Breastfeeding was never supposed to be difficult after all, we’re biologically designed to provide love and nutrition to our offspring in this way. I did all the right things during my pregnancy; attended child birth classes, watched videos, read books and even went to La Leche League meetings. I was prepared both mentally and physically to nurse my child. Somewhere though, something went wrong.
My son was born after pushing for 20 minutes and immediate placed on my chest for skin to skin bonding. I had a rush of both joy and a feeling of disconnection at the same time. It didn’t take long before Ethan had started the breastcrawl, slowly inching his way up my body. I brought him closer to my breast and he immediately latched on and started suckling. I knew in that moment that everything was the way it was supposed to be.
By the next day, I knew something was wrong. Breastfeeding hurt, when I knew it wasn’t supposed to. I had had sore breasts throughout my pregnancy so at first I chalked it up to that. But when I started getting bruised and bloody nipples, I knew it wasn’t just soreness.
The nurses at the hospital I had delivered at were all required to have continuing breastfeeding education, so several nurses would help position him at the breast. We would try the cradle, cross cradle, side laying and football hold. We also saw 2 different lactation consultants during our stay as well. Each one had a different tip, and each one said his latch looked great, but it still hurt. One of the nurses stated if he didn’t start gaining weight, they would need to supplement with formula. So at that point I let him latch on however he wanted – figuring a bad latch was better than no latch. The pain was excruciating, but I powered through it. When I was discharged 3 days after birth, he was still losing weight, so they made us an infant wellness check on that Friday.
My husband and I weren’t too concerned with his weight loss – after all, breastfed babies lose weight before they gain. At our wellness appointment, he had lost even more weight, so we were booked another well baby appointment and an appointment with another lactation consultant. She evaluated him and his sucking ability, and noted he had a high palette, tongue tie and possible lip tie. I was instructed to start pumping after every feeding to help my milk come in. We left with a a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist with instructions to come back the next day to weigh our son.
I pumped with my little pump and got enough milk for quite a few feedings. I was worried about the possibility of both nipple confusion and overfeeding him so we ended up using a dropper rather than a bottle for this first feeding. Feeling satisfied with ourselves, we were confident this would help our problems. Came back the next day and he had still lost weight, even after supplementing. At this point he had lost 11% of his birth body weight. This time the lactation consultant instructed us to feed him as much of the bottle as he wanted using paced feeding; he took an additional 4 ounces. During this visit, we also got a Supplementing Nursing System to use in conjunction with breastfeeding. Another appointment was booked for us over the weekend to weigh him again.
During this day, I pumped dutifully after every nursing session, but I couldn’t keep up with the demand. My husband had purchased some formula a few days prior to this, so we would have just in case. With our son crying, demanding more milk we finally caved in and opened up a bottle of the premixed formula. I sobbed and sobbed the first time we gave him that bottle. I had always thought he would be exclusively breastfed, and feeding formula was never part of the plan. I felt like my body was failing at something it was designed to do. All the natural childbirthing books I had read compared formula to poison.
Once we started supplementing with formula, we noticed an immediate difference in our son. We had always thought we had a difficult baby… turns out he was just hungry.
At our next weigh in, he had finally gained weight. Huge relief! We booked a phone appointment with the lactation consultant who advised us in the mean time to start taking Fenengeek. Our referral for the ENT Specialist came through and we saw them that Monday. She clipped our son’s tongue, but stated that lip ties were never a problem with a breastfed baby. We went home hopeful that he would be able to nurse more efficiently.
Neither taking the fenengeek or having his tongue clipped help. When we spoke with the lactation consultant again, she advised a few more herbs I could take and ended the conversation stating some moms just don’t make enough milk. This left me extremely frustrated. Although some moms really can’t make enough milk for their babies, it’s fairly uncommon.
So, one night, crying to myself at 2AM in the morning, I booked an appointment with a Lactation Consultant outside of our insurance network.
Two days later we went in for our appointment, and I tearfully explained all of our problems. She watched him eat, and also did a suck test, where she also noted his high palette, lip tie, and tongue tie. She stated the first time his tongue was clipped, it hadn’t been done far enough back. So, again, I had his tongue clipped. She offered to do his lip, but I wanted to do more research on lip ties, so I declined. Looking back, I wish that we had had it done then, since there are few to no side effects. I left with another SNS and a prescription for domperidone – which ultimately I decided I did not want to take.
We tried the SNS, but ultimately gave up on it since not only did it frustrate both of us, it didn’t seem to make a difference. My son comfort nurses a lot, so we weren’t lacking in nipple stimulation.
As of today, we are still nursing. He typically gets about 4 ounces of formula a day, but the rest is breastmilk. If I have enough pumped, he will get that instead of the formula. I have had to remind myself over and over that I was not a failure because he gets a bottle of formula. I have had to remind myself constantly that the most important thing is that the baby is fed. I have had to remind myself that some breastmilk is better than no breastmilk. Initially I felt guilty, but I tried. I wish we could figure out the problem and fix it, but as of right now everything is the way it is supposed to be. I nurse and pump, and the baby gets fed. In the end, isn’t that what matters the most?