Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Breastfeeding Woes

During my pregnancy, I read two books on breastfeeding, plus all the sections in the many pregnancy and baby books I've read. I took a class about breastfeeding. I spent countless hours researching different breastfeeding issues online, and I asked lots of questions of my friends who have gone through it. And I bought all the supplies I would need. I was prepared. But I wasn't prepared for the one issue I didn't expect: no milk! Here we are, one week after giving birth, and I don't really think my milk has "come in". Engorgement? Hasn't happened. People talk about having super huge full and hard breasts. Yeah, not so much. I'm still soft and floppy.

It all started so well. I had a c-section, so hubs took the baby back to our room without me while my doc was sewing me up. One of my concerns about having a c-section was being able to nurse quickly - within that magical one hour window after birth. So I was happy to get back to my room pretty quickly - within about 20 minutes after birth. But then the nurse told me to wait to nurse until the lactation consultant came to help me with my first feeding. I consented for about 10 minutes, and then I insisted on feeding my baby - she was my baby, I was going to try myself! Why did I have to wait? And it was a success. Baby Alex latched on immediately, and she suckled like a champ. I think we had about a 30 minute session that first time, about 15 minutes each side. I was so proud.

For the next couple days, everything was looking so good. The nurses wanted to see one poop in the first 24 hours - we gave them 7! She was latching great, and we were feeding every 2 hours. Alex was born Tuesday evening, and on Thursday I had a friend come by and visit, and she asked how everything was going, and I responded that it's much easier than I thought it would be - everything's great! How wrong I was.

That night at our 1:00 am feeding, Alex took one boob just fine. But she wouldn't take the other - she absolutely refused. But I just chalked it up to being full or sleepy or something - no big deal. Then at the next feeding at 3:00 am, she refused both boobs. I struggled for an hour and a half by myself, and finally the nurse stopped by, hearing the crying. She would have been a great drug dealer. The night before, she convinced me that Alex needed to suck a lot, and perhaps we should try a pacifier to calm Alex between feedings. It didn't occur to me that she was fussy between feedings because she was hungry! Of course Alex loved the pacifier, and so I thought it was a success, even though it went against what I had read about breastfeeding and nipple confusion. Well then Thursday night she said that Alex was refusing to nurse because I didn't have any milk to entice her as my milk had not yet come in, and now she was confused by the pacifier, and she didn't want to latch on anymore. So then she convinced me that I needed a nipple shield to help her latch - something I had seen cause much difficulty with a couple of my friends. So with the help of a nipple shield and a bit of sugar water sprayed on the nipple shield to entice her, Alex finally latched at around 4:30 am after crying since 3:00. But then about an hour later, she was fussy again, and wouldn't latch even with the nipple shield, and my drug dealer nurse convinced me that Alex was hungry, and was refusing to latch because nothing was coming out. Finally through tears, I agreed to give her formula as I felt like I was starving my baby. For the first time in days, I saw my baby swallow and voraciously drink. She was finally full.

On Friday, we met with the pediatrician before leaving the hospital, and she said we should do the following: Every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, I should nurse Alex for 10-15 minutes on each side, then pump for 15 minutes. While I pump, I should feed Alex 1-2 ounces of formula, as much as she'll take. This should help increase my milk production as I'm telling my body that the nursing isn't enough by the use of the pump. The whole process takes about 1 1/2 hours when you include bottle and pump set up and washing, and then we get 1 1/2 hours off to sleep or for me to eat. Repeat - 8+ times per day. Needless to say, I'm exhausted.

I can see improvement over the weekend. I went from barely getting a drip of milk in my 15 minute pumping session to getting enough to almost cover the bottom of the pump bottles. But it's pitiful. We went to the pediatrician yesterday, and she asked how much I was getting. It's not even measurable - you could tell she wasn't that impressed. And so then we went to the vitamin store, and I loaded up on fenugreek and blessed thistle - herbs that are supposed to help with production.

I'm once again disappointed by my body. My baby is doing her part - she has a great suck, and that was part of the reason why the pediatrician said she wasn't worried about me supplementing - as her suck is so strong, she should be able to go from breast to bottle easily. And this has proven true. I have even been able to wean her off the nipple shield in the last couple days, so that is a success. And my nipples went from sore to not too bad. Another success and evidence of a good latch. But my body is not cooperating. It's been a week, and everything I've read says that my milk should be "in" by now. Yes I have some milk, but I don't think this is what they're talking about when they say milk should be in. People have been having babies for thousands of years, and this should all be natural, right? But I can't help but think that if this was in the time before formula, my baby would not be thriving and I would be starving my baby. But then again, I wouldn't have a baby at all if it weren't for science, right? Once again, my body refuses to do what it was designed to do, and I'm forcing it to behave, or at least hoping it will.

34 comments:

  1. I could have written this post. It sounds almost exactly what happened to me. I ended up giving up after about a week and went to pumping exclusively. I was getting so upset and anxious before every feeding and would just cry and cry. I felt the same way about my body and I was embarrassed and humiliated.

    One day, A went to me on her own (she was about two weeks) and I stopped exclusively pumping. I thought that would help. I took fenugreek, too. Nope. I never made more than two ounces (or so). So, until she was a little over three months old, I would bf her about four times a day and then at that feeding, we would finish with formula. I still figure she never got more than about two ounces from me. I tried to keep pumping in between and tried to keep putting her on in between, but it never worked.

    After I stopped, I never had problems with having my milk "dry up" and I never "leaked". I still feel like a failure but I suppose that any breast milk isn't failing.

    I'm not sure if I offered you any comfort, other than to tell you that I understand and I've been there. Please also know it's not your fault.

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  2. Oh Alex, we should talk. I hadn't posted much until the other day because I was having such challenges with bf'ing. Same thing: my milk didn't come in until about Friday after I'd had c-section the previous Saturday. We started formula supplementing on the Tuesday of that week and I started pumping on the Wednesday. At 6 weeks I'm just now getting up to 15 or 16 oz milk a day from pumping, of course nowhere near what baby girl needs. Ugh I've seen 3 different lactation consultants. I've done fenugreek, mothers milk tea and a course of Reglan.
    Anyhow I can bore you with more details, but the important thing that it took me 6 weeks to decide is to (mostly) let go. I say mostly because of course at my 2am pumping this morning I emailed my husband a link to the online pharmacy in New Zealand that ships Domperidone to the States! Ha!
    So hang in there (if you want) and don't second guess the pacifier or the supplementing
    Oh and check out the link to the mag article that was left in comments on my last post. It doesn't necessarily make it all betterbut it did make me less anxious about giving formula.

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  3. Another challenge to deal with. I hope your milk will increase and come again.

    Friends of mine has been through this as well. Even though your body is not co-operating you have done all you can to make it happen.

    Hope it feels easier either way it goes.

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  4. Bfing is so hard. But take comfort in knowing you did everything you could to make it a sucess 9reading, preparing, etc). I hope you can get your milk to come in, and if not that you fel peace about it.
    Thinking of you.
    And by the way after I stopped bfing I was so much happier better rested and overall a less stressed out mommmy for my baby.

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  5. Don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing the very, very best you can, sacrificing a LOT of time, effort and sleep. That is all your sweet baby would ask of you. I have a lot of friends who have had great difficulty with BFing who had no IF struggles, so don't let your mind trick you into thinking the two are connected. You are a mom now and how you got here does not determine how you will parent.

    I'm sure you're doing a GREAT job. All you can do is try and I believe in you.

    (hugs)

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  6. Alex I really feel for you and now with your hormones going up and down it can make any problems seem a thousand times worse. I like you thought I was going to do great bfing but for me it was my little guy-- he had zero intrest in latching. Pumping takes a lot of time and effort but through pumping I was able to provide at least 10 ounces a day for my baby which helped me make peace with bfing. Make sure you have a hospital grade pump (you can rent them) and a hands free pumping bra. Lots of love to you.

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  7. oh, Alex, it breaks my heart to see you be so hard on yourself. Please give yourself a break. Whether you breastfeed, formula feed, or combination, your baby is going to be just fine, beautiful and healthy. I didn't bf either of my kids, they are 4 and 7 now, and they are both healthy and great. My 7 year old gets straight A's in school and has never missed a day. They are almost never sick. I know how hard it is at the beginning when you want to do everything *just perfectly*--but you have to give yourself a break. You are not a failure, and neither is your body. You created a perfect little girl--how could that be a failure? What's important is that little Alex gets fed and cared for, and you are doing that. Hang in there sweetie--this is the toughest time and it will get easier. Do whatever is best for you on the feeding--and don't second guess yourself and don't let anyone else second guess you either. A lot of motherhood is just instinct and doing what your gut tells you. Best of luck to you.

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  8. Oh, Mama, hear me: you are doing a beautiful job. You are. If I can say this, I am proud of you for your dedication and effort--it IS exhausting. You're doing everything you can to make BFing work. We used the nipple shield, too, and had our own issues with it. Kudos that you were able to wean away from it as quickly as you and lil Alex did. I know you want desperately for this to work, but please understand that formula isn't bad and using it isn't a failure. I'm glad that it exists for situations just like this, you know? You are taking GREAT care of lil Alex. This is hard stuff, and the strain and worry is normal and expected. There will come a time, though, when balance is necessary. You need to also take care of yourself. Exhausting and stressing yourself to the max is no service to your babe or to yourself. It's about quality of life for you both, Mama. Hang in there.

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  9. oh wow, I thought I was the ONLY one with that problem. I had to give him formula the first night, because he was miserable (It broke my heart). I had random people massaging my boobs, I pumped for hours, Nolan and I ended up crying hysterically at the same time, and finally after a week and a half I had had enough. I can love that baby with a bottle or a boob and so can you. Like your other commenter, I never had that leaking issue or had problems drying up. My milk just never came in.

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  10. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/04/the-case-against-breast-feeding/7311/

    Check out this article.

    I'm 7 weeks into this mommy thing, and what I am finding out is that ideals get squashed. I popped the paci in at 2 days because A would not stop crying unless he was suckling on my boob, and afteer 20 hours of suckling, I was hurting and needed a break.

    hugs to you!

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  11. Oh, my heart goes out to you! I know the process of pumping + trying to nurse is exhausting. It makes all of the above even harder to deal with. Deep breathes and keep taking it one day at a time.

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  12. Nursing can be so hard! I found this article helpful, http://typeaparent.com/infant-stomach-size-and-growth.html, homefully you will too. From what my LC said babies get more out of the breast than the pump does. For me it got easier around 3-4 weeks. You're doing a great job!!!

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  13. Oh i'm so sorry mommy. Please don't be too hard on yourself. so many people runinto these hurdles. Just keep on pumping and taking fenugreek and supplement if you have to. People beat themselves up over supplementing like they have failed their child or something. but it's just temporary while you pump yourself into a dairy frenzy getting your production up. Baby will still like your breastmilk. it's sweeter and easier to digest so they will always prefer it.

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  14. Hang in there. It is a big myth that milk comes in in 2-3 days. For first time moms it is more like 5-7 days. Hang in there if you can. Some is better than none. Pumping can be decieving. You may have a bit more than you are actually getting and stress can cause your let down to not actually happen. Try to relax. do the best you can and it's ok to supplement.

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  15. Sheesh, woman, what a lot to deal with! I'm so sorry it's been stressful. As everyone else has said, what ultimately happens with nursing has nothing to do with how amazing a mom you are or how Alex is going to turn out. But boy, it must be frustrating as all heck. Sending love and relaxation. xoxo

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  16. Babe - you are being very hard on yourself. Too hard. Unfortunately with breastfeeding, it's like fertility. The fucking bf-ing fairy strikes just as randomly as the fertility fairy and she is a fickle bitch. Know thwt it's too early to gauge what your true supply is and do the pumping as well as trying to breastfeed her wt every opportunity and your supply will gt better. True supply doesn't stabilize until at least one month in so there is still time to do what you can to get it up if possible. I know it is frerwking exhausting to be pumping and nursingbc once those to things aree done, there is still the baby to rock to sleep and yu yourself have to eat somewhere in there before the whole cycle repeats. This shit is exhausting. Bc I had an oversupply, I feel like I can be a lactation consultant, bc I know everything I should NOT do to make my supply go up. But everything I shouldn't be doing is what you should be doing to get your supply up, do I'm gonnna send you an email. Don't mean any of this as assvice. Just trying to help in any way that I can bc I know how exhausting these first weeks wre at home. Thinking of you guys and sending big big hugs to you mommabear:o)

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  17. I hear you on the "natural" part. As you know, I had a hell of a time BFing E. as long as you get the right number of wet/poo diapers though you are doing great. As for pumping, it is not a true representation of what she's getting. Babies are much more efficient than a pump. And letting down for a pump is a learned thing. It didn't happen right away for me either. I never got engorged in the beginning either. Probably not until about three weeks in.

    Don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing a great job! BFing is soooo not easy.

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  18. Also, you may want to have your LC do a weighted feeding. I was surprised by how much E was actually getting, even though I never felt engorged.

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  19. okay it can suck at the begining. i am with you totally with the drug dealer nurse. i remember crying about the idea of giving my babies formula when i had been cluster feeding them for hours and was bleeding. at the begining i pumped after every feeding of feeding my girls and my milk did come in. i since added fennugreek and blessed thistle and they are amazing! it is so hard though when doctors aren't supportive. i would definitely seek out a private lactation consultant soon to help you out. they will be all for what is best for you and your baby

    also, if you need to supplement don't beat yourself up over it. it will get better i promise you.

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  20. Don't get down on yourself. I had supply issues from the start as well. I would nurse/pump every 3 hours and finally I decided to take the drugs that were offered to me (sorry, I can't remember what it was called). We supplemented for about 2 weeks by then I felt that I had enough supply. Nathan never had any issues with confusion.

    The key thing to remember is that Alex has a good latch. Don't give up, it will get easier.

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  21. I know nothing about the world of lactation or other post-birth adventures yet, but I will chime in to say, don't be hard on yourself. Quantity of milk produced is completely irrelevant.. Alex could not have a better mother.

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  22. Alex, sweetie, I don't have much time, but didn't want to read and not reply. I went through exactly the same. I had NO milk. Like you, a few drops after pumping for ages. I got to a max of 60 mL in A DAY!! you read everywhere this is not possible and that if you stick to it it'll improve. Well. I want to write my own book on this particular matter! Don't give up just yet, but I really wanted to hear about people who had the same experience as I was having, not hearing about bf champions. If you have the time, have a look at some of my posts about that time. Much love, Fran

    ps: remember that the most important thing is that little Alex is growing and doing well, which means that what you are doing is just perfect. Bf or not.

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  23. I just wanted to say there is no ideal - there is what works for the 2 of you. Many hugs to you!

    BTW - the pacifier has been our best friend... it suits a purpose and if it helps, use it!

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  24. I had a nurse also suggest the pacifier since my little one has a strong sucking reflex and is pretty much looking for something all the time. It worked for us without issue but she did have low blood sugar levels in the beginning. I used a supplemental nursing system, which allowed me to feed from the nipple and give formula so she got the best of both worlds. Has anyone suggested this to you? You are producing some milk so you'd be able to give her some of the natural nutrients. She will have to be able to latch though but the formula comes out quickly so you might be able to get to hang on. She has to work harder for the natural milk. The system I used was Medela.

    Good luck and don't beat yourself up. All babies have some kind of feeding challenge at some point.

    p.s. When I pump I don't get much at first but I know my milk has come in. And my boobs aren't that firm.

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  25. I'm so sorry this is such a pain! I wanted to say that my milk didn't come in for a long time, and Penelope nursed CONSTANTLY (as in, around the clock, all the time, whenever she wasn't asleep) for the first few weeks. I still can't pump very much and never could (max = a few ounces per session, and that's MAX). BUT, Penelope has been growing super well and even gotten chubby off my supply. It just means that she feeds more often than a baby whose mom's boobs are more productive.

    I say just let Alex feed, feed, feed at your breast. I think you'll be off the supplements and pumping and back to exclusively BF very soon. But if not, well, at least the hubbs doesn't have an excuse not to participate in midnight feedings ;)!

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  26. Try not to beat yourself up, breastfeeding is so hard! We had to supplement initially too the first couple of weeks then again after a few months when she wasn't growing as quickly as we hoped. I felt like such a failure so I know where you're coming from. Your milk will probably come in soon but if it doesn't it's certainly not your fault! I've figured out in my short time as a mom that sometimes (ok a lot of times) things don't go the way we plan them but they do work out for the best. Sending you and Little Alex all my love!

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  27. I am so sorry you are having challenges with breastfeeding. I have heard this does happen often..just others do not talk about it. I fear this as well. But..you baby is doing okay..and getting the right nutrition.

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  28. Oh, I am so SO sorry. You're amazing to be working so hard to try to keep BFing. And whatever happens, do your best not to blame yourself. There's a lot of good support and wisdom above, so I can really only echo it, and especially the part about Alex being lucky to have you, regardless of what happens with your supply.

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  29. Alex,

    I'm so sorry you are going through this. I didnt have IF issues, but I am also going through this. my LO is 9 weeks old, and my supply got better after the first few weeks, but then I got a stomach bug and got dehydrated and quit producing milk! I'm trying to get my supply back now, but I never thought I would have these BF problems. Feeling like you are failing your LO is the worst thing ever.

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  30. I've come to learn that breastfeeding is not all that's it cracked out to be. It's very hard. Lots of women have problems, which is why they finally give up and switch to formula. Now, here's a recipe that will make your milk flow. It worked for my SIL incredibly.

    First, you should drink warm tea, as warmth definitely makes the milk flow. You should also make sure that you drink plenty of fluids in general.

    Second, and more important, you should try out this juice, as the nurses here swear by it (and I know plenty of women who have had success with this).
    For one cup, take 3-4 carrots, 1 peeled apple and 1 beet. Cut it all into small pieces and put it in a juicer. You should drink this once a day on an empty stomach. I swear this made my SIL's milk overflow, she was ordered to stop drinking it. Beet is the essential part. For some reason it stimulates milk production.
    I sincerely hope this works for you. xo

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  31. I'm so sorry this is so tough right now! I hope that it gets better.

    I know, after all you've been through, it's so hard not to blame yourself or hate your body for yet another failure to do what it is "supposed" to do. But, you're doing everything you can and are being a wonderful mother to little Alex. ((hugs))

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  32. *hugs* I have so been there. I had a c-section and had breast feeding issues. I tried many different times and hated pumping so ended up formula full time. I wish you all the luck and if for some reason it doesn't happen no judgement here.

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  33. It just seems after all the waiting and wishing for baby that when she actually arrives and comes home our struggles should be over! I'm so sorry you're struggling with breastfeeding and I do hope your boobs start to cooperate soon. I've read over and over what a struggle it can be, but I wish you didn't have to do any more struggling.

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