Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Breastfeeding Saga :: Part I - The Latch

As you might have guessed from the title, our breastfeeding journey has not been simple.  It hasn't been beautiful and easy like you see in the movies.  We have fought for every day of this now 8 month relationship, and I've learned quite a bit along the way.  I want to share our experiences here in case there is a new mom out there who just can't figure out what's going on.  Maybe something we went through will help them smooth out the edges of their own breastfeeding relationship considerably sooner than we were able.  It's a long story, so I'm going to break it up into parts.

Grab some popcorn. Here we go.

Part I - The Latch

Forgoing the birth story for now, when baby was born, I almost immediately tried to breastfeed her (after a few thousand "OMG LOOK AT THIS AMAZING BABY" exclamations of our adoration).  She latched right on, but as she started nursing we heard a rather loud clicking noise.  The nurse checked her latch, expressed some concern over the racket, and called the Lactation Consultant.  The LC arrived quickly, assessed her latch, and mentioned the possibility of  tongue tie.  She called another LC into the room, who shook her head and quickly pronounced Baby "just a noisy eater." (Note: We'll refer to this moment as Missed Diagnosis #1.)

Back in the recovery room, Baby was still clicking, struggling to stay latched on, and generally angry at my attempts to assist her.  Another LC visited us and suggested that it was her slight overbite giving her a hard time. Perhaps a short tongue was to blame.  She said Baby just needed to figure it out and told me to keep trying.  Before she left, she commented on how strong Baby's suck was (Missed Diagnosis #2).

The next 24 hours were a blur of struggled attempts to feed the baby, a parade of nurse visits every 2 hours, each with their own advice, their own favorite position, their own key to success... all with the same devastating result.  Before I knew it, an entire day had passed, and another LC was standing in front of me expressing concern regarding Baby's wet diapers and weight loss.  She said she had already lost over 10% of her body weight in the first 24 hours, and we needed to start her on formula.  I panicked.  Breastfeeding was an integral part of what I felt being a mom was all about.  I had been looking forward to it from Day 1.  Breast is best.  If I gave her formula, she would never nurse.  HORMONAL NEW MOM STRESS ATTACK.  I cried.  The nurse put her hand on my shoulder and told me that the most important thing right now was feeding the baby.  I tried to regain perspective.  My husband reassured me that all was not lost, but I felt crushed and inadequate.

The LC brought in the formula and pump parts.  She told me to continue to try and latch baby, but then let my husband give her up to 15ML of formula from a syringe.  While he was doing this, I was to pump to keep my supply up.  She told me to scoop my finger in whatever colostrum I got from the pump and give it to baby.  My heart was heavy, and all my effort was being directed into keeping it together.  I was trapped in my own internal dialogue of disappointment and failure.  When she left, I cried.  After I cried, I told my husband I had no idea what to do now.  He said it was okay, he remembered everything she said.

(Let's take a break here to say something that I will repeat frequently: Husbands are Heroes.)

And so we continued for the next 24 hours.  Each attempt to latch baby became increasingly frustrating and stressful.  As soon as I tried, she would scream at the top of her lungs.  Each nurse insisted that their preferred positioning was THE way to feed Baby.  They kept shoving her into the football hold, which Baby HATED.
This is not what I gave birth to.

Each nurse told me something completely different. They meant well, but I had no idea what was going on or what to do to get Baby to latch on anymore.  All the information contradicted itself, and I felt completely unprepared to go home with this baby that wouldn't eat.  I fell apart to my nurse, proclaiming that no one in the hospital was consistent, and I had no idea what I was doing.  She hugged me promised that I would not go home until I felt confident in Baby's feeding plan.  She scheduled an LC and the pediatrician to visit in the morning.

Another night trudged along with an angry, hungry baby and all those random things the breast pump seems to chant at you in the dead of night.  I could hear it hissing gleefully "Never work, never work, never work" while my husband fed the baby.

The next morning the pediatrician arrived.  She checked the baby for a tongue tie and confirmed the LC's suggestion that baby was just fighting against a short tongue (Missed Diagnosis #3).  The pediatrician showed me that Baby could stick her tongue out, and commented on Baby's fierce suction.  She suggested we try "suck training" her with a pacifier.

The LC visited shortly thereafter and gave us a detailed feeding plan for the next 48 hours--keep up with the formula and pumping.  She reassured me that this did not seal our breastfeeding fate.  We were to follow up with the pediatrician within 48 hours.  She returned before we left to see how we were doing and brought a large bag of formula with her.  We were on our way home.

Side Note: A lot of the breastfeeding classes encouraged us not to buy a pump until we decided if we needed it, how frequently we would be using it, etc.  They told us to wait until after the baby arrived.  I think this is a good argument for purchasing your breast pump ahead of time.  I left mine in the box with the receipt attached (though I really have no idea why I wouldn't need it).  When we got home, hubby opened and cleaned it.  While we waiting on those parts, I just used the sterile parts that the hospital had given us.

Continued in The Breastfeeding Saga :: Part II - Nipple Shields (coming soon)

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