Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting started with breastfeeding

[Transferred from my other blog, originally posted 9/17/06]

As part of the babies' birth announcement on my old blog, I posted that they were eating and growing well. Therefore, the babies immediately went and proved me wrong by developing excessive weight loss, dehydration, and jaundice. I blame this largely on the slow arrival of my milk, which didn't come in until day 5 postpartum, but Claire's size also caused us some latching issues (poor baby has a small mouth, like her mother, and has trouble opening wide enough). Additionally, my "normal" postpartum swelling got seriously out of control, and my blood pressure spiked up to hypertensive levels. However, an extra day in the hospital plus some diuretics got me sorted out, and an aggressive regime of every-two-hour feeding and supplementation (finger-feeding with formula and then expressed breastmilk) got the babies in better order, and we came home on Monday. After return visits to the hospital for bili levels and weight checks, the babies were released to the care of their pediatrician on Friday, and I think we're on the upswing.

As things stand, the babies are receiving exclusively breastmilk, in a rather grueling feeding schedule. I begin a feeding cycle by pumping for 10 minutes to relieve engorgement and make it easier for Claire to latch, then feed each baby separately for 10-20 minutes. I've tandem-fed a couple of times, but it's not something I'm very comfortable with yet, and it tends to result in me getting chewed up. Therefore, I've put it on hold until the babies are a bit bigger and less floppy. After feeding each baby, I pass her off to G to finger-feed an additional 20 ccs of pumped milk, which he does by taping a tube to his finger, letting the baby suck it, and using a syringe to slowly push the milk into the baby. The whole cycle takes at least an hour to finish, what with diaper changes and baby-waking time, and two hours later, the alarm goes off to start all over again.

One thing I was really pleased with my hospital about was how very pro-breastfeeding they proved to be. The babies were allowed to nurse in recovery, room in, and co-bed, and nobody (except my mother) ever encouraged me to give bottles; while we did supplement with formula for two days at the beginning, it was only until I was able to pump enough milk to replace it. We had two excellent lactation consultants, who got me pumping on Saturday afternoon and spent hours helping me latch babies; we also had one evil one, but I mainly hated her because she didn't do a very good job of teaching me to use a supplemental nursing system, and also because I was just kind of disposed to hate someone at that particular moment.

I give the lactation consultants a lot of credit for my current abundant milk supply, which had been a major topic of concern for me before and immediately after the birth. Between my thyroid issues, infertility, and anemia (severe enough after surgery that transfusions were discussed), there was a non-negligible possibility that I wouldn't make any milk at all. I wanted desperately to be able to breastfeed my babies, partly because of the bonding and health benefits, but also because I wanted to do just one part of this whole childbirth process like a normal woman. When my milk was slow to arrive and the babies were pronounced ill, I spent a night sobbing to G, my mother, my mother-in-law, and any stray nurses unfortunate enough to wander in -- I just knew my body had failed me yet again. That it did come through, that I've been able to nourish and grow my babies, has been incredibly healing.


Emmie said...

The breastfeeding stuff gets much easier, as does everything else. Congratulations on your twins!

Leslie said...

Oh Emma.

I wish I could see some pics but they don't show up from your old blog on my screen. Must be something wrong on my end.

I am so happy for you!!

Maggie said...

Happy one month birthday, Claire and Katherine!!!