before having a baby i knew i always wanted to breastfeed for about a majillion different reasons. though the only thing i had heard about it from family and friends was that it hurts at first, quite a bit. that was the only hurdle i expected to have when it came to nursing. that turned out to most certainly not be my problem...
the actual act of nursing came so completely natural to my baby and me. within that first 5-10 minutes of me really getting to hold him after everything from delivery had been cleared up we nursed right away. i mentioned months ago that i read the book breastfeeding made simple while pregnant and loved it so much. i immediately remembered different tips and pointers the book talked about, applied them, and maxson latched on with no problem at all. i remember thinking that first time "this is so strange, i just had a baby and suddenly i'm nursing him, i'm just doing it. how incredible is this!" it was so wonderful and i loved it so much. i talked to the lactation specialist at the hospital a time or two that first full day afterward to make sure his latch was correct and they said he was doing great. i was so happy and i wasn't feeling much pain at all. i think the lack of pain came from applying lanolin cream each day the month prior to him being born (my SIL gave me this tip and i think it was one of the best) and religiously applying lanolin after each time i nursed him.
before we left the hospital we were told from the doctors that maxson needed to go in for a weight check that next day to our pediatrician. it's normal for breastfed babies to lose weight after birth, i knew this, but he exceeded the maximum amount lost, he was in the 10-11% weight loss range. i was a little worried but i kind of figured i wasn't in plentiful supply of milk but didn't worry about it because i had read so much that newborn stomachs are so teeny tiny! so i figured even if all i had was a little milk, that was enough and soon enough i'd start producing more and more. so on the way home from the hospital we stopped at the local lactation store and rented a hospital grade pump for the month just to help the process a little.
that first night home was one of the hardest in my life. he was up every hour wanting to nurse, after I nursed him for 20-30 minutes, he'd go to sleep for 10-15 minutes wake up and want to eat again, it was exhausting and so hard! we were both thinking "what happened from the hospital to now? where is the sweet, content boy we watched in the hospital all day?" i was in pain because he was just constantly sucking that night! i was so desperate at one point in the night, I sent casey to the store to get formula at 4 am. i had no idea what formula to get him, i was paranoid this might make the situation worse because i had heard stories from friends how hard it was to find the perfect formula combination, i was just so worried i would hurt his tummy! luckily we had 1 avent bottle on hand from a random freebie i had signed up for, as i sat there and fed this little baby, he gobbled it all down and I sobbed. it was terrible. I wanted to be the sole provider of food for my child and here I was, on our first night home feeding him formula. I was devastated. he then slept a 3 solid hours afterward.
we woke that following morning at what seemed like the crack of dawn (8 am) to get to our 9 am doctor's appt. we were of course 15 min late and maxson screamed the whole car ride there, it was awful. we finally got into our room and the nurse began asking questions: when was he born, sleeping, diapers, etc. when she got to feeding she asked is he breastfeeding? have you supplemented at all? and i broke down in tears. i felt like a failure telling her the whole story of the night before. i didn't know what i was going at all. i was so vulnerable. a new mom. a new baby. all by myself, without my husband or mother to help support me. the nurse weighed maxson and told me he was now down to 7 lbs 7 oz, a 12-13% weight loss since birth which was very high. his doctor, jamie, actually a dual nurse practitioner and lactation specialist, we had chosen, came in right away and we began talking and i began nursing him. let me first state how much i love this woman. she is so genuine, fun, perky, sweet, optimistic, and just wonderful in every way. she became one of my closest confidants over those first 2 weeks with all my visits. she has 3 kids, her youngest just recently turned 2, a premie at 26 weeks, and she still works full time to help others. i admire her so much and am so grateful that she chose to continue working after having her kids to help other moms. she pumped for 18 months to supplement her child to their gestational year mark of nursing. she is such an example of selflessness for helping other moms. she will forever be a woman who changed my life for good and i'll never forget her.
now back to our visit. she checked to make sure his latch was good, which she said was awesome. she asked about my personal nipple pain and i told her how i was feeling, after she checked, she recommended i call my own doctor and ask them to prescribe to me triple nipple cream, one of the best postpartum recovery things i bought. expensive little bottle? yes. but it took away all my pain and redness completely after 24 hours. indeed. i used that over the first month or so and was so grateful to have it. if there's such a think as magic in this world it's triple nipple cream. lanolin just wasn't cutting it for me but this stuff changed everything.
while nursing on both sides, jamie and i talked the whole time about my delivery, nursing, and just a bunch of different things. i completely trusted and hung on her every word. after maxson was done nursing she weighed him again and found that he hadn't gained 1 mg. 1 mg! that is so small and i can't believe i was giving my baby nothing. wasn't he supposed to get even just a little bit? i was, yet again, devastated. jamie didn't bat an eye and confidently told me that my milk would come in at some point and maybe my body was just delayed/overwhelmed from a more traumatic birth. she quickly came out of the room and back in immediately with 3 liquid cans of formula and 2 playtex bottles for me. i think she had me give him a half ounce and he chugged it down. he promptly went to sleep for the next 2 hours. poor little baby was just so incredibly hungry and dehydrated! you could tell he was so dehydrated by just looking at his little dry lips, it was heart breaking. jamie reminded me that the most important thing was that my baby was getting food right now, didn't matter how or from where, just that he was. this statement echoed in my mind for the next 2 weeks. with the combination of the huge bruise on his head from birth and knowing how little food he was getting, jamie was surprised at how low his jaundice levels were. this baby wasn't getting much food but was sure fighting to survive really well! she sent us home with a few specific instructions:
- for baby's sake: nurse on each side, give him x amount of formula after the feeding for some positive reinforcement for his effort at nursing. then try to go pump for about 10 minutes on each side.
- for momma's sake: nurse baby, eat food, drink water, sleep, don't do housework.
so our first appointment with her was tuesday, we continued to go in wednesday, thursday, and monday. each appointment she'd change my directions on how much formula to give him depending on the progression, but anytime i gave him formula, i also pumped to tell my body, "hey, you need to be making more milk!" and sadly, every time i pumped monday, tuesday, and wednesday i got nothing. lucky for us, he did great with the bottle, did he love it at first? no, we definitely had to force it on him, but once he got the the hang of it he'd suck all that formula down. i remember one time it seemed like he was having a difficult time remembering how to nurse and i felt like he was treating me like a bottle! i was heart broken, devastated again, in tears, so frustrated that it wasn't just me helping to sustain this little body, actually there was nothing i was giving him alone that he couldn't get from someone else! every prayer morning, night, meals, couple, we'd pray for my milk to come in. i just begged heavenly father to "please, help me be able to feed this child. i want to be the one helping sustain his life, to do what a mother does: nurse her child!" tears and prayers were constant companions. late wednesday night/early morning thursday were the first signs of milk when i pumped, there may have literally been 5-8 droplets, but do you know how incredibly proud i was of those few drops? i was jumping for joy in the thoughts that maybe i could produce milk one day. i very proudly showed casey, took a picture of it on my phone, and then even more proudly, fed maxson what i had just pumped. but i must say, every time i put formula in a bottle for him, it was daunting looking at the amount he was eating, a whole ounce?! are you kidding me? i'll never be able to produce that, maybe i'll have to supplement his whole life...those days of (dry) nursing, bottle feeding formula, and pumping were some of the hardest, most emotional in my life. *(though it sounds like that first week was miserable from this story, these were just small episodes. aside from no milk, i was on cloud 9 with this new baby, truly).*
each day we went in for an appt there was more progress, always for his sake of gaining weight and thursday was the first sign of that he was actually getting some mg of milk from me, nearly a whole half ounce on the scale! i was elated! we went home with a plan that weekend of major resting still (hallelujah for my mother getting in town), taking a billion fenugreek pills a day to get that milk supply in, continuing to pump, and cutting back on the formula as i saw needed. by sunday i think i was giving him maybe 1 serving a formula a day. i was so happy that it seemed like he was getting food from me! after all my effort of nursing, pumping, pills, bottles, formula, we were making progress. on one occasion, a friend of mine came over who was currently pumping for twins who were in the NICU, she said she was producing 20 something ounces of milk everyday! i was flabbergasted. here i was proud of my half ounce, and i was back to wondering if i'd ever be able to feed my child by myself.
monday's appointment came, and he had gained 6 ounces over the weekend. SIX! i couldn't believe it, that was mostly me, he was growing and this was beginning to work! nursing wasn't hurting at all compared to what people talked about, and maxson and i were turning out to be a great team when it came to nursing, i was just a little slow at it to begin. breastfeeding was going to work after all it seemed. by his 2 week appt he was back to birth weight at 8 lbs, 8 oz.
about a week later is when we began driving to wyoming. whenever maxson needed to eat, we'd stop, get gas, and i'd feed him on one side and pump on the other simultaneously. i remember the first time looking down at the bottle and seeing just about one whole ounce! an OUNCE! was it really possible? less than a week ago and ounce seemed so far fetched i never ever thought it would happen. again, i couldn't have been more proud of myself, i triumphantly showed casey and he was thrilled right along with me, he knew my struggle and we both were praying for this. that whole first month continued in constant prayers of thankfulness in helping my milk supply come in so i could feed our new little baby.
here we are now, maxson is 2 1/2 months. if his first stretch of sleep is around 6-7 hours, he eats just on one side and goes back to sleep making me pump on the other side in the night (fyi i now have this pump). the first few times i had to do this i was beyond amazed to see 3 ounces from one side. i'm still so amazed that my body is actually producing and supplying milk to sustain my child. i truly love breastfeeding and pray our journey can continue on the happy path that it's on.
i'm so incredibly grateful i went to a lactation specialist, jamie, during this time. without her, i truly don't know what would have happened. her positive encouragement, and words were some of the best things that happened to me that first week; she guided me to finding the perfect balance between nursing, formula feeding and pumping so in the end my body could produce the milk needed to feed our child.
everyone has their different struggles when it comes to having/caring for babies: postpartum depression, colic, acid reflux, mastitis, sleep deprivation, and mine was producing milk in general. if you're worried about your milk supply and if your baby is getting enough food, go in and see a lactation specialist. it's the best thing you can do for you and your baby. but truly, in the end, the most important thing is that you baby is getting food. i had to learn not to feel guilty for giving him formula, because at the time, that's what he needed. i'm grateful i can now fully sustain this boy on my own, but right next to that, i'm grateful for the invention of formula, which helped my baby and so many others survive.