Since August is World Breastfeeding Month I wanted to share MY breastfeeding story.
Like most first-time moms Jude and I had our fair share of breastfeeding difficulties (mastitis, sore nipples, large breasts, etc…) but we powered through and he nursed for about 18 months. The first few weeks were hard but totally worth the pain and sleepless nights. All-in-all I think it was pretty typical of what most new moms endure.
When I got pregnant with Noah I thought for sure it would be SOOOOO much easier this time around. I knew what to expect, had experience and was even more determine to be awesome at breastfeeding. Boy was I in for a surprise.
Noah is a big baby (11lbs+ at birth) and he endured a severe case of shoulder dystocia. Right after birth we had some good skin to skin time and we tried to nurse and he could NOT latch. We tried every position and trick in the book and we got nowhere. Our midwife immediately checked his tongue and thought he might have a tight frenulum (AKA tongue-tie). She told us to massage his tongue and keep trying for a day to see if it would loosen up. He couldn’t push is tongue past his gums much less out of his mouth. The next 24+ hours he didn’t latch at all and didn’t eat ANYTHING. When the midwife returned he’d lost a lot of weight, had become lethargic and was beinging to show signs of dehydration. I knew something wasn’t right. I mean it was hard with Jude but this seemed impossible. So, our midwife clipped his frenulum and he immediately showed signs of improvement however he still just couldn’t latch.
We gave him some formula to help rehydrate and nourish him and then I began to pump.
I pumped to help bring in my milk.
I pumped to pull out my nipples.
I pumped to produce bottles of breast milk to supplement his feedings
I pumped and pumped and pumped…
Little did I realize that the next MONTH would be filled with pumping.
My milk came in. We continued to work with Noah yet he still didn’t nurse. We talked to friends, La Leche League Leaders, Lactation Experts and the ENT. The ENT informed us that although the midwife had clipped his frenulum it was starting to grow back together. So she pulled it open and told us that for a week every time after he ate we had to press under his tongue to prevent it from growing back together. He hated it. I hated making my baby hurt. So I made Joe do it.
For weeks we continued to bottle feed him my expressed breast milk. I would occasionally present him with the breast, let him explore it and try to get him to latch. He showed no interest in breast feeding AT ALL.
We also noticed he leans to the left. His head is permanently tilted that way. After a bit of research I’m pretty sure, yet he hasn’t been officially diagnosed, he has torticollis. Probably due to his large size and position in the uterus and the shoulder dystocia he had at birth. (We are taking him to the pediatrician soon to have him checked out and then probably on to a physical therapist who will give us some stretches and exercises which will help fix his tilt) His tilt also made it difficult and uncomfortable for him to turn his head to nurse.
Finally, on Thursday of last week (almost 6 weeks post partum) I had a drastic reduction in my milk supply. I just wasn’t pumping as much as I had been. It stressed me out. I thought putting Noah to the breast would help increase my oxytocin levels and therefore increase my milk production. So for a whole day every time I fed him a bottle I also offered him the breast. It didn’t force it. I just fed him 1 ounce, then presented him with the breast and worked with him to latch until he’d get too upset then back to the bottle. Then out of the blue he completely latched on and ate for a good 10 minutes. I was shocked, elated and so very proud of him. Two more times that day he latched on and had a good long nursing session.
The next day he ate almost every meal from the breast, with a few ounces from bottles to either get him started or help top him off at the end. The day after that he didn’t take a bottle at all. In fact, I offered him one when he was hungry and he completely refused it and preferred to eat directly from the breast. (Can’t blame him nursing is pretty awesome)
I can’t tell you how proud I am of Noah. It took him six weeks to learn to nurse but he did it. He overcame some pretty difficult circumstances and is now a nursing champ. I’m also proud of Joe and I, from day one we realized there was a bigger issue and immediately gave ourselves grace. We put Noah’s best interests first. We said if we had to give up on breast feeding all together we were OK with that. But we knew it was something we both really wanted so we worked really hard for Noah. It was hard, inconvenient, and not at all ideal. (pumping 6-10 times a day – even in the middle of the night is not fun) I am so glad we pushed through and kept working with him. We had such wonderful support from our friends, family and even complete strangers that sacrificed hours of their lives to help us.