From Day One latching was a problem. My sweet son was much more interested in sleeping than eating. Several different nurses and two different hospital lactation consultants instructed me to work through the pain and gave me techniques on how to wake him up to feed. I figured the first few weeks would be uncomfortable, but I never imagined the amount of pain I’d be in trying to feed my baby. He lost ten percent of his birth weight in two days, so before I left the hospital I already had an appointment with a lactation consultant for the next day for a consult and weight check. After the consult and weigh-in, the LC told me to go home, pump, and bottle-feed; she also let me know supplementing with formula was next on the list.
At his one week check-up, the pediatrician encouraged me to supplement with formula – which I did. Honestly, I was happy to have that advice. By this time, my nipples were cracked and bleeding…the word “sore” didn’t begin to describe my pain level. Compared to breastfeeding, drug-free childbirth was a walk in the park. I decided to nurse him during the day, then pump and feed (supplementing with formula) during the night. In spite of the few hours of boob-rest throughout the night, the pain was incredibly intense as soon as he latched on the next morning – like nursing a snapping turtle. His weight was still an issue, and at his two week follow-up, the pediatrician said, “Breastfeeding works for some, but not others. It’s time to switch to formula.”
I was equally relieved and devastated at his words. He had given me permission to release myself from the incredibly painful ordeal of nursing, but I felt so guilty and inadequate as a mother. My body was made to feed babies – how and why was it failing me?! I went home and cried. As much as I wanted to give up, my stubborn personality wouldn’t let me. Had the doctor never told me to quit, I probably would have given up on my own soon after because of the unbelievable, constant pain. However, I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be told “No.” After receiving much-needed encouragement from a small circle of fellow nursing mothers, I decided to press on…even after he vomited blood. For those who haven’t experienced it, watching your baby vomit blood is quite an unsettling experience. Realizing he’d been drinking a fifty-fifty milk-blood blend was even more unsettling.
I started researching reasons that nursing would be painful. I called and emailed lactation consultants outside of the hospital. I reached out to other women who’d experienced issues. Through my own devices, I figured out my sweet boy was tongue and lip tied. Fortunately, we had a friend whose daughter was tongue and lip tied and had already gone through the procedure; her advice and encouragement were invaluable. On my own, I set up a consult with a pediatric dentist. When I brought up the issue with my son’s pediatrician, the doctor shrugged it off and said, “Who told you that?” as if I had been misinformed or didn’t know what I was talking about. He never even looked at my son’s mouth…even after I told him I’d set up a consult with a pediatric dentist and that an LC said he had severe ties. Once I realized the pain of nursing was not temporary, I quit putting him to my breast and focused on pumping. I lost sleep. I shed tears. I came to hate the sound of my pump. Time pumping was time not spent snuggling and taking care of my newborn.
Finally, the day of the laser procedure came. I was so excited my son’s mouth would be fixed and that we’d be able to experience pain-free nursing! The pediatric dentist and his assistant assured me that he would be able to achieve a successful latch just minutes after the procedure. Well, minutes after the procedure I received a sleepy, swollen-mouthed five-week-old who was not interested in anything but being snuggled and NOT using his sore mouth. Understandable. A few hours later, the miraculous latch and comfortable nursing were still nowhere to be found. Turns out, it would take a few more weeks for him to figure out what to do with his “new” mouth. After all, he’d developed those sucking patterns in the womb.
He was seven weeks old before I could say nursing was no longer painful. I still couldn’t call it comfortable, and it definitely wasn’t efficient. At eight weeks old, we had a better experience – much less pain, mostly comfortable, and a little more efficient. My supply took a huge hit because he never was able to latch and empty my breasts for over a month, and the original pump I used contributed to my low supply.
By his ninth week, I was nursing and pumping… still supplementing with formula half of the time. When he was four months old, we were nursing eighty percent of the time, and I was pumping and supplementing the rest of the time. At that point, I could say nursing was completely enjoyable! At five months old, we went on a road trip to Oklahoma City, and I didn’t pack any formula, bottles, or my breast pump. By the time six months rolled around, he began refusing bottles and pacifiers –although slightly inconvenient, I see it as a major breastfeeding milestone. My son is now sixteen months old, and we have a wonderful nursing relationship! I am indebted to those women who came alongside me and encouraged me throughout our struggles.