Throughout pregnancy I looked forward to breastfeeding my baby. I talked to friends and family about their experiences and knew to expect pain. I have to be honest, before having Brycen I used to be one of those people that judged others for not breastfeeding their baby. After having Ruthy and knowing the costs of formula, the time it takes to wash, sterilize, and prep bottles, I really began to wonder how anyone could afford not to breastfeed. Let me tell you all of this changed once my son was born.
Shortly after my son’s birth, you can read his birth story here, the nurse placed him on my chest and encouraged that I feed him. He would not latched and I did not really think much of it since he was so new to this world. The nurse continued to try to help me latch Brycen. After several attempts, she asked if I wanted a nipple shield. I did not even know what that was. A nipple shield is a flexible nipple placed over the mom’s nipple to help your newborn latch and feed. Something to help my newborn feed, sure! I placed it on and immediately my son began to suckle. I made the mistake in thinking because he was suckling that he was being efficient and sufficiently feeding.
After about a day, my son was down ten percent of his birth weight. I was told not to worry, because it is normal for babies to lose weight from birth. It can be water weight. In addition, my son never slept. He always appeared hungry. I was frustrated, I felt like I was always feeding him all the time and yet his weight kept dropping. I began to ask for the hospital lactation consultants to help. It was during those many visits that I learned my son was not actually feeding. We tried to get him to latch without the nipple shield, but he would not. After several different lactation consultants coming through my room, and my son’s continual weight drop, I decided to pump and feed my son with a syringe . Luckily my milk had come in and I was able to supply milk for my son.
When we left the hospital Brycen was down thirteen percent of his birth weight. I was nervous to leave the hospital since Brycen had not actually gained any weight back. The hospital sent us off with a load of formula and bottles to feed my son. They also sent us on our way with a hand pump and pumping supplies. I was told to pump every two hours to keep up my milk supply.
Brand new mom of not just one, but four kids, to say I was overwhelmed would not stand correct. Here I was pumping every two hours, and my son was still not sleeping well. He always seemed hungry, so I fed him on demand, which ended up being about every 20 to 40 minutes.
Knowing my struggles, the following day after arriving home from the hospital, I had family come to stay with me a day to try to help me latch Brycen. I was told not to feed him from a bottle or to pump anymore. It might lead to nipple confusion and prevent my son from eventually latching. I was also told, never to give my son formula. The advice given was to stay topless with my son by my side, and when he was hungry he would feed on his own. Babies have a natural instinct to survive and do not want to die. I do believe this to be true as well, but sometimes there are circumstances that impede on baby survival instincts.
That day, my son went 9 hours without feeding. He began to be unresponsive, and would just continue sleeping. I finally had enough and sent my loved ones out of our house. I woke up my son, and immediately fed him a bottle of formula and went back to my pumping schedule.
The following is a list of things I wish I knew going into breastfeeding:
Fed is best- There is no need to judge other mommas who are doing their best job caring for their own child. Before my milk supply really came in, we gave our son formula. Even to this day, we occasionally feed our son formula when needed. I seem to have a very hungry boy. We also found that my son did not want breast milk from a bottle, so for date nights we offer him formula. Fed is best.
Also keep in mind, mom needs to do what is best for mom. Pumping every two hours is time-consuming. It prevents a new mom from getting proper sleep. It is also hard to feel like you are strengthening bonds with your newborn, husband, or other children, when you are constantly hooked up to a pump. Listen to your body and make the decision that is best for you, your baby, and your family! Formula is a great alternative and there are many different types to give your baby what they need. There are also programs to help with the cost. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is an outstanding resource that state’s offer to give women, infant’s, and children with the correct nutrition they deserve. If you are finding the cost of formula is a strain on your family, apply with WIC and see if your family qualifies. That being said, if breast-feeding is important to you, try not to feel discouraged. Seek out professional help.
Get Help – After that day where my son did not eat, I decided to call every number from all those lactation pamphlets they give out at the hospital. I talked to a sweet woman on a lactation help line, who could not understand me through my sobs. I visited lactation consultants, but had trouble making progress. What actually made the biggest difference and led to success was I attended the free breastfeeding support groups they offer at hospitals.
It was a relief to meet with other women who were struggling with similar problems with breastfeeding. The lactation consultant who supported the group was incredible and was a true professional. She watched my son struggle to latch and asked if she could check my son’s mouth and tongue. She shared with me that she thought my son was tongue-tied and had a lip-tie. She informed me that when a baby is born with a tongue tie, they have difficulty feeding due to their tongue’s lack of mobility. Lip-ties prevent the baby from having the correct seal over the nipple.
Lip and Tongue Ties – If your baby is not latching in the hospital, ask if doctor or lactation consultant can check for lip and tongue-ties. I wish I would have known to ask about it early on. Luckily, I had attended the breastfeeding support group and received vital advice from the lactation consultant there. She mentioned that it is easy for pediatricians to miss and many of them have difficulty diagnosing them. She even recommended a pediatrician that is well-known in the valley for properly diagnosing and treating lip and tongue-ties. With this information in mind, I went to our own pediatrician. He did not see the tongue-tie, but was willing to write a referral to the pediatrician that was well-known for lip and tongue ties. Lo and behold, my son did have a tongue tie that was difficult to diagnose. By this point, my son was three weeks old and still not back up to birth weight, despite our constant efforts to feed him. Luckily this pediatrician viewed this as an emergency and we were able to get him in for the procedure within days.
Although my son did not latch right away, it was a night and day difference. It quickly became clear that before the procedure, my son did not have a proper latch on the bottle. This is why he was constantly hungry … and wet during feeding. After the procedure, my son was finally able to feed from a bottle efficiently and feel content. The first time he slept for 2-3 hours felt amazing! After about a week he was finally passed his birth weight! Hooray!
Breastfeeding Myths –
- I was told that if the baby did not latch in the hospital, they will most likely not latch once home. I cannot stress that if breastfeeding is important to you, it can happen. Be patient and it just might take time. After four months of exclusively pumping and bottle feeding my son, he finally got a hang of breastfeeding. We went from exclusively pumping to exclusively breastfeeding. If it is important to you, do not give up!
- Do not give your baby formula or feed your baby from a bottle. It will lead to nipple confusion. Nipple confusion can occur, but there are also some really great techniques to help prevent this.
- Pace feed – This is a method of bottle feeding where you try to mimic breastfeeding. Basically you hold the bottle horizontally, giving the baby more control about how much they are taking in at a time. You can find more information on pace feeding here.
- Use a preemie nipple to feed your baby. This slows down the feeding and mimics breastfeeding milk flow.
- Women, Infant, and Children
- Agave Pediatrics – Where I went to have my son be properly diagnose and treated for tongue-tie.
- Kelly Mom– Breastfeeding and pumping tips