It was a whirlwind of craziness the first 9 days of Caleigh’s life. I had gone into labor exactly two weeks early so my parents weren’t expected to arrive from NY for another nine days! My mom was distraught that she was missing everything, but I assured her we would be fine and to keep her scheduled flight. We were super lucky that they got there on day 9 and were able to stay for one month. I don’t know how we’ll ever repay them!
Biggest challenge of the first month:
*Breastfeeding – I had completely planned to breastfeed my daughter for the first year of her life. My mother even used to help new mothers (back when she was a county nurse) when they would have difficulty breastfeeding so I knew I was set. What did I have to worry about? I was completely devastated therefore, when my little baby wouldn’t latch on. I had known it would be hard, but I had not realized there was a chance it wouldn’t happen at all.
I had numerous lactation consultants visit me in the hospital and give me all sorts of advice. I was pumping and using a nipple shield by the time she was two days old. We had to supplement with formula by the time she was 5 days old. I saw the lactation consultant regularly for the first six weeks and sadly her latch did not improve at all over that time.
As far as breastfeeding strategies go, you name it…I tried it. I was told to buy herbs to increase supply (even though my supply wasn’t the problem). I was told to use a nipple shield. I was told to use a syringe and give my daughter breastmilk through the nipple shield. I was told to not use the nipple shield (it would screw up breastfeeding for her later on I was told). I was told to use an SNS contraption (see picture here). I had the My Brest Friend (see picture here) to help with positioning. I tried the football hold, the cradle hold, the cross cradle hold, the lying down position. I tried it all.
The problem is…none of these strategies helped my daughter with her latch. I even consulted an occupational therapist friend whose sister was a pediatrician and asked for help. I was doing everything right and nothing was working. Not only did Caleigh have a weak latch, but she also had a weak suck.
I was told to give it time. So I did.
In the meantime, I cried.
I put my daughter to my breast and she cried.
So I pumped.
I had to attempt breastfeeding at each feeding which took about 30 minutes (with no success of course). Then I had to feed her on my breast with a nipple shield (and use a syringe to give her the pumped breast milk) which took another 30 minutes. Then I had to pump to be ready for the next feeding which took another 40 minutes. Then I had to clean the pump and bottles and syringes and nipple shields readying for the next feeding in…oh…about 30 minutes. Each “feeding cycle” required approximately an hour and 40 minutes of time for me. So basically, I got about 30 minutes of break every 2 1/2 hours.
And this included my time to sleep.
(and pee and shower and eat and brush my teeth).
Exhaustion and sadness had begun to set in.
I had wanted to breastfeed my daughter so badly and could not believe it wasn’t going to happen.
I had to pump around the clock to get enough milk for her and keep my supply up. Because I never had any times where she was latching and sucking efficiently, my supply never got very strong. I had to supplement with formula from 5 days on. We eventually started feeding her the pumped breast milk through a bottle instead of the syringe and nipple shield. It was nice because I could pump while my husband or my parents fed her which saved me some time, but to me it signified taking another step away from my dream.
Over time, my supply became less and less. If I had to go to a doctor’s appointment or run to the store, it would mean I would not have time to pump and would miss one “cycle” as I would call them. Every time you miss a pumping cycle, it tells your body you need just a little less milk produced.
By the time we hit a month and a half, I developed mastitis in my left breast. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and it cleared up within a few days, but my supply really dipped after that. And I won’t lie, I was starting to get fed up with our schedule and how exhausting it was.
I just wanted her to latch on and breastfeed normally so badly!
I continued to pump and feed her the breast milk until she was 2 1/2 months old. It was at that point, I came to terms with reality. The experts say that the first 6 weeks are the most important in terms of getting the benefits of the breast milk and that ideally 6 months is the benchmark that mothers strive to reach. I could not see myself continuing on this schedule for another 3 1/2 months longer and finally, dejectedly, hung up my hat.
I had given it my all. I had worn myself out doing double the work. But that didn’t matter. I still had a ridiculous amount of guilt.
I realized at that moment that I was going to live a very guilt-ridden life if I continued to compare myself to other moms.
So I couldn’t get my baby to latch. So what?? She was gaining weight and was healthy in every way.
So I didn’t earn my “golden boobies” (or even “silver boobies” for that matter). So what? I had a beautiful blessing in my arms who I loved more than anything in the world!
If you go through life comparing yourself to other moms, you will never be happy! Set expectations for yourself and strive to reach them.
Please feel free to share your experiences with breastfeeding…positive or negative. It helped me a lot to read what others’ had to say when I was struggling with it (and googling around the clock to get ideas from other mommies on the internet!)
Oh! One last thing! This item changed my life:
If you are a pumper and you want your life back…get this bra!!