Boy, was I living in a fantasy land. Some women are lucky enough to have that experience, but I have to say that my experience wasn't quite that easy.
After my c-section I wasn't quite with it. I think they gave me a little too much in my spinal so I was very dizzy and nauseous. I can remember laying in the recovery room and the nurse bringing me my son. I was in total awe of how perfect he was. Then she began to help me nurse him for the first time. Now, while I was pregnant I knew I would breastfeed but I was also pretty nervous about it. I didn't know how I was going to feel about having a baby on my breast. It was something I was hoping would just come naturally after he was here, and thankfully it did. He latched right on and it never felt "weird" or "awkward"... it was what I had to do to feed my child. I breastfed him for the first day and then they weighed him on our 2nd day there. He had dropped 9% in weight since birth. They expect babies to drop between 7-8% by the time they go home, but 9% after 1 day was higher than what they felt comfortable with. So, I fed him a little more often and a lactation consultant came in and got me started pumping to help my milk come in and she also assisted me with getting him latched. Part of the reason he wasn't gaining was because he didn't have a good latch. That would also explain why I was in a lot of pain. Forget the c-section, I couldn't get past how badly my nipples felt! They lactation consultant told me he hadn't had a good latch since we'd begun which is why he'd dropped weight and I was in so much pain.
Seriously? He was feeding every 2 hours for 30-45 minutes and he wasn't getting anything? SO frustrating. I'd never heard of anyone having this kind of trouble with their newborn so I felt like I was already failing at something that my body was supposed to just "know" how to do.
That night they weighed him again (our 3rd day there) and he was down 12% since birth. I remember laying there feeling utterly helpless. I felt like I was doing everything they were telling me to do and it wasn't working. The nurse that night came in and said "You HAVE to do something. He is STARVING." I wanted to scream at her and tell her "I am doing everything you are telling me to do! Do not make me feel like a bad mother!" I asked what else I could do and she said "You need to give him formula, he has to put on weight, this is becoming a great concern". That was it, I lost it.
I knew we had to do what Grant needed but I did not want to give my newborn formula.
I'd done research and had made the decision to give him breast milk. I know many women give their babies formula and as a Mother we are all entitled to make our own decisions so I am not judging any Mother who gives their child formula. But my preference was to feed him breast milk, not only for the many health benefits but also because my body produces everything he needs for free. Paying for formula wasn't something I wanted to do, especially since I had quit my job to be a stay at home mom.
I told her that was fine (after having a complete meltdown). I felt like I'd failed. Once again I felt like my idea of what was supposed to happen got thrown out the window. I had a total pity party for myself... then I was determined to get his birth weight up and begin feeding him breast milk again.
I didn't want him to have nipple confusion so the nurses helped us with a feeding solution. I would nurse him for 20 minutes, then I would pump, then I would finger feed him formula and/or breast milk through a tube syringe. The entire process took about an hour, and we were told to feed him every 2 hours. After a day of this we were exhausted. We only had about a 45 minute "break" between feedings and that time was spent changing his diaper, washing the pump parts, etc. We were wondering how in the world we were going to keep this up at home. Finally a nurse came in and told us that Kevin needed to do the tube feeding while I was pumping... duh, why didn't we think of that?! Blame it on no sleep I guess!
So, that was our new system and it lasted about a day as well. When we got home I was so overwhelmed with nursing. I needed a break. I was committed to giving Grant breast milk but I couldn't bear the thought of him nursing anymore. I was in so much pain and was blistered, bleeding and when it was time to feed him I got so anxious cause it was so painful. So, I began pumping and Kevin would bottle feed him. I finally felt like we were getting somewhere. My baby was still getting breast milk which was the most important thing to me and I had to let go of him nursing for a while.
The lactation consultant believed that Grant was also born slightly tongue tied. Which means the frenulum (the band of tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is too short and tight, causing the movement of the tongue to be restricted. This was why he couldn't get a good latch. Most babies get the frenulum cut, allowing the tongue to move more freely, but as Grant has gotten older it's healed itself and the doctor doesn't believe there is enough there to cut. This is great news now, but it didn't help with nursing at the time. After we'd been home about a week I attempted to nurse him again and once again I ended up blistered and bleeding. I finally had to accept the fact that I wasn't going to nurse this child and I would have to find an alternative to give him breast milk. That's when I decided to exclusively pump. Exclusively pumping is when you use a breast pump to extract the milk and then feed your baby with a bottle. It's a little more work, but it was a better solution, in my opinion, than feeding my baby formula when my body was producing milk and he could get better nutrition from breast milk.
The reason I wanted to share this was because before having Grant I was under the impression that all women breastfed and it was "easy". I learned the hard way that it is NOT easy. It can be very frustrating and overwhelming and I can see why so many women give up on it. Since we had such a difficult time breastfeeding and getting him back to his birth weight I knew I wanted to bring light to this topic so other people wouldn't feel helpless like I did. Breastfeeding is not easy, but it is possible if you are committed. Exclusively pumping is still considered breastfeeding.
I now exclusively pump to feed Grant. In the beginning it was exhausting and I wondered how I was going to keep up. I was pumping every 3 hours... so on average 8 times a day. I wanted to breastfeed for the first year and in the beginning I couldn't imagine doing this for a year. Now, after 11 weeks I am committed to this process and hope that my body will keep producing milk so I can give him breast milk for his first year of life.
Here is what I want mothers out there to know that are not successful at breastfeeding. Just because your baby cannot latch well, or if you just don't want to nurse... you can still give your baby the most nutrient rich food... YOUR milk! Exclusive Pumping is an option! We were not successful at nursing, but I am still breastfeeding my baby with breast milk. This is what works for us and I am confident with our decision to do this so he can continue to receive breast milk.
I got a ton of advice from a friend of mine who also exclusively pumps. She was an amazing resource for me in the beginning and I owe my success to her. (Thanks Meghann)
Here are a couple tips for Mommy's who want to Exclusively Pump...
- In the beginning pump every 3 hours. Do not skip a pumping session and pump through the night. Yes, this is exhausting... but it will build up your milk supply and tell your body to create milk. I did this and it was a great help to make enough milk for Grant and also start storing milk in the freezer. He's 11 weeks now and I have at least 3 weeks of milk stocked in the freezer.
- Drink lots of water. Every time you sit down to pump drink water. If you are dehydrated you won't produce as much milk.
- Get some sleep. This is hard with a baby but it's so important. If you are exhausted your body goes into survival mode. You have to take care of yourself and get some rest... that means sleep when your baby is sleeping. I know it's hard to do, but do not feel guilty about this. I am not the best at sleeping when Grant is sleeping, but I try!
- Eat! For the first time in your life do not feel guilty about eating! I had never experienced hunger like I did in the beginning... it was insane! I was a bottomless pit that could not get enough to eat. But I listened to my body and still do. I am working on getting the baby weight off but it's also important to me to produce breast milk so I am finding the balance in between so I can be successful at both. It is possible.
- The best advice I can give is to invest in a good pump. I bought the Medela Freestyle and LOVE it. It allows me to walk around while pumping so I'm not confined to a plug in. For Moms on the go this is much more compact and doesn't take up as much space as the other Medela pumps.
- Last but not least, be proud of the fact that you are still breastfeeding your baby. It may not be the easiest way but what you are doing is still so beneficial to your little one. It took me a few weeks to get over myself and realize that exclusively pumping is still breastfeeding and to let go of the dream of breastfeeding. It just didn't work for us and that's ok.