Breastfeeding is so challenging but so rewarding. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I have faced my share of difficulties with it. This week I invited my friend, Kirsta Kilpsinger from MamaofTheDrama.com, to write a guest post about the challenges she has dealt with while breastfeeding. I first read about her breastfeeding struggles on this post about using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). I was shocked that I’ve never heard of it before, and amazed by her drive and determination to continue breastfeeding despite how rocky their journey has been. Read about Kirsta’s inspiring story below:
When I had my first daughter I was unable to breastfeed her. I was crushed, my idea of being a “good” mommy went down the drain. She lost too much weight and became dangerously jaundiced. Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t notice how yellow she became.
The lactation consultant tried to set me up with something called a supplemental nursing system (SNS). It is basically a way to supplement with formula or your own pumped breast milk at the breast. It alleviates nipple confusion and you can essentially breastfeed when possible. Whereas, if you bottle feed it might affect your supply. I tried but failed in my first attempt to use the device and my breastfeeding journey ended. My second daughter had almost the same thing happen except she didn’t get jaundice. The same lactation consultant asked me the same question years later. “Do you want to try the supplemental feeder?” “Yes!” I said. I am determined to breastfeed my second. I have a 300 dollar pump sitting at home. I made up my mind that I was going to breastfeed, no matter what. I wasn’t going to give up. She put on the device and showed me how to set it up and how to measure where to tape the tubing, etc. My baby got full it seemed, almost instantly. She stuck her belly out like she just ate Thanksgiving dinner. She was out like a light from her milk stupor. We still use the device today, and probably will until the end of our breastfeeding journey. I say we have the best and worst of both worlds.
As we went along using the feeder I started to get concerned. My daughter didn’t latch correctly still and I thought maybe it had to do with the feeder. She made an arching kind of back bend when I would try to feed her. She would come right off and cry. It seemed like she was hungry but also full, like that wasn’t what she wanted. I grappled for a while what was going on. So when I went to her 2-month appointment I asked the pediatrician about what the issue might be. At that same appointment, I also found out she had not gained weight appropriately. The pediatrician explained that her behavior during feedings was a sign of reflux. She checked the back of her throat and said it was inflamed and probably sore. She prescribed a medication to give her twice a day to help lower the acidity of her stomach acid. Although there’s nothing you can do to totally get rid of reflux in babies, this would at least alleviate her pain and discomfort. It is something they just have to grow out of.
A day or two later I noticed that instead of improving, her reflux seemed to be getting worse. She was waking up in the middle of the night gagging, choking and coughing. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I called the doctor and asked them to increase the medicine or something. So they made an emergency appointment. While attempting to feed her at the appointment, we had our daily struggle of her wanting to eat but being in pain. The doctor was amazing because he listened to my concerns and took them seriously. He suggested that I change my diet to dairy and soy free, and for her to switch to a hypoallergenic formula as well. They also call this MSPI (I found out when I looked it up later). He also increased her medicine, referred her to a gastroenterology specialist, told us to put rice cereal in her bottle, sit her up for an hour after she eats, and set up a gastric emptying study. Everything came back negative thankfully and she definitely improved after all of the changes we made. This presented yet another challenge to my breastfeeding journey. No cheese?! No Chinese food?! The doctor didn’t seem confident that I would continue. Stating that most mothers in these circumstances just go to formula. Once again I was bound and determined to fight for my bond with my baby at the breast. I went home and fervently Googled about the diet. I found wonderful support groups, recipes, and saw that other mothers have done it and succeeded.
I went out and bought all new groceries, and made my husband eat the tempting leftover Chinese in the fridge. We boxed up a lot of the other food in our pantry that would stay because our meals are now all MSPI friendly. My daughter and husband still put cheese on their spaghetti but that is the extent of it. I have actually come to love my new found diet, and I lost weight too. I have an affinity for almond milk and quinoa. Things I didn’t even know how to pronounce before. I will have to go through this for probably another 6 months, at least until I can try to reintroduce foods. These challenges are difficult. I would be lying if I said, at times, I haven’t sat and cried wondering why this has to happen to my baby. Why does this have to be such a difficult thing when mothers have been doing it for millennia. I don’t have the answer to these questions. All I know is that the bond I have with my baby far outweighs the challenges. Her health is so much better than my first daughter, who was constantly plagued by colds from daycare. Which we haven’t had yet (knock on wood). She also had problems with constipation because of being formula fed. Another thing we haven’t had to deal with.
My goal for writing this is to not to pat myself on the back. I don’t want to toot my horn and say “I am doing it against all odds!” My reasons for writing this are to give you the hope. The glimmer of possibility that I got from reading other people’s story. I want to cheer you on your journey, and support you in all the wonderful, beautiful challenges of being a parent. You can do this mama!