Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I never imagined that doing what should be the most natural thing in the world would be so darn difficult. I always thought it would just come naturally to me and baby Theodore.
I had all these plans laid out for breastfeeding. Haha plans, right? My plans with Theodore just always get thrown out of the window.
I planned on doing skin to skin right after birth and have him breastfeed right away and then exclusively breastfeed from then on. After some weeks I would start pumping once a day to build up a supply and let Jay be able to feed Theodore. Plan made.
Reality: I was able to do skin-to-skin almost immediately but I was shaking so much from the drugs from the c-section I wasn’t able to offer him my breast for awhile and then when I did he couldn’t latch on. A baby can actually not be able to latch on? I had no clue. The nursery nurse said that I had flat nipples and he had a high palette and that I needed to use a shield. The shield was incredibly painful the first few feeds but he kept falling asleep at the breast and not feeding very long.
They started worrying about his weight and said I needed to hand express or pump (which I had brought my pump like the birthing class suggested to) and give him my pumped colostrum by spoon or syringe. We tried that and I was getting a little bit but when they checked his blood sugar it had started dropping.
The nurses started pushing that I supplement. I didn’t want to give him a bottle. I was already pissed about the shields. I kept trying to get him to latch without them but it was no go. He could only latch with the shield and it was still painful. They showed me how to put formula in a syringe connected to a tube that we inserted between the shield and my breast and while he sucked to push formula slowly where he got nourishment and was still at the breast.
We did this and it kind of worked but wasn’t super successful. At this point I was exhausted mentally and physically and in so much nipple pain. It was the second evening and I finally gave in to letting him be fed from a bottle. Jay gave his first bottle. I cried the whole time. I felt like a failure. I kept pumping and was finally getting some dencent amounts of colostrum and we gave that to him via bottle.
I stopped trying to get him to latch.
We were released home and I kept pumping and giving him that (my milk was slowly coming in) and supplementing what I couldn’t pump with formula. I would try a few times a day to get him to latch and he would either scream bloody murder or sleep. I would sit there and cry and tell Jay and my mom that he hates my nipples. That he doesn’t like me. I was so miserable. All I wanted to do was breastfeed and that just wasn’t happening. I had heard stories the whole time I was growing up about how I, as a newborn, latched on right away and my mom never had any issues with feeding me. Why was it so easy for everyone else and not me? I felt like a failure as a mother and as a women.
I had met the official lactation consultant for the hospital/Doctor the last hour I was in the hospital and was just so ready to get home I told her that we were fine and I didn’t need her. I had requested her the first day but I guess she doesn’t work weekends. All the nurses minus one was just terrible about the feeding and just kept telling me with my flat nipples and his high palette that it just wasn’t possible to breastfeed him at the breast without a shield.
I was friends with a girl whose sister is a lactation consultant and owns a business that brings together other professionals for women’s needs during pregnancy like midwives and doulas, after birth like other lactation consultants, and other professionals like a birth photographer.
The sister wasn’t available but another lactation consultant named Claire was. I was able to get in to see her around week 2/3 and she watched him try to latch and examined him. She said I did not have flat nipples which was good news. She figured the drugs I was on probably caused that issue. She believed he had a tongue tie and a possible lip tie. She recommended a pediatric dentist who revises these issues. I was pumping a good amount at this point and he was getting all of his feeds from a bottle with maybe one bottle of formula a day. I was trying to get him to latch maybe one time a day, if that. It was just so mentally exhausting everytime I tried. It made me feel less connected to him and like a failure so I just didn’t try.
We saw the dentist and she said he did have a tongue tie and a lip tie.
Before the visit I had done a lot of research and knew these were probably the issues with him latching and that the lip tie can cause serious speech issues later on in life. We opted to get both revised right then. She uses a dental laser instead of the old school of clipping/cutting.
It was quick and he seemed more upset about someone holding him down (not momma) than the laser. He calmed down within seconds of me holding him. She sent us home with instructions to do stretches on the area for three weeks to make sure it didn’t heal back on its self and with a one week follow up. She warned that I may have one good feed here and there but I wouldn’t see constant improvement for probably 3 weeks. That he would be in some pain when we did the stretches but he mainly wouldn’t like us in his mouth. Also, she said that he would get worn out feeding in the first week because his tongue had learned to suck one way since 13 weeks in utero and now it had to learn a completely new way to suck.
I told myself that even if this didn’t help with him latching breastfeeding then I know it would help with speech. It went just like the dentist said. He had a decent latch here and there but nothing consistent. At this point two weeks post his revision I was so sick and tired of pumping and was ready to just thrown in the towel and give up. I was having to hold him while pumping or the alternative was to listen to him scream while pumping which wasn’t going to happen. My mom and Jay said I needed to do what was best for me and Theodore. I could tell both of them thought it would be better if we just switched over to formula.
I had Claire come visit to see about his latch. She came to our house. It was two weeks past his revision. She said he was still having issues with his tongue but it looked better. During the time she was with us she said “you are doing a good job momma. Keep it up. I’m proud of you” Those words are the defining, turning point in this journey. I know my mom and Jay felt the same way but they had only talked about how it was okay to quit. I didn’t realize it but that is what I needed to hear right there in that moment. I started trying to get him to latch more and followed Claire’s instructions to get him as much positive breast time as possible. If he started having a meltdown then just to relax and give him a bottle.
On May 17th/18th we had our first 24 hour span with him feeding completely at the breast with no bottles. I was so proud of him and myself. Jay was just in shock by the drastic change. It took over 5 weeks to be able to correctly latch but I am so glad I struggled and fought tooth and nail during that time. I am so happy that I got help from a professional. I couldn’t have done it without Claire. She is the reason I am breastfeeding Theodore. The ability to feed my baby from my breast is such a wonderful feeling. Yes, sometimes it still hurts when he sleepy and becomes lazy. Yes, sometimes it takes him awhile to latch. Yes, when I’m exhausted at night I sometimes let Jay give him a bottle that might be of formula. All of those things seem small now because I know that no matter what I did it. I am doing it. I am breastfeeding my baby.
If you want to do it, if you want to achieve it then don’t give up. Don’t worry about how you travelled the journey. The ending is all that matters.