This was taken from a post I made at a breastfeeding community back in October of 2008. There is some March of 2010 commentary (from me) at the end.
I’m not necessarily looking for advice, but I thought I might share my story, and ask other EPers to do the same in the comments, if they’d like. Sometimes I feel like I need to explain myself every time I comment in this community. Sometimes I feel a little discouraged, and even a little envious of all of the successful nursing relationships that I read about. Sometimes I feel a bit defensive and even a little unwelcome because someone makes a comment about bottles. I KNOW they’re not directed at me, but it does pull into sharp relief that I still sorta feel like an intruder – not necessarily a breastfeeder, definitely not a formula-bottle feeder. Mostly, I love the support in this community, and I’m so glad that it’s here.
My girl was born somewhere between 38-39 weeks of gestation. I was induced due to high blood pressure that refused to come down even with meds, but thankfully not high enough to warrant an emergency c-section. After 14 hours of normal labor, she was born screaming and healthy. The hospital where she was born was very pro-breastfeeding, so I wasn’t on the defensive. And all I ever knew about having a baby as far back as I can remember is that I was going to breastfeed. So, immediately after they got her cleaned off, she was put on my chest and she rooted around a bit. The nurse (also a LC) noted that my nipples were flat, and did what she could to “stiffen” them up so that my daughter could nurse. When she did not, and settled down to rest, I reasoned that we would have plenty of time to figure that out in the coming days.
She roomed with me most of the night (after she spent the requisite 3 hours under observation) but slept the whole time. The next day, she rooted, but again did not nurse. I had read up beforehand and the hospital had in-room instructional videos, so I tried a couple of different holds, and after more than a few tries (plus my husband’s aid to remove her hands from her face), she latched on poorly and promptly fell asleep. I called for a nurse and let her know that I wanted a lactation consultant that day.
She came later in the day, wheeling a Medela Symphony in with her, and bearing a couple of nipple shields. We worked for close to 45 minutes to get my girl latched (with a shield), but because my milk hadn’t come in, we couldn’t listen for the suck/swallow pattern well enough, and then she fell asleep. She showed me how to pump, and gave me some droppers to use to collect the colostrum and “feed” my girl that way. And so it was for the rest of the day and into the next morning. With my husband’s help to hold the shield, and hold my girl’s arms down, and me getting her in the right position, we would try to get her latched. Sometimes she would, and would fall asleep almost as soon as she did, most of the time she wouldn’t, and she was starting to actually get hungry, so the sessions often turned frantic. I tried to stay calm for her sake, and before it could go completely downhill, I would pump as much colostrum as I could to stave off her hunger for the next nursing attempt.
The next morning I was happy that my nurse was also a LC, and she helped me get my hold right while holding down the breast shield, and my girl sort of nursed, but we couldn’t keep her awake, no matter what we did and if we did manage to wake her, she would fall off and we’d have to work to get her latched again.
Afternoon came with another LC. Same drill as before, but this one came bearing the bad news that my girl was jaundiced and that the doctors had been keeping an eye on her because of it. If we were to be discharged, we needed to feed the baby to push the bilirubin levels down and get her into her pediatrician’s the next day. She knew how much I hated the idea of formula, but knowing that we’d been having problems getting her to stay latched suggested dripping a little bit of formula into the shield to get her the “instant” gratification to continue suckling. My milk still hadn’t come in, btw. She was with me for an hour working on the latching and the staying latched, all the while dripping drops of yuckula to try to help us along.
We were discharged that day. The hospital’s pediatrician was fine with me continuing to attempt to breastfeed, so long as her levels didn’t get worse and she didn’t lose more weight – she’d lost 11oz in her first two days of life.
My milk didn’t come in until day 5, so for the interim, my girl was getting as much colostrum as I could produce and as little formula as we could get away with, knowing that my milk was coming in soon. We started every feeding trying to nurse. The ending was usually an asleep baby – either because she’d fallen asleep at the breast or fallen asleep after sheer exhaustion at trying to feed and not being able to. Either way, she’d wake up shortly thereafter because she was hungry, and we’d start again.
A week after she was born and a couple of days after my milk came in, I hauled her back to the hospital to see yet another LC. Again, we were there for an hour, this time with weight checks. It still took the two of us to get the shield to stay on and my girl’s flailing arms to stay down and not knock the shield off. After an hour she had taken in about three ounces, and I left feeling determined to make it work.
Fast forward a week, and things had gotten progressively worse. Every feeding would go something like this:
1. Baby wakes up happy, but hungry.
2. Mom already has her top off because she’s been trying to stay skin to skin.
3. Mom places shield on full but not engorged breast and places baby to breast (we tried a variety of positions).
a. Dad uses both hands to keep shield on and keep baby’s arms from getting in the way because Mom is using both hands to keep baby positioned.
4. Baby knocks shield off or places hands in front of mouth.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4, half a dozen times.
6. Baby latches (mostly poorly, but Mom would take it, figuring that a latch can be worked on only if it actually happens) and falls asleep.
7. Has one hour passed? If yes, allow baby to sleep and return to step one in 15 minutes. If no, proceed to step 8.
8. Mom wakes baby, baby falls off breast.
9. Repeat steps 3-8, half a dozen times.
10. Baby refuses to latch, crying, arching, frantically hungry, flailing.
11. Mom hands baby to Dad, and pumps while crying, and listening to her baby cry.
12. Mom feeds baby expressed milk, determined to try again next time.
Every time. EVERY time. I tried to stay calm for her sake, and tried everything to make it a no pressure situation for her, but it was like that EVERY time. My tears would be desperation, anger, rejection, frustration, a million different things, but most of all impending failure.
When she was finally fed, she would sleep for a couple of hours at a time, and in that time, I would read everything I could on breastfeeding. I talked to my mom who breastfed me way longer than the WHO recommendation, but was no help because she didn’t understand flat nipples, breast shields or why I was pumping at all. I talked to my best friend who nursed twins for nine months. But, both of them were far away, and I have no friends in this area who could have helped.
I considered seeing another LC, but after working with five (three formal consultations and two informal), I wasn’t sure how much more help another one could give. I was intimidated by LLL because I was afraid that all I would get was a lecture for using a pump at all. And I was afraid to leave the house because I didn’t want to deal with all of the above in public. I know now that new mom hormones were not helping.
Worst of all, the idea of facing another 2-3 weeks of working to get the situation right with or without help was enough to make me want to stab myself in the eye. My girl was SO HAPPY upon waking after an EBM bottle, that it killed me to think that I was going to make her unhappy every single time we tried to nurse even if I did try to get yet another professional opinion. I didn’t sign up to be a mom just to dread trying to feed my baby. She didn’t deserve that at all.
Somewhere between weeks 2 and 3, after dealing with a couple of growth spurts that brought the situation to a head, my husband asked me why I didn’t just pump all the time instead of trying to nurse straight off. He knew that I’d bite his head off if he mentioned formula, but just pumping had never occurred to me really until just then.
And so, after a couple of days, I started pumping to have enough for her next feed. I read up on upping my supply, ate my lactation cookies, and most of all, enjoyed my daughter for the first time, instead of focusing on feeding her. But, I was devastated at the same time. All I ever wanted to do was breastfeed. There was sadness, and guilt, because I hated giving up. But, I just couldn’t justify making my happy-upon-waking baby SO UNHAPPY by trying to get her to nurse, just to have her hungry AND unhappy an hour later. She was in tears, I was in tears…And all I wanted was my happy baby. I reasoned that she was going to have to fight for a lot of other things when she’s older, she shouldn’t have to fight to eat.
After a few weeks I found a forum on ivillage that was dedicated to Exclusive Pumpers. I had no idea that there were other people out there who did the same thing I did, and that their stories were so similar.
Now, I still try to put her to my breast (again, using a variety of positions) every so often. She either thinks its hilarious, and won’t latch. Or jump straight into the crying/arching/flailing. And won’t latch. Now in hindsight, I look at her, and wonder if she doesn’t have a mild tongue tie that didn’t match up right with my flat nipples. If there were other ways we could have combated her being extra sleepy and mouth blocking.
If that was tl;dr for some, I don’t mind. Suffice to say, breastfeeding just didn’t work for us, but I will not give up on giving my girl my milk. I plan to pump to meet her needs for at least a year, and then we will see where she is on solids. I think I’ll know the right time to stop and at that time, I’ll continue long enough to build up a good stash and wean myself off the pump slowly to avoid engorgement/mastitis.
Update, March 2010:
My daughter is over 21 months old, and I am still pumping once a day to give her my milk. I managed to donate over 1500oz to a human milk donation center, and I’m extremely proud of what I’ve been able to do.
In retrospect, there were a lot of things that interfered in our nursing relationship. The two biggest in my mind were the fact that she had NOT a tongue tie, but a lip tie. It did not become apparent until her front teeth came in. When she visited the dentist for the first time, I was told that had it been diagnosed at birth, and had it clipped, we MAY have had a shot.
Also, I seriously believe that her birthday was wrong. I was a heavy NFP follower for a very long time. I am very aware of my body’s functions and fluctuations. I kept very good track. So, when I told my OB my last period date at our first visit, as well as the length of my cycles, I was confident that we had a good beat on my due date.
Fast forward to my sonogram. The sonographer and the doc overseeing the scan both agreed that I was NOT 19 weeks along, but 22. I tried to tell them what I knew, but got a condescending reply that I refused to acknowledge. I even argued a bit with my doc, but relented. My due date was moved up 3 weeks.
At 35 weeks, I started having a little trouble with high blood pressure, and in addition to shiny new meds, I got to have a sonogram again. The news this time? The baby’s head was 35 weeks along, but the rest of her was 32. Didn’t that mean I was vindicated in my timing? According to all, no. That meant my blood pressure issues were stunting my girl’s growth.
I was induced at 39 weeks, but as I noted way far above, I said 38-39, because even then I wasn’t sure. But in retrospect, I suspect I really was 36 weeks along. For example – my girl was not even 7 pounds when she was born, and she was still fuzzy. And we had a terrible time trying to breastfeed. And now that she’s older and has had many, many visits with docs, her stats are always as follows when it comes to the percentiles: she’s of average height, kind of a lightweight and has a great big head. Just like she was when I was pregnant.
I think next time I might fight harder if they try to fiddle with my dates, but the upshot with my girl? She is happy, healthy, and if she was born 3-4 weeks early (or 1 week going by the “new” term of 37 weeks!?!), that’s not that big of a deal.
For anyone looking for my pumping stats, they are as follows:
1. When I started Exclusively Pumping, I was pumping 5x a day, and my output was around 40oz/day. My girl took 7-8 bottles of about 3-3.5oz each daily.
2. We went on a 2 week road trip around the country, starting when she was 6 weeks old, where I tried valiantly to save my milk, but one week in, we arrived at a location without a freezer. I dropped down to 3x/day with an output of about 30oz/day. Baby was still taking 7 bottles @ 3-3.5oz daily. I had to dump a lot of milk on that trip. I was not happy about that.
3. When we returned, I bumped back up to 4 pumps a day with an output of about 36oz and baby girl had dropped to about 6 3.5oz bottles/day.
4. I returned to work when she was 12 weeks old, and continued with 4 pumps a day.
5. I dropped to 3 pumps a day when she was 5 months old, and netted 32oz/day while her intake was about 20oz/day.
6. I dropped to 2 pumps a day when she was 10 months old, and netted 24oz/day and her intake was still about 20oz/day. Towards the end of this period, my output dropped to maybe 12oz/day, but her intake had dropped to about 10oz/day.
7. I dropped to 1 pump a day finally back in December of 2009 and my output dropped to 3-5oz/day, and right now I hover around the 3oz mark. She gets every drop.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading anyone else’s story if they’re willing to share.