Thursday, May 30, 2013

The womanly art of breastfeeding?

The first week with Rosabella has flown by.  She is amazing.  So beautiful, so perfect, so MINE.  I made her and now here she is her own little person.  I see Grace in her so often, and it makes me feel like Grace is here with us again.  However, not all is sunshine and roses.  There have been panic attacks, crying jags, flares of anger at my husband, the animals, friends, the world etc.  I have felt off kilter and afraid and just plain sad sometimes.

My biggest source of anxiety has been oddly enough breastfeeding.  Something that I thought would be so simple and natural has turned my world on it's ear and scared me to death.  At first I had crazy bad nipple sensitivity, literally toe curing pain when she would latch, or attempt to latch on, then constant pain while she nursed.  Then my nipples cracked, even more pain with a bad latch.  Then I became terrified to let her latch.  Then she realized that I was anxious and she became anxious.  Also the hospital wanted me feeding her every 2-3 hours, but she would be asleep and I would spend an hour waking her up to eat.  I gave up that since it was impossible to wake her up anyway and I would not get any rest at all.  Then I was waiting for her feeding cues, rooting in her sleep, opening her mouth like a baby bird etc.  However she would go from these cues to screaming with hunger in literally seconds.  She would then flail her arms, hit me in the sore nipples and not even try to latch when I would get the courage up to put my nipple in her mouth.  My DH would have to hold her arms and I would have to shove my nipple in her mouth and wait until the screaming stopped and she would try to nurse.  This could take 30 minutes or more of trying with my anxiety getting worse every minute.  We called her "red devil baby" and when she would have a bad latch, she would sometimes have my blood on her lips further adding to the devilish effect.  The whole process left me exhausted, sad and worried.  It was taking 2 hours for a feeding and she was wasting so much energy that she would then not be able to nurse long before falling asleep.

Then our first pediatrician visit.  I am terrified that they will find something wrong with her, that I am not feeding her enough, caring for her enough, that my babies die and I am doing something wrong.  Rosabella is well, but she lost 14% of her body weight, so she was not getting enough calories.  He says to pump my milk and feed her 2 oz every 2-3 hours, supplementing with formula if I do not have enough.  I was devestated to think that I would not be able to completely breast feed my baby, worried about my milk production, etc.  I was also relieved to feed her from a bottle and have her eat and be happy and not screaming and biting and just.... well just happy.  I guess I am not very good at this womanly art, and it has been really hard on me.  I have been feeding her any expressed breast milk that I have: usually 1 to 1.25 oz, then try to get her to latch on and nurse, if I can let her nurse as long as she would like, then offer 1-2 oz of formula, then pump each breast for 20 minutes.  I am exhausted.  I have been reaching out for support since Tuesday and finally starting to get some. My doula came by last night to help me get her latched on, she referred me to a lactation consultant, who will be at my house tomorrow at 9 am, I have started Fenugreek capsules to boost my milk production etc.

I know that babies can be raised on formula and be healthy, but I really believe that breast milk is significantly better than formula and part of my dream of motherhood involves breast feeding.  I have some good support and I know that I can do this.  Of course talk tp me at 4 am, when she is screaming and won't latch and I am crying and you will get a different answer.  I love this little girl so much, even when she is screaming, she is my girl and I love her completely.
At the pediatrician we found out that she had lost 14% of her birth weight, too much for a healthy baby.  We talked about out breast feeding issues and he recommended that we supplement with some formula.  He felt that she was not getting enough calories and then would not rouse when she was starting to get hungry and would only wake when she was completely starving.


  1. Grace's mom,
    I have a bunch of advice for you if you want it. I really wish we could have coffee and I could help you IRL. Here's my advice. Ignore if you wish.
    Buy the book Breastfeeding made simple and read the first chapters and the trouble shooting chapter (6?). I have nursed 4 babies before Nathan and still found this book immensely helpful.
    Put lanolin or coconut oil on your nipples then cover with a piece of saran wrap to prevent friction.
    Try a SNS system rather than a bottle if you can. SNS is supplementary Nursing System. It's a tube you slide into baby's mouth while she's on the breast so the sucking takes formula from the tube mixed with your milk from your breast. Provides more satisfaction for baby while continuing to stimulate your milk production.
    Try a nipple shield while your nipples are SO painful.
    Massage and compress your breasts while feeding to get more milk to baby with less effort on her part.
    I have used lanolin for every other baby on my cracked nipples but this time around used coconut oil. It worked much better and was cheaper.
    Please contact me if you need to.
    Hugs, Em

  2. That sounds rough! You are doing a great job!!!! Breast feeding is hard in the beginning even with no problems. I would recommend talking to a lactation consultant if you haven't already. They can help you boost your supply so you can pump more and gradually use less formula.just wanted to send support and tell you not to give up, it will get easier!!

  3. Big sigh...ohh, it's never the things you think you're prepared for, is it? The whole schedule you're on now sounds EXHAUSTING and difficult and (you tell me) still with some anxiety? I mean, by the time you do all that you're about ready to start all over again, yes?
    I personally don't thing breastfeeding a newborn is every "easy" - even those that "are doing well" will get a poor latch frequently and you have to try again (especially when they're doing that shaking their head back and forth in a manic effort to GET THAT NIPPLE while of course not serving the end game in the least by moving so much). One woman referred to it as grinding her nipple into hamburger while trying to get a good latch. I thought that was pretty accurate.
    All the advice can sometimes feel equally as overwhelming. I will tell you what I did, and you'll figure out what works for you and what you and Rosabella can handle.
    I did breast compressions as Em suggested. I used Medela's nipple lotion stuff. I got up and pumped in the middle of the night (when she was a few months old) to keep up an adequate milk supply. I took fenugreek supplements. I ate lactation cookies (yup, there're a recipe. Chocolate chip with brewer's yeast.) :) And it all worked. Took a few days to see the results, but my milk supply adjusted.
    Here's the other thing I'll seems like this is all there is and will ever be, but I promise it will pass. Sooner than you think. (Like everything they do - they do something new and you think you can lounge in this new whatever, and next thing you know it's over and they're doing something else. Video everything! I thought I was taking too much video, too many pictures. Now I just wish I'd taken more as she got older because she's already turning into a little girl and not even a year old!)
    You will get through it, figure it out, Rosabella will be fine, before you know it it will be all about tummy time and developmental milestones.
    Lean on your lactation consultant. Contact a La Leche League leader. Breathe. And know that this stuff IS scary/exhausting/emotional. Even without the breastfeeding stuff!! Give yourself permission to feel as strung out, panicked and bitchy. It's kind of expected! :)
    Give that precious baby a kiss from me.
    Will keep checking in, look forward to updates as you are able.

  4. Thank you ladies so much for your support and helpful advice. We meet with the lactation consultant in less than an hour. I started to let her have free access to my breasts yesterday and did get some good latches, but she still wants bottles and drinks a lot from them when they are offered. Ugh. I will keep on trying!

  5. Taken me so long to get around to checking on your blog, and here I find you beset with similar breastfeeding anxiety as I have had since Samuel's birth.
    Sam has been a very sleepy baby since birth, and wouldn't feed in those first 48 hours, and then wouldn't wake up long enough to have a proper feed..he also would go hours without rousing, and trying to rouse him just didn't milk came in, he wouldn't take it/couldn't latch, I ended up painfully engorged and the nurses were worried he would lose strength. To save me from mastitis and from Sam losing more weight, I hired a hospital grade double pumper, and we had to spend a few days pumping and 'finger feeding'..that's when you put your finger into their mouth up against their palate, to get the suckling going, then introduce a tiny tube along finger, the other end of which is in a bottle of expressed breast milk. (so bub basically syphons the milk up). Using the line feeding tube instead of a bottle is meant to prevent 'nipple confusion' so they will keep trying to latch onto breast.

    As Sam at first wasn't self-rousing, we had to set the alarm clock for every 3 hours and both wake up, with me pumping and DH finger feeding. That worked really well for us (even if it was exhausting)- the pumping not only drained that initial painful engorgement but also got my milk supply established. The finger feeding seemed to retrain Sam's palate and suckling and got plenty of food into him so he put on weight and I didn't have to stress about him not getting enough. The last 4 days he's been totally on the breast, feeding on demand, and has now reached his birth weight.

    The anxiety that goes with the breastfeeding completely shocked me.
    I was waking up with massive panic whenever he was due a feed, in fear that he wouldn't feed, that there wouldn't be milk, that it would continue to hurt, that he would grow's horrible, so I hear you loud and clear.

    We have a visiting midwifery and child health service here, which helped immensely. I had no idea what I was doing or how much he should be feeding. I'd pretty much decided that I didn't care if I couldn't breastfeed, as long as Samuel was strong and ok.
    The services here are very pro-breastfeed and really try to help you from having to use formula, (not just becausde they believe breast is best, but the introduciton of supplementary formula feeding will can affect your milk supply, I think??)..
    but the only way I calmed myself was by saying "If I can't breastfeed, it's not the end of the world- I know what that feels like; it's planning your babies funeral" Perspective!

    As far as you thinking you're not very good at this 'womanly art'...I don't think it's something that just comes naturally to us- it's a learned skill, and it's waaaaay harder than we expect it to be.
    It takes all kinds of perserverance to learn how to do this. Sometimes it's about getting the right support, the right advice.
    I hope that reaching out for support is helping you. xx

  6. Gosh, it seems like we all have the b-feeding woes!

    For me, it's a case of insufficient milk production :(, which is so upsetting because all the other aspects were working fine. B had lost just under 10% of his birth weight when I left the hospital the Thursday after he was born ... when we went into the pediatrician's offices 9 days after he was born he had barely gained anything over the 6 or so days he was at home.

    So, I was prescribed Eglonyl to increase milk production, but it hasn't been working that great ... the supply has increased some, but not enough for him to be solely b-fed. I am hoping it is just taking some time to get into my system, and I have noticed a significant increase (I have been pumping so as to get a sense of what's what - I started out getting less than 1 oz at a time but have managed to get up to 4 in total - but I don't pump at every feed, there isn't enough to warrant that.) But I'm doing what I can and hopefully will be able to wean him off formula.

    Our paed told us that a lot of the benefits of breast milk are eliminated once formula is introduced (this made me hugely upset - I too think that breastmilk is best, and I'm trying!!) But we will see what happens - like Via says, at the end of the day I just want him to be happy and healthy and alive.

    The formula has done the trick though - B was weighed on Monday and had regained his birthweight and then some. So I felt much better knowing this.

    I hope this all works out for us - hang in there.