Monday, September 19, 2011

Cesarean Section and Nursing (for me)

Did you know that women who have a C-Section have a more difficult time bonding with their babies?  I can honestly and without shame say that I experienced this.  I felt a strange disconnect from Lydia for quite some time.  I knew I had gone to the hospital and I knew she was my daughter and that I loved her, but I wasn't just crazy about her the way that my friends were with their babies. 

This is because when you deliver vaginally, immediately after the baby comes out your body begins producing Oxytocin, also referred to commonly as the "love hormone", or the "bonding hormone", which causes several things to happen.  Your uterus begins to contract so as to stop bleeding, for one, and for another, is gives you a rush of affection for the tiny creature that should be lying by now on your stomach or chest.  When a Cesarian is performed, your body doesn't generate its own Oxytocin, but rather it must be administered intravenously in its synthetic form, Pitocin.  I'm sorry, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, but what you make just can't compare to what my body can make! 

Having a C-section also causes challenges with breastfeeding to present themselves.  First and foremost, you are recovering for a major surgery.  Second, having a newborn is just plain overwhelming, no matter how many nurses or family members you've got to lend a hand.  Third, the mechanics of nursing with an incision on your abdomen are rather complicated.  They tell you and try to show you all these positions to nurse and different tips and tricks, but nursing in itself is painful starting out and then your baby wiggles and your incision is throbbing. 

There were only two things that got me through the first 6 or so weeks of nursing: prayer and sheer determination.  I would cry and cry both when I was nursing Lydia and after, and when it came time to do it again, I'd cry b/c I didn't want to go through the pain of feeding her, and then of course I felt guilty b/c I didn't want to feed my child, which made me cry even more!!  What a vicious cycle.

So the nursing hurt.  A lot.  I decided to give by brand new (and totally awesome, might I add) Medela breast pump a whirl and see if it hurt more, less, or the same.  It wasn't as bad as nursing, so I thought I'd pump and just bottle feed her.  That worked really well, except I had to lug around bottles and a thermal bag with ice packs in it all the time.  Plus, there's the inconvenience of having to pump all the time and then when you don't, you get engorged and that sucks, too. 

Let me get off track a little for a second here.  I have a friend, Jen (whom I have nicknamed "The Jenefactor"-- like benefactor) who has been so amazing.  She was very helpful and informative through my pregnancy and also gave me a ton of her daughter Shelby's clothes (Shelby is 8 months older than Lydia).  One of the ladies that works in Jen's office (Jen is a chiropractor) had a family emergency and was going to be out of the office for a while.  I told Jen I'd gladly fill in, and so I did.  Jen is a wellspring of information, constantly giving me advice, references, tips on products, and lots of other useful tidbits.  Anyhow, while I was working in her office, I borrowed a book of hers by La Leche League called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

This book is AMAZING.  It has everything a woman needs to know about breastfeeding, from pregnancy to weaning.  Anyhow, I read in this book that with breastfeeding, that it's not just important that your baby gets the breastmilk, but also the mechanics of how the baby gets the breastmilk.  When nursing from the breast, a baby's jaw is massaged differently than when fed from a bottle.  The palate is spread differently, and babies that are nursed for at least a year are far less likely to need braces later in life.  Also, the coolest thing I learned is that when a baby nurses, any germs that they may have picked up along the way get "communicated" to the nipple, and the mother's nipple then generates antibodies for those germs that get picked up the next time the baby nurses!  How cool is that??

Anyhow, to get back on track, it is because of this information that I decided to strictly nurse Lydia, not just give her breastmilk from the bottle.  This has caused us to become so much closer...  I have gone from not liking nursing AT ALL to thinking it was okay (when I was pumping and bottle feeding), to now, where I love it and can't imagine my life without it.  It makes my daughter happy and helps me to feel bonded with her.  I feel more now like she is MY baby, not just A baby. 

I don't know if my C-section caused me to have such difficulties nursing or not, but I can't imagine that it made it anny easier.  I can't change the past, but I can move forward with more knowledge, wisdom, and comfort knowing how I want to want to approach the delivery of future babies.

Me and Lydia right after nursing.  She was 2 weeks old here.  :)

1 comment:

Rebekah Storey said...

Sounds like you got a rough start to this crazy adventure of being a mother. I will encourage you that it's not JUST having a c-section that can make you feel a disconnect with your baby. I felt the same with my first son and the first 4 months of his life were a complete blur. We still don't connect well and I often wonder if it's because we started out so rough and I really don't feel like we ever formed a very strong bond. To add to it, he was a HORRIBLE nurser because he couldn't latch correctly. I had multiple blood blisters on each nipple that didn't go away until I stopped nursing him all together at 3 months. I pumped until 6 months, and I found that even bottle feeding was hard for me. Every time his little grip on the bottle would be lost and he'd make that slipping sound, I'd cringe - remembering how painful that was when he was nursing and how I resented him for those first 3 months because I wasn't feeling the bond I'd been promised I'd feel.
Pray over that precious girl each and every time you sit down to feed her, that God would remove an obstacles that might prevent you from fulling bonding with and loving her. I love my oldest son dearly, but to this day I feel more disconnected from him that I have ever really felt from any family member of mine. And I will tell you, he's 4 now and it seems to be getting worse with each stage of misbehavior that he ventures through.