August 08, 2012

On Breastfeeding and Bonding

There is a lot said about the bonding relationship one has when a woman breastfeeds her child.  It is said as if bottle feeding means you can't bond with your child.  Since I have three children and have attempted to breastfeed all three with varying levels of success, I have thought about this a lot. 

With Porter I knew pretty much nothing.  I assumed that it would come naturally.  Big mistake that I hear a lot of mothers make.  I also knew ahead of time that it may not work out due to a previous surgery. I tried to prepare myself for that, but didn't really do anything to ensure things worked well because I didn't know I needed to do anything.  That kind of set me up for failure, and I should have gotten a lot more support a lot sooner that I did.  We tried nursing.  But between a c-section, pitocin/epidural, and way too much fluids in the hospital, all of which can delay your milk coming in, we struggled.  By day five my milk still hadn't come in and he was losing weight.  The Dr recommended supplementing.  We had some bottles that were given to us and got some formula.  Little did we know that the bottles we got would be the end of breastfeeding.  They were about the worst we could have used and so much easier than nursing that Porter refused to nurse again.  I had some post partem depression and that didn't help.  I eventually got in touch with a lactation consultant, but by then I was at the end of my rope with Porter falling apart and then of course me falling apart every time we tried.  Within a week we were fully bottle feeding.  It was very difficult for me and I didn't even know if I wanted to try again the next time

I had a hard time bonding with Porter and I wondered at the time if that was part of why.  Looking back I think PPD had the most to do with it.  And the c-section can account for the rest.  I felt so disconnected from his birth.  He was born behind a curtain with a doctor who wasn't interested in including me at all in the process.  I was left with this feeling that he wasn't mine for the longest time.  We eventually overcame all that, the depression faded after a while, and we got better and closer.

With Gabe, we had more support.  There was family around, a normal birth, and a lactation consultant who spent time with us as at the hospital. We did decide to try it again. We got a hospital grade pump to help increase my supply and he latched well.  We still had to supplement with some formula, but thanks to some research we got much better bottles this time around and he switched back and forth from nursing to a bottle fairly easily. I went on just about every supplement we knew about to get my milk supply to increase. However, he started sleeping through the night at about three weeks, and I was so exhausted I just couldn't make myself get up to pump if he wasn't up to eat.  My milk, which wasn't very much to start out with, dried up pretty quickly after that.  Even though he was only breastfed for about six weeks, I felt like it was a good experience and we bonded well.  I had very little post partem depression with him and that helped a lot I think. And he was such a good natured baby, it would have been hard not to fall in love with him.

If I had only had these two children, I may have agreed that bonding is stronger with breastfeeding.  But then we had Charlotte.  Her birth was the best experience yet, no PPD and normal birth.  But she was four weeks early.  Because of that, she didn't latch well.  She was what they call a lazy eater, meaning even when she latched, she didn't get much because her muscles weren't well developed.  Even once she got older we weren't able to get her to latch any better as she likes to pull her lower lip in.  We had even more support this time and more information about low milk supply which we knew we would be dealing with again.  We got a hospital grade pump, a prescription for domperidone, and began pumping with the intention of getting her to nurse as she got older.  That didn't happen.  She still gets fed breast milk by bottle with some formula at night.  Even though my milk supply is better than it has ever been, my breastfeeding relationship is not what most people think is conducive to bonding.

BUT.  I feel more bonded to her as an infant than to either of my other children when they were this age.  She is a very snuggly baby where my boys weren't, and I enjoy sitting down with her to give her a bottle.  I look into her eyes as she eats and rub her back or legs/feet as she looks up at me.  No one can convince me that I could be more bonded to her without this extra step in between my milk and her.  Adam gets up with her in the night so that I can get up to pump without also getting up with her.  Every now and then I am able to take that night feeding for him, when the whole house is quiet and it is just she and I It is such a special experience to look down at her sleepy 'milk coma' face as she smiles in that in between of awake and asleep.   Because there is that extra step in between my milk and her, Adam gets to have that experience too.  He is such a great father and is so close to all his children, and I wonder if this has helped start those close relationships.  He has always helped feed our children from the start and I am so grateful that he steps right in to give them everything they need from food to cuddles.

Maybe, if there is a next time, we will have success, in the traditional sense, with nursing.  But I still feel like my relationship with Charlotte is a success.  She gets milk from me with all the good antibodies etc that come with it, and she is well bonded to all my family, not just she and I.  As I am coming to where I will be going back to work and I am considering when to wean her, I am hesitant to bring this to an end.  Not that I have any particular bond with my pump, lol, but I definitely am attached to giving her the best; ie breast milk.  It will definitely be nice to start trading off nights with Adam instead of both of us having to get up, but I will miss being able to do this for her.  It is a sacrifice, especially when the rest of life comes in between me and the time I need to both pump and then feed her, but it is a sacrifice I have been happy to make.  It will be bittersweet to see it end.

August 01, 2012



 One Month

Two Months
She is definitely getting cheeks.  Love em!