My struggle with breastfeeding

For the months leading up to motherhood, I was positive that I would be the breastfeeding queen.  I was going to have so much milk supply, that maybe I could sell it! I wasn’t going to need formula back up at home, I am nursing my baby girl and that’s all she needs.  I was going to bounce back so fast after baby because of all of the calorie burning from breastfeeding.

Let’s fast forward a few months.  I had my pump station ready and set up for an added boost of milk, I even tried it out while I was still pregnant so there was no fumbling with all those parts.  I was ready for my massive milk supply to show up.  I had all my nursing cover options ready to go.

We’re in the delivery room, minutes away from becoming parents.  The nurses tell me I have good nipples for breastfeeding – super! After about 30 minutes of pushing, she was here.  My baby, my new love, my everything.  It wasn’t long before she was hungry!  My nurse pulls my gown down and lines up my baby.  Nothing.  She won’t latch.  I felt rushed and inadequate.  I kept getting questions like “don’t you feel it?” Feel what?  I didn’t feel anything.  They pulled out the ‘big guns’ and put sugar water on me, hoping the baby would want it… she didn’t.  We tried for an hour.  Our families were waiting patiently knowing that the baby was here, but that they couldn’t come back to us yet.  Finally, the nurse was satisfied that we did enough and that our families could meet the newest girl, and that I would be able to move to our room.

I tried for 2 days to feed my new baby.  Every hour I attempted to put her on the boob, and I really didn’t think much was happening.  She slept a lot.  Visitors paraded in for the next 36 hours, and she never really cried for milk.  That didn’t stop me from trying.  The nurses who changed diapers told me everything was fine, so why would I think differently?

It was time to go home.  We were scared, but we were ready.  Maybe the baby and I needed to be in our own comfortable environment to get a good feeding in. Trust me, we tried.  She was born on a Thursday night, and our first pediatrician appointment was the following Monday.  She lost 13% of her overall weight.  Our doctor was super concerned, and had me try and nurse right then in the office for a re-weigh.  Her weight was exactly the same as it was.  Our instruction was to either pump my milk and bottle feed her or use formula right then.  I wasn’t opposed to either.  Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and go against your own plan to make sure that your baby gets fed.  Basically, she needs a good poop to push out the newborn black tar poop. On top of that, she was looking jaundiced and we had to go across the street to the hospital lab so that our 4 day old baby could get a blood test.

We took a pack of nursette bottles from our doctor.  Formula before a week old.  My heart ached.  It was assumed that my milk wasn’t in.  I pumped and I got milk – about 4 ounces worth actually. We didn’t even have bottles ready to go.  I made it my mission to pump every 2-3 hours 24 hours a day to make sure I had enough for this tiny human.

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New Year’s Eve – 2 weeks old, bottle full time

Christmas Eve, 6 day old baby, 3rd hospital visit for blood tests.  We decided that I was going to stop by my family’s Christmas party on the way home from the hospital and Ryan would stay with the baby for a couple hours.  We weren’t ready for her to be in a group.  Halfway through opening presents I get a call from Ryan, he’s crying.  My heart stopped.  After a deep breath he tells me that she’s perfect.  Her bilirubin was back to normal and that the pumping is working for her.

So that’s it.  I would be pumping to feed our baby.  This worked for several days in a row, but then she would cluster feed and drink up my entire day’s supply in a couple hours.  Shit.  We needed another option.  In talking to her pediatrician, she gave us samples of formula and made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal to use them.  Never once did she make me feel bad about going this direction.  I never heard her say “breast is best” because she got it.  She knew that I was trying my damnedest to give this baby all the milk I could.

I was losing my special bonding time with my baby to sit in a dark room with a machine.  Not exactly my plan, but she was growing fast and was happy and healthy.  Waking up in the middle of the night to snuggle a machine was the worst.  Ryan would bottle feed the baby next to me and I was heartbroken.

Ok, here we go.  Supplementing a bottle per day was the new plan.  She never flinched. I was finally starting to feel like I could catch up and get ahead with my pumping. We went on like this until she hit 12 weeks.  I was so done.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  Ryan and I were standing in the kitchen and I remember looking his way and just saying “Can I be done? With pumping. Can we switch to formula full time?” I didn’t really know what to expect the response to be, but when Ryan said that we could do whatever I was comfortable with, I was so relieved.  We were on the same page.  We wanted a happy and healthy baby at any cost.

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The best big cousin and my helping hand

What we didn’t know was going to happen was that the baby would have a hard time digesting the formula we had.  Gerber with comfort proteins for newborns, as recommended by her doctor – the first of several brands we tried. She would scream in pain because she really had to poop! It was awful.  Leg pumping, tummy rubs, car rides… nothing helped.  Here comes google.  We weren’t ready for suppositories or any other crazy home remedies.  We called her doctor and they told us about the thermometer trick.  Load up a rectal thermometer with vaseline and stick it in.  Something about doing that relaxes the muscles and then whoa baby! We used this trick semi-regularly until I accidentally bought the wrong formula. Enfamil Reguline is designed for this. It has probiotics and prebiotics that help with keeping baby regular without the help from mommy and daddy.  After three bottles, we were on track. We had a happy eating, sleeping, and pooping baby.

One of the reasons I was so ok with our change of plans was the bonding time that Ryan got with his baby. He was back to work by her third week and missing us greatly. She was sleeping in our room, so when she woke up we all did. I strapped on the dreaded pump, but Ryan got to sit and feed his daughter in the dark and just cuddle. They formed an unstoppable bond, that to this day, is unbreakable. She switches between mama’s girl and daddy’s girl, but I truly believe that those 12 weeks of late night bottle sessions helped them get to know each other like no one else could.

The hardest part of all of this was everyone’s opinions. Some people were proud of me – applauding me for putting my baby’s needs before my plan and myself.  It was the people who kept telling me I needed to keep trying to breastfeed that hurt. I had two options for trying again – when she was screaming and hungry, or when she wasn’t hungry at all. There wasn’t much in between. She was fed, happy, and growing fast. I was doing the best that I could and I was satisfied with that. No one’s opinion seemed to penetrate. It’s now. Baby 2 will arrive in a few short weeks and I am constantly getting questions like “are you even going to bother with breastfeeding this time, or are you going to go right to formula?” Well… Not that it’s your business, or anyone’s for that matter, but I would like to try again. I would love if the new baby would latch on like a champ and our breastfeeding bond starts from the get go. Is that going to stop me from pumping if she doesn’t? Not a chance. Will it stop me from having formula ready? Check my pantry…

3 Responses to “My struggle with breastfeeding

  • Anonymous
    2 years ago

    Good mom and dad plus your a pro ! Nice story 😁

  • Thank you for sharing this post! I struggled with breastfeeding myself and felt the shame and guilt of having to formula feed. But ultimately it’s all about making sure our babies are healthy and happy no matter where the milk comes from.

  • You did the best thing for your baby and that is all that matters! Both of my daughters were completely different with regards to breastfeeding. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my second daughter, like I did my first, but just couldn’t. I was heartbroken but got over it quickly when she became a much happier baby on formula!!!

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