Breastfeeding: Why I Made Myself Cry

Update:  This was written a week ago.  Since that time breastfeeding has gone from minorly uncomfortable to working without pain.  Now the only times I get worked up about it are at six in the morning (ugh) or when I want to eat at night.  Otherwise, I kind of love it.  Also, I'm losing weight on a diet of doughnuts and chocolate cookies and whole milk.  It's like I'm running miles every day!


 Again -- this one is for the ladies!  As many of you who read this blog regularly know, I was not able to breastfeed N.  I attempted it, but by the time he got to me he was used to the bottle and my milk is not the type which comes in quickly.  I cried bitter tears of defeat and self-hatred over that failure three and a half years ago and I only gave up when my pediatrician told me that I was not bonding with N because I was so focused on breastfeeding.  She was correct and I was miserable every single time he would not latch which was pretty much every single time. 

When I got pregnant a second time, I was determined to try and find a more supportive breastfeeding atmosphere at a hospital, but I tried not to get my heart set on succeeding.  I knew my body seemed to have trouble producing milk.  When N2 was born, they gave her to me immediately in the recovery area, and she had no problems latching.  I was ecstatic.  Every time they brought her to me, she latched and she appeared happy.  Two days later, they gave me a warning.  She had lost roughly nine percent of her body weight from birth.  If she didn't improve soon, they would start to supplement her. 
The next night, after I started to feel the beginnings of my milk come in, they told me the bad news -- she had lost more weight, and was down to 12% lost.  I sucked it up and started to supplement with a syringe.  She ate greedily, but continued to latch.  Unfortunately, this was also the day that my breasts began to hurt.  Hurt hurt.  So much hurting this day.  The lactation consultant told me she was latching incorrectly and gave me advice on the new way to latch her.  She also consoled me and gave me advice on pumping.  I cried because I could only pump five to ten ml for both breasts combined.  When the pediatrician came in, she told me even worse news -- I could not supplement with a syringe any longer.  She needed a bottle and plenty of them.

The next night was a battle.  Being accustomed to the bottle now, she refused to take my breast.  I would beg and plead with her, but three day old babies aren't really rational or willing to accept requests.  I continued to pump, slowly getting larger amounts of milk, but it would take me three or four times with the pump to get her a full meal.  After refusing to give her a bottle unless she would latch at least once, I managed to get her back to nursing the next day, and I supplemented a small amount.  She managed to go back to only nine percent of her weight lost before we left the hospital.

We went home soon after, and at home, I went back to mostly nursing only, with one small bottle at night for supplement and I hated to do it because she would sleep so long with that formula that I had to beg her to wake up to nurse!  However, the next day we went to the doctor and they told me the bad news again -- she was losing weight once again.  I started to cry in the doctor's office and told them what I was doing.  The doctor examining her asked some questions and seemed a little perplexed stating that she was clearly not dehydrated and had all the signs of a well fed baby other than the weight loss.  Once again, though, we were on a heavy supplementing menu for N2.

I went home, supplemented like crazy, and again she started to refuse nursing.  Again, I cried.  I think I told P that if things continued to go badly, I was giving up at the end of month one.  I refused to go through the pain and lack of sleep for a baby who wasn't thriving and refusing to eat.  However, once again that night, through my refusal to offer a bottle until she at least attempted to nurse, I got her back to breastfeeding.  And when I pumped, I noticed that I was able to put together nearly an ounce of milk now.  This time, I said screw it -- we went back to the one bottle supplement in the middle of the night the next day and luckily, on our next doctor's appointment, the good news was she was gaining weight once more.

I challenged myself to lose the formula supplement at this point and she only got pumped milk for supplement for the next two days.  After that, no supplements -- all nursing all the time.  I wanted my milk to really damn well come in.  And wouldn't you know?  A week later, we went to the doctor and the word was she had gained over an ounce a day.  I tried not to cry tears of relief and happiness as we got in the car.  My body had not failed my daughter.

So, here we are weeks later.  She is still breastfed only though I get tempted by the idea of a formula bottle for her at around five or six in the morning with P the one giving it to her, but from my reading online, that appears to be the way to nursing failure with your milk supply drying up.  That thought terrifies me and keeps me waking up at six in the morning.

The pain from nursing is finally back to normal levels.  For a while, when N2 latched on my right breast, I would kick my leg it hurt so much.  I took a few pumping breaks on that breast and healed it up and now she can latch and I don't want to scream.  The only thing that really still pains me is the engorgement after a four hour night break (oh, God, I want to wake her to make her eat sometimes) and the nursing frenzies that last for hours.  She can be fussy in the evening and normally from six to around eleven, I spend a LOT of time nursing.  That has been slowly getting better and last night she would take twenty minute breaks between eats to look around.  That was nice.

I find that the more awake I am, and the more often she eats, the better nursing actually is.  I hate nursing in the middle of the night because she doesn't like to lay next to me and nurse, so I have to sort of wake myself up and stare off into space as she spends her time nursing.  And often, she only wants one breast which doesn't fill her up enough but I can't get her to wake up to take the second.  I love nursing at around nine at night when I'm at my personal best, my breasts don't feel pained and she is settling down for the night. 

All in all, I think recovery from having a child goes a lot faster with formula, but here's hoping I never have to take N2 to the hospital from an asthma attack due to the awesome immunities and health I'm passing her with my breastmilk.  Also, I hear that any week now, she will be going from eight to twelve feedings a day to seven to nine feedings.  And that I might get four and a half or five hours of a break soon at night.  I keep reminding myself that this will not last forever, and that by the time fall rolls around, she'll be eating solids and sleeping a long time and N1 will be going to school more often, so the sleep deprived Ninja Kitten will once again be only minorly sleep deprived rather than openly weeping for lack of sleep most mornings.


April said...

Those middle of the night feedings get me too. I actually tried to do it with one eye open, thinking I would be able to stay half asleep. Not so much! I would pump a bottle for hubs to do the midnight feeding and it did decrease my milk by skipping that one feeding. I have to feed or pump every 3 hours to keep the supply up. As much as breastfeeding is difficult for me, when I faced loosing my milk I was devastated. So, when I get frustrated I think of loosing it all together. So sad.

I'm glad to read that all is well and feedings are going much better!

Helen said...

I'm glad to hear things are turning around. Hopefully, it will be smooth sailing from here on out!

You could also try getting her to feed lying down during the day, and see if she can pick up the skill. That was a lifesaver during those dead-to-the-world times.