-a-half.


I know - despite the prominently displayed warnings on formula containers that make me think of those on cigarette boxes - that formula is okay. It really, truly is. Adopting will bring you to that realization pretty quickly. Clara is fine. My friends' formula-fed babies are wonderful. I'm not special because I can nurse Essie, I'm just lucky because I like doing it. And I hate washing bottles. I still am, of course, washing bottles, but at least it's far less of them.

It's all about expectations and since mine are low, we're going to be okay. We are okay. Essie's wonderful and amazing and apparently likes nursing and we're so very, very blessed. 

25 comments:

  1. this is such a beautiful post, K!! love this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm cheering because you named her Esther. Yay because she's thriving.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great post, a beautiful baby, and one dedicated Mama! You are doing fabulously. Keep eating that oatmeal. I have a bowl every morning (along with drinking tons of water throughout the day) and am convinced the oatmeal has helped keep my supply up (I'm a PCOSer with a 9 month old).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah! Way to go. You are amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great attitude! I formula fed 2 babies and ecologically breast-fed another... so I totally understand. Doing what works = freeing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good attitude, K! What a little cutie...love her.

    ReplyDelete
  7. She is adorable ... and getting cuter every day! I love your attitude & also that of the LLL women!

    ReplyDelete
  8. You're doing a great job, and she is beautiful! I always wonder why they say "hospital grade" pump. I just bought a medela from Target and it works great. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You have to do what's best for your family and sweet baby. Our Lillie was in the NICU and they wouldn't let her go home if she lost weight. I knew I'd be more relaxed at home and my milk hasn't come in. The drops of colostrum I was hand expressing just didn't cut it so I caved and formula fed her...and she's fine.

    She is doing better at home now, my milk is in and she nurses all day. At night we still give her a bottle if she's frantic and so we can sleep more than 2 hours. It works and she's gained like a champ!

    Great post thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  10. what a great post. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. So awesome! Love the kangaroo shirt, and glad the LLL people were great and not down your throat about formula. :)

    I should not read your blog before going to bed. I met you in my dream last night, gushing about "I've been reading you since the beginning!" :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! That's funny because I've been thinking about you lately! Hope you're doing well!

      Delete
  12. Congratulations-beautiful post and I love the kangaroo shirt-that's really cool! It looks so cozy and snuggly. And fyi-breast pumps now have to be fully covered by insurance as part of the healthcare law-call you insurance company to double check but I think you should be covered. I loved the medela pump in style advanced-my milk would let down at the sight of it. You're so inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, you and Essie are amazing! This post brought tears to my eyes. You share your story so beautifully! God bless you and your nursing efforts!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Love this post!!!!! Thank you for sharing your story!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just the bonding alone is worth it. ;) You keep on powering on until it isn't working anymore. Maintain peace. Prayers for you and Essie!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Where did you get that kangaroo care shirt? That thing looks great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather.. I bought it in a store in Arizona, but here's the website: https://www.reserveprivee.com (it's in French, but there's an option on the top right to click "english").

      Mine isn't an actual hands-free carrier, but some of them are. I really wish I had one of those!

      Delete
  17. I can't remember when I first found your blog. It was over a year ago, maybe even two... I think I was searching on infertility and moral Catholic treatment options. I loved reading about your family and your faith.

    Fast foward to August. I got pregnant in July (by surprise!) and struggle of working, raising a 3 year old and being sick all day and actually sick about 15 times a day meant that I lost track of your blog. I am so very happy to have come back to discover you now have a beautiful new baby Essie!

    BTW, my son, now almost 4 was a super slow nurser and wanted to nurse all the time. Right at 3 months he "got it" I went from nursing 40+ minutes a side out of every two hours to 15 minutes a side. I really thought he was sick and losing weight until I used my bathroom scale to weigh him. So even if you can not have the tongue tie corrected, she may self correct on her own in the next couple months.

    Congratulations and God Bless your family!

    ReplyDelete
  18. So glad it's going well! I love LLL - they've been so supportive of my inducing lactation, and were totally excited to see me pull out the nursing supplementer every time I was at a meeting. In fact, I'm going to another one on Monday :). The hospital-grade pump was definitely better than the commercial stuff available - a double pump with a hands-free bra made it so easy and quick to use and I got waaay more milk.

    ReplyDelete