Real talk: Breastfeeding was hard for me. Really hard.
I birthed my son. That was the easy part. I struggled hard with nursing. It was the one thing I was most worried about. My nipples cracked and bled. A "normal" rate of weight loss for a newborn is up to 7% of baby's weight., and Andrew lost more than 10%. I had I.V fluids during birth, so this is not uncommon. For a first time Mom, it felt like catastrophe. I make sure I tell my clients now that it is normal for baby to have some water weight from the I.Vs, and normal for them to lose it. At any rate, we were suggested to supplement with formula. Within the hour, I tried to pump to increase my milk supply, while my husband drove out for formula. I was nursing my baby on one side, and re-reading the instructions for the breast pump to pump on the other side. He cried around the clock. We could go an hour and a half without getting him to breast. I got the Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. A month later, he lost weight between check ups. I got the Domperidone. I had LCs come to the house, I was referred to a pediatrician. I went to breastfeeding clinics. More than many other parents do. Below is a real email I sent to my now mentor, but then was the Lactation Consultant:
I'm still struggling a bit here and was hoping to ask your advice, yet again. I will pay you for the ongoing advice and really appreciate the support!
It seems like my boobs have missed the memo on up-regulating my supply. The past couple days I've been lucky if he will stay on for 30 seconds (even with compressions), unless it's before sleep and I'm moving with him. I'm doing skin to skin as well. Night feeds are still great - the primal brain is amazing!
I'm still on the max of domperidone, fenugreek and blessed thistle. We've cut supplementing with pumped breast milk or formula, in an effort to try and get him back on the breast and increase my supply, even though the pediatrician we saw on Tuesday for our pre-scheduled follow up said we need to top him up if he's not satisfied because he needs calories, and that he didn't gain as much as she wanted him to (bare minimum of safe range over 3 weeks) so we we were told we shouldn't withhold!
I guess I'm wondering at what point I consider that maybe my supply isn't going to be enough for him? We keep being told he needs more and it's really hard for me to hear him screaming like this during feeds.
If you have any more advice for me, that would be so appreciated.
Sent from my iPhone
These were dark days. It was coming to the end of day nursing for us, within a month of sending that desperate email. We tried the supplemental feeding tubes with formula. The day I met some of my dearest Mom Friends, I was at Mom and Baby group. Andrew cried and cried. I had to sit in the hallway for half of it, so my supplemental tubing bottle could be higher than my breast. Ann, a very dear woman to me, came to check on me. "Are you ok?" I couldn't blink or the tears would fall. "I'm ok; you can take my spot in the big comfy chair if you want." "You've been gone for a while, do you need anything?" What I really wanted was a Guinness, a hot shower and a nap. "I'm ok, thanks though." Lie. Dark days. I flew to Cape Cod and he stopped nursing during the day. He was hungry, but refused the breast. He took bottles instead. We kept night nursing until he was 9 months old.
We found out when he was almost six months old, Andrew had an undiscovered posterior tongue tie and a stage four lip tie. He couldn't flange his lip properly or get enough breast in his mouth to drain the breast well, get enough milk, or maintain supply. We missed it as tongue and lip issues can get worse over time. He was healthy; he was just small. He nursed around the clock to get what he needed.
I had PPD. I was anxious all the time. I counted days and ounces that he was supposed to gain between doctors' appointments, and marked it on the calendar. At the time, I felt like such a failure. I wanted nothing more than to EBF. That's Momspeak for exclusively breast feed, if you were wondering. I couldn't feed my baby. I was so frustrated he refused the breast. I tried not to give him another option. I couldn't handle his response to that. He didn't want the milk I barely had. How could it be so easy for everyone else? I found a medication that worked for me. I talked about it. It got better.
Looking at it now, I would have changed some things. I would have offered tubing to the breast instead of a bottle right away. I would have known to check for tongue and lip ties. I would have still done all of the herbs and meds. I would have still tried it all. But when it stopped working, I would have stopped blaming myself. I did everything I could. When the facilitator of the Mom and Baby group said to me, "Jackie, no one could have tried harder than you; You did all you could." It was so validating. I could have hugged her. I could have cried. That wouldn't have been hard- I spent most of my time close to tears. I wouldn't have made it as long as I did without my support team and being around other like minded parents. Those breastfeeding clinics saved us to see that other people needed help, as well. By the end of it, I could give some advice to them, too.Parent and Baby groups saved my anxiety.
I am not a doula who will judge your feeding choices. I don't know what you've been through. I am pro-breastfeeding and pro-formula feeding. I am pro-baby feeding. I did it all. I did baby led weaning. I gave him baby food pouches on occasion. He still wants to eat chicken nuggets and bananas, and other beige foods for the majority of his meals. Do your best. Forget the rest. If breast feeding just isn't the right choice for you, I am still in your corner. You're doing great. You are not a failure because you're not nursing. Your baby is lucky to have you.
If breastfeeding isn't going well, get help. There are individual supports like lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, public health nurses, breastfeeding clinics, and other professional services that can help. Reach out today. firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll point you in the right direction. If you need postpartum mood supports, or are struggling with your emotions, please reach out. <3
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.