Breastfeeding... It has to get easier, right???

When I started working with Galit 10 1/2 months ago, I knew immediately that she would be one of the most dedicated, hard-working, and comedic mothers I would ever encounter.  Her breastfeeding journey has been wrought with painful nipples, engorged breasts, and twins who had difficulties transferring milk.  It has also been blessed with sweet moments of tandem nursing, gaining an abundance of milk, and confidence to overcome any challenge that lay in her path.  Happy 1st birthday to your adorable boys, Galit, and happy 1st nursiversary to you!  You continually inspire me!  

Here is Galit’s story, in her own words!

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I had twins at 37 weeks 3 days who were 5.5 and almost 6 lbs (FRIGGING AMAZING) after preterm labor at 23 weeks and 4 months of bed rest!  I wanted nothing more than to provide for them and ensure their health. Breastfeeding started out pretty rough.  My colostrum was hard to obtain and milk took forever to come in.  We were told to supplement with formula to keep them out of the NICU (they lost weight after birth, as all babies do), so we obliged. We went home with two healthy boys after 4 days and they were with me the entire time!

For several weeks, we used a gloved finger-straw-tube thing to help the boys practice sucking.  Then, out of desperation and exhaustion, we switched to a bottle and for several months (yes, months), we had to pull their chins down to help them open their mouths wider and also tilt the bottle up and down to simulate the natural flow of breast milk. No one was really capable of helping my hubby and I because there was just too much to remember.

My schedule was: nurse one baby, nurse the other, supplement both with bottles with as much breast milk as I could pump, then another separate bottle with formula (we were told not to mix breast milk with formula.  We tried several organic versions before finding one that worked for us), then pump. Between pumping 8+ times a day and nursing 10-12 times a day, I had between 10 and 25 minutes to eat OR to sleep at a time, around the clock, for almost two months. Ugh. I was always hungry and tired. If someone didn’t put food in front of my face, I didn’t eat. Great diet plan, aside from the feeling of extreme hunger, lack of energy, and need to consume extra calories to help my body make milk! 

After a couple months of serious struggles with nursing, we were desperate. The boys both had extremely tight frenulums (tongue ties), hampering their sucking abilities and leaving them very inefficient (45 minute feeds to take in less than an ounce), and me in incredible pain due to their pinching. We were told to have them clipped to allow their tongues to work better (ouch, but not too bad). This didn’t do enough (the frenulums were posterior and thick), so several of our doctors recommended we have them lasered (under their tongues and under their upper lips). Holy hell, this sucked so hard!  Then, worse, for a month and a half after the laser (until they healed), we had to stretch their wounds every time they ate. They cried. I cried. It was a very hard decision and experience, but we did what we thought would be best for our babies, for nursing, and for other reasons. So we resorted to these “drastic” measures. They eventually healed and can do all sorts of things with their tongues now! Oh the trouble they will get into some day. 

When they were about a month old, I got mastitis. I thought I was dying. The pain, all over my body, was horrible. I cried all the way to the hospital (and I’m not a crier when it comes to physical pain) and got antibiotics.  It took about four days before I felt okay enough to try breastfeeding again. I was in so much pain I couldn’t handle the babies biting/pinching, so I was only pumping. So much pumping. My parents (and in-laws) came to help care for the boys, as I couldn’t even hold them. 

Then, thanks to the antibiotics, I think got thrush (a yeast infection in the nipples. I had never had a yeast infection before, thus I am conjecturing that antibiotics was the cause).  I didn’t show any symptoms, aside from what I called “fire needle nipples.” The pain went all the way up to my armpits.  This lasted for 3.5 months. AAACK!  We had to sterilize everything, including pump parts, bottles, bras, and even my boobs(!) all the time.  My attempt to destroy thrush was energy and time consuming, to put it simply. I continued to sterilize everything after each use until I stopped pumping (at over 9 months). I still change nipple pads several times a day.  I’m so very thankful the boys never showed any signs of thrush, as I probably would have gone cuckoo! 

I ended up getting mastitis again a few weeks later (OMG!).  Thankfully, Robin came to my rescue with her “mastitis protocol.”  I healed within 1.5 days, with NATURAL supplements, pumping, massage, heating pads, hot showers, etc. without antibiotics! YIPPEE!  In total, I’ve had mastitis 10 times (WTH?), 5 of them pretty bad, leaving me mostly dysfunctional. Damn you, Plugged Ducts!  I know how to deal with it now (phew!). I worked for months to restore my milk production to the level it was before infections and scar tissue hampered my supply. I still produce less on the left side, as compared to my right; however, I still made enough to feed both my boys! 

In addition to dealing with mastitis and thrush, I had severe breast (and surrounding area) pain, for several weeks.  I was mostly pumping and wasn’t nursing more than once or twice a day due to the intense discomfort (So. Many. Bottles.). I discovered I have vasospasms but, thanks to Robin’s protocol, the pain is now gone! Thank goodness for Robin.  Phew!  My daily supplements can fill an aisle at Sprouts, but at least they are all actually helping, homeopathic, and aimed at health rather than disease. 

Big milestone: at about 3 months, I realized the boys were only being bottle supplemented with MY milk. I was finally producing enough to feed two growing boys and we were off formula! HOORAY!  From 3 – 5 months, I was weighing the boys before and after each breastfeeding session to see how much they were taking in (as if I wasn’t doing enough already).  We rented a scale from a local hospital to make sure the boys were eating enough.  Then one day, at about 5 months, I looked at their thighs and BAM!  I noticed they were chunky monkeys!  We immediately returned the scale! SCORE!  

At 8.5 months, we were meeting and overcoming new “opportunities for growth.”  These “opportunities” have slowed greatly, but they still come.  With 4 new teeth, one of my boys bit me. Hard.  I instinctually yelped, so he cried. I soothed for 5 minutes and we tried again.  He bit again. Hard. I yelped (no self control) and he cried harder, longer.  15 minutes later we tried again. Guess what happened? He bit. Again. I yelped (OMG control yourself, Mama!) and he was hysterical, hungry, and absolutely refusing to nurse, for 45 minutes. I gave him a little bottle of my pumped milk to calm him and his belly and put him down for a nap.  I was sure he would never want to breastfeed again.  Thank the heavens, as my hubby suspected, when he awoke, our baby had forgotten the morning ordeal and all was normal again. PHEW!  

 

So, was all this craziness, horrible frustration, and extreme pain worth it? HECK YES!!! So far, my boys have always been healthy!  In their whole first year, they’ve never even had a sniffle! Holy cows!  I’ve had two colds and my hubby had three! Was it the breastfeeding?  I’d like to think so. In addition to their health being friggin amazing, we get some great bonding time. I pet their heads, they give me smiles, hold each others’ hands, and sometimes giggle while nursing. They eat 3 solid food meals a day now, and I nurse them 5 times a day as well. The enzymes, antibodies, and good stuff my milk provides for them is so important.  Breastfeeding is just the BEST and I’m SO grateful my body has provided. 

We’re learning, growing, and laughing so much every day. We’ve hit the latest “golden age” of our babies and are enjoying each moment.  It’s just amazing.