Breastfeeding: My Journey

I watch terrible TV when I'm breastfeeding and pumping.  So far, I have completed all the available seasons of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and Revenge.  Currently, I'm making my way through Private Practice where I saw a midwife helping a new mother who just gave birth.  The newborn was crying and the mother, insanely, didn't know why and the midwife said "He's hungry" and guided the baby to the woman's breast.

Then, get this, the baby latched perfectly, the mother did not wince or cry out in pain and she looked up happy with eyes full of meaningful joy.  I just want to know, whose breastfeeding experience was like this?!  Sure as hell not mine.

Mine went a little like this:

25 hours of labor full of epidural drugs and pitocin ending in a C-section result in no immediate skin to skin, a groggy baby who didn't latch immediately and milk that didn't come in until Day 4.

One lactation consultant said not to worry and that most baby's have a problem latching and there's only colostrum on the first day.

The next day, another lactation consultant came in and said that I need to pump every 4 hours to get my milk to come in and feed the baby the colostrum with my finger.  That night, my baby was wailing from hunger leaving DH and I completely frantic.  A nurse suggested formula supplementation and we agreed.  We were told not to use a bottle and to try spoon feeding instead.

On Day 3, the day we should have been released from the hospital, my milk still had no come in and I was unable to feed the baby so another lactation consultant came in and suggested using a nipple shield to get the baby to latch.  I refused to go home until I was confident I could feed the baby on my breast. Yet another lactation consultant came to visit in the evening and suggested we syringe feed the baby through the nipple shield instead of spoon feeding because it would train the baby to latch onto the breast instead of expecting the fast flow of the spoon.

Why don't Lactation Consultants have any of the same advice? It's so frustrating to get conflicting advice.  It's not Feng Shui, it's a bodily function!

On Day 4, my milk came in, the baby was latching with the nipple shield and we were supplementing with formula until my milk production increased. All seemed well and we headed home.

For the rest of the first week, Little One latched with the shield, we stopped using formula and I fed on demand.  We went to our first doctor's appointment and he was on track for weight and all seemed well.

I attempted to breastfeed without a shield a few times in the next week, ultimately putting the shield back on since LO's latch was so painful.  Then, he started wailing when I would try to feed him and after a couple of days, we had to start supplementing with formula again to calm him down.  It seems the shield had diminished my supply in addition to him refusing the shield.

Another case where the solution creates a long term problem.  Story of my breastfeeding life.

The solution?  A nursing vacation.  In Week 3, I holed up in my bedroom with LO doing nothing but nursing while DH brought me food and drinks so I wouldn't have the leave the bed.  We tried all different nursing positions and found that the football hold  and the My Brest Friend were the two easiest to get him to latch.

It was a new day, a new dawn. We were breastfeeding without a shield!  He was latching!  We were in business!  Except it was so EXTREMELY painful.  My nipples were starting to crack and bleed. By the early evening of every day, I couldn't bear to breastfeed him anymore.  Every morning, I would try again. That's when I considered Exclusively Pumping.

So I started to pump in the evening after a day full of breastfeeding caused me so much pain.  And while LO latch was getting better and better and my nipples started to heal, we had introduced bottles.  And while pumping, it seemed I wasn't producing very much milk which led to paranoia that LO wasn't gaining enough weight.

By week 4, LO was back on track for his weight at his one month appointment, we were supplementing formula as needed plus middle of the night feedings while I was attached to a pump for all the missed feedings.  We decided to feed LO formula at night because it was supposed to keep him fuller longer allowing us more time between night feedings so we could get some sleep.

So for weeks I aggressively pumped to increase my supply and close the gap between what he received in bottles to what I pumped everyday.  I tried everything to empty my breasts, simulate cluster feeding, pumping in the middle of the night.  I got clogged ducts, presumably from leftover little scabs from my nipples healing. I worked through those with heat therapy, massage, pumping and nursing.

I was starting to feel like a cow.  A sad, non-producing cow, destined for the steakhouse because I was useless as a milk maker. 

This was getting futile.  Up until this point, LO was waking up 2-3 times in the night for a change and feeding.  DH would handle the first and I would handle the rest when I read that night nursing would be the most effective way to increase supply. So, the rest of the middle of the night feedings went from formula to nursing.

In week 5,  I got milk blisters.  I tried everything to clear the blisters and they went away on their own. LO finally perfected his latch, before and after every nursing session I had a searing pain from the base of my breast to my nipples.  I thought it was thrush since I didn't have clogged ducts anymore.  After a few days, I finally went to the doctor who told me it was bacterial mastitis. I was prescribed antibiotics for the next 10 days.

This system of nursing from the middle of the night until the evening then switching to formula and pumping to make up for the formula feedings worked.  Occasionally I needed to supplement LO during the day when he was being particularly fussy.  I was also closing the gap to somewhere between 3-7 ounces a day between what he was getting in bottles to what I was able to pump.

By the end of week 6, the gap started to widen.  LO was taking in 4-5 ounces at a time instead of his usual 2-3.  And my supply seemed to have dropped despite all the galactogues I was taking in the form of supplements, teas and foods.  LO wasn't spending enough time at the breast to ramp my body up for his growth spurts.

The whole process seemed to be two steps forward and one step back.  Victory partnered with disappointment a few days later.  Finally, DH and I decided I would need to EBF as much as possible in our life until I went back to work if I wanted to continue BFing.

Then, I EBFed. BB was attached to me for most of the day, getting my supply up and within two to three days, we were falling into a more comfortable groove.  We fall into a feeding every 2-3 hour routine until the evening when BB would cluster feed until bedtime.

In week 7, I got milk blebs again and then another mastitis  infection and went back on antibiotics. 10 days later, BFing became that wonderful experience that everyone said it would be.

I am so glad I stuck it out and could/would not have done it without my husband's support and the adorable nature of my little baby.  The experience of looking down at my baby while he's nursing and smiling at me.  Knowing that I didn't give up after all the challenges to give my baby the best makes me feel like a good mother.

I am finally in the breastfeeding promise land. 

And as a result, I have a lot to share and will be starting a breastfeeding series of posts.

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