You know how when you hear a drug commercial on TV or the radio after they have pitched their product, they give that long and fast list of side effects that sound so scary? Today I am sharing a side effect that has effected Coen and I. I hope this reaches someone who has struggled with this, or will helps someone in the future.
Coen is my third child and when I got pregnant I was ECSTATIC. It felt like the biggest blessing and gift. And I felt like I was walking on the moon! During the course of my pregnancy a lot of my thoughts were along the lines of “It’s going to be so different this time.” This time, I was a stay at home mom…and would continue to be after he was born. This time, I didn’t have to go back to work. This time, I had two older kids instead of one. This time, I would be able to breast feed as long as I wanted and wouldn’t have to worry about pumping or bottles as much. I was actually REALLY excited about breast feeding. It felt like I was finally getting my real chance at it.
Fast forward to delivery…Coen nursed amazing right from the get go. My nurse was actually really surprised by how long he nursed during his first feeding and how well he latched. So far so good. The day we were to be discharged was crazy (discharge day always is right?!) We had a nurse for Coen who was helping out from another floor and randomly when she came into check him she said that she would need to give him his Vitamin D. I didn’t think much of it and didn’t really have any idea what she was talking about. I guessed it was something new, but would be pretty painless since I hadn’t heard anything about it until that moment. A while later she comes into the room with a syringe of red liquid and says, “OK here we go, he will need to sit up for at least 30 minutes after he takes this so he doesn’t throw up and he isn’t going to like the taste of this.”
She gives him the vitamin D (orally) and he immediately starts screaming. I held him, rocked him, walked him and he screamed for almost an hour. He wouldn’t nurse. And he gagged and spit up multiple times. But after about an hour he seemed to be calmed down and I thought, well thank goodness that is over. Our first three days at home were new, raw, and interesting but all around wonderful. Coen was already on a bit of a schedule. He was sleeping great, and wasn’t really a fussy baby at all. When we took him in for the first weight check, his weight was great, and he was already above his birth weight. At our appointment, our nurse asked if we had been giving him his Vitamin D. What?! No one said anything about him continuing to take Vitamin D once we got home. She acted shocked and said that yes, she would give us some samples but that we needed to go buy some. She explained that because since I was breast feeding he HAD to have the vitamin D daily. OK…so we get the Vitamin D and the next day we give it to him. He screams, is fussy the rest of the day and spit up all day. Coen didn’t really spit up a lot (still doesn’t unless something is wrong) and so we were alarmed to say the least. He cried because he was hungry because he was spitting up so much and was impatient at his feedings waiting for my milk to let down, which was slower because I wasn’t relaxed and also because I had just nursed him. So, the next day we decided that I would try pumping a little and we would just mix the Vitamin D in with the milk and pray that it would go over better. He took it, but still spit up all afternoon. The next day he wouldn’t take it at all in a bottle. We tried for 3 more days and then I told Derick, forget it. I’m not doing this, I will just take more Vitamin D myself and he will just have to be ok. By the next week, we started having some supply/nursing issues. And by the week after that…breastfeeding hell broke loose.
Nursing Strike…words I had never heard before I had Coen and words I hope no breast feeding mama ever has to hear! At the time I didn’t actually know that what was happening was called a nursing strike. That came later from the help of a good friend. You can read more about what it is here. Randomly one day for no reason that we could figure out, Coen stopped nursing on the left side during the day, by the end of the next day he wasn’t nursing at all during the day. That’s right, he has kept nursing the whole time at night, but won’t nurse during the day. Over the next few weeks we tried everything we could think of. We took him to the doctor to have his ears checked, nothing besides a red throat. After the first few weeks he was on strike, we figured out that if I nursed him while he was still sort of asleep in the morning and didn’t give him a bottle, he would sometimes nurse through the day. But that only lasted a few weeks. We tried taking the bottle away and seeing if he would get hungry enough to nurse. Nope. We tried nursing in a dark room. Nope. We tried a whole list of things, and I’m glad I did but nothing worked. So by the end of June I was at my wits end. To add to the frustration, he also started refusing formula. We supplemented a little bit when the nursing strike started, but then only used it for emergencies. Then around the three month mark he wouldn’t take more than ONE SIP if a bottle had formula in it…even mixed with breast milk. Have I mentioned that throwing away breast milk has to be where the “crying over spilt milk” quote came from?!
I reached out to a friend for advice and help and she encouraged me to keep going and work through it. Without her encouragement I probably would have given up! I never knew how hard it was to have to pump and then have to turn right back around and feed a baby. To have them right there next to you while you are pumping and not be able to feed them is so emotionally draining. Then, in the second week of July we had a glimmer of hope! I had to go out of town for a weekend and so Daddy was manning the ship. When I got back…Coen nursed…for a whole week! I praised God and was so happy and relieved and I couldn’t believe it. I was so thankful that I had stuck it out, and not given up. I truly believed the strike was over. Then randomly after 7-10 days he stopped nursing during the day again.
Coen is now 7 months old and for the majority of his life I have pumped all of his milk. I have been home with him almost every day, and I have pumped most of his milk. That sentence doesn’t even make sense…it’s so insane. Don’t get me wrong…I am grateful. I know many mothers who would give a limb to be able to breast feed their babies even if it required them to pump it the whole time. But I can’t deny the emotional factor of going through all of this. When I first started writing this, to share my journey I was still in the pump and grind, now at the beginning of 2017 I can finally say that the side effects have started to wane. Coen will nurse MOST of the time. He will also take a bottle MOST of the time. But there are still days, when he just DECIDES that he isn’t into it, and is just not having it…and he brings back all of the emotions all over again. What I have come to terms with is that I did the best I could. And now I am at the point where I can share some humor in the situation which I will get to in a minute. But first, I want to say something that is the most important thing–FED IS BEST. If I went through something this horrendous I can’t even imagine what other moms have been through. You know what is best for your baby and them being fed is the top priority! Also, if you are a mom who gets super chapped and cracked around your breasts like I did, please get some Ambersea Apothecary nursing salve! It’s the best!
While I was in the thick of things, I had a conversation with my mom and I asked her if she thought it was possible that Coen just KNEW what he wanted and if she thought he was extremely stubborn headed and picky? Her response: that is a definite possibility! Hahah…of course my third baby would be even more strong willed than my second. So let me tell you what is SOMUCHFUN about a nursing strike!
1/ Pumping in the car or a public place: over the years nursing in public has been more socially accepted. But you know what is absolutely not socially acceptable? Pumping in public. For example, I am pretty sure that if I whipped out my pumping bustier in Panera some people would have some things to say. Not that I would blame them…it would get awkward real quick! A few weeks ago I was driving through Springfield and as I was stopped at a stop light and had to adjust my “cones” I felt the guy stopped next to me looking at me, but then didn’t really know if he was looking at me. So I said to Sean in the back seat, “Derick thinks maybe the windows aren’t as tinted as what I think they are.” Sean replied, “Why do you say that?” I laughed and said, “Because, I think maybe that guy just saw my boobs.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, Derick is probably right.” My opinion is, my car…my business. I have to feed this kid!
2/ Pumping while screaming: Coen has a SET OF LUNGS you all. Hopefully he has a future in being a professional singer because he has worked his pipes so much these past seven months…his cries sound like a cross between a scary ax murderer coming after him and a dying goat. And believe me, I have done all of the things. I turn on music, I get toys, I do stretches and kicks with him, I sing to him, I hold him…have you ever tried to hold a baby tank while it’s screaming, and you are pumping? It’s nearly impossible. The suction gets weird, there is lots of bumping and huge potential for spillage.
3/ Baby magically has a giraffe neck when you try to offer him the breast. This one is probably the least funny and most emotional for me. Most babies* get excited when they get near breasts, especially ones with milk in them or dripping out of them. When you have a baby on nursing strike, you offer the breast, they pull their head as far away from your breast as possible! It might as well be covered in rotten avocado for all baby knows. I have never seen a baby stretch his neck so far to try to get away from something that is actually feeding him. Irony is it not?!
*I actually have no idea how many babies a year go on nursing strike. It could be only a few. But I say if there starts to be more than a dozen we should probably start a union for them called Abominate Boobies Union. (This is a joke in case you couldn’t tell.)
I hope that these words help someone who is going through something similar right now, and I hope for the most part that mamas–you will remember this, and if some day a friend is going through this, you can share the same advice my dear friend shared with me: don’t give up. When you are in the deepest waters, it is so easy to give up, but sometimes you just can’t see the shore and how close you are getting to the finish line. Also, keep in mind that there are always side effects. I was naive enough to think that because breast feeding was easy (easy is relative to only having a few tiny latching issues and such the first few days I am playing fast and loose with “easy” also meaning we have breasts, they produce milk, and we can feed our babies) with my first two that of course it would be with my third. I also didn’t take seriously how sensitive they can be to: the bottle, pacifiers, smells, sounds etc. Proceed with caution mamas. These babies are trickier at times than they seem. Just keep going, and do the best you can. That’s all you can do!
I am not a doctor. And I am not giving medical advise here. I am just sharing my opinion about what I feel triggered and caused Coen to go on nursing strike. I feel 100% without any doubt that had we not given him the vitamin D at home we would not have had breastfeeding issues as severe as we did.