Breastfeeding – The Sequel!

Here I am again, attached to the pump, a machine that I both love and hate.

It has been a very different experience this time around. It helps so much knowing what to expect and being able to prepare. I started expressing colostrum in January and freezing it, ready for SnuggleBub. I didn’t expect to get much milk (due to a breast reduction in my early twenties) and wanted to avoid starving our baby in her first week, as we unintentionally had with Monsieur.

I also knew that I had a short amount of time in which I could breastfeed. I have been in a holding pattern with the migraines, having tried the medications that were safe to use during pregnancy. There are more medications that I can try, however they cannot be recommended as safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so I have been waiting until I was no longer pregnant or breastfeeding before trying them. I wanted to breastfeed for 3-4 weeks, but knew that I would be stopping in order to get onto new medication after that.

Even if the time wasn’t limited by my desire to get onto new medication, it would have been very hard to maintain milk supply once I was doing the kinder run and getting back into full routine. I need to pump regularly to increase and maintain supply, which does not mix well with getting out and doing things, such as kinder runs. So far, I’ve just been at home so it has been easy to maintain a pumping schedule.

After the birth, SnuggleBub wasn’t able to breastfeed effectively, but we were able to express enough colostrum to fill her tummy for the first day. We always knew that she would be fed both breast milk and formula, so when the midwife offered that first night to take her to the night nursery, we asked that they feed her formula rather than bring her back for feeding during the night.

Our daughter’s start in life was very different from our son’s. She didn’t lose more than the recommended 10% of birth weight, she never had urate crystals in her nappies and most notably of all, she slept. She slept well and soundly, her stomach full.

I was also able to express good quantities of colostrum, thanks to all the expressing that I’d been doing in previous weeks. It made me wonder why it’s not recommended to express colostrum from 37 weeks. I am sure that it helped my milk come in, plus I had a store of colostrum to help feed SnuggleBub while we waited for my milk to come in. Surely this would make those first few days easier for a number of mums and bubs.

We started off breastfeeding for the first 10 days or so, but found that it wasn’t working well. She was having trouble latching properly. We sometimes, but not always, had success using a nipple shield – which contrary to what the name implies is not actually used for protecting the nipple; rather it is used to give the baby a decent nipple to latch on to, when a mum’s nipples are a bit flat and awkward for latching. I started to notice that she wouldn’t settle after a “good” breastfeeding session, and it took constant effort to keep reattaching her. However when she had EBM (expressed breast milk) via a bottle, she would settle easily and quickly.

Given that I was not going to be continuing with breastfeeding long-term anyway, I decided, with encouragement from my extremely supportive MCHN (Maternal and Child Health Nurse), to stop trying to breastfeed and instead just feed her EBM and formula via bottles.

The first 24 hours after deciding that, I hit my first big down over the whole breastfeeding-not-working thing, unable to stop crying and feeling like a failure. My supply dropped in that 24 hours and it just felt so cruel withholding the breast when she searched for it.

Fortunately that first down only lasted an evening, and shortly after that my supply increased again and has held reasonably steady at 250-300ml per day. I even had a small win (in my eyes) when she had a pooey nappy that was like the nappy of an exclusively breastfed baby. I felt so chuffed! Again, past experience made me so much more prepared. I asked my MIL to make lactation biscuits and stocked up on nuts and oat bars and porridge with coconut in it – all foods meant to increase milk supply. I’m sure that that has all helped too.

Last week I had my first experience of mastitis, which was awful. Last time I would get blocked ducts that would stay blocked for ages, due, I suspect, to scar tissue within my breasts. However, I never came down with mastitis. I assumed that it would be the same this time. No such luck. Developing mastitis meant that I couldn’t start weaning off the pump as I had planned. And now that I can start weaning, I find that I don’t want to. I want to keep giving SnuggleBub as much breastmilk as I can for this remaining week, but after that I don’t want to pump and dump.

Pumping for me is not as easy as just hooking up to the breast pump and letting it work its milking magic. I need to help the milk come out with fairly vigorous massage and hand expressing at the same time. This is what caused my wrist issues last time, and my wrists are none too happy with me right now. But it is for such a short time, I feel compelled to do the absolute best that I can.

So whilst I am still pumping, and semi encouraging milk supply to stay the same at the very least, I am also now looking into ways to deliberately halt milk supply. I never thought I would want to do that, but here we are. I want to give SnuggleBub as much breastmilk as I can, which means not starting to wean off the pump. I don’t want to pump and dump the breastmilk once I am on new medication, and I don’t want to get mastitis again. Drying up my milk supply seems like the best option.

I am not looking forward to the hormone dip once I stop pumping. It is brutal and harsh and tells my heart that I’ve failed when my head knows that isn’t true. I intend to self medicate with lots of chocolate until my hormones stabilise again! Most of all, I am not looking forward to the tears that just well up. I had so many tears last time, but I didn’t have a five year old around who was aware and concerned. Monsieur has seen enough of my tears with the migraines over the past few months; he doesn’t need to see more. At least this time I know that there is a massive hormone shift which just makes everything so blue, and, most importantly, I know that it will pass.

I wish it was different for me. I so wish that I could breastfeed. Bottles are a lot more hassle, as is pumping. It would be so nice to have my baby’s source of nourishment on hand at all times, no prep needed. This time though, we have a system in place; a system that took us several months to work out last time. When SnuggleBub and I arrived home from hospital, R had already set up the bottle station:

  
I shake my head thinking about last time; the mad rush to go and buy bottles and formula, sterilising everything in a big pot on the stove, always heating up the formula. This time we knew that an electric steriliser is worth the money (plus we had kept ours from last time) and babies are perfectly happy with room temperature formula. Past experience has made this time round a much better experience overall. I look back now and can’t believe that I managed to pump for 16 weeks. Making it to four weeks feels like a huge achievement this time.

Views from my nursing chair – March 31, 2016

  
  
  
  

She’s becoming more alert…when she’s awake! 

   

 
The gorgeous, wrinkly feet! 

  
She eats fiercely- gulping her milk down like there’s no tomorrow.

  
  
The combination of EBM (expressed breast milk) and formula don’t produce the same milk drunk expressions as breastfeeding does, but she’s still pretty content.

  
Peeking out. 

Living with chronic migraines

I am learning more and more about migraines this year, especially the way they present in myself. They are tricky to diagnose as the symptoms can change from migraine to migraine, and most books and websites tout the same 4-6 main symptoms. Over the past few months of experiencing chronic migraine, I have discovered that they have so many other effects, many of which are hard to explain but which drive home the point that it is  neurological condition and as such can affect different neurological areas.

I finally found a site which listed symptoms associated with migraine and read through it. My internal commentary whilst reading went something like: “Yes. Yes. Oh yes. That has a name? That’s even a thing? I thought it was just me. YES!”

The full list can be found at this migraine disorder website. I am going to list down below the things which I experience. It was eye-opening to read through, and really helpful to be able to hand the list to R and say these are the things that I experience, some regularly, some occassionally.

Persistent pressure or the feeling of blockage in one or both ears

A feeling of water, ear pain or something crawling in the ear canal even though nothing out of the ordinary can be detected

Sounds are too loud (sound sensitivity) – This has been the worst for me. Sound sensitivity makes being out of the house really hard. Sometimes I manage it, in small doses, with noise-cancelling earbuds; other times I lose all ability to concentrate on anything other than surviving the onslaught of sound.

A hissing, ringing or other noise in the ear that others do not hear (tinnitus) – I get this a lot

Persistent sense of imbalance (ataxia) – I get this on bad days; it’s partly how I can identify a tough day coming up, if I can’t balance properly in the morning.

A feeling or perception of one’s own body parts incorrectly (Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome) – Such a hard one to describe, but yes.

Difficulty in understanding what people are saying, despite having a normal hearing test (central auditory processing disorder)-
Sometimes I take a bit longer than usual to process and understand what has been said to me, or I will need it repeated so I can try again. It is different from not hearing something; it is like hearing something underwater – you can make out some of the sounds but have trouble putting them together to make any sense.

Difficulty speaking sometimes without another explanation (expressive apraxia)-
I’d never experienced this obviously until during this pregnancy. It actually scared me a little when it first started happening, but then I found this list and was reassured that it was just yet another symptom of migraine. I avoided phone conversations as much as possible for the past few months and have communicated mostly through texts and emails. It is scary, and incredibly frustrating to have clear thoughts in your mind but be unable to get them out of your mouth. Luckily R can always work out what I want to say, but at times trying to communicate with others was so incredibly hard.

“Brain fog,” reduced cognitive function – short term memory loss, inability to recall words or to multi-task- I have almost constant brain fog. It is so frustrating and hideous and so easy to forget what it is like to not have brain fog. I had two great days between Christmas and New Year, minimal pain, minimal brain fog, minimal everything else and I got so much done and felt like myself for the first time in a long time.

Excessive fatigue, with no other explanation

Feeling excessively hot or cold, possibly hot flashes

Pressure or pain across the forehead, behind the eyes or across the face that occurs frequently (chronic sinusitis symptoms)

Unexplained nasal congestion and a runny nose (autonomic nasal dysfunction)

Detecting awful smells that others do not (phantosmia) or sensitivity to smells (osmophobia)-
This, coupled with the sensitivity to smells that I get when pregnant, has led me on many a hunt for the source of some rancid smell that only I can sense.

Bright sunlight or fluorescent lights are intolerable (light sensitivity)-
Sunglasses have been a must this year

Intermittent stabbing pain behind one eye or in the cheek (trigeminal neuralgia)

Discomfort when your ears are exposed to wind or cold (allodynia)

Skin and scalp sensitivity or pain from light touch, such as glasses on the nose, cleaning the ear or wearing a hearing aid. – I have the lightest, frameless glasses and still they hurt sometimes.

Chronic widespread pain and tenderness (fibromyalgia)

Being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning. (Presenteeism) –
I find it funny that this is a thing, but it’s true. I have definitely had this feeling.

With my first pregnancy, the migraines increased, and remained at the increased level long after I gave birth. It took me a couple of years to realise that that had been a permanent change and wasn’t just the effect of sleep deprivation. This pregnancy, the migraines started at 10 1/2 weeks and have almost completely knocked me flat. I’ve never experienced this level of debilitation from them in my life.

As a result, the past few months have been purely about survival. Get my study complete and work done and that’s been the main focus. I am seeing a neurologist now. For years and years I have avoided going to a neurologist, preferring to try all different alternative therapies. Now, though, I understand that even if it means taking a daily tablet or getting 3 monthly injections (botox – eep), that is far better than living with this level of migraine. It just took having a child to show me how much they affect my life and how much they affect those around me. R has mentioned that he really looks forward to seeing the same spark back in me that was there when we got together but has been MIA for some time. I hadn’t even realised.

I had just made the mental leap to that way of thinking and booked a GP appt to get a referral when I found out I was pregnant. The pregnancy greatly limited our options for trialling medications, which meant it was mostly about managing the pain as much as possible.

Once I stop breastfeeding, which will be within 3-4 weeks of giving birth, then we can finally start trialing new, different medications. My hope is that in about 6 months time, I will have found something that is working to reduce, or even vanquish (!) these migraines forever.

I pray that neither of our children will inherit the migraines – it certainly seems hereditary for me – but if they do, I will be taking them to a neurologist right away to get them onto medication. I don’t want them to live their lives with the constant consideration of migraines and I don’t want them to do as I did and waste so much time avoiding western medicine. I wish that I’d gotten them under control long ago, but I am determined to get them sorted now.

 

RandomApril 5, 2016 - 5:08 pm

Thank you for this. I hadn’t realised so many of these were considered migraine symptoms, which means I’ve been suffering from migraines for about 15 years now.

Ow.

This means I’m going to be taking myself to my doctor and get it looked at.

gypsyamberApril 13, 2016 - 11:54 am

Yes, the old thinking that migraines come with auras and everything else is just a bad headache is not so accurate, as it turns out. I’ve never had auras so it took me years and years to realise that I did have migraines.

M o r e   i n f o
UA-36360585-1