I guess it would be better if I said breastfeeding just doesn’t come easy. I don’t have one friend that has said, “yup it was cake!”
So here is my story and what I learned.
After the first day at the hospital, all the nurses told me that Little G was a strong nurser. That didn’t mean he was good at it, it just meant that he ate with a ferocity that in all honesty down right scared me. When he woke up, they could not bring him to me fast enough!
As I was heavily drugged from my cesarean and this was my first attempt at trying to be a mom, I didn’t notice how often he ate. Now though, I know that he wasn’t eating enough (problem 1). Little G was a small guy, so nursing was a bit difficult for him, and therefore caused me much pain (problems 2 and 3). He couldn’t figure out how to latch and stay latched. To make sure he was fed, we supplemented him with bottles, and sometimes after he couldn’t get it figured out he would get a bottle to calm him.
My hospital didn’t have any lactation consultants, but thankfully there was nurse that really took the time and helped me out. She was so great. She sent D out to buy a boppy pillow and a contact nipple shield (kind of like a guard so it wouldn’t hurt). Isn’t D great?
The shield helped a lot, and I was getting the hang of it, or so I thought…
We brought Little G home and he wouldn’t eat. The two of us just couldn’t get it together. At times D would even try to help.
Based on what the books said, I called my pediatrician (in tears). Hormones were raging and I was a failure as a mom, it was tough. Luckily I have an amazing clinic dedicated just to breastfeeding. I called them and the woman was so nice i.e. probably could tell I was on the verge of tears (I was trying to sound like an adult). It was a Friday, so she told me what to do over the weekend (mostly bottles – he had to eat).
On Monday, off I went to my appointment, Little G and D in tow. Little G was down to the 3rd percentile in his weight. Again I was a failure as a mom. The clinic was amazing. The nurse that helped me was also a La Leche League leader and even called me on the weekends to check in. Just amazing.
The next 12 weeks were a series of weekly appointments for weight checks, lots of pumping, bottles, failed attempts at breastfeeding, lots of frustration and a serious amount of tears all around. I hated pumping, I truly did. But I was committed.
I can remember at one point, while Little G was screaming and I was becoming more frustrated, where I sat him up to discuss with him that he was hurting me, and shouldn’t do that and why. At other points I would have to hand him off to D for the bottle because I was emotionally frayed from the attempt. Poor Little G… it was tough on him too.
But, ever so slowly we were getting it and I was healing. I mainly tried when he was sleepy, as this is the time they are more likely to take new things. I went back to the nipple shield and was prescribed some cream to help with the pain. Also during this time Little G was diagnosed with Acid Reflux (problem 4) and a strong dairy allergy (problem 5). His formula was $26 a can, so I was trying all I could to avoid needing that. Not to mention I enjoyed our quiet time while I was feeding him, when it happened. It was our special moment. He just wouldn’t eat all that much, or if he did he would skip other feedings. We constantly had to wake him to eat (sometimes we still do).
Finally after 12 weeks his weight started to go up! Yay! The nurse told me that once his weight started to go up it would get better. He would be out of the vicious cycle of not eating, being weak, sleeping, not eating etc. This is when it finally clicked, like a light switch. After that I had to wean him off the nipple shield, so I would use it at the beginning and not at the end…pain was back, but better. We were getting it!!
Eventually we were off and running. No screaming, arching back, tears, frustration etc. We are still breastfeeding strong, but it was a long and very difficult road and completely worth it.
Here’s what I learned from this:
- If it’s important to you, don’t give up.
- Get help! It’s ok that you can’t do it alone.
- Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy.
- Yes you might have to use a nipple shield, but it’s ok.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t hurt when you get the hang of it and it’s done right. I wondered if this was subjective, but it really doesn’t hurt.
- It’s ok to cry.
- Make sure your baby is fed, even if it means a bottle – It may make it more difficult in the long run, but they are not evil.
- You are not alone! Breastfeeding can be tough at first (and for some like me…longer than at first)
It makes me so sad when I see my friends that really wanted to breastfeed give up because they didn’t have the support they needed, or didn’t know that it is hard.
Do you have any stories that would help someone going through this? Share them in the comments.