Breast Feeding...It's supposed to be easy and natural. It's this beautiful thing that babies can do the minute their born. It's supposed to provide them with all the food they need. BREAST IS BEST!
However, I know only a handful of people (my mom is one of them) for whom these statements were true. For everyone else, myself included, these statements do a disservice for how difficult breast feeding can actually be. From poor latch, excessively sleepy babies, newborns in a NICU, slow to come in milk supply, low milk supply, reflux, food sensitivities, inverted nipples, engorgement, mastitis, blisters....the list goes on and on. After attending several breast feeding support groups, it seems like almost every new mom struggles with breast feeding to one degree or another.
While in the hospital nurses and lactation consultants (LC) kept telling me Fredrik was just greedy and didn't like having to work at actually latching and sucking. (I don't think newborns can be greedy) They kept padding pillows and blankets around me to help with positioning, and then trying to shove his head onto my boob. By the end of our stay I think we were both a little traumatized. His weight dropped over a pound after 3 days; and during our last night I had to use donor milk to feed him through a Supplemental Nursing System. Even though they had already started me pumping and trying to syringe feed colostrum, my milk didn't come in until 5 days after he was born. This is fairly common for moms who have a C-section, but can make for very hungry babies. The following day we went home with the SNS and were told to continue pumping and using the SNS while nursing or attach it to a finger and have Fredrik suck on the finger. Since my milk still hadn't come in this didn't go over very well. During our first evening home he cried and screamed for over an hour. Finally my momma-bear instincts took over and I told Ryan to make a bottle with the formula we had received from my OBGYN. Needless to say my starving baby sucked it down in no time. As a crunchy granola dietitian, I had almost thrown out the formula and bottle thinking "I'll be breast feeding; why would I ever need this?" Thank goodness I didn't.
The following morning a home health nurse provided by the hospital came by. We were so fortunate that she was also a licensed LC and took one look at his mouth and latch and told us that he had a fairly significant tongue tie. I was so mad this went un-diagnosed in the hospital. There were plenty of qualified people who could have identified it. To get us through the weekend she showed us how to use a syringe not the SNS and finger feed him. This was a tedious process, but meant we didn't have to use all formula, or resort to a bottle 100% of the time. We were concerned using the bottle might lead to nipple preference and make future breast feeding even more difficult. For 3 days, Ryan sat on the couch for 40 minutes every 2-3 hours letting Fredrick suck on his finger while slowly feeding him through a syringe. I would sit next to them and pump milk for the next feeding. The following week our pediatrician also diagnosed him with a tongue tie, but also with a lip tie. No wonder he couldn't latch. She also encouraged us to start feeding him with an Avant bottle to help stretch his mouth and make feedings easier on us, and to find a dentist who would fix his tongue and upper lip; which is what we did.
Our dentist was amazing and the procedure took about 5 minutes. We were encouraged to work with a chiropractor to help correct some muscle imbalances in his neck from being squished sidewise in my womb. We've done that too and continue to work on helping Fredrik's neck relax so he can nurse properly on both sides
Have all these steps helped?
At just over 5 weeks Fredrik finally started to get the hang of nursing. This is so exciting for me since it means instead of pumping up to 12x day I'm down to 3+. WOOO!!! It's been quite the wild ride and even though we still need to work on his latch and getting him to open his mouth wider, it's a relief and blessing to know I can feed my baby by nursing, even if it's not 100% of the time. I know this isn't always the case, and have a taste for how disappointing it can be to think you won't be able to breast feed. It hasn't been easy, there have been many tears shed during the process, and we still have work to do. Once again I have a new found appreciation and empathy for new moms everywhere.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.