Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In the trenches of rookie parenting- breastfeeding

So while I'm on hold with our health insurance, figured I'd try to punch one of these out.

I probably can't relate all that has happened since my last update, but here's what I remember.

Sophia had her first episode of gas. Only I didn't realize that was the problem until the middle of the night. And we were in Tampa. And I didn't bring any medications with us. But at 7am a trip to CVS cured that problem. Thank you generic Mylicon. That was the only horrific night. I maybe slept an hour altogether, and she mostly screamed. It must have been something I ate, but I sure don't know what it was.

She had her frenulum under her tongue snipped in order to try and facilitate better breastfeeding and weight gain. At 2.5 weeks she was still 4 ounces shy of birth weight, eating all the time, and irritating my breasts even with the nipple shields. In fact I had a small crack on one side that was really making it painful.

Two days after the snipping, we visited the lactation consultant again to see about training her to feed without the shields. She actually did pretty well with that. However, I was concerned because she was still eating so much. Like 12 times in 24 hours for 30 minutes to an hour at a time. And she was still underweight at 3 weeks. I'd tried pumping twice, once after a feeding where I got like 5ml and once in place of a feeding where I was able to get 2 ounces. But it seemed my pump was really slow and not very forceful.

They tested my pump, and it was dead. At this point I was ready to rent one, to try and give my cracked side a chance to heal, and also to see what I was getting and to be able to let someone else do a feeding or two, because I was tired and tearful all the time. Sophie was sleeping for two 3-4 hour stretches at night, but it was during the day she would wear me out.

So the lactation consultant gave a plan. Start Fenugreek supplements to try and increase my supply. She said to only keep her at the breast for active feeding where I can hear her swallowing. No more hanging out for 30 minutes doing "tickle" sucking. I didn't realize she wasn't swallowing for so much of the feeding. It was just for comfort. Which is ok if my breasts weren't so worn out and irritated. So feed 15 minutes each side, then pump for 15 minutes both sides. Give pumped milk via syringe feeding to try and get in extra calories. Repeat process every 3 hours. Also massage the area around her mouth a few times a day to re-train the muscles and play "tug of war" with a pacifier to build mouth strength. But of course don't give the paci any other time.

So off I went to another area of the hospital to rent my pump. Only to find out they were out. They expected a shipment "hopefully sometime next week". Are you kidding me? Everything hinged on that! I was so upset. I called for their recommendation on purchasing a pump, since they said the rental pump is not great for taking to work anyway, too heavy. Only after three attempts at paging the on call Lac Cons, no one ever called back. Not until the next day. Turns out the pager died.

Anyway, I called the other hospital in town about a pump, but by that point it was 4:30 on the Friday before Christmas. I left a message but no one has ever called me back about that. There's a reason I didn't deliver there.

So I went to Craigslist and found a Pump In Style Advanced in the backpack that someone purchased in August from Target and only used for 3 weeks. For $100. Like 2 months of pump rental. Only they couldn't meet me til Saturday.

Saturday at noon we got the pump. By the time we made it home from shopping it was 3. I took my first dose of Fenugreek, fed her and then pumped. I got one ounce after she was done. One measly ounce.
And then 2 hours later she was hungry again. So we fed each side, pumped, then gave her the 1 ounce from before. She GULPED that ounce down. Got her settled and asleep. Only this time I had 5 ml from pumping. Like 1/6th of an ounce. So sad. She woke up 1.5 hours later, crying, head bobbing and hungry. I broke. I knew she'd be sorely disappointed with breastfeeding and then only like 2 sips from the syringe. I also knew I couldn't do this process every 1.5 hours. It's an hour plus with 30 minutes breastfeeding, 15 minutes pumping and 15-20 minutes to syringe feed. Add in burping, diaper change, swaddling and soothing and you could be at it 90 minutes or longer if she can't be soothed right away.

I was a crying, anxious, hopeless mess. I wanted to give her something to satiate her. I was said that my body was failing me yet again. So we called the pediatrician (he'd told us to call if I felt like giving up). After a 20 minute conversation with lots of crying, he gave the go ahead to start supplementing her. He agreed I needed the break and so did my poor boobs. He even suggested pumping only and bottle feeding for a few days. I didn't want to regress that far, so I decided to keep the consultant's regimen, except adding in formula via syringe so that she could be satisfied and I could have 3 hours between each feeding ordeal.

I can't tell you how much I didn't want to give formula. I hate the ingredient list. But, I also hate googling postpartum depression because I'm afraid I have it I cry so much. I hate thoughts of our pre-baby days being so nice in my mind. Believe me, I love Sophie and never had thoughts of hurting her or myself, but I did feel the thread I was hanging on by slipping. I was having trouble coping. I couldn't keep up our feeding routine for another three weeks (they keep telling me it gets better at 6 weeks).

So, after getting recommendations from the doc, John went off to the store to buy the formula. Enfamil or Similac was recommended. He came home with Enfamil because they were out of regular Similac. I did the feeding, pumping, and then syringe feeding. And she gulped down like 3 ounces of formula. She was soothed easily and slept for 4 hours. It was awesome.

I decided to give the left breast a chance to heal, so I would pump from the left while feeding on the right, then pump both, then syringe feed. It's still a 60+ minute process. And I was still only getting like an ounce of breastmilk from pumping. But then she'd get an additional 1-3 ounces formula. She would suck it down and scream while we loaded up the next syringe full. We'd know she was full when she was quiet once you stopped feeding. Poor little thing has basically never been full for all her 3 little weeks of life.

And I started to feel human again. I smiled more. John sent me out for a few hours with a friend. I left Sophie for the first time and didn't have to worry about her the whole time. Someone else could feed her if needed.

Today I see the lactation consultant again. She'll be weighed. Our home scale says she's now 3 ounces over birth weight. We have some things to address still. Despite 4 days of Fenugreek I'm still only getting an ounce to an ounce and a half when pumping after feeding. And only 2.5-3 ounces when pumping instead of feeding. That just isn't meeting Sophie's needs. And the syringe feeding is really an ordeal. Especially for John. It's frustrating and time consuming for him. And time consuming for me. It looks like we are going to need to continue to supplement for awhile, and I don't think we can keep doing it via syringe. Since she'll be a month old Saturday, we are probably going to start using a bottle to supplement.

I also want to know if there is anything else I can do to increase supply. I'd love it if we didn't have to supplement. But I also want to keep my sanity. It's essential to Sophie's well being too.

There's good to the story also. We are not having to use the nipple shields anymore. And after 2 days of exclusive pumping on the left the crack has healed and it's back in service :) So yay for that!

But more areas of concern- Sophie get sleepy at the breast really easily. Even when she's naked. Then there are also times she gets squirmy and frustrated. It's a struggle to get 30 minutes of good quality sucking. To be honest, she probably only gets 15 minutes of good solid feeding each time. BUT- when I pump insteading of putting her to breast, I'm emptied in about 7-10 minutes. I've tried putting the pump back into letdown mode to see if I can get more, but it seems I only am able to have 1 letdown per session.

So it's been a wild ride here. I'm beginning to think Sophie is here to teach me to let go of my fierce grip on having it my way. And to empathize with those who do things that in the past I didn't "approve" of. I still want a natural birth and exclusive breastfeeding. Maybe next time around that's what I'll get. But that's not the hand I've been dealt this time. And all I can do about that is put it in God's hands and John and I make the best decisions we know how.

And kudos to all the women out there who overcome obstacles to keep breastfeeding. The pediatrician says it's supposed to be easier than a bottle after the initial break in period. I'm glad for those women that it is. But our pedi says I've "climbed Mt. Olympus" trying to solve our feeding issues, and all that's required is that I feel I've done everything I could. And I know that's subjective. I know there are women who've pushed through even more obstacles than me. But I've done what I can do and still be mentally healthy.

I'll try to update ya'll again if we make any changes or progress.

Until then- pray for us and specifically for my boobs! Those udders need to step up the production BIG time!


  1. Your experiences are very much like mine... My first I barely breast fed 6 weeks. Once I did bottle cause daddy wanted to help she never wanted to go back which ended up fine by me! It is hard and not like the photos in the books and manuals... When expecting twins...I went straight to formula for survival. I remember a nurse at the hospital saying the bottle fed babies in nursery slept better and were happier... Don't torture wants mommy happy, too! I

  2. Hey lady, don't sweat the breast feeding, you have to do what works best for both of you!! Also, have you looked into milk donations if you're against formula? I have a friend who adopted and now her baby is 6 months and hasn't had a drop of formula due to donations she's received from people she's met thru FB I think..sounds crazy, but it's worked awesome for them and amazingly it's free! Good luck momma.

  3. You are an awesome woman and Mom. Sophie's best world includes a mom who uses all tools available to provide optimal care for everyone. Be proud of all your goals and all your efforts. Be comfortable with the path you are on. You are loved.

  4. You are the Mommy Sophie needs. So, trust your instincts and know that God will give you the wisdom you need to make the best decisions for her and your family. I'm praying for you....I know what you mean about learning to let go of your structured, ordered, organized life. Having children certainly helped me relax and not so in control all the time. Initially, about an ounce is all I pump at a time, too. Baby's tummy is about the size of a small marble, so that's all they can handle at a time. As their tummy grows, so does your milk supply. It is time consuming, but it is worth it. I totally had to restructure my priorities for the first few months. Just take care of yourself and the baby and ask for help with things when you need it for cooking, laundry, errands, etc. It's okay to not do everything yourself! I had to learn that, too. Love ya, Momma!

    1. melissa is right! sophie's tummy is tiny and will grow as your milk supply do have to center ALL your PRIORITIES around breastfeeding those first three months...and it's okay to just let the house go to are a MAMA!

  5. breast feeding has been agonizing for me for two of my babies...come to find out I had thrush both times...the cracking, searing burning, bleeding. yeah....been there done that! It's not always the blissful experience we are expecting and if you need to supplement then do so BECAUSE STRESS will reduce your milk supply too! And sometimes, supplementing allows your body to rest a bit and "catch on" to what it is supposed to be doing. Anyway, let her COMFORT feed whenever she wants to nap; it's the experience you want her to have anyway and make sure she gets the nutrition with organic similac (the only brand I could find organic from Target that is not soy based). I used it some to help me heal from the thrush as well...don't feel condemnation! :) It is what it is and you have tried your best and plan B is good when plan A simple isn't working! Also pump between the hours of 12 midnight and 5am in the morning. I began to pump then and the milk FLOWS! Something about more milk being produced at night and by pumping more then it sorta "jump starts" you better. it's worth a week of no sleep to have a steady flow....fenugreek works but may need to be taken all the time without fail to "build up" in your system. And rest! :) Hugs and Heart thots


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