Thursday, July 28, 2011

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From Breastfeeding to Bumgenius-an Unconventional Road to Fluff

My decision to cloth diaper was probably driven from a rather unique desire. It wasn't to save the earth. It wasn't how adorable the diapers were. It wasn't to save money. It was because I longed for a way to bond with my newborn that didn't involve nursing. Before you jump to any conclusions I wanted desperately to nurse. A very long and painful story made short is that when my first son was born just over two years ago I started nursing him in the hospital. Four days later he had a high fever and was admitted to the hospital for 3 days. He had lost 12% of his body weight and eventually, after having X-rays, a Spinal Tap, a catheter put in and IV antibiotics they said he was dehydrated. If you have never seen a 4 day old going through all of that medical testing, it is heart-wrenching! I was told I needed to supplement him with formula. I had no support to help me with nursing . I was told that he had a short latch and was too small. I was hooked up to a hospital breast pump for a half hour at a time and nothing would come out. I kept trying to nurse him but he wasn't growing and after his 2 month check up ended badly I gave up and started using formula exclusively. It devastated me. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember and finally at 31, with a previous ectopic pregnancy and a warning from my ob/gyn that I would not be able to have children, here I was holding my newborn son and I couldn't even feed him.


Fast-forward two years to the birth of my 2nd son.

Again, I nursed him within minutes of his birth and within a day of being home, I heard that all too familiar hunger cry. I had been hopeful that the first time was a fluke and that this time I would be able to breastfeed. At his 4 day follow up I was told that he had lost 10% of his body weight and that I would have to supplement. But this time I saw two different lactation consultants, was put on several different regimens, herbal formulas and medication. Yet once again, nothing worked. My son would nurse for 20 or 30 minutes but never swallow more than once or twice. Nothing worked and the ob/gyn and lactation consultants informed me that they were 99% sure I had an underlying hormonal issue that was preventing me from producing milk. So after 6 weeks of trying everything I realized it wasn't going to happen.

This is when I found cloth diapering. I wanted to bond with my son in some way that felt as intimate as nursing. It may seem unrelated or odd but so much of myself goes into his diapering now. I pick out types, sizes, styles, and material. When I change his diaper I'm not just whipping off a disposable and lobbing it into the trash. I am taking a moment to consider-are we going out? Staying home? Is it naptime? I choose his diaper carefully and I take the time to check the snaps or Velcro, to talk to him about the color of the diaper or the pattern or let him touch the material. I lay him on my lap and we do our fluff stuffing. I love washing his diapers. In that time that I spend to hang each insert on the line, organized by brand and size, I contemplate the time I am investing. Trust me, I have always hated laundry, I have even used the word despise to describe how I feel about folding laundry. I have a very weak stomach and will gag if a stranger passes gas near me. But here I am spending an hour to hang and then stuff his diapers, to organize them every single wash. I am dunking diapers, making and using cloth wipes and I'm proud to say that I haven't gagged once! As strange as it sounds, I feel as close to my son when I am diapering him as I did when I was nursing him. More importantly, I stopped beating myself up. Cloth diapering my baby has allowed me to feel complete as a mom.

13 comments:

*Jill* said...

Kudos and virtual hugs to this mama!! I had a VERY similar journey in breastfeeding my son, without the dehydration. I made enough to keep him hydrated but not enough to grow and thrive. The day I came back from the pediatrician with the realization that I would be supplementing forever is the day we switched to cloth. Our son was 3 weeks old and we had all of our diapers ready to go, I was just waiting to settle in to mama-hood before making the switch. It was EARTH DAY and I thought it appropriate. It lifted my spirits because I wanted to feel like I was doing SOMETHING right after having so much go wrong (C-section after planned drug-free Bradley birth, underproduction of milk after planned to EBF). Cloth diapering is the one thing I had wanted to do for him that actually went as planned. It makes me feel like a better mom!

*Jill* said...

you can read more about our journey at http://theblackmattnjill.blogspot.com/

Julie said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this great post. Too many times moms have challenges with nursing. I too experienced the same challenges you did. I'm glad you found cloth diapering allowed you to bond with both of your babies. I love cloth diapers and looking at all the pics of your little ones with their fluff!

Chanda the Eco-Cheap Mom said...

Sorry you struggled with nursing. You did your best and that's all anyone can do. I'm just glad you found another way to bond with your son! Those who don't CD surely wouldn't understand it, but as a former cd-er I completely get it! I'm somewhat jealous that I don't have one to cd anymore. :)

Natalie said...

This is a great story on how there are so many different ways that mother's bond with their babies!

Betty said...

I cried reading this...not going to lie. I cannot imagine NOT being able to nurse my son. Both of my boys were breastfed and it is one of those things where if I were told I couldnt...wow, I really dont know what I would do. I cant imagine the pain you went through with the whole ordeal, but I'm so thankful you found a way to bond...something that worked for the two of you!

ann.e said...

That's a really sweet story and definitely shows that you care for your sons immensely!

mom said...

I think cloth diapering is an interesting substitute for the bond nursing provides. I do both, but much prefer the nursing to the diapering in general! I'm sorry for the struggle you went through! - Kaylene Brown

Megan said...

Awesome post! I felt like I was reading about myself. When I was pregnant, my 2 main desires for post baby were to breastfeed and use cloth. Because of a previous surgery I was unable to breastfeed. I was devastated. But using the cloth made me feel like I was still on my same parenting plan and really helped me in those first few weeks.

Tara at Padded Tush Stats said...

Oh my gosh, I could totally relate to this! I had low milk supply issues and one of my ways of dealing with not being able to breastfeed with my first was by cloth diapering. I thought I was the only one who did that! I am sorry to hear about all you have been through. I understand how frustrating and tough it is to want to breastfeed but can't (I write about it here: http://www.paddedtushstats.com/2011/06/padded-tush-stats-tangent-you-arent-bad.html)

Kristi26 said...

Beautifully said! Thanks so much for sharing your struggles and your triumphs with all of us. :)

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I think there are so many moms (myself included) that take being able to breastfeed for granted. So it's kind of shocking when we hear others stories about the struggles and lack of support in that area. I am happy that you have found a way to bond and can stop beating yourself up about breastfeeding. It's strange how, as moms, these things tend to eat at our brains when we can still be amazing moms without breastfeeding or even cloth diapering!

Amy said...

Wow, you are an amazing mama. Motherhood is such a hard job, but you have really put your whole heart into it. I have a close friend who also couldn't nurse, and I couldn't nurse for 2 mths bc of difficulties so I know the pain. But what an amazing thought -- you are right -- you are thinking intimately about your baby's needs for every diaper change. Not only is it fun but it is mothering! Blessings to you and yours.