18 April 2007

Nursing, at the beginning

I had a terrible time getting started breastfeeding my daughter. It may well have had something to do with the terrible delivery that I had. In addition to not being able to hold Miss M. for so long immediately after her birth, she was jaundiced and had to spend about 30 hours under the lights in the nursery. And the nurses kept wanting to give her formula. And I wasn’t allowed out of bed until Wednesday (two days after the birth). And the hospital lactation consultant took forever to show up. Though when the LC did show up, she immediately sent for a hospital pump and got me set up pumping, one side only because sitting up was still too hard. And baby M. had a hard time transferring milk – she seemed to be latched on, but nothing was getting in. And my milk was late – so late that I left the hospital on Saturday (yup, five nights in the hospital) with a precious bottle containing two ounces of colostrum pumped that very morning.

The day we left the hospital, the pediatrician was wary – the baby had lost a lot of weight, down 13 ounces from her birth weight of 8#4oz. The pediatrician said that we had to supplement – to make sure that she got two ounces in a bottle, 8 times a day, using breastmilk as available and formula for the rest. And she only agreed to discharge us when we promised we'd take the baby into the pediatrician's office for a weight check the following day.

I know I didn’t pump enough in the hospital – I was trying to get my strength back and the incision hurt and I just didn’t get it. Once home, with a rented hospital grade Medela pump, I started pumping like a mad woman – both breasts, seven or eight times a day - and I continued to try and nurse Miss M.

When she was a week and a day, I had a lactation consultant come in. Yes, a house call! She spent a couple of hours with us, weighing the baby before and after feeding to see what she would take in, and watching the nursing session to check latch and position. She confirmed that the baby just wasn't getting any significant amounts of milk out. The LC set us up with a Haberman Feeder - to use to help the baby work harder at sucking to train her to nurse better, and with a homemade supplemental nursing system - a tiny tube and a big syringe.

Despite all of this effort, at a check-up when she was 10 days old, the pediatrician had us increase the supplementation to 3 ounces, 8 times a day - because she hadn't gained any weight in four days.

When Miss M. was two weeks old, we had another house call - this time from the breastfeeding angel: A Doctor. Who Makes House Calls. And Specializes in Breastfeeding. Only in New York. She was awesome. She checked me out, weighed the baby before and after nursing, watched the nursing, and put me on Domperidone.

I was dogged about the whole thing. I kept pumping, kept trying to nurse. And finally one day, when Miss M. was about two months old, I had tender painful engorged breasts. And Miss M. nursed and got the milk out and relieved the engorgement. It was the first time I really knew that she was getting it.


Anonymous said...

You Are My New Breastfeeding Hero.

Liesel Elliott said...

Wow. That must have been so hard for you. Thank you for writing about your experience, because so many women think that breastfeeding is EASY, and then they get discouraged right away when it isn't easy at all. Its important to hear stories like yours - even though you must have been beside yourself during this ordeal, you didn't give up. Cudos to you!

niobe said...

I'm so impressed by your determination to breastfeed, despite the many obstacles and bumps in the road. You really did everything possible to make it succeed and you must have been amazingly happy and relieved when it all finally came together.

But it does make me wonder how the human race ever survived pre-lactation consultants,
pre-supplementation, and even pre-New York.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Ah, that's just awful. And I agree that it's so important to challenge the narrative that suggests breastfeeding is easy at the beginning! The more we get the story out there that This Might Really Suck (ahem) for the first month or two, the more women might be able to endure the initial awfulness and get to the place where breastfeeding is actually more convenient than anything else. (Speaking as someone whose milk did not come in for a WEEK after my son's birth. Which is why I ended up in the ER a week postpartum with mastitis and nipples so scabbed over that none of my brand-new milk could come out. Good times.)

Niobe: wet nurses.

Anonymous said...

I am so impressed by you. Those first few days and months are so exhausting, so overwhelming. You have incredible strength! I was lucky both times and had no issues with nursing at all, and even so, the newborn experience was traumatic and mind boggling. I can't imagine dealing with that, and surgery, and breastfeeding struggles.

mamaloo said...

I know that relief you felt. When it's hard it's very hard, isn't it?

Congratulations of getting the support you needed. So many just give up but with good support it often ends up working really well.

Anonymous said...

I still talk to my LC who came to my house a week or so post-partum--to pass along pumping and supply info that I know she passes along to other moms. It's so important to have good help, but hard to find.

I didn't pump enough in the hospital, either. It's a hard and confusing time.

I just tried to get my eight-month-old to nurse. She LAUGHED at my nipple! Well, that's better than crying. Anyway I'm so happy you got the nursing to work out after all that.