Saturday, May 19, 2012

A father's plight: Helping my wife cope when breastfeeding wasn't working

By Joel Brens

As a father there are things I will never be able to comprehend as far as a bond between my wife and my son. The time a child spends in utero and the connection on a physical and emotional scale is something as a male I am unable to feel. One of the greatest bonds a mother can have with child is breastfeeding, which is what I want to share some insight into from my perspective.

My amazing wife had a difficult pregnancy. She had Pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure issues and had restricted blood flow in her umbilical cord. After a couple of weeks full of NST's and Bio-physicals the doctors noticed the blood flow had started to become diastolic, meaning it was starting and stopping frequently. Not good. Doctors decided that they would proceed with inducing labor or c-section a couple of days later. Much to our dismay the next morning our son's heartbeat dropped to a dangerous 60 BPM. They decided right then to take the baby. At 8:11am on Tuesday May 11th, 2010 Jayden Jack was born at 3 lbs. 6oz. He was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

For obvious reasons getting him proper nourishment was a top priority. Gravity Feedings were his source of nutrition the first week or so. In the meantime my wife was attempting to pump as much breast-milk as she could. Unfortunately she wasn't producing as much as she was expecting or hoping to. But I told her to be patient and things would get better. We were fortunate to have some pretty great lactation nurses at our hospital. They not only provided valuable information but were cheerleaders and understanding to us. I wanted so desperately for my wife to pump large amounts of milk. Once the speech therapist gave the green light to start breast-feeding we were hoping that would kick-start her production. In the meantime we were also teaching Jayden to take a bottle. He would jump at the idea of feeding but would lose interest quickly. I suppose the idea of working for your food wasn't as fun as taking a bottle. One of the nurses quipped that he had decided to take the elevator instead of the stairs. So incredibly true. By this point my wife was able to produce enough milk to keep him occupied for a while. But as he got closer to coming home, the reality that she wasn't going to be able to keep up become quite a harsh reality.

Not only is pumping every two to three hours exhausting on moms, but the time necessary to clean parts makes it a daunting task. I did not envy her position. But I did do everything I could to help. As the days wore on and backup supply was beginning to wain, I could feel her heart breaking over facing the choice of when to switch to formula. I remember vividly a day I came home from work and she looked very bummed out. She explained that she had just finished pumping and while trying to put everything away accidentally spilled a 3oz. cup of breast-milk on the counter. To us, that was A LOT of milk. I knew she was upset but didn't realize until she admitted a couple of days later that she broke down when it happened. I felt so bad for her. I was always willing to help support her (emotionally and physically) but at times I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I just let her know I loved her no matter what.

When we made the choice to switch to formula we were blessed that it was a relatively smooth transition. I am most grateful of that. I also leaned a lot about my role as a father regarding how to be there for my wife.

Here are some bits of advice I'd give to dad's with new babies:
  • Don't let anyone tell you how or when you should stop breast-feeding, and more importantly don't let it bother you. I can't believe how many "experts" are out there. Do what's best for your family.
  • Every case is different. I have an old friend who had almost the opposite issue where she couldn't stop producing it seemed. Comparisons are dangerous and can only lead to extra stress.
  • Help as much as you can. For starters lend help cleaning parts. But also BE THERE for your wife/significant other, on all levels.
  • Be open an honest about your feelings. Make decisions as a team.
  • Seek knowledge from lactation nurses. They can be most helpful.
  • Most importantly, let you wife/significant other know you love them. No matter what.

At the end of the day you have to figure out what works for you. And every story is different...

1 comment:

  1. I was lucky enough to produce quite a bit of milk and I feel deeply for anyone who has trouble pumping after feeding issues. I knew I could rely on pumping if necessary. Having my husband on board was SO important, regardless of how feeling and pumping were going on any given day (feeding often went badly). Without that, I would have probably given up. Which would have been okay, too. The first rule being feed the baby!