Here is a picture I took the other day that shows off Lillian's fabulous hair. It's probably my favorite picture of her so far.
So, now it’s time for me to blog about our breastfeeding saga. I knew in advance that breastfeeding would be hard. However, I didn’t expect it to be this hard.
Now, I knew that things do not always go as planned, but I didn’t expect to have as many obstacles as we did. I expected long nights, latch issues, sore nipples, a sleepy baby, etc. I didn’t expect NICU. I didn’t expect supply issues. I didn’t expect the vacuum extractor.
Things got off to a rough start in the hospital. I had always planned to breastfeed immediately after birth, but that wasn’t an option because Lillian had to be taken to NICU right away. And I wasn’t able to see her for about seven hours because I had problems of my own. Everything I’d experienced during labor and delivery, (getting only six hours sleep and not eating in 48 hours, the fever, the hemorrhaging), left me extremely weak. I could barely sit up in bed without help. And I had to be on two different IV antibiotics, one every six hours and one every eight hours, which really limited my availability to leave my room.
The NICU’s policy was that all babies were fed every three hours, so, by the time I got to see her, she’d already received two bottles. Despite this, when I tried to breastfeed for the first time, she latched right on and I was so moved by the experience that I started to cry. However, the longer she stayed in NICU and continued to receive bottles, the worse things got. Greg and I tried to attend all of her feedings, but that wasn’t always possible because of my antibiotics schedule. And, when we did attend, she often wasn’t hungry. I was sooooo frustrated because everything I had been taught said that newborns don’t eat much those first few days, and they were feeding her up to an ounce at a time. So, when Greg and I showed up, we’d spend over and hour trying to get her to nurse, and she would just sleep. We even asked the nurses to call us if she woke up hungry, which meant sometimes they would do, and sometimes they wouldn’t do, which infuriated us. At one point, it was about in the morning and we both broke down in the NICU because she just wouldn’t breastfeed due to getting so many bottles and we felt like people weren’t listening to us.
Some of the NICU nurses just seemed unconcerned with our struggles to breastfeed. I’m sure this was because they were used to dealing with much bigger problems, but it was still extremely frustrating to have our concerns minimized. One told us that we should be grateful we are taking our baby home with us (which we were). Several told us that “there is no such thing as nipple confusion.” Greg wishes he had asked them why the literature the hospital hands out specifically talks about nipple confusion and not introducing a bottle or pacifier during the first two weeks. By the time we got home from the hospital, the only way we could get her to latch on at all was using a nipple shield.
The other extremely frustrating part was that we could not get a lactation consultant to meet with us until our last day there, and she only met with us for about 15 minutes (they were simply understaffed). We met with another LC when we got home, who thought it was so ridiculous that we should send a letter of complaint to the hospital
Oh, and the other ridiculous part was regarding the antibiotics schedule: As I mentioned, part of the reason I couldn’t always breastfeed Lillian was because I would be due for a dose of antibiotics at the same time she was due for a feeding. (On top of that, it was extremely annoying to have to lug around an IV pole everywhere I went, and it was really hard on Greg that first day when I was too weak to walk to NICU and he had to push me in a wheelchair along with the IV pole.) This went on for about a day and a half. Then, when my
The NICU nurses kept telling me that Lillian would breastfeed once my milk came in and she was getting something for her efforts, so I was banking on that. When we got home, I was producing a little more milk and pumping eight times a day, so we were “triple feeding:” First I would try nursing. Then we would give her a bottle of pumped breast milk. When the breast milk was gone, we’d give her formula.
My first goal was to pump enough milk to get her off formula, and I accomplished that in about four days. However, over that time, she was willing to take the breast less and less and it got to the point where she would just scream when I tried to nurse her. I remember trying to nurse her and breaking down in tears. I had trouble sleeping and had a constant knot in my stomach because I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed. And I was sooooo angry at the hospital.
However, I am extremely stubborn and wasn’t going to give up without giving it a really good shot. Greg and I decided to call a lactation consultant, and, oh my God, she was fabulous! Anna came to our house for two hours on a Saturday, (six days after Lillian was born), and we learned soooo much about why we were having such a hard time breastfeeding. Apparently my supply was slow to come in because:
a) I had hemorrhaged during delivery.
b) The medication they administered to stop the hemorrhaging (methergine) lowered my supply.
c) I had extreme swelling due to the normal course of pregnancy and labor plus the added affect of being on an IV for three days (seriously, my feet looked like sausages and I couldn’t even get them into my flip flops). Apparently the water was taking up space in my breasts that milk should have occupied.
And, apparently Lillian was not nursing well because I was trying to use the cradle hold, which involves holding the back of her head, and her head was sore because of the vacuum extractor! (Whhhhy people at the hospital couldn’t have shared this information with us, I have no idea.) So, Anna had me lean backwards so that Lillian could nurse on her tummy, and,
Anna said my primary goals should be to keep Lillian well-fed and boost my supply. This meant I had to continue pumping 8-10 times a day for 20 minutes each time, which was sooo time consuming and exhausting, especially in the middle of the night! She also wanted me to call my
Greg and I spent the next several days thinking all breastfeeding all the time. We had a spreadsheet where we tracked everything. We called it “Captain’s Log.” Before and after each nursing session, we would weigh Lillian on a scale, (rented for $90), so we could record the amount of milk she drank. Then I would pump (with a hospital grade pump we also rented), and we would record the amount of milk I pumped. And, it seemed like half the time she would decide she was still hungry right after I finished pumping, so we’d have to give her if she was still hungry, we would give her a bottle of pumped milk and record the amount she drank.
It was a bit maddening, because I felt defeated each time we had to give Lillian a bottle. I would think she was done nursing and start pumping, and then she would want to eat again and I would stop pumping and nurse some more. This would be extremely frustrating at in the morning when I just wanted to sleep! Or, she would want to nurse again right after I finished pumping and my breasts were empty, so we’d have to give her a bottle. I was managing to give her about 60-80 percent of her milk through breastfeeding and the rest was pumped milk. Luckily, I was producing more and more milk each day and actually started to make a small freezer stash.
Lillian wasn’t a big fan of bottles, which helped out with breastfeeding, but it drove Greg crazy because he usually fed her and it would take forever and she would spit up a ton. And we went through so many bottles. At first we were using Avent bottles I bought because they were recommended by Baby Bargains. I had only bought two, so, on the second day back from the hospital, Greg ran to Babies R Us and bought four more. Then the LC said she hated those and recommended Breastflow bottles. So Greg went off to Target to buy three of those. Then Lillian decided she wasn’t a fan of the Breastflow bottles, so we called the LC and she told us to use the nipples that go on the Enfamil containers that Lillian used in the hospital. So Greg went back to Babies R Us to buy more nipples! However, after more patience, Lillian did eventually start to take the Breastflow bottles and we are planning to continue using those when she needs a bottle.
After I started pumping three ounces at a time, the LC gave me permission to cut pumping down to five times a day and go longer between pumping sessions at night. That was a nice little reprieve. But we were still suffering the problem of Lillian not getting enough milk from my breasts because they were never full enough, (she would usually only get ½ to one ounce after nursing for 20 minutes), and it was extremely frustrating. Greg always wanted me to hold off on pumping, but I was afraid of hurting my supply. And I was always a little resistant to giving her a bottle of pumped milk because it felt like a defeat. But then I felt really, really guilty because the doctor said her weight gain was a bit on the slow side.
Greg and I had several late night arguments, I cried several times, and Greg even once said he wanted me to give up on breastfeeding and just use formula because I wasn’t getting any sleep. Even my Aunt, who was staying with us for the week, made a point to sit down with me and tell me it would be okay if I fed Lillian formula. I knew this was true, but I just wanted to breastfeed SO BADLY and I wasn’t ready to give up.
Finally, about two weeks after Lillian was born, the LC said I could try a going a day without pumping. She said that, if Lillian had at least 6 wet diapers, 3 poopy diapers, and 1/2 oz weight gain that I could go another 24 hours without pumping, and, if we met the goal again, I could consider our breastfeeding established. Lillian nursed like a champ during those first 24 hours of no pumping and no bottles. And we've exceeded the goal - at least 8 wet and 6 poopy diapers, and she gained 3 ounces! The LC was so thrilled that she said we didn’t even need to go another 24 hours and that we were officially “graduated.”
I couldn’t believe how much more sleep I was able to get not having to worry about pumping, weighing, or bottle feeding, Lillian was so much less fussy, and I had so much more free time during the day. And we haven’t looked back since! I am still exhausted and feel strapped for free time, but it is so.much.better. I still pump every morning so I can build a freezer stash, (in case I ever need to go on some nasty antibiotic or something), and also so someone can give her a bottle if I decide I want to leave the house for a few hours, (or so I can sleep in a bit).
Now my goal is to wean her from the nipple shield. So far she fusses every time I try to nurse without it, but I am not going to stress over it. If I have to use a nipple shield every time I nurse for the next year, that’s okay. It’s not ideal, but it’s still better than having to use formula or pump all the time.
So that’s our breastfeeding story (so far). It’s been two weeks since we “graduated” and things are still going well, and I am sooo happy that we stuck with it!