Up to my eyeballs in breastmilk
Recently, I was approached about how feeding my 3.5 week old daughter was going. My answer: tears.
The crazy truth about breastfeeding is that it's the best and most challenging part of the newborn phase. It is such a gift to be able to feed your baby milk designed specifically for them by your body, but it isn't always as natural as you think it is going to be. I have a 2.5 year old and I thought that all the nursing challenges she posed would prepare me for anything the second baby threw at me. Lies!
With our first daughter, we had to supplement with formula right away in the hospital because she simply would not latch, and at the time, the lactation consultants (LC) in the hospital were so busy (she was born the same day as 9 other babies!) so we were doing what we could to FEED THE BABY*. The dear nurses were trying to help us problem solve...but this first time mom with all the hormones and stress of my baby not eating were not helping. Anyone else relate? The last day we were in the hospital, the lactation nurse was finally able to see us and discovered our little one had a really small palate which was causing her issues trying to latch.
**I highly recommend seeing a professional if you are having issues.
To problem solve, we would work on latching her (which was always incredibly frustrating for both of us and unsuccessful...but luckily, she was gaining weight and had the energy to try). Then, after the teary episode of getting her to try to latch, I pumped (and pumped and pumped) to get a good milk supply and keep it up. I pumped for 20 minutes every few hours and took Fenugreek by Motherlove.
**Baby's saliva on your skin naturally helps keep your production up, so if you have to exclusively pump I would recommend looking at the Motherlove supplements to replace what the saliva is meant to do. They make a ton of options for your specific needs.
And last, we would use a SYRINGE to feed her my breast milk while also sticking a clean finger to the roof of her mouth. This accomplished two things:
A wide finger helped flatten out her palate to make latching in the future easier.
The natural feeling of skin would help her eventually latch to me as opposed to using a bottle (and avoid getting her used to getting her milk from silicone).
After about 4 weeks of this three-step-feeding (try to latch, pump, syringe feed), we were able to get her to latch using a nipple shield. Four more weeks of using a nipple shield, and at 8 weeks old my baby latched to me and nursed for the first time in her life (insert fireworks emoji) and we nursed like a dream until she was 14 months old and then naturally weaned her off (meaning her and I both seemed ready to be done).
With baby girl numero dos, it was a completely different story. This little nugget came out of the womb sucking. Incredible! Immediate euphoria. She is a dreamboat baby and is so mild tempered. Sadly, she was a little too mild and sleepy right away... so she would latch, but not suck. Same story with a bottle. Latch, not suck (she was definitely not a fan of bottles initially). She kept losing weight instead of gaining.
Two weeks old is kind of the magic deadline doctors would like to see your little one back up to birth weight...and at two weeks, she was still half a pound below her birth weight. We needed to do something. Thus, I exclusively pumped for a week and we trial and error-ed with different bottles. We found one she liked, and she started becoming more energetic thanks to getting a larger volume of breast milk. Once she was over her birth weight (at 3 weeks), we were able to start to try to latch her to me again! I was so excited. However, because of my huge supply from elusively pumping so often during the day and night and the combination of taking Motherlove supplements, my supply was too large and too fast for my little bambino to handle!
I realize this is a problem some mamas would love to have! But it is pretty frustrating to have the supply (and rock hard boobs) and have your sweet, precious tot not be able to relieve the sensation because they are literally choking every single swallow! Poor angel. To problem solve, we went to the nipple shield and used gravity in our favor. The nipple shield makes it easy for her to keep her latch while I lay down and she lays on top of me so she has to suck up which controls the amount she takes. I only pump for comfort now, hoping that soon she will regulate the amount I make to cater to her needs and will be able to control the flow once she is stronger and it is not gushing like the Mississippi during a torrential downpour. This is where we are now. I know with patience and motivation this baby will latch soon and we will take off nursing like her big sis. (Hey, I have to keep the faith!)
Luckily, with both girls, I have had an amazing and encouraging support team keeping me motivated and wanting to keep trying no matter the cost. Not everyone has the support, time, or right phase in life to do this, I realize...so again, FEED THE BABY.
*FEED THE BABY is my mantra, ladies and gents. No matter what I had to use, formula, breast milk, goats milk, vanilla bean milk gathered from the original vanilla beans in Madagascar (I joke)...the most important thing to remember is simply that your baby needs to be fed and you are doing the best you can to ensure that. Don't be hard on yourself. Don't be stressed if you have to supplement with formula. Don't be stressed if you have to use formula exclusively! Don't be stressed if your baby never, ever latches and you have to pump all the time. Don't think your baby won't grow into a crazy toddler. THEY WILL :)
Did you know that formula was designed by a man who's wife had a low supply and they had to watch their babies suffer from hunger? Perspective!
I hope this article will help you test out some product that will help and encourage you to keep trying if breastfeeding is your end goal. Your baby is built to survive, and you were built to be their mama! Keep the mama love going, ladies. We all need it!!
P.S. This was a very personal account of my story as a nursing mom, and I realize it is not perfect and I probably didn't do everything the way others would have. Go easy on me :) All opinions are my own. I would LOVE to hear your stories and the way you made it out alive, too!
My Breastfeeding Must Haves
Some of the products I relied on 100% to keep my supply up and eventually nurse my daughters were:
Medela Freestyle Breastpump
It is portable, light, rechargeable battery operated so you can take it anywhere (no outlet required), and is the closest in strength to a hospital grade pump. This is so important if you are wanting to keep your supply up. If a Freestyle is not cutting it for you, I suggest renting a Medela Hospital Grade Pump.
Medela Nipple Shield
If you need help choosing the right size, talk to a nurse or LC - especially for first time moms, these shields help baby latch and help pull your nipple out for easier latches in the future.
Medela Pump and Save Bags
I am so thankful someone thought of these. With how much pumping I did (20 minutes every 2-3 hours), I had such an excess of milk, and these are the way to store! I finished nursing around 14 months, but my daughter had breastmilk until she was two thanks to these bags staying frozen in our deep freeze for a year after I started pumping.
Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam Bags and Breastmilk Removal
If you are pumping around the clock like I was, these make cleaning bearable...seriously!
Medela Easy Expression Hands Free Pumping Bra
Again, if you are pumping around the clock, it is so nice to be hands free to walk around your house and do chores (yup, tucked my freestyle into my pants), use a device, or cuddle with your little one.
Medela Tender Care Pads
Made with Lanolin and Hydrogel, they are safe for mom and baby and provide soothing for the nipples. TIP: stick them in the fridge between uses for a cooling sensation, as well!
Wild Carrot Nipple Whip
Sadly, your boobs will never look the same again after all the pumping and sucking (take a before picture if you want to remember the good old days), but this concoction melts into your skin like butter and provides much needed pain relief and healing to make things a little better.
I took this 3x a day (break, lunch, din) and noticed a huge difference in my supply!