Friday, April 11, 2014

1st time mom review series guest // overcoming breastfeeding challenges

Please welcome the 1st Time Mom Review Series first guest blogger, Tara Regehr. Tara is a first-time mom of beautiful 8 week old Isla. Tara and Isla live in Port Coquitlam with husband/daddy Aaron and 2 cats. This is Tara's story about her 1st time mom breastfeeding challenges. To connect with Tara, please check out her blog here. Thanks for sharing Tara!

I am a firm believer that every woman will walk their path in life the way they choose is right for them. We all make choices in life that we need to stand behind. As a woman who is a planner, who makes lists, sets goals, and is a bit of a control freak, entering into motherhood was something I knew would throw my world into chaos and I was ready for it. I saw my friends with the dirty dishes in their sinks and stacks of laundry. I saw their frazzled looks, spit up on their shoulders, bags beneath their eyes. I was ready for the midnight wake ups, the dirty home, the chance that I'd be late to events or wouldn't even make it at all. I was prepared. What I wasn't prepared for was the issue of breastfeeding.

A week before my due date, I found out that my baby was breech. After unsuccessfully trying a version to flip the baby, my plan of a completely natural birth went out the window in favor of a planned c-section. I went through a mourning period for what I wouldn't get to experience and I had to accept that something I planned (yes it seems strange to plan for the uncertainty of labour) was now being taken away from me. But when my baby girl (we didn't know what we were having in advance) was born on February 9th, right on her actual due date but 24 hours after we arrived at the hospital for the surgery, I was quite ecstatic that she latched on almost immediately. When I was 19 I had a breast reduction from a size E to a more comfortable C. I knew I may not be able to breastfeed, but the doctors reassured me that because I was so young, I had a great chance. The first day in the hospital, my newborn fed well and often. She was pretty content. The second night in the hospital however, we realized that she wasn't getting full so we supplemented with a little eyedropper of formula. She lost 10% of body weight, but they released us knowing that we had things under control. The lactation nurse assured me that my milk would probably come in sooner than later. When we got home from the hospital, things went downhill quickly. Not only was she not getting enough milk from me but she stopped latching from the left breast and didn't always want to feed on my right breast. I had no choice but to start her on a bottle of formula, something I never wanted to have to do. My best girlfriend rushed out on our first morning home with a breast pump to talk me down from the edge.

I spoke to the public health nurse on the phone as well as the nurses hotline (811) to get advice and as much as I listened to their great advice and calming words, I felt helpless. I felt like I was a failure to my child. I felt shame. Yes, it was the hormones talking, but i have never felt so useless and alone in my life even with a loving husband helping me through it. I was given these breasts for a reason... to nourish my child and I was failing at it. She needed me and i couldn't provide. She was crying for me and I was letting her down. After a trip to the health unit, 2 trips to the doctor, and a visit with a breastfeeding consultant, all within Isla's first 2 weeks, I was advised that I was probably producing enough milk but because of missing nerves from my ducts to the nipple as a result of my surgery 15 years prior, I just couldn't get enough out. The breastfeeding doctor helped me with new ways to encourage my baby to latch through the use of a nipple shield. She advised me that my baby wasn't latching for a variety of reasons including not getting the satisfaction of milk, my own nerves and hesitation were being transferred to her, and my wrecked nipples probably didn't encourage a good latch. I tried harder to relax, used the shield, used a ton of lanolin cream, and gave myself a little talking to for judging myself so harshly. The fog started to lift. At 16 days old, she started to latch more and more. By 6 weeks, I dropped the shield entirely and Isla started feeding straight from my breast.

My new challenge, besides the overwhelming hormones rushing through my body, the sleepless nights, the sore nipples, learning her cues, the fear of being home alone with her all day while recovering from a surgery I hadn't wanted, would be to figure out the tricky balance of breastfeeding and bottle feeding. I wanted to ensure that she still got nutrients from me while getting the volume of food she needed from the formula. I will admit that the first month was a complete emotional roller coaster. This wasn't part of the plan! I wasn't supposed to use bottles. She was supposed to a a breastfed baby. I had all the covers they tell you to buy and the creams and the nursing bras and pads. I was ready to exclusively breastfeed her not to formula feed her. My plan was out the window and I had to adjust. Okay, I could do this. I would be on a new journey, one that involved figuring out the best way to prepare and store formula, when to feed her what, when to pump, the best bottles to use, what wouldn't give her gas, etc. but I could do this. I made a new plan. My baby just turned 8 weeks old and I feel like I've finally figured it out. We have a good system. I feed her only a bottle at her 2am and 5am feedings, but all during the day, she gets a boob when she gets a bottle. I will admit that sometimes she gets on my breast just to calm her down in between feedings, and I am flexible when I need to be. It isn't a perfect system, but it works for us.

Beautiful baby Isla - Happy, healthy and well fed.

Perhaps the hardest part of this experience is getting over the feeling of failure I continue to feel. When I feed my very young daughter a bottle in public, some people still glance over and I wonder if they are judging me for not breastfeeding. I will admit that I used to wonder the same thing, "Why isn't that baby on the boob?". There continues to be a secrecy about the issues of breastfeeding. It wasn't until I made a very conscious decision right away to seek support with my problems that I found out how many people in my life had similar problems. My aunt couldn't do it at all, my mom and my mother-in-law all had to stop after a few months, and some of my close friends couldn't produce enough for their babies. I had no idea. No one told me until my own problems arose. Why are we so open about our lack of sleep and feelings of being overwhelmed by the responsibility of a new human being in our lives, but we don't want to talk about the most natural thing on the planet - feeding our babies? I discovered that many of my mom friends went through all sorts of breast feeding journeys that i didn't know about. Now that I was a card-carrying member of the mom-club, I was learning more and more about what they went through in silence, or at least without my knowledge.

The best advice I can offer new moms is to seek support. Talk about your feelings. See a professional who will help you. I felt alone until I reached out. The hormones in your new body will attack you and tell you bad things. I cried every day for three weeks. But try to relax. You will choose what is best for you and the baby. You may choose to give up and only formula feed, and you should never try to rationalize or defend our decision. I found myself telling strangers or acquaintances that I COULDN'T get enough milk for my daughter. I shouldn't have said anything at all because it was no ones business but my own self-shame made me try to explain my situation so I wasn't looked upon in a bad light for giving my infant anything other than breast milk. Don't feel ashamed for whatever you decide - own it. This isn't what I would have chosen, but it is what happened. I've embraced our new path and my daughter Isla is beautiful and healthy and happy and growing. Being her mom is the best thing in the world. I've never been happier. And the trials and tribulations are all just stepping stones in the grand scheme of the long and amazing life we will have together, and I plan to tell her when she is older that I made the decision to be the best mom I could be.  
Are you a 1st Time Mom and trying to figure it out as you go along too? Feel free to leave me a comment with any questions and I will be more than happy to get back to you. Thanks for reading!


  1. Wow Tara, you are an amazing woman to stick with breastfeeding for so long. I applaud you. When you find out your milk production isn't enough and you accept you need to supplement with formula, but you continue to breastfeed your baby, that is toughness. Most women would give up on breastfeeding. I love your story, thank you so much for sharing.

    I am expecting my first in July, although I know when it comes to birth and breastfeeding there really is no planning, I'm doing everything I can now to help ensure I can have a natural birth and breastfeed my baby. I hope it all works out for me, but if it doesn't I will remember your story :-)

    1. Thank you Krystal - I have forwarded your comments on to Tara :)


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