It was bound to happen. I had to write this post eventually. Right now my life revolves around breastfeeding. Or in my case, my lack of breastfeeding.
Once upon a time, when i imagined getting pregnant, and then imagined myself with a baby, i didn’t know ANYTHING about babies. I had never held a baby until my own son was born, believe it or not. So do you think i knew anything about breastfeeding? Nope. But i DID do a lot of internet reading while i was pregnant, and i did know that i wanted to breastfeed.
Fast forward to 12:24 am, January 28, 2011. My baby boy was just born. He was born at 36 weeks and 3 days. It was a long labor, 17 hours, and i was miserable. Labor progressed SO SLOWLY. I had been in the hospital since my water broke, at 7:30am the day before. I walked the halls in my hospital gown, going through contractions, but the doctors and nurses wouldn’t check me. Wait… this isn’t my birth story. This is about breastfeeding.
Anyways. When he was born, they let me hold him for 30 minutes. I had people in and out, meeting him and wanting to hold him and here i was a brand new mom, holding a baby for the first time in my life. But do you think i knew that at that moment, i should have been putting him to my breast?? I should’ve been attempting to nurse my baby, to feed him?
When the nurses took him to the nursery, and told me because of all the circumstances, they needed to observe him for 6 hours — do you think i’d object? Of course not! I was in PAIN, i’d just given birth, and i was worried about my baby boy! So they led us (hubby and i) to our new hospital room, and we settled in to chit chat a little about how we had JUST become parents, and then we tried to sleep. Hubby snuck down to the nursery to snap a few pics (to load up on Facebook, of course), and i tried to lay down, but the adrenaline rush was still there, and i couldn’t sleep. The pain pills finally began to work, and i did get some sleep that night. One thing i did not know about that night until months later — my little boy was given a bottle of formula that night. Without asking me. Without ever having been offered to nurse from his mama, his first food in this world was formula. That hurts my heart and soul to think about, still.
The next morning, completely oblivious to that fact, i was so happy for them to bring me my little boy. I don’t quite remember the actual first moment the nurse asked me if i’d like to try to nurse my baby. I wish i could recall it, and i feel awful for not being able to. I was drugged on pain pills and couldn’t get up out of bed, or even really use the bathroom on my own. But i know i tried to nurse him. And failed. And i made the biggest mistake that weekend i spent in the hospital. I let visitors come and go constantly, and i never really sat and just tried to feed my baby.
Nurses would come and ask me if i tried, and i’d say, “yeah… i tried…” and that was it. The lactation consultant never came to visit me. Just a few nurses would watch for a minute, and then say, ok keep trying…
We were in the hospital from Thursday morning until Sunday morning. Saturday afternoon, before my largest round of visitors, i had been alone for a few hours (Josh went home to shovel snow, since i’d had the baby during a big snowstorm) and we tried off and on to nurse in bed. The nurse even suggested skin to skin time, and just lay in bed together. Finally, 10 minutes before my visitors arrived, he latched. He latched, and started to feed! I was over the moon. He stayed latched, and seemed to eat and eat and eat… I made my visitors stay in the waiting area while i nursed. Finally, he seemed to be content, so i invited them in. My mom helped me out — she changed his diaper for me. (At that point, i’d been a mother for almost 2 days, and still hadn’t changed a diaper!) and then i got back in bed and the baby was passed around for a while, before he started rooting around and fussing and even as a new mom, i knew that meant he was hungry. So everyone finally left, and i tried to feed him again. Hey, i was getting this! I was nursing my baby! *insert very large smile*
In the late, late hours that Saturday night, the nurses came to examine the baby. That’s when everything went downhill.
“Jaundice,” they told me.
That night, i slept with him in the hospital bed with me. Holding him close. Trying to nurse. Trying to get some sleep.
They checked him again in the morning, yep, jaundice. They made me schedule an appointment to with a pediatrician Monday morning, to have his jaundice levels checked, because they were so concerned.
Here is where things get fuzzy for me. I have all of the doctor’s appointments journaled elsewhere, but since it’s all just the same, i’ll just summarize what basically happened. All the while, i’m trying to get a handle on breastfeeding my baby, i figured it would be easier Sunday morning when we went home and i could just sit and nurse him and everything would be great.
Monday morning we got up and went to the pediatrician’s office. She was concerned about his jaundice levels, so they wanted us to go get his blood drawn. We took him to the hospital, where they had a hard time drawing blood, and then we went home to wait. Josh even sat in the window so they could get some sunlight. Finally the doctor calls, and we expected results, but instead, they told us we had to go back to the hospital to re-draw the blood, because it had been messed up. We were angry, and upset. Putting my few-day old baby through this AGAIN!? Not being able to nurse him (i didn’t know how to nurse, how was i supposed to nurse in public??). We complained in the hospital and they did the blooddraw right there, and we wanted results RIGHT then and there. So we waited, and we got them. And then they told us — go check in. We’re admitting him.
So we went back up to the maternity ward, where we had just been the day before, and checked in. My baby was going into the NICU. I SOBBED. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like this was failure #1 at being a mom. They let me in a nursing room, with a rocking chair and pillows and made me tea and let me nurse him. Finally after what felt like forever, they took him from me to get him hooked up in the little box, and they led me to my room, upstairs on the next floor, in room 10. Josh went home to let the dogs out, grab some stuff for us, and some food. While i sat on this bed, without my baby, not knowing what to do with myself. A nurse came up with a breastpump — and i had my first experience with “pumping”. It was a nice Medela pump, but i didn’t know what to do with it! She helped me hook up, turned it on, and left. No one explained the different settings or anything. So i pumped and pumped and pumped… no one told me how long to go for, or when to pump. I got a decent amount that very first time, maybe an ounce or two? I brought it down proudly to the NICU and gave it to them, they would be bottle feeding him while i went to sleep. Of course, i didn’t sleep, i snuggled in that bed with his blankie and tried to rest. I did that all night long. I got up every 3 hours to pump. But the more i pumped, the less came out. I’d go down to the NICU each time, with less and less breastmilk, and they’d give him more and more formula. What else could i say? I just couldn’t make the milk.
The next day, we stayed in the hospital all day. I went down every 2 or 3 hours, with my tiny amounts of pumped milk for my baby boy. They’d let me hold him, and try to nurse him. The nurse showed me how to massage my breast. How to work out the lumps, where we knew there was milk. She showed me how to wake him up, and try to get him to nurse more. Finally, we went home that night around 8pm. I got on the couch, and attempted to nurse him right away. But the hospital had forced me to take home all of these bottles of pre-made formula. And to give him an ounce every time we nursed.
Fast forward the days… the weeks… i nursed on demand EVERY SINGLE DAY. Some days, we nursed for HOURS. I sat on the couch, never moving. I researched breastfeeding all day, every day. Every time i went to the doctor’s, i’d cry. No weight gain. No weight gain. A WEIGHT LOSS. I’d supplement, and then when things started to go well, i’d stop. And he’d lose weight. They’d yell at me, and i’d start the cycle again. His jaundice didn’t go away until he was almost 2 months old. Then i thought, i can stop supplementing again. But then he’d lose weight, again.
So he’d take some formula. And then more formula. And i would say NO to the formula, but Josh would give it to him anyways. I read books on breastfeeding. I visited with a friend of a friend, who had breastfed 11 children. She said he had a good latch. We figured out a few ways to keep him nursing. Told me, try that for a week, no supplementing. When i went to the doctor a week later, he hadn’t gained NOT ONE OUNCE. So we tried it again. This time, he LOST an ounce.
I was only able to keep this up until he was about 3.5 months old. I started to go crazy. I assumed the doctors thought i just didn’t feed my baby. I was seeing doctors twice a week, and having a visiting nurse come to my home once a week. I felt like i was known as the girl who didn’t feed her baby. The girl who couldn’t breastfeed. The mom who didn’t want to give her baby formula even when he was starving.
My baby was fussy. Angry. ALWAYS upset. I’d nurse him for two hours straight, and he’d still scream like he was starving.
Somewhere before he turned 4 months old — i’d almost given up. I decided, my life was about to become all about my breastpump. I mean, this way i could feed him from a bottle, know how much was going in, but also know that it was breastmilk. So instead of nursing on demand, i pumped every 2 hours. The baby seemed a lot happier, anyways. Once he was eating regularly, he was happier. Not as fussy. Sleeping more. Developing. *sigh* Had i been starving my baby?
Which leads us to where we are, now. Almost 5 months old.
He gets 10 ounces of breastmilk a day. That’s about how much i can pump. I wish so badly i could pump his total intake per day, and wouldn’t have to supplement with formula. But that’s just not in the cards for me.
I do everything they suggest to increase supply. I take Fenugreek, and Blessed Thistle. I eat oatmeal. I drink Mother’s Milk tea. I drink water. I eat all my meals. I pump MORE often than every 2 hours! Sometimes i pump every hour!!
I’m currently up to pumping about 13 ounces a day. I have almost 20 ounces in my freezer right now. I’m doing everything i can to give my baby breastmilk until he turns one year old.
This is the hardest thing i’ve ever done. Do i feel like the hospital sabotaged my breastfeeding relationship with my baby? Yes. Do i think about it every day? Most definitely! But i still try to nurse him every single day, and most days, we do. I can’t say for sure if he’s actually eating or not when we nurse, but it comforts him, and most of all, it comforts me.
And every drop of breastmilk i DO give him, is a drop of love from Mama. A drop he wouldn’t be getting if i wasn’t working so hard for it. But i’d do anything for him. And i am, doing everything for him.