I didn't know breastfeeding was going to be so important to me as a mama. Over a decade ago, all I wanted was a smaller chest, so I had a breast reduction. I was in college and breastfeeding babies was way off my radar. I just wanted to look good and feel some relief from my DDD breasts.
Fast forward to baby #1 five years ago. I had just undergone an unexpected (but not emergency) csection. My flat/inverted nipples and lack of experience had me fumbling, but lactation support at my hospital hooked me up to a breast pump and nipple shields. Additionally, baby was lip and tongue tied. We had baby's lip and tongue revised and continued to use the shields for over four months. And that was hard. Even with the less-than-easy beginning, I really adored what breastfeeding meant for us as a mother-baby duo. Nursing brought peace to my baby, it soothed him to sleep, and it nourished his body. Baby #1 nursed for 22 (mostly blissful) months.
When baby #2 was due to arrive, I proclaimed that I would nurse him forever, or at least until he was ready to self-wean; I was pretty sure we'd nurse longer than 22 months. I was so excited to share the bonding relationship similar to what I had already experienced once before. Baby #2 arrived via vbac, so already off to a better start. Nipple shields were a necessity again, at first, but I knew we could wean off--I did before. Baby #2 was tongue tied--no big deal, we had him revised, and we'd dealt with that before too. Surely the beginning was going to be hard, but we'd find our groove.
WRONG. At around four months PP I was diagnosed with mastitis. I had a lump in my breast that wouldn't dislodge. After ultrasounds and attempts to aspirate, I was given the grim news that I had an abscess that would need surgically removed. The surgery was performed directly under my nipple and immediate cut off access to baby and/or a pump. I had a half dollar sized hole that needed unpacked, cleaned, and repacked twice a day. I continued to nurse on the unaffected breast, and supplemented with bottles of donor milk. Baby #2 almost immediately showed preference to bottles and by 6 months PP I was exclusively pumping and supplementing with donor milk. My supply was hugely traumatized and I never produced enough on my own. Even pumping 8x a day for 30+ minutes each time... I was lucky to get an ounce. When baby #2 turned one, I was only making an ounce or two a day. I was exhausted. Baby #2 received a combination of my milk and multiple donors' milk until he was 14 months old. As grateful as I was (am) for donor milk getting us as far as it did, I was also devastated.
And now I have a five week old. Baby #3. My "no expectations" baby. Going into this birth I was prepared to be disappointed with the reality that breastfeeding might not be in the cards for us. I started thinking about formula--I'd never fed my babies formula... I was totally ignorant to what to buy and how to prepare it! But around 30 weeks pregnant I discovered that I was producing colostrum in both breasts. At 35 weeks pregnant I began collecting the colostrum in syringes, just in case I needed it.
Baby #3 was supposed to be another vbac, but you know how it is... he was an emergency csection. And guess what... he latched without shields! And guess what else? He didn't have blood sugar or jaundice. His weight was fine. #fistpump. Since coming home we have run into a few snags... he had a tongue tie that was revised; his latch is still pretty shallow and we're having his lip revised soon too. I have a plugged duct that (fingers crossed!) doesn't become another abscess. My nipples are cracked. I have a lot of pain on the side that has scar tissue from the previous abscess surgery. BUT! BUT! We're still trucking through. I'm hopeful that we'll get through our current trial and go on to nurse forever, or at least until he goes to Kindergarten. 😉
UPDATE since original submission and to find Julie on Social Media-see below:
I do in fact have another abscess. We are scheduling surgery (or something?) soon. Ugh!!
My FB is Julie Perilman Conley--I'd be happy to communicate via FB (I always had a hard time finding other mamas who'd had abscesses who could walk me through what to expect).