Of course I was going to breastfeed my baby. There was never a doubt in my mind. I took the class. I did the reading. I bought the best pump available. (As a little aside, if you live in the U.S. and have health insurance, you can get a pump through your insurance company. I didn’t know that. Luckily a girl in my childbirth class told me. Mine was 100% paid for. ) Anyway, suffice it to say, I was all for giving my baby the best nourishment possible. The milk from his mother.
After having a c-section, breastfeeding proved to have it’s challenges. Firstly, I missed out on the natural journey an infant can take from being placed on the mother’s abdomen, making his way up to “find” her breast naturally. I had seen this video in my breastfeeding 101 class and it made me weep. So so beautiful. I had hoped for that..but it didn’t happen. There was no putting an infant on my abdomen that had just been freshly stapled. That’s alright, I thought. It will be fine. So we won’t have that initial skin to skin bond. We’ll have it later.
So later came. To be very honest, I don’t know when later was….as I was still drugged out of my head. But the nurses kept saying that the baby doesn’t need much right away. It will all be fine. Your colostrum has extra nourishment. When they put the baby to my breast, he seemed to find my nipple. He seemed to be doing something….but was it all happening the way it was supposed to? I wasn’t hearing the “sucking sound” they talked about in the class. But maybe I just didn’t know really what to listen for. Every couple of hours, Ian would bring the baby to me to feed. In the class they stressed switching breasts with each feeding, but I had my IV in my left hand which made holding him on that side impossible. And I couldn’t lay him on my chest, because he was so long, his feet were at my incision. So we concentrated on the right side. We kept this up…but something just seemed not right. It seemed like he just wasn’t latching on. The lactation person came to see me. Checked my positioning. Listened for the sucking sound. She said she heard it. Why couldn’t I?
In the afternoon, on day 2, the nurse came in with a small bottle of formula, a rubber glove, and a medicine syringe. She told us that the baby was losing too much weight, and she was going to instruct us on how to finger feed the baby, if we wanted to learn. But the baby needed nourishment. And he needed it now. It was up to us. So what do you say? Do you say No? “He will eat from my breast when he’s hungry.” Do you hold on to your idea of the way you wanted it to be? Or do you feed your child? So Ian and I decided that he would supplement finger feed the baby with the syringe and I would keep offering my breast. But we decided that I wouldn’t feed him the formula, in case it became confusing for the baby. And we really were hoping the boob snafu was temporary. Well, he could suck on Ian’s finger. But then again a finger is much longer than my nipple…let’s hope. I could hear the “sucking sound” when he fed him.. well more like gulping. Ian wasn’t all together comfortable with it, because he said it felt like he was pouring it down his throat. We ditched the finger feeding and used a disposable nipple. He drank the formula like he was ravenous. Like he was starving. Something was amiss.
How was my milk supply, you ask? I was producing, that’s for sure. I massaged my breasts and expressed milk before each feeding. But when I fed him, I swear, I NEVER heard the “sound.” The day I left the hospital the lactation consult came in to answer any other questions I might have and to check, again, how O and I were doing with feeding. Again, she praised my positioning on the right side and said everything seemed good. I’m sorry, Harmony (that was her name)….my baby is still losing weight! Then, she paused and said how odd it was that the baby didn’t seem to want my left breast. She then told me that if that kept up, I might want to get my breast checked out, because it could be a sign of something serious. ??? WHAT? I’m sorry….WHAT? I was clearly not dealing well, tears in my eyes before this bombshell…and Harmony, with all her bedside manner and finesse of a clod hopper, plants that notion in my head. Alrighty then. We went home.
In the one week we were home, our little O lost more than 14% of his body weight. The visiting nurse we had gave me the name of a lactation consultant and recommended we feed him mainly formula and supplement with the breast. I was gutted. Wasn’t I supposed to be his main source of nourishment? And what the heck was in this man made chemical elixir, otherwise known as formula? Have you taken a gander at the ingredients on a can of formula? It’s frightening. All I have to say is, if you must use formula, do your research. There are several on the market that use sugar and corn syrup solids as the first ingredients. I’ll say it again. Frightening.
So we finally get in to see the Licensed Lactation Consultant who was also an M.D. I was desperate to make it work. I remember the office had a very “wheat germ” feel to it. Nature’s Way granola. Very hippie. This woman came highly recommended, so I didn’t care if she was in her own personal Woodstock. I wanted my child to latch! It was the oddest consultation I ever had, but I had never had a lactation consult, so what did I know? I remained completely open. Right away, she told us that little O’s frenulum was too short, or rather, he was tongue-tied. His frenulum was actually pulling the center of his tongue back. Apparently, about only 4% of babies are born tongue tied. There is no evidence to show that my being of advanced maternal age had anything to do with O being born this way. It is thought to be hereditary. Yet, to our knowledge, no one in either Ian’s family or mine, was born with this. Anyway, she told us, she could snip it and undoubtedly he would be able to latch properly and successfully breastfeed….She didn’t say much, but that. Ian wondered if she was high on all the peaceful vibes emanating from this “far out” practice. This was the first I had ever heard of a frenotomy, a.k.a the snipping procedure. We needed to think about this, research the procedure, the risks, google HER for God sake! After much deliberation, we opted to go through with the snip. When we read about the tongue-tie possibly causing issues with speech development, I knew we should do it. The fact that he would be able to breastfeed was a plus, but not the deciding factor. As it turns out, O didn’t even cry. It was over so quickly. She immediately put him to my breast, and he ate. Or so it seemed. It was a miracle! I booked another session with her to follow up and we left there feeling like there was HOPE! Ah, but the story goes on.
I continued to breastfeed O, but we were quickly back to him not wanting to latch, crying, screaming at the mere suggestion that he might have to suck on my breast for sustenance. When I went back to her for the follow up, she said I just had to keep trying. That I should only offer the breast. She had me breast feed him while she observed. Yup, I was doing everything right. Yup, he was latching and sucking. She could hear it. I could not. I was there for an hour and a half with my boy on my boob the whole time. As I was leaving, he was screaming…he was hungry. Starving. There I was shoving my boob in his face and he wasn’t getting what he needed. I asked her opinion on what might be a decent formula I could use for him, if the problems continued. She told me, in her very relaxed hippie fashion, “The best milk for a baby other than yours, is the milk from another mother.” ?? I said, “Where would I find that?” She said, “Oh you know, there are Facebook groups and community trading, etc.” So, it’s better that I get the milk from someone I don’t know off of Facebook, for who all I know, is supporting her crack habit with money she gets selling her tainted milk on the internet. ?? WTF? When I got home, I fed him formula from the bottle and he calmed down. He was clearly hungry. So, I ask you, if everything was going so well in “Mother Earth’s” office, why was he so hungry? It was that day that I decided I would keep offering my breast (cause hey, I didn’t want to give up) and pump like a mother F’er. We would supplement with formula and I would give him every drop I could get out my rather engorged ta-tas. I decided that Mother Earth could go suck it. I wasn’t going to starve my son, so I could put some sort of elitist mothering feather in my cap. Now this isn’t to say that I think anyone who CAN breastfeed is looking down on me because I can’t. (Gosh, at least I hope not). But EVERYTHING we read, gives us that mindset. I was just reading a post today on babycenter.com that said, “Although formula can’t replicate all the unique properties of breast milk, formula-fed babies can thrive too.” Well thanks. You mean he has a chance? I mean, I get it… all the propaganda wants to convince women to breast feed. But, geez, it really makes you feel like a failure if it just doesn’t work out.
I pumped for over 3 months. After every feeding at first. Talk about exhausting. You feed every hour and a half. The feeding takes a half hour, and the pumping took a half hour. So by the time I could get back to sleep I had about 15 minutes to sleep. Even when Ian fed the baby, I still had to pump. I also wanted Ian to get some sleep, as he used to commute to work an hour and a half each way in Florida. I didn’t need him completely sleep deprived driving on I-95. As my supply dwindled, the pumping became less and less fruitful. I’d pump for 25 -30 minutes and get a couple of ounces, if I was lucky. It was bleak. Formula was fast becoming the main event with my feeble contribution, a mere appetizer.
Did this fiasco lend itself to my fragile state of mind. You bet it did. I beat myself up for quite a while over this “let down,” pardon the pun. Eight months later, I adore feeding time. When that little face looks up at me, touching my face, enjoying his bottle, it’s a slice of heaven. Because he is bottle fed, Ian gets to enjoy it too and I am grateful for that. I just wonder what it would be like had we been able to breastfeed? Would our bond be stronger? Would he feel my love more? Would he grow up with a higher IQ? Would he grow to be more wonderful because of the magic milk? The propaganda seems to allude to that. Or does the love and affection we give him everyday count for something? Does the time and attention we shower upon him matter? I’d like to think so. Mother Earth, thanks for trying….but we’ve got a miraculous child to raise. And, oh, by the way, he’s thriving.