Breastfeeding is something I never really put much thought into before I got pregnant. I have had friends who breast-fed their babies and I have had friends who gave them formula from birth. Then I finally got pregnant and it wasn’t a hard decision, I wouldn’t even call it a decision. I was going to breast feed, or at least try. I read about it, I took a class at the hospital and I thought I was ready.
Fast forward to December 21, well, about 2am on December 22. They wheeled our little guy into my hospital room and I felt helpless. I said, should I try to feed him now? I blame being in shock from the way everything happened that day and the fact that he was 2.5 weeks early. So with help from the nurse because of my c-section, she placed him on the pillow next to me (football hold) and I attempted to feed him. From what I can recall, things went pretty well, as far as I knew. My milk had not come in, but I did have the colostrum so I knew he was getting something. I would let him feed on one side and then switch him to the other. The biggest challenge was keeping him awake. The next day the lactation consultant stopped by and evaluated how I was doing and suggested the nipple shield. It was a big help and helped me realize that he had not been latched that great but he was now. She also helped me to tease him with some formula. We took a dropper and put a drop or two in the nipple shield and that got him to suck even more. My milk came in the next day and things were still going pretty well.
Don’t get me wrong. It was an odd feeling and a little painful. Your hormones make your nipples sore, but then you have your child sucking on them, that does not help the pain much. After being home, I did seem to get the hang of things and continued to use the shield.
I would continue to strip him down to his diapers or use wipes on his face to keep him awake to feed him. We visited the pediatrician and determined that he was jaundiced and not gaining the weight he needed to be gaining. So we started supplementing with formula (1/2 ounce after each feed). I got him off of the formula at 7 weeks. He was gaining great and I was happy that I was the sole nutritional provider for him. I was still using the nipple shield and had no intention of stopping as long as it was working.
Then we had our 4 month appointment with the doctor and although he gained, he did not gain as much as the doctor had hoped. So he said that I need to give him a bottle of formula at night. I was to offer 6 ounces and he wold probably take a little less.
I can’t begin to tell you how upsetting this was to me. I felt like we had come so far together and then all of a sudden I wasn’t enough for him. I could not provide for my son. The one thing I, as a Mother, was supposed to be able to do, I was not doing it good enough to meet his needs. I remembered back to how much trouble the formula caused him small tummy before and I did not want to do that to him again. And yes, I was taking it personally as well.
After crying about it and thinking about options, I decided to try something else and see how his weight gain was at the end of a week. The doctor had told us to come back in 2 weeks to see how the formula was working. I figured this gave me time to try my own thing. I had read that the nipple shield can inhibit milk flow and also not allow the baby to get all of the milk out. So my first plan was to wean off of the shield. I put a call into the Lactation Consultant (LC) at the hospital and she called back and left a message. Basically she said to start him on the shield and then about 3 minutes in take it off and put him right back on. I did this a couple of times and it worked. I also had a friend who weaned her twins off the shield and she said to just try it without. I did this too and he fussed here and there. He did better in the morning and afternoon without the shield, but at night he fussed too much so I would use it. Then eventually I stopped using it. I was thrilled! He had been using it for 4.5 months and it only took a few days to wean him off. Halleluiah! In addition to weaning off the shield, I decided to try to pump during the day and give him a bottle of expressed milk before bed instead of the formula. Surely this would work.
But then the pain started! It was obvious to me that the latch was not good. It would not be too bad during the day, but at night when he would wake up, I would nurse him back to sleep and that is when the pain was the worst. It literally felt like someone was pinching my nipple with their fingernails. He would pop on and off a lot also. I quietly cried to myself for 2-3 mights. Why does this has to be so hard? I called the LC and made an appointment for Saturday (May 11). I was going to ask for help with the latch and also talk about ways to give him formula but not lose out on the benefits of breastfeeding.
That day I called to make the appointment, I had weighed him like I had been weighing him everyday for that week and I was so disappointed that he had only gained about 3-4 ounces. I knew then that I would give in and give him formula that night.
So my original plan did not work. I had so wanted to be able to go back to the doctor in 2 weeks and tell him that I had only been giving him breast milk and he gained a great amount of weight. I would weight him every day and start to stress. One day he would be up 5 ounces and the next he would be up only 2 (from the doctor’s weigh in). For those of you unaware, stress can have a major impact on your milk supply. So I would stress because he wasn’t up and then I would try to pump when he napped or when I would put him down at bedtime. I was not getting very much. Maybe and ounce total. I was disgusted! Oh and in April I also got my period for the 1st time. Most women who breastfeed do not get their period until they stop breastfeeding. Unfortunately I was not one of them. 😦 And a few days before your period starts your supply drops temporarily. So that was probably part of the reason he did not gain as well as he should have.
I felt so defeated at the end of that week. I felt like a failure. Not only did it take 3 years and 3 IVFs to get this baby, now I have issues with feeding him! Felt like another kick in the gut!
After a lot of soul-searching and a LOT of tears, I decided that formula would not be the end of the world. It wasn’t like I was giving him poison (although I am sure there are women out there who feel that way). I would still be breastfeeding him most of the day and ONLY giving him ONE bottle of formula.
So I gave him the bottle that Friday night and he took all 6 ounces, like I knew he would and then spit up about an ounce of it a few minutes later, like I knew he would.
During my appointment with the LC, I fed the little guy and she weighed him before and after. It appeared as though he was only getting 1 ounce. So not great, but we already established that. She set me up with a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System).
Women use these if they are having trouble early after delivery and even women who adopt babies use them. Believe it or not, they can use the SNS to help stimulate their breasts and actually make it possible for them to lactate without having actually given birth. Aren’t our bodies amazing!
I tried it one night and it is a little tricky. I need more work at it to get the hang of it. I tried it with 4 ounces and it seemed to take forever, so I scrapped it for that night and will try again soon. The idea behind this was to basically allow him to nurse and get the formula at the same time. I was going to hook it up to my right breast since that one was the one that was not producing much. Hopefully this will help it produce more. Again, I need to work on this better.
We have had a rough past week or so with sleep (upcoming post), so my main goal is to get him the bottle so that I can get him to bed.
We went back to see the doctor after 2 weeks (May 18) and his weight was 12 lbs 13 ozs. A gain of 13.5 ounces in 2 weeks! Doctor was pleased and so was I. I actually weighed him this morning and he was 13 pounds, 13.5 ounces. I can definitely tell he is bulking up. He is getting those cute chubby legs and his belly is expanding. He is still a happy baby, like he always was so I know he is ok and is getting what he needs.
The main point of this post is that breastfeeding can be very tricky! It can also HURT A LOT! Also, there is no way of knowing how your body will respond to it. Breast size does not matter. I had a friend who I saw pumping one day and she may have been an A cup and she was getting A LOT! I am a D (DD after the baby) and as you know am not doing so well.
And if you try and decide that you just can’t do it anymore ( I have almost been to that point a few times), it is ok! You are NOT a failure. Your baby will be just fine. It is a tough thing to do, although I suspect it comes a lot easier for some women. Oh and also for those women who just don’t want to breastfeed, it makes you no less of a Mom than those who do. As a Mom we need to make sure our little ones are getting what they need, breast or formula. Making sure they are healthy and happy is our number one, however they get there!
Here is a little funny I thought you might enjoy!
This was my first “Tell All Tuesday” post and it wasn’t quite as well put together as I wanted. Like I said, this past week has been horrible for his sleep. That will probably be my next post.
Thanks for reading!