When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

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When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned -postpartumprogress.com

As expectant mothers, all we can do is plan. We make labor plans, we plan the nursery, we plan how we will spend our maternity leave. We plan birthday parties, play dates, college graduations.

All this planning before even giving birth. We thrive on a diet made up entirely of good intentions.

What happens when the core of those plans is taken away from us?

What then? Where do the rest of the pieces fall? Where do we stand as confident and capable mothers?

My breasts began leaking as I reached eight months pregnant. I was excited. They were working and that was all I needed to know; the center of my plan was to feed my child using my body. The center of my plan was to provide the most intimate bond I could imagine with my child after removing her from my womb.

I could express the colostrum on demand before giving birth. I had to wear breast pads. Everything was going according to plan.

I gave birth in the middle of the night, via C-section. I was put to bed, in horrendous pain, and told a lactation consultant would visit me the next morning. I was told to not attempt breast feeding until the consultant visited.

I lay, awake, in the hospital bed as nurses in the baby sanctuary fed my newborn formula.

“But, it’s going to be okay. This won’t ruin her. She will feed from me in a few hours.”

Morning came, and morning went. I was not visited. By one o’clock in the afternoon that day, I was asking where this person was. When was it going to be my turn? I watched as my family members visited me and fed my infant formula, as I curled up in bed, clutching myself and wishing for my turn.

I was told to be patient. I was told to wait. I could feel it then, I could feel my plan slipping from between my fingers.

At 6:00 in the evening, after eating dinner, I asked one last time where my consultant was. She had gone home. The day had ended. There were simply too many mothers to get to.

She came the next morning. Late in the morning. She spent eight minutes with me. She showed me an awkward and not natural feeling way to hold my daughter as I tried to get her to latch on to me. She would latch, and then cry. Latch and cry. I was told to be patient. I was told she would eventually get it. I was told to go home and keep trying and pump.

I sobbed, there. I sobbed, holding my newborn like a football under my arm. She couldn’t do it. Worse: I couldn’t do it.

My mother reassured me. Maybe being at home, relaxed, would help. I was not to give up hope.

I arrived home and immediately secluded myself in the nursery. I placed myself and my daughter in the rocking chair that I always planned on feeding her in. I put on the soothing music. I drew the curtains so the sun cast an amber wash over us as we went to work.

I sat and tried to nurse my child for three hours. Visitors came and went. I saw none of them. This was my plan and I refused to give any more ground on it than I had already allowed.

She latched on for about 20 minutes on one side. I will always remember that feeling. It hurt but it felt like a pain I was meant to endure. My body was doing it; I was doing it. I could feel the dominoes stacking back up in place. I tried the other side and she latched on and then released immediately. And then she began to scream.

My child was hungry.

I had done all I could do at the moment so my mother came up, took my child from me and brought her downstairs to supplement with hospital formula, while I pumped for the first time.

I sat in the chair, hooked up on both sides, until it grew dark. The pain was dull, like how you would feel during a tattoo after hour four. I would check the bottles and while one side had accrued maybe two ounces of milk, the other side only held yellow colostrum. My husband took the bottles when I called for him, he fed them to her immediately. We mixed the colostrum with the formula. We did everything we could with what my body was giving me.

My breasts looked like they have been through a poorly fought battle after that much pumping. I felt deformed. I felt humiliated. But, I kept trying. I would try to nurse her, but I was losing ground. She would root against me, trying to find something that wasn’t there. She would scream at me. I would sob.

For two days this routine went on. Four hours of pumping wielding two ounces or less from just the one side, yellow gold from the other.

It wasn’t going to work. It had slipped between my fingers.

My mother told me it was time to admit defeat; to dry myself up and focus on what was important: feeding my child, regardless of where it came from.

We bought a can of formula. I endured the pain of drying my supply up.

People questioned why I was giving up “so soon.” They scolded me for “only trying for two days.” Those were the longest two days of my life.

I was in labor for 22 hours. I pushed for 2 hours. I had an C-section. Those two days were more painful than all of that combined. My child was hungry. It was time to feed her.

And so, I formula fed my daughter through her entire infancy. I watched other mothers blissfully breastfeed their babies. I read articles from highly respected mothers’ journals about the benefits of breastfeeding and how superior it was to formula feeding.

My child, who had initially dropped birth weight due to lack of feeding, thrived.

She grew up into a developmentally sound and sensitive little soul. She is five years old now and here is what I can say about breastfeeding:

It is not the center of your plan. It may feel like the sun. It may feel like the most important thing you can do for you and your child. But, every single mother romanticizes breastfeeding. We picture the room; the ambiance; the feeling and bond we will form in those hours together with our child.

I had all of that. I eventually allowed myself to bond with my child, once I had mourned the loss of breastfeeding. I created the same room, the same ambiance for us to be in together.

I just held a bottle in my hand.

And that is okay.

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Book Your Room for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom Conference

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The Georgian Terrace, Host Hotel for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom Conference, October 14-15, 2016, Atlanta, GA -postpartumprogress.com

We’ve heard your questions in the private Facebook group for Warrior Mom Conference Attendees. (You’ll be added to the group when you register.) We know you’ve all been chomping at the bit to book your hotel room at The Georgian Terrace for our second annual Warrior Mom Conference. We’re just as excited as you to announce our room rate and share the link to make your reservation.

But: A quick word first.

We encourage all attendees, whether local to Atlanta or traveling from out of state (or even out of country!), to stay at the host hotel. Not only does this help our organization, but it helps you.

During the conference day, everyone will enjoy spending time together in sessions, at meals, and in those little moments in between events in our agenda. But you’ll want to stick around in the evening, for that is when real connection with your fellow Warrior Moms takes place. You have more time to sit and talk, face to face, with those you formed a bond with over the Internet. You’ll make new friends, forming relationships to last a lifetime.

Our previous attendees agree. Sarah Reeves Kotranza, who attended the conference in Boston, had this to say.

“Staying in the host hotel helped me quickly gain a level of social comfort with the other attendees and gave me the opportunity to continue the conference fun after the official events were over.”

Christina Boeshart added:

“It afforded me the opportunity to spend more time with my fellow warrior sisters and forge friendships that lasted beyond the conference experience!”

In addition to the connection with other mothers who have experienced postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders, the Georgian Terrace is simply stunning. The hotel opened for business in 1916, and in 1986 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Okay, okay! We know you’re excited and ready to make that reservation. But we have even better news. Our room rate is extraordinary. Thanks to the lovely staff at The Georgian Terrace, we’ve secured a room rate of $152 per night.

You read that properly: $152/night.

Now go book that room. You can do so online or by calling 1-800-651-2316 and ask for the Warrior Mom Conference rate.

And one more reminder: Warrior Mom Conference tickets are selling fast. Register today!

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Postpartum Depression Stigma Persists Even In Federal Government

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Postpartum Depression Stigma Still Exists, Even in the Federal Government -postpartumprogress.com
Update: We did hear back from the Office of Women’s Health quite quickly and they apologized for the tweet even though it didn’t come from their office. They assured us that they are fully supportive of moms with perinatal mental illness and that they don’t support stigmatizing language. They’re looking into where the tweet came from and why. We really appreciated the positive and sincere conversation about this. 

Someone told a mom in the Postpartum Progress community the other day that there is no longer any stigma when it comes to postpartum depression. We’re talking about it. We’re doing things about it. Moms need to realize that the stigma has abated! This mom reached out to me because she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The person who had said that in her presence was a person in a position of leadership, a person with a lot of knowledge about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A person who should have known better.

Here at Postpartum Progress we talk to moms from around the US and around the world every day. We know how much the stigma of postpartum depression and related illnesses persists. And worse, we know how much that stigma scares moms and makes them afraid to reach out for the treatment that can help them.

Today I was fortunate to be part of a Twitter chat with the March of Dimes focusing on postpartum depression in NICU moms. Imagine my surprise when a chat that was supposed to help raise awareness and provide support to mothers ended up creating stigma.

Someone officially representing the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, tweeted the following: “In the United States, postpartum depression is one of the leading causes of murder of children less than one year of age.”

I was stunned. I took a screen capture of the tweet, because I was convinced no one would believe me that a statement like that would be made. It’s not correct. It’s unbelievably stigmatizing. And it came from people responsible for health in our own government. People who should definitely know better.

Tweet from @HHS_OASHRegion2 at 1:32 PM EST on 11/18/15 -postpartumprogress.com
So let’s talk for a minute about perinatal mental health and real information about infanticide. If you are a mom who is sensitive right now, I would suggest not reading any further because data about babies and tragedy can be really hard to deal with when you’re struggling.

Okay? Trigger warning commenced. Okay. 

According to the National Center for Vital Statistics, here are the top 10 leading causes of death of children from 0 to age 1 in the year 2013 (none of these, you’ll notice, is homicide):

  1. Birth defects (congenital anomalies)
  2. Short gestation
  3. Maternal pregnancy complications
  4. SIDS
  5. Unintentional injury
  6. Placenta & cord issues
  7. Bacterial sepsis
  8. Respiratory distress
  9. Circulatory system disease
  10. Neonatal hemorrhage

According to the CDC, there were 23,440 deaths of children between the ages of 0 and 1 in 2013. Their data shows that a total of 282 of those 2013 deaths were homicides, but the data doesn’t drill down any further to offer information about who the perpetrator of the crimes may have been. If you read the infanticide report from Child Trends, a nonprofit nonpartisan research center, however, studies suggest that male caretakers are the perpetrators of the majority of infant homicides.

We can’t ignore, of course, that there is a 4% infanticide rate for women who experience postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 mothers. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, occurs in 1 in 7 mothers. Thankfully infanticide due to psychosis is rare. It is a very serious illness that can lead a mom to suffer from delusions and/or hallucinations that may lead her to do things she would never otherwise do. This is why it’s so important that we take good care of these moms and that they get the professional medical care they need and deserve… something that is not happening in a lot of places.

Moms with postpartum depression are not likely to harm their kids. That’s the truth. But the fear that they will, or could, is one of the things that makes them afraid to reach out for help. This is what makes them keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, rather than tell another person. This is why that tweet matters. Because we want women who are struggling to reach out as soon as possible. The sooner they get help the sooner they get better, and that has a big positive impact on both mom’s and baby’s health.

The tweet has since been taken down. That’s important, and we’re glad. It’s a start. But just taking it down doesn’t address what led someone in Health & Human Services to think it was correct and should be shared in the first place. How do we as a community make sure that there is a better understanding of the facts of maternal mental health, and a better understanding of and how to communicate with moms that postpartum depression is common and that it’s important to get help? As the executive director of Postpartum Progress, I have reached out to the Office of Women’s Health and asked them to call us back. We know we can have a really great conversation together. We’ll let you all know what happens next.

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Moms Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study

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Mom Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study -postpartumprogress.com

Becoming a mother should be one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, many women suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders beginning in pregnancy through the first year postpartum.

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is becoming more widely studied because of the potential ethical and legal consequences. Some women have intrusive thoughts of harming their child, which may result in increased and unintended contacts with the legal system. These women fear that if they discuss these thoughts with a health provider, they will be reported to Child Protective Services as they may be at risk of harming their child.

However, in reality, women with postpartum OCD are not at increased risk of harming their newborn because these women tend to avoid physical contact with their child or engage in rituals in order to prevent acting upon their intrusive thoughts. Nevertheless, these fears may decrease the likelihood that women with postpartum OCD will seek treatment when they most need it.

Moms Needed for a Postpartum OCD Study

To date, there is limited knowledge of this potential intersection among consumers, health providers, and policy makers in addressing postpartum OCD. The purpose of our study is to understand mothers’ experiences with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, especially postpartum OCD. Our long term goal is to create more awareness and educate health practitioners and policy makers in how to address postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. The study is conducted by a student researcher and a psychologist/associate professor from The George Washington University.

If you’re interested in participating, you will be asked to complete an online survey about your experiences, and possibly participate in a follow-up phone interview. As a thank you for your time, you will receive a $10 gift card for your participation.

To participate, take the survey now. They are looking for approximately 100(+/-) moms, so don’t delay!

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