Been a while since I’ve hung out on nameberry, mostly specifically bc our breastfeeding difficulties are so time-consuming. I love the idea of this thread!
I would love some support. Cuz it’s still hard.
I’m turning 26 next week and I am EBFing my 5 month old son. It. Has. Been. A. [name_f]Journey[/name_f]
I think I prepared for breastfeeding far more than most first-time moms do. I was committed to exclusive breastfeeding from the start and knew from nannying that it doesn’t always just naturally fall in place for everyone. I attended my local La Leche League meetings religiously for the 7 months leading up to my son’s birth. I read [name_m]Jack[/name_m] [name_m]Newman[/name_m]'s guide to breastfeeding cover to cover, watched every video on YouTube I could find from [name_f]Nancy[/name_f] Mohrbacher. I even scheduled an appt with an IBCLC for 3 weeks past my duedate. If things were going well by then, great. But if they weren’t, I would have the help I needed at hand. And I chose the very most breastfeeding supportive pediatrician we could find. Someone who wasn’t going to tell us “Oh, it’s fine, just switch to formula” at the first signs of trouble. I was pretty darn well prepared, knew that there would likely be some challenges, but that with knowledge and the right support, nothing would be insurmountable. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sheer of number of back to back compounding challenges we have faced as a nursing dyad, but I don’t think I would still be breastfeeding (at least not exclusively) without that foundation.
I had a serene homebirth. Everything went well/to plan and I was made to feel powerful. H did the breast crawl, but couldn’t latch. My midwife diagnosed a postetior tongue and lip tie at her first look at him. I was resistant to any early interventions, so my midwife did not clip them right away. My post-partum doulas were cranio-sacral practitioners, so we opted to wait until day 2 when they would come to the house and help us try to release any tension from the birth through bodywork that might have been holding H back from latching despite the tongue tie. He could not latch at all. We were both completely naked for weeks, skin to skin every second of the day. The cranio-sacral therapy didn’t help him latch day 2. Thankfully I wasn’t that stressed about it (no more than a new mom postpartum can help stressing about anything, at least). I knew that a healthy, full-time newborn can survive just fine for 3 days without ANY milk at all, and I was at least hand expressing drops of my colostrum onto a spoon and giving it to him every few hours, while trying to get him to latch on demand (with no luck, but we kept working at it).
[name_u]Day[/name_u] 3 my milk came in. I started pumping to alleviate the engorgement. It was now labor day holiday weekend in the US, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to see anyone but my midwife for several days. Midwife came back to the house for 24 hour, 3, and 5 day visits. I was exclusively pumping by that time, 12 times a day. H was consistently sleeping one 5 hour stretch at night and I longed to just sleep with him through my pumping alarms, but I knew it was best to work toward a full supply by pumping very frequently since H was not at the breast to regulate what he needed. We were finger feeding with a syringe since I was hesitant to introduce a bottle before breastfeeding was established. His feedings were long and energy-intensive.
[name_u]Day[/name_u] 5 we also saw the pediatrician for the first time. He was back to gaining small amounts of weight by then to get back up to birth weight (which he did by day 13). She confirmed the lip and tongue tie diagnosis and referred us to an ENT for clipping as well as to an Occupational Therapist (OT) for the latch. We bumped up out appt with our initial IBCLC, too. So she would come on [name_u]Day[/name_u] 7. We had his tongue clipped by the ENT (he did not touch the lip tie, which he said was present but “wouldn’t interfere with breastfeeding”). We were very hopeful that we would see some improvement in those next couple of days. But we didn’t.
[name_u]Day[/name_u] 7 the IBCLC (1) came for a home visit. He was gaining well on my pumped milk. My post-partum doulas and midwife had already helped us a ton with positioning and technique at that point, so the IBCLC didn’t really have much else to say, unfortunately. We were not able to get him to latch that day. She suggested OT and continuing with CST, as well. We mostly talked about pumping technique and how to ensure that I was stimulating a full milk supply, since it appeared by the amounts I was pumping that I was pretty low for 7-10 days postpartum.
My midwife then clipped the lip tie for us, and we did CST one more time and he was able to latch! It was a miraculous feeling. But then he didn’t do it again. I kept up the pumping and attempts at latching during every feed for the next couple weeks. We did more CST and finally did OT. Eventually we got him to breast maybe once a day from about 3 weeks on.
But I had a lot of pain with his latch once we got him there. [name_m]Even[/name_m] with all the positioning help and the tongue and lip releases, he was still causing severe pain that didn’t dissipate as we got comfortable with the nursing routine. I knew that pain meant a problem and should not have continued beyond the first week or so. My nipples were starting to crack (that’s why I only had him at the breast once a day, so that I could heal between nursing sessions so that it never got bad and I never bled). We kept working with the IBCLC (1) and my LLL leader on deepening the latch but finally we had him latching pretty darn well and there was still so much pain.
This was 7 weeks in, my budget was waning and scheduled time with my post-partum doulas was drawing to a close. I knew I would be struggling to find time to pump without extra hands at the house to help me take care of H. And I was so close to giving up.
So I called another highly recommended IBCLC (2) with 23 years’ experience. We drove the hour to her private practice and she told me immediately that I had severe vasospasm and mammary constriction syndrome. I had known already that I had nipple blanching, which is vasospasm, but my other advocates had said that was indicative of poor latch and if we fixed the latch it should go away. Rather, MY vasospasm was indicative of auto-immunity and was the cause of the pain. She told me to confer with my PCP and start a supplement regimen and we made a bunch of other little changes with my pumping and whatnot, but mostly it was just a relief to know what was going on. Things looked up from there. By 11 weeks he was at the breast full-time minus one bottle a night with papa, and I was down to pumping 3 times a day. No. More. Pain.
Those few weeks were a golden age… I thought everything was going great. H seemed to be thriving. And sleep was steadily improving, too, which made everything infinitely more sane.
All this time I had been attending my LLL meetings, but my new IBCLC (2) also hosts a weekly breastfeeding cafe where a high quality scale is available. So even though it’s an hour away, once he slept through the night for the first time, I wanted to go there to check his weight to make sure he was eating enough during the day. My supply had gone down considerably, but I thought that was just as I cut down on pumping and increased nursing and we were past the 12 week mark when supply stops being regulated by our motherly hormones and starts to be regulated mostly by baby’s demand. Since H wasn’t demanding more milk, I thought everything was going fine. He was happy. I was happy.
But when I went to the bf cafe and weighed him, my heart sank. He had gained 20oz in the 6.5 weeks since his 2 month appt. I was looking for a number on the scale that was about 1-3lbs higher than what I was seeing, and I started to get really worried. My IBCLC (2) checked his charts and he had gained 60oz in the previous 70 days since our initial appt together, so she said not to worry, trust his diaper output, his smiley nature, his milestones, his chubby wrists and cheeks and double chin.