When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work

Babies and Toddlers, blog, Mommy tips, Parenting , , , , , , , ,

While pregnant with my first child I decided I wanted to breastfeed. Exclusively breastfeed.  I went to the classes, I read the books, I was ready! My baby was born and we started breastfeeding and it HURT!! It hurt so bad! The lactation consultants assured me that this was normal and that it would get better.  According to the bilirubin checks, he was doing great.  His weight was dropping, but I was assured it was within the normal range and to be expected. It still hurt, really badly (and I’ve been told I have a high pain tolerance!) I was given a nipple shield, it did help with the pain, but it still seemed so weird.  I was not getting used to it. After 3 days we went home and my son nursed almost constantly.  He’d take 45min, fall asleep for 15 then wake up screaming and starving.  I was in pain, crying most of the time, and frustrated that my baby was eating constantly. By day 5 our pediatrician was concerned with his weight.  He asked if my milk had come in and honestly, I didn’t know. I never felt full, but my son was nursing all the time.  He suggested we supplement and I cried.  I felt like a failure. (I already felt like a failure because I had a c-section, I did half expect for that to happen, but in my post-baby hormonal state I kept thinking that if I’d lived before c-sections were common we both would have died! So I cried about that a lot too.)

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After returning home we have him a bottle and he was happy. I cried. I couldn’t do the one thing that every mammal manages to do, breastfeed her baby. Why was my body letting me down?? I continued to try to nurse, supplement and pump.  That was about all I got accomplished each day, (oh and crying, I did a lot of crying)  The lactation consultants told me that crying was good for my supply, I think she was trying to make me feel better.  I went to a breastfeeding support group, every LC in the hospital checked his latch, everyone thought everything looked fine, but it still hurt.  Once we started supplementing my son gained weight and was happy. He slept well and did everything a newborn should do.  By week 3 he tried to stick out his tongue, but only the sides protruded, the tip stayed in his mouth.  That was a lightbulb moment for me!  I just knew he was tongue tied!  It was late at night when my husband noticed. I didn’t say anything at first, I thought maybe I was over thinking it.

The next morning I call our pediatrician’s office and somehow managed to explain my concern to the nurse (trying really hard not to cry).  After speaking to the doctor, they called an ENT and got in an appointment just 45min later. I arrived at the office and expected a consultation and a later appointment before anything actually happened. This was a Friday and I feared we would have to get through the weekend at least before anything was actually done.  I soon realized I was in a procedure room.  Once the doctor arrived, he kindly and gently examined my 3week baby.  He shared that the same thing happened with his daughter and clipping the frenulum was very helpful.  Because my son was so young, we could do it in the room and I could hold him or have a nurse hold him for the procedure.  I chose to hold him.

The first thing the doctor did was to hold an ice cube in my son’s mouth for him to suck on a bit and help numb his mouth. Then he squirted a bit of lidocaine (pretty sure that was what it was, I did have a 3 week old, so some details are a bit blurry).  Then he clamped the frenulum to reduce blood flow, after a short time he clipped it, and gave my son the ice cube again.  After just a minute or so, I gave him a bottle and he was fine.  He didn’t even cry much during the very quick procedure.

We attempted again to try breastfeeding, but after almost 3 weeks of mostly getting food from a bottle, he had little interest in breastfeeding.  I continued to pump, but I never got much.  This was a bit depressing.  I stayed home from work for 12 weeks.  I pumped almost very 2 hours during those 12 weeks.  My son was sleeping through the night, but I got up to pump.  It’s not fun, I didn’t even have a sweet babe to hold while I was up, just a yellow and white pump.  I again consulted a lactation consultant.  I wasn’t sure if it was best to give my son all the breast milk I pumped before giving formula or if I should spread it out and give him a bottle of breast milk each day. She recommended that we do 1  a day.  I was able to give my son breast milk for 5 months.  I had such mixed feelings about it.  I wish it had worked out differently.  I know for some moms they are able to successfully breastfeed once they baby’s tongue is clipped, but it didn’t work out that way for us.  I always felt like I had to explain to people shy my son got bottles.  I’m sure it was more in my head than anything. I know no one every asked me why I didn’t breastfeed, but I felt defensive about it.

I know it’s not important how my baby was fed. The important part was that he was fed. I didn’t shun supplementing because I knew my baby needed to eat.  I know it can be a very difficult choice, but it shouldn’t be! There should be no stigma about whether you breastfeed or bottlefeed. Formula isn’t poison and while breast milk does seem like liquid gold (especially when a just pumped bottle spills) it’s not a miracle cure all.  I wish breastfeeding was easy and possible for everyone, but I am so thankful for formula!  For my second son, I was more prepared and has his frenulum checked on the day he was born.  It was fine. He breastfed like a champ. He was exclusively breastfed until we added baby foods. We never had to supplement.  I worked 3 days a week and pumped while working. He woke at night to nurse until he was 9m old (totally making up for the fact that his brother slept through the night at 6weeks!!)  He weaned himself at 14m old.  It was a completely different experience!  He had bottles at daycare 3 days a week and never any nipple confusion. He had a pacifier for the first 3-4m.  Neither child has any food allergies. Both are very healthy.  Both are athletic and qualify for our school’s gifted and talented programs.  I wish I had not been so hard on myself about bottle feeding.  I wish I had been more comfortable with the idea of doing both bottle and breast. I have seen several mothers do both with no problems. I had just thought it had to be one or the other.  I want other mothers to know that they do not need to feel guilty about how the feed their baby.  I really enjoyed breastfeeding, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to do it.  There are many reasons why people choose to breastfeed or bottle feed and honestly, if you are not the parent, it’s none of your business! Support all parents in caring for their children.

For more information about feeding your baby please go to https://fedisbest.org/

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