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adoptive breastfeeding

Marriage, Parenting

The Husband’s Guide to Breastfeeding

November 5, 2015

Guys: If your wife is breastfeeding your baby, be prepared: breastfeeding is one of the coolest, hardest, most interesting parts of being human. Moms get (and deserve) the glory for breastfeeding, but you have a role to play. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Breastfeeding is Really Cool
We’ve come a long way in creating modern baby formulas, but nothing compares with all natural 100% free-range human breast milk. It contains all sorts of compounds and nutrients that aren’t found anywhere else.

Your wife’s body will be able to tell how old your kid is and adjust the composition of the milk accordingly to provide their changing nutritional needs. And get this: if your wife feeds your newborn from one breast, and an older child from the other, the two breasts will work independently to produce the right type of milk for each kid! WHAAAAAAT?

Breastfeeding also provides awesome opportunities for your wife and baby to bond. It’s been really cool to watch little Josie bond with Amanda. I’m sure it’s a major reason they’re so close to one another. We adopted Josie, so Amanda had to induce lactation to breastfeed. (Yes, a woman can breastfeed even if she didn’t give birth!) Breastfeeding Josie really helped us catch up on the nine months of her life (in the womb) we missed out on.

2. It’s a lot of work
Breastfeeding: pop the baby on the boob and there you have it, right? Wrong.

All sorts of issues can prevent themselves along the way: latching issues, lip and tongue ties, supply issues, plugged ducts, and nipple blisters (ouch!) are just a few. And if this is your wife’s first time breastfeeding, she’ll be adjusting to having a new bodily function and its consequences (like getting comfortable nursing in public).

If your wife is inducing lactation, you can throw a whole other set of hurdles in there on top of it all.

3. Prepare to Feel Useless
Breastfeeding might be one of the hardest things your wife ever does, and it’s easy to feel like there’s precious little you can do about it. You can’t offer to step in a take care of that hungry baby yourself, because our bodies just don’t work like that. There will be times when the only thing your baby wants is a seat at the milk bar, and you need to be okay with that. You might feel useless, but you’re not. In fact, you’re vital to your wife’s success.

While you can’t help breastfeed, you can help your wife breastfeed. Here’s how:

Help Out in Practical Ways that Support Breastfeeding

  • Give your wife pep talks when she’s feeling defeated by breastfeeding difficulties.
  • Make sure to pack the nursing cover (if she prefers to use one) when you pack the diaper bag.
  • Offer creative solutions to problems you run into while out and about with a hungry baby. (I asked and they don’t have a nursing room, but if we go over there, I could arrange the chairs and stand in a way that should give you some degree of privacy.)
  • Make sure your wife is staying hydrated by refilling her water bottle and remembering to bring it with you when leaving the house.
  • If she’s taking supplements to help her supply, be the one to refill her pill-box each week.
  • If she’s pumping, take care of everything related to that you can. (Cleaning the pump, bottles, store the milk, etc)

Help Out in Practical Ways that Have Nothing to Do With Breastfeeding
(this will allow her to focus on feeding the kid)

  • Change. The. Diapers.
  • If using cloth diapers, do the laundry.
  • Pack the diaper bag, and carry it when you go out.
  • If utilizing donor milk, pick it up, thaw it out, prepare the bottles.
  • Buy her some flowers.
  • Communicate how much her mothering means to you and the family.
  • Bathe the baby.
  • Entertain the baby and give your wife a break.
  • Cook dinner.
  • Clean the house.

4. The F Word
Whether it’s supply issues, latching issues, crazy schedules, or something else, sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. While donor milk is an option, I’d wager most parents go the formula route.

If you’re feeding your baby formula, remember this: you’re not bad parents. Your child will not be messed up because they didn’t breastfeed. Your wife is probably going to feel this pressure more than you do. This is your time to be the man. Let her know it’s all going to be fine and screw anyone else who tells her differently.

Sure, your family won’t experience some of the cool things related to breastfeeding, but that’s okay. You’ll get to experience some of the positives of bottles like baby accepting a bottle from a babysitter more easily or Dad taking his turn feeding the baby.

Husbands: I hope this guide has served you well and given you a good start. Breastfeeding is crazy. You’re going to need to be present for your wife in ways you’ve never imagined. This is your opportunity to step up and be the man she needs. You’re going to do great.

Parenting

Our Nursing Redemption: The Final Chapter

April 17, 2015

I am so glad to FINALLY be writing this post…because it means that things with nursing between Josie and I are going well!

Many of you have joined me in this journey back when I revealed our initial nursing battles.

Then I had your support and continued encouragement when I posted about further complications but glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel.

Well here I am today with a final blog post…the one we’ve all been waiting for.

This is the chapter in our nursing journey where I tell you that things with Josie and I have taken a turn for the best.

Where I celebrate the fact that I finally built a FULL SUPPLY! Where we gush about how chunky my little monkey is getting from my hard and fought for milk! Where we throw a blogosphere PAR-TAY for our nursing success!

I did it.

I actually did it.

I am still in awe because those days when nursing was going badly are still oh so fresh in my mind. The days where I was curled up in the fetal position crying to Jonathan that I couldn’t nurse Josie ever again lest I have a panic attack. The days we fought nursing strikes, under-supply,  supplemental nursing systems, lip and tongue ties, and dairy intolerance.

My have things changed.

In the beginning I could only nurse using the Boppy and my Lact-Aid while sitting in one specific chair in Josie’s bedroom.

Now? We’ve nursed any and everywhere. In the Costco parking lot, at the Cubs game, during Mass, while hiking in the baby carrier…you name it. We’re not only having success with nursing, we are finally tasting the freedom it can bring with its flexibility and ability to happen on the go. I was getting good at toting around our Lact-Aid and using it publicly, but it’s so nice to leave it at home and not worry about supplementing any longer.

Thank you to everyone who supported our journey. Thank you for all you mommas who shared your struggles too, letting me know that we are not alone in experiencing breastfeeding challenges. Thank you for your encouragement to persevere or simply to do whatever we needed to do to stay sane and keep the baby fed. I’m grateful for all you cheerleaders out there who’ve been rooting for us! 🙂

Now the only thing I worry about is the day Josie wants to wean. I get sad even thinking about it but I will keep enjoying our nursing sessions for as long as we possibly can. Maybe we’ll make it a year, or two, or even four…I can’t say for sure but I hope to keep sharing this special bond with my girl as long as she wants.

Now, to end this post, lets see some pics of my little chunk, weighing in at close to 15 pounds these days…almost double her birth weight!

BeFunky Collage

Adoption, Parenting

Nursing Josie: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

December 22, 2014

After my last post on How and Why I Induced Lactation, I got a lot of questions as to how it’s going. So, for those who asked (and anyone else who’s interested) here’s the rest of the story.

Before I get into the details, I have to commend ALL breastfeeding moms out there. Breastfeeding is NOT for the faint of heart. It’s hands down been the most difficult and emotional thing I have ever done.

We’ve had some major challenges and victories along the way. It’s been a journey of highs and lows and I want to be very real about that with our readers, especially those considering lactation induction. There have been days I have doubted why I ever induced lactation and if I made the wrong decision because of how hard this is. There are other days when I am confident this was a good decision and we reach a new milestone or have a breakthrough.

And round and round the merry-go-round we’ve gone.

Here’s we go:

Josephine was born November 10th, 2014. Her birth mother (Tiffany) and I planned to tandem nurse her in the hospital for two reasons –

1. I could continue maintaining supply and get nursing practice

2. Josie could fill up on colostrum with Tiffany, getting all those awesome health benefits

Before Josephine was born, my max production in any given day was between 7-8 ounces of pumped milk. I knew this would be enough for her the first couple days of life when her tummy was oh so tiny but I was nervous about what my supply would do after she was born.

I had many women telling me things like:

“That baby will bring your milk in with a vengeance.”

“The baby will be far more efficient than the pump.”

“Your supply will just grow with what the baby needs.”

Granted none of those women had induced lactation. They’d given birth and had 9 months to prepare their breast tissue for this “surge of milk supply” that they thought was coming my way upon the baby’s arrival.

God bless their naive little hearts.

While supply worries were on the back burner in the hospital, my anxiety quickly shifted to the nipple blisters I was getting from Josie. A nurse came and gave me some instructions on how to “sandwich” my breast to help Josie get a deeper latch. Once I figured out how to hold her with one hand and sandwich my boob with the other, the pinching sensation and blistering went away. Whew!

We left the hospital and things were going pretty well until day 5 hit.

That night Josie woke up to nurse every hour…and it would take her 30 minutes to eat. That meant that by the time we laid her back down and fell back asleep ourselves, she would be up crying and wanting to nurse again 15 minutes later. It was the longest night of our lives.

The next morning I was going crazy with sleep deprivation. I just wanted her to stop crying and my gut said that she was hungry despite all this nursing. I busted my pump out and hooked it up…to find nothing on tap at the milk bar. I was empty and this wasn’t news to Josie. She was angry and frustrated. Even placing her in the nursing position caused her to arch her back, fighting to get away from my breasts.

In our frustration, we bottled up some pumped breast milk from previous days and gave her a couple ounces. She sucked it down like a starving child and slept peacefully for 3 hours.

Enter Satan and his lies creeping in:

“She hates nursing since you aren’t her “real” mom.”

“Why did you even induce lactation? You won’t be able to do this.”

“You can’t have babies and you can’t even nurse babies. Your body is broken and unable to function.”

Every negative emotion you can think of was swarming my mind. Guilt. Envy. Fear. Anxiety.

I was a hot mess and Jonathan was at the receiving end of my wrath. I was like a caged animal who was unpredictable and looked ready to snap at any given moment in time. Of course all this anxiety was leading me into depression and my supply started to tank. Since Josie was on a nursing strike and refusing to latch, I had to start bottle feeding her formula since I couldn’t pump enough for her needs.

I turned to my Adoptive Breastfeeding Facebook group for support and decided to try using the LactAid supplemental nursing system to begin supplementing instead of using the bottle. Sometimes she would accept it at the breast and sometimes we would have to tape the tube to our pinky finger to feed her that way. I also learned that it’s incredibly RARE to get a full supply if you didn’t give birth before and if I am to get a full supply, it will take time. Like months. Not the days I was promised by other nursing moms.

Around this time is when I started cussing again. I haven’t really cussed consistently in about a decade…until I started hitting nursing issues. Every swear word has made it’s way back into my vocabulary. I am not happy to admit it but when you combine zero sleep, a screaming baby, and my cave woman’s desire to feed my baby and inability to do so…sometimes cussing ensues.

Even with the LactAid, Josie was not having it at the breast. She panicked when we even put her on the Boppy pillow to feed.

I called a Lactation Consultant and set up an appointment immediately. She came to the house we were staying at in Sacramento and in the 90 minute visit, she had Josie latch twice using the laid back nursing position. It was her way to “trick” her back on the boob. We also had the LactAid set up so Josie was actually getting a flow of milk when she sucked.

We slowly began to build confidence again.

Until day 13 hit. Nursing strike number two.

All of a sudden Josie refused to latch again. The same old back aching and screaming meant something wasn’t right but I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was panicking again and wrote to some moms in FOCUS to help. Someone referred me to a local Lactation Consultant here in Denver and she came over the next day.

We discovered that Miss Josie was severely congested. Once we got her unplugged, she was latched and going strong at nursing yet again with the help of the LactAid. We also discovered that she has a stage 3 upper lip tie, which compromises her latch. This has been leaving me with vasospasms and slower supply build. This has left Josie with poor ability to latch, a weak suck, and increased gas.

Two weeks ago, I wanted to know how much milk Josie was getting from me and how much we actually needed to supplement her. We rented a scale and have been weighing her before, when we switch breasts, and after. It’s been tedious but pretty neat to see the actual results. The first week I was making about 10 ounces a day. Just yesterday I was up to 11.667 ounces for the day. So my supply is building but I do still have to supplement her with 1-1.5 ounces of donor breast milk every time we feed.

I have high hopes that we will keep building my supply and someday I can fully ditch the LactAid device with it’s stupid little tube and tape. We have an appointment in a few weeks for her upper lip tie to be evaluated and possibly lasered at a pediatric dentist office in town known for doing this procedure. I think that will be freeing for all of us – she will be able to nurse better, my nipples will be less sore, and she will drain my breasts more efficiently which will build my supply.

It’s been a tedious labor of love to persevere with breastfeeding. I have almost thrown in the towel on n.u.m.e.r.o.u.s. occasions. Friends and family have been so encouraging and supportive, especially Jonathan. I love that man more now than ever!

We still have quite the journey ahead of us, with the lip tie procedure and hopeful building of my supply. I will keep documenting our journey here to serve as a beacon of hope for those going through similar nursing issues.

Please pray to Our Lady of La Leche for my milk supply to increase if you remember today! 🙂

Adoption, Parenting

How and Why I Induced Lactation

December 17, 2014

I’ve lost all our male readers already.

It’s just me and you, ladies….so let’s talk lactation.

First things first. Did you know that women who have NOT given birth can still breastfeed their babies?

Amazing, right?

Well once you understand the physiology of breastfeeding and that it’s triggered by prolactin levels (controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain) it makes sense that a non-pregnant woman can lactate granted she elevates her prolactin.

You may be thinking…but don’t high prolactin levels decrease fertility?

Why yes, indeed it does….so why would this old infertile gal decrease her fertility even further?

That’s something we had to think through. I don’t really have great fertility to start with but to shut my cycle off completely? That was a scary thought at first as I couldn’t imagine not actively trying to get pregnant.

But then I realized I needed a break from my fertility treatment rigmarole.

BIGTIME!

This summer was brutal on my body, mind, and soul. I was finally ovulating but not conceiving. It was rough to see my body ovulate month after month on ultrasound only to yet again not get pregnant. This is due to the fact that my ovaries and insides are likely caked in scar tissue and adhesions. So even though I can “ovulate” it’s not really a good chance I would conceive anyhow.

Knowing this and that it will require physical therapy and/or surgery to remove the adhesions, Jonathan and I decided it was just time for a break. We’ve had spent well over 2.5 years doing crazy intense protocols month after month trying to conceive and it was all panning out fruitless. Suddenly shutting my cycle off so I couldn’t think about conceiving was a welcome idea.

A sanity vacation if you will.

That’s when the research began.

I’ve always known that breast milk is best for babies but I wasn’t afraid of formula per say. I mostly pursued adoptive breastfeeding for the bonding and emotional benefits. I wanted all that skin to skin contact. I wanted to build a nursing relationship with our daughter that no one else would be able to provide her. But the fact that she would be healthier and filled with antibodies via breast milk was a huge additional bonus.

So I got on Facebook and joined an adoptive breastfeeding group. They’ve been and continue to be a HUGE place of support and content for me. It’s where I received guidance and wisdom on how to begin lactation induction. Which brings me to the point of this entire post! 🙂

Below is how I induced lactation:

The above methods were an accelerated and modified version of the Newman-Goldfarb Method for induction. Some women do more, some women do less but the above protocol had me making 8 ounces of milk per day by the end of 7 weeks of pumping and taking the medications/herbs.

All women are different but I was told by my adoptive breastfeeding group that the amount I made was ahead of the usual…which was really exciting to hear!

Many women making that amount of milk at least took some form of birth control pill to prepare their breast tissue for lactation. I didn’t do any of that. I had two months to prepare but I wanted a shot at exclusively breastfeeding Josephine.  By the time she was born, I knew I had quite a ways to go since she would soon need at least double what I was making.

But that is another post 🙂

Stay tuned for next time when I talk about how nursing Josie has been going.

Milk bottles photo in title image by cinderellasg. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)