Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.11.09: Breastfeeding & PPD


Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

Original Photo "the breastfeeding lady 2" by Raphael Goetter @ flickr

When I gave birth to my second daughter I saw my dreams of a normal postpartum smashed upon the rocks just 30 minutes after delivery. A delivery after 42 hours of labor, 36 weeks of pregnancy spent un-medicated but largely depressed and unaware of any potential issue facing us. We fully expected (as any parent) a healthy child, normal delivery. A large part of my smashed dreams tied into the hard reality that I would absolutely not be able to nurse her because she was born with a cleft palate so wide and large that it would be physically impossible for us to do so.

Later that day I was faced with a crucial decision. What kind of formula would I prefer for my daughter? I cried. She wasn’t SUPPOSED to get formula! That evening found me hooked up to a hospital grade pump praying for anything to happen. I barely squeezed out a drop. But I persisted and pumped for her faithfully until she was seven months old. I even researched everything I could in order to try to get her to nurse – books, cleft organizations, the La Leche League, the local Lactation consultants and even going to a training to become a trained Certified Lactation Counselor (which I completed one month AFTER we stopped nursing!) I left no stone unturned! Charlotte and I used SNS, nursing shields, and sheer determination. She eventually nursed for almost five minutes! Those five minutes were so amazing words cannot even begin to describe. In fact, it was tears falling from my face which interrupted the glorious event.(You can read more about our journey here: Breastfeeding Charlotte)

But at seven months, I faced a decision. My desire to continue to give breastmilk to my daughter or my mental health which had deteriorated so much it was adversely affecting my relationship with my husband and other daughter. With a heavy heart, I drove to Wal-mart to purchase formula. I cried the whole way home. Eventually I made peace with the decision. “Hanging up the Horns” or HUTH as it’s called in the world of exclusive pumpers, was a difficult decision. But one I was glad to make as it allowed me to bond with my entire family. I had come to resent Charlotte for all the extra work she required. But now, all I had to do was pour, heat, and I was done. I made strides towards better mental health and so did the rest of the family.

For me, the decision centered around the stress providing breastmilk created. I was also on medication which can be another tremendous issue for new moms. Many mothers don’t want anything crossing over to their infant through their breastmilk. Dr. Thomas Hale, author of Medications & Mother’s Milk, is a wonderful authority on the topic as are the researchers at Motherisk in Canada. When nursing while on any medication, it is important for the infant’s pediatrician to be aware of the medication and dosage amount so baby can be monitored for any adverse reaction. The decision to take medication is a personal one and should be made carefully with the help of professionals. Ask questions. Make sure the prescribing physician KNOWS you are nursing. And do not let them force you into quitting nursing if it is the one thing in which you find comfort. If you are currently struggling with this decision, please read this wonderful essay by Karen Kleiman: Is Breast Really Best?

So let’s get to Just Talkin’ Tuesday already!

Did your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder affect your nursing decision? Did you decide to formula feed to help improve your mental health? Do you regret your decision? Made peace with it? Did stopping help? Did your desire to nurse increase your desire to seek natural treatment? Speak up! Share!

(Absolutely no bashing for deciding to formula feed will be tolerated here. We respect the decision of all mothers to choose the course of treatment/feeding they feel is right for their families. Any posts discrediting or attacking a mother for her decision to formula feed will not be approved.)

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5 thoughts on “Just Talkin’ Tuesday 08.11.09: Breastfeeding & PPD

  1. Hi Carol,

    I think this is a great topic – one that women rarely feel the freedom to talk about without fear of feeling like a failure (or at least maybe that’s how I felt).

    I had PPD after giving birth to both my children. When my first was born, Aubrey, I started nursing her right away. I was able to produce milk (sorry to hear about your struggle to produce – how frustrating!) although found nursing very painful and I got sore, cracked, bleeding nipples.

    I knew I was depressed – I was crying a lot and unable to eat, but I really wanted to nurse. This was my first baby and I wanted to do it “right.” Because I was determined to nurse, I took only what my midwife, pediatrician and family doctor thought was a “safer” medication (anti-depressant) which is what I had been taking during my pregnancy (I have a history of depression). So I already was feeling like I had reason to be “ashamed” by taking meds.

    Basically what ended up happening was the PPD kept getting worse – I refused to get on the medications I needed – and I ended up having suicidal/homicidal thoughts (I ESPECIALLY had severe irriational thinking during let down while nursing… I remember thoughts popping into my head like – “I want to strangle Aubrey” I would bawl and wonder what was wrong with me and why would God make me a mom when I was so horrible at it)

    I finally stopped nursing, ended up needing to be hospitalized and got on some medications that helped my mind get “back in order” as I like to think of it. Ok… this is getting long so I am sorry and hope I am not too winded…

    So round two (baby #2) who was a surprise by the way – thought I would get a game plan and not nurse and just formula feed… still got PPD. But, I got help a lot faster, and got better a lot quicker. Also, when feeding him bottles I didn’t feel those awful thoughts that I felt when I had the let down while nursing. So that’s my nursing/meds/PPD story :)

  2. As someone with lifelong depression, making the decision to get pregnant and also breast feed while on medications was a hard one. After consulting my OB, the pediatrician, and several other doctors, I felt that staying on my relatively low levels of medications would be the best decision for me.

    Of course as soon as I asked for my meds after giving birth, the nurses started questioning my decision. Again, I talked with my OB who felt it was safe. I struggled to get my son to latch on for the first 3 weeks, but he finally got the hang of it and started gaining weight. At 6 weeks, we dealt with a round of thrush and then mastitis. After everything I had gone through, I was determined that I would nurse him come hell or high water.

    My PPD didn’t actually hit until he was around 5 months, and I was off work for the summer. I sat alone in my house with my son every day and wondered what I was doing, and why I had put myself in such a sad situation. I struggled every day to get the energy to leave the house. The ONLY thing I felt like I was succeeding at with him was breast feeding. For that reason, I decided that even though I would be increasing my meds, I still needed to keep up the breast feeding because I knew it was something I was doing well.

    I was able to breast feed him for 13 months, and have no regrets about the decision I made. He is a smart, thriving little guy, and now I can look at him and truly enjoy every minute.

    • Carol –

      I had the pleasure of meeting thrush with my third child. We had it back to back to back. It was positively toe curling!

      With my first daughter, I too felt that the ONLY thing I was doing right was nursing. My OB at the time was very unsupportive of my PPD and totally brushed me off. I think if I had stopped nursing on top of rejection for help it would not have been pretty at all. We had a hard time getting started but once we got going, we did well. Nursing seemed to be very soothing for both of us so I get where you’re coming from.

      Thank you SO much for sharing your story!

      Warmest,
      Lauren

  3. Once again great topic Lauren. Personally I went into delievery very open to both ideas. I knew it was very possiable that we would not be able to do it. While pg I watched tons and tons of shows like Bringing Home Baby and I saw women falling apart about it, I made the choice that I was not going to let that happen to me, I was already to anxious about everything else to stress about that too. So we tried in the hospital for 24 hours. I had a c-section because he was breech so nurses kept telling me that was why he wouldn’t latch. Like it was my fault that I my doctor and I decided not to turn him around (there was absolutly no room) finally Colin’s sugars started to get low and he needed something. I gave him his very first bottle. I fed him skin to skin and looked in his eyes and decided that the bonding was me giving my son what he needed, not feeding him from my body. He’s been on the bottle ever since. It just didn’t work for us, he wouldn’t latch, then I wouldn’t produce. I knew I was already to fragile to push myself. He’s now almost 10 months and happy and healthy so I call it a success.

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