I’m going to start this by saying my nursing story is not the norm. It’s not as unusual as one might think, but it’s definitely not the norm. One thing I have learned from my 5 months of parenting experience (I’m totes a pro now, you know) is that holy bejeezus it’s hard. It’s so hard. There are a million different ways for it to be hard. It’s hard for you in a way that might be unique to the people you know, but it’s definitely not unique to the world of parenting. I am totally digressing. This is not about you and your struggles, this is a recap of the two months of total misery that I experienced. LET ME TELL YOU MY TALE OF WOE.
So, yeah. The few days in the hospital are a total blur to me now. I remember Wade not wanting to nurse at first. He projectile spit up this horrible black liquid…it was straight out of The Exorcist, I tell you. They assured us that was normal – he had just swallowed amniotic fluid and his stomach was full, so it had to get cleared out before he would nurse. So he didn’t really eat anything the first day. That led to him dropping nearly a full pound in the first 24 hours.
Like I said…the rest of the stay is a blur. Every time a lactation consultant from the hospital would come in and try to help me get him to nurse, it would be different advice. For some reason or another we settled on the “football hold” as the best method of feeding. idk why/how that happened. But that’s pretty much the nursing position we used throughout our adventure together.
The next two weeks…also a blur. We went home. I’d feed Wade whenever he cried, I guess? I really don’t remember. I just know it took him AGES to nurse. I had no idea this was unusual – I had never breastfed a baby before, or really been around anyone that was breastfeeding. Especially a newborn. But he would for real nurse for an hour on one side, then another 30 minutes on the other. And then he’d sleep for an hour or more. Which, everyone says that newborns are supposed to nurse ever two-three hours. I was like “How the frick is this supposed to work? As soon as he’s done nursing he’s supposed to start nursing again?!” So he definitely wasn’t nursing as often as he should. Which contributed to his weight loss and my supply problems, I’m sure.
We went to his two-week checkup and he still wasn’t back up to his original birth weight. I think he was within 5oz? The doctor didn’t seem too concerned, but did want us to come back after a week to see how things were going. I had read that it usually takes 2-3 weeks for everything to get settled with breastfeeding, but that if it still hurt at that point to go to a lactation consultant to make sure the baby was latching correctly and didn’t have any tongue/lip ties. It was still a bit painful when Wade initially latched, so I figured I’d go ahead and swing by the hospital’s lactation office to get things checked out.
Dude. The lactation consultant kind of freaked out over the fact that he wasn’t up to his birth weight. She also told me he should not be nursing for so long. She immediately gave him 2oz of formula, told me I should be taking fenugreek supplements, and gave us a new nursing routine. I now had to nurse for no more than…I think it was 10 minutes?…on each side, then supplement with 2oz of formula or expressed breast milk, and then pump until I was empty. I was like…I just wanted to make sure his latch was okay!! I called the doctor to verify that I really needed to start doing this, since he hadn’t seem overly concerned about Wade’s weight. He deferred to the consultant’s recommendation.
I was like…no. So I reached out to my doula and asked her if she knew of a lactation consultant I could use. She directed me to a woman who came out to our house. She basically did the same thing the one at the hospital had done – said he wasn’t getting enough and that I should nurse, supplement, and pump for every feeding. I believe she recommended up to 20 minutes on each side, though. As if that was better.
So, fine. That’s what I did. For two weeks. And it was pure hell. I tried to be really positive about it, and not complain. Mind over matter and all that. But it was rough. People telling me it was rough did not help, for the record. That was something I struggled with for the first three months. I really didn’t appreciate people telling me how much I was struggling, or how difficult it was, or how they had struggled, or how much easier it would be if I switched to formula. I mean, yes – the glorious relief of giving up was overwhelming, and life got a million times better after I did (spoiler alert, we don’t breastfeed anymore). But still. I was trying really hard to stay motivated and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone telling me how awful things were did not help. I’m going to try really hard to not do that to other new moms. End side rant, lol!
Anyway. It was awful. Do you know how hard it is to maintain that schedule? Then Wade started to refuse to latch. He would pull off and cry. I would offer the bottle and he would immediately start drinking. So then I would cry. And call Todd. I was definitely hysterical more than once. And I would cry when Todd left for work. We both kind of have some sort of PTSD from this time…he’s still pretty firmly convinced we should never have another baby, because I was such a wreck. >.<
I finally called another IBCLC that had come highly recommended from a breastfeeding support group I had joined on Facebook. (I cannot recommend enough joining parenting groups – they have kept me sane.) If you are in the Middle TN area and looking for an IBCLC you have got to go to her. She was a game. changer. I called her on a Friday and maaaay have started crying when I left the voicemail. (And Wade was definitely crying in the background. lol!) She scheduled a meeting with me on that Saturday because she could tell how desperate I was.
She was shocked about how much the first lactation consultant had freaked out over Wade’s weight, and assured me that he was most likely doing fine at that point. New research has shown that women who were on IV while in labor tend to have babies with a lot of water weight due to all the fluids. I think hospitals in other countries are even waiting 24 hours before they take the baby’s official “birth weight” just to make sure they’ve flushed out all that water weight.
Wade had a severe underbite that everyone before had commented on, but told me would get better in time. Something to do with the plates in a baby’s head shifting in the birth canal, blah blah blah. While this is true, she pointed out that it would obviously have a negative impact on the breastfeeding experience and was so severe that it could be hiding a tongue tie (I had been assured by every other LC that he did not have one). So she sent me to a massage therapist for a cranial massage. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen – after an hour of working with him, the therapist had shifted stuff around enough that his jaw had moved forward significantly. Then we went back to the IBCLC and she was like “Oh, yeah – he’s got a tongue tie.”
So then we had to go to Chattanooga to get a tongue-tie revision. At this point I had already started back at work, so everything was super difficult. The doctor there told me his tie was one of the thickest ones she’d seen in a long time. The change in nursing was IMMEDIATE and AMAZING. I almost cried. Wade and I never got his latch back to that perfect glorious moment, but it did get at least somewhat better after that.
By this point, my supply was destroyed. I have no clue if it could’ve been saved had I gone to a good IBCLC sooner…so many things went wrong – the first day of not nursing, followed by two weeks of nursing poorly, followed by two weeks of listening to janky advice… His revision wasn’t corrected until he was already two months old. I had tried SO many supplements. Fenugreek, blessed thistle, reglan, domperidone…I don’t know what else. I ate oatmeal every day. I drank a TON of water. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea. I ate everything anyone even kind of suggested might boost supply. But Wade kept dropping percentiles. He was gaining weight, but dropping percentiles.
He dipped down below the 10th percentile and that’s when I called it quits. I kept telling myself that as long as things were getting better I’d keep trying. And a little thing would happen here, and then another there… The final thing was the tie revision. EVERYTHING rode on that, and his weight gain after it. And after…two? three?…weeks – nothing. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like I was starving him. I dreaded breastfeeding. The god-awful routine of supplement, nurse, pump was about to drive me insane.
And then – AND THEN – my supply got worse. I was back at work full-time and where I had been pumping about 4oz a session when I was working part-time, now I didn’t even get 2oz. I had a hardcore ugly-cry session in my pumping room once that happened. Like…UGLY CRY. So I called it. I was done.
Well, I was going to give it one more month. I must be a masochist. I was giving it one more month to see if he would gain weight. I upped his supplement from 1oz to 2oz. And then two days later he totally refused to nurse. He wasn’t fussy about it – he would just…stop. He’d pull off, look at me, and grin. No matter how many times I tried to get him to latch, that’s all he would do. It’s like he was saying “Okay, Mom – that’s enough. We both need to make a change.”
So I switched to bottle-feeding him full-time. He gained FIVE OUNCES in three days. He hadn’t gained that much in a WEEK prior to that. I only pumped to relieve the pressure. I only leaked once on the first day. I had NEVER leaked breastmilk the entire time I had been breastfeeding. Not once. The first day after we’d given up my right side had a small trickle. I only pumped about once every…6-8 hours?…for I think like 3 days. And then I didn’t need to pump anymore. My boobs were sore, and got kind of hard. But they never got red or showed any other signs of mastitis or anything. Within a week they had totally deflated. Which is super depressing to look at in the mirror, let me tell you… lol!
Wade is now 5 months old. He’s in the 90th percentile in height, and the 20th in weight. He’s 26.5 inches tall, and 14lbs 6oz. And he’s the most perfect baby on the planet.