Tag Archives: Thriving

Sammy two months after we started supplementing.

My Breastfeeding Journey Part I: Lactation Failure

The other day I thought it might be fun to do posts on breastfeeding as part of breastfeeding awareness week, so I turned to Google to find out just when it was.  In a serendipitous turn of events, I discovered it is this week.  This post is the first of two posts on my experiences with breastfeeding my two children.  Part two will run sometime later in the month.  To my small number of male readers, you are welcome to read it, but if you prefer please feel free to skip (except for my husband, he doesn’t get off the hook so easily, ha ha).

Before the birth of my son Samuel, I anticipated a smooth breastfeeding experience.   I had read several books on the topic, and even practiced various feeding positions with stuffed animals.  There was no doubt in my mind that everything would work out fine.  After all as I had read, every woman can breastfeed if they just try hard enough . . .or so I thought.

Then my son was born, and all my preconceived notions began to crumble.  The birth process was surprisingly easy, and I fully expected breastfeeding to follow suit.  After all, this is what my body was designed to do.

My son lost 12 oz. of his birth weight in less than a week.  I tried to remain calm, telling myself that he would regain it all and then some.  Even after my milk came in, however, his wight gain was very slow, and even non-existent for several days at a time.

In frustration, I turned to my local La Leche League to find answers.  At the first meeting (and every subsequent one) I was told the problem was two fold; first, I must not have a good latch (though the leader admitted that everything looked good on the outside) and, second, I just wasn’t nursing enough.  Finally, I was told not to supplement any feedings with formula, lest my supply be further jeopardized and to pump whenever my son napped.

Over the next few weeks, I watched videos about latching on, nursed as much as possible (we were actively nursing for 16 hours a day), and pumped about twice a day.  Still my son did not gain weight.

All the while the doctors were running tests to see if my son had a genetic disorder to explain his poor weight gain.  Sammy was producing the proper number of soiled diapers, so we assumed he was getting enough milk.  I felt physically ill with worry, both that my son might have a serious underlying health problem, or that his inability to gain weight was my fault, and that failure to nurse exclusively would result in a serious health problem for him later in life.

Finally I got a referral to a different lactation consultant whose practice was an hour and a half away from my house.  Desperate for answers, I made the drive down.

Sammy at his lowest weight.  It pains me to see this picture.

Sammy at his lowest weight. It pains me to see this picture.

There I found out the news I was both dreading and hoping to hear: I had lactation failure.  It isn’t common, and is a very poorly publicized condition for fear that many women will prematurely presume they have it and stop attempting to breastfeed.  The La Leche League leader I  previously saw did not mention the possibility once, and even my doctor was not familiar with it, I was the first case he had ever seen.

The lactation consultant told me very gently that although breastfeeding is ideal, the most important thing was to make sure that my son got the nourishment he so desperately needed.  We talked about several strategies for trying to maintain my supply, and she gave me a supplemental nursing system so that I could feed my son formula while continuing to breastfeed.

Now that I knew I had done everything in my power to breastfeed exclusively, I was at peace with supplementing.  The results were dramatic.  My son began gaining weight at a rapid pace (up to a pound a week for the first few weeks).  His cheeks began to fill out and he became such a happy baby.  From what I can tell, I was able to continue to provide him with 1/3-1/2 of the milk that he needed, and we supplemented the rest.  Now, nearly three years later he is an energetic, intelligent toddler.

Sammy two months after we started supplementing.

Sammy two months after we started supplementing.

My purpose in sharing this information is twofold.  First, I want to raise awareness of the condition so that other emotional, exhausted mothers might find answers sooner than I did and be spared watching their child suffer.  Secondly, I want women who are experiencing this to know that they aren’t alone and to share a few pieces of advice:

1. Get Help.   If you are having any problems with nursing or your infant displays poor weight gain, get help right away!  See a certified lactation consultant, they can be so amazingly helpful in managing breastfeeding problems.  If I had seen one sooner, my son would have been better off.

2.  If necessary, don’t be afraid to supplement.  Breast may be best, but what your child really needs is nourishment.  I was so hung up on making sure my son got the best possible source of nutrition that I was unwilling to experiment with adding in supplemental feedings.  It wasn’t until the lactation consultant told me that it was necessary to supplement that I gave myself permission to do so without fear.

3.  Forgive yourself!  After we started supplementing, I couldn’t stop playing thoughts in my head about how I had failed my son, how I wasn’t able to provide him with this one thing that I so desperately wanted to.  It took me months to forgive myself.

As parents, we want to give our children the best, and when we are unable to do so it is devastating.  But do you know what the most precious gift you can give your child is?  Your love and affection.  Focus on all the beautiful moments you are able to share with your baby. Forgive yourself for not living up to your idea about what you “should” be able to do as a mother.  You are just the right mom for the job of parenting your child.  You are not defined by your failures, but by the fierce and devoted love you give.  That love will have a greater impact on your child’s life than breast milk ever could.

Our silly Sammy, goofing off for the camera.

Our silly Sammy, goofing off for the camera.

 

Have you ever breastfed?  Ever struggled with undersupply, or oversupply? Please share your experiences (both positive and negative) in the com box.  Sometimes it can be so reassuring for other women to see that others share their difficulties.  

A few disclaimers: I am not a doctor, and this is not intended to be medical advice.  If you think you might have lactation failure, see a professional immediately!  

Also, I do not mean to disparage La Leche League, I have a few friends who are leaders who helped me troubleshoot more minor problems I had later on.  For smaller breastfeeding issues or general support it is a great organization.  

If you are going through a similar situation, please feel free to get in touch with me through the contact form, I understand that it is a hard burden to bear and would be happy to offer emotional support.  

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Thriving Amidst Adversity

blacksmith_2540894In January, frustrated with the chaos I was encountering, I decided to seek to thrive in all that I did.  I set goals for various aspects of my life: relationships, health, prayer, etc. (I hope to share them with you sometime soon, to help keep me accountable to them.)  

While I have been progressing in my goals, and life is becoming more ordered and running smoother, this progress didn’t bring me as much satisfaction as I had hoped.  In my mind, thriving was still eluding me.

As I pictured it, thriving meant managing all of the duties and responsibilities of my life with perfect competence.  I figured that, if I tried hard enough, I really could have it all together. You know, a perfectly clean house, with delicious all-organic paleo meals on the table promptly at 6pm, children whose days are spent engaging in a variety of stimulating learning activities (definitely not with any television), picture perfect health, and extensive periods in the day for prayer and recollection.

While all of these things are good and desirable, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I had missed the point.  In my naivete, I had thought that sanctity- which is what true thriving is all about- necessitated having it all together.

With relief I recalled the lives of saints who share my vocation as mother.  If I held them to the same standards that I had proposed for myself, then Sts. Monica, Gianna and Frances hadn’t really thrived.  St. Monica had difficulties in her relationship with her son and husband; St. Gianna suffered from cancer; and St. Frances was constantly interrupted at prayer by her children.

When it comes to thriving, only one thing is needful: to draw closer to our Lord through the circumstances of our daily life.  I may not be able to control the chaos and trials in my life, but I can control whether these trials bring me closer to God, or lead me further away.

Thriving doesn’t just happen when everything is going right; it happens when you are being tested in the furnace of adversity and are molded into what you are supposed to be.

Is it even possible to thrive without trials?

The challenges and chaos aren’t distractions from my goal for a life well lived; they are a means of pushing me closer to it.  It is up to me to use them wisely.  Maybe then I will experience what it looks like to thrive.

How about you?  Have you ever experienced a trial that helped you become a better person?  I would love to hear about it in the comments!

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Striving to Become on Fire

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”                        (from the poem Summer Day by Mary Oliver)

It’s a question asked countless times; a question that relentlessly demands an answer with an ever present whisper. A question I haven’t answered to my satisfaction . . . yet.

Sure, I’ve got a few of the big pieces figured out, I am a wife, mother and lover of God, but the details on how I am to engage in the everyday mundane events that give life and meaning to these relationships . . . those details are a bit fuzzy.  It’s becoming clear that the infused wisdom that I always presumed adults received hasn’t come yet.  Maybe it will arrive next year?  In the meantime, I guess I have to keep working to figure out the particulars of my vocation.

Thus far I have lived a life that borders on mediocre.  I haven’t managed to screw things up too badly, but neither have I excelled strongly.  I may not particularly struggle with vice, but I surely am not a paragon of virtue.

Now that I am a mother, I feel the time slipping by at an ever hurrying pace.  I put my baby down for a nap, and, when I go to pick her up a few short hours later, her growth is almost perceptible.  Tempus fugit.  My time with them is so short and serves as a reminder of the brevity of my life as a whole.  It rather reminds me of taking an exam and realizing that the testing period is slipping by and there is so much left to be done.

In the words of my good friend, (and patron saint) Catherine of Sienna:

“Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world on fire.”

There lies the trouble; I am not yet who I am meant to be.  The potential is there, though, and the means are within my grasp.  I am not yet on fire, I am only half kindled.  A work in the making.  The match has been struck, but the kindling is not yet aflame.  That is my quest then: to go from this lukewarm state to become a blazing fire. And what stands between me and my goal?  Many acts of the will.  Many acts of love.

In a sense, this is the most dangerous question a person can ask: how am I to light the world on fire? Time will tell how I answer the question.  I hope you will join me on this journey as I work to answer it in my own life.

It’s time to live on fire!

 “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49

Come Holy Spirit, renew the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

I would love it if you could take a moment to stop by and leave a comment.  Things are very “under construction” at the moment,  so please bear with me as I try to build this “virtual home.”  Feel free drop by and introduce yourself.  I promise that I won’t mind if you prop your feet up on the coffee table.

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