Feeding a new baby is a hot topic in parenting. Everyone has an opinion and every new parent has expectations, which may or may not pan out.
I am not offering an opinion on breast, bottle and/or formula, only offering my honest experience with all 3 so far.
Because Grayson was admitted to NICU upon birth we did not get to start trying to breastfeed as quickly as most moms get to. I felt awful because I thought that I needed to get him to latch within the first hour. But, rest assured, every medical professional assured us that delaying his latching was okay! Grayson had an IV set up so that extended the window of time before he needed to be fed. The hospital honoured our desire to breastfeed and so we waited.
Once he was settled into NICU (and after I was transferred to recovery) I tried to breastfeed. Grayson was not having any of it. He screamed, yelled, bit, scratched, kicked and punched and yet we tried…and tried…and tried. We had the support of the nursing staff (RN) and then of the hospital’s Lactation Consultant (LC). This went on for hours. It certainly was not helping that he was being poked and prodded at with needles for IVs and blood sugar – that made for a hard time keeping him settled. It was really hard on me too. I had waves of feeling terrible. But fortunately the support of others to remind me that this wasn’t a reflection of me as a mom or of Grayson and my bond helped me to rebound emotionally.
We continued to put off introducing formula. That being our decision, the hospital staff set me up with the tools to start pumping. My first time pumping produced about 50 mL of colostrum (apparently that is a lot). As the literal end of day approached, we made the decision to provide Grayson with the breast milk from a bottle. A success, which we would then try to repeat.
Pumping and trying to latch meant that our schedule went like this: Every 3 hours Grayson and I (plus an RN or LC and/or Matthew) would engage in a 20 min plus wrestling match trying to get him to breastfeed. Minimal luck. Then we would provide the bottled breast milk, which would require about 30+ minutes, inclusive of burping. Then settle Grayson to bed and then return to Postpartum (a short walk if you hadn’t just delivered a baby ;), where I would pump 15 minutes on each side. Add in cleaning and sanitizing, having some food and water, and the walk back to NICU and I was looking at less than 40 minutes to rest between feedings. That was really hard. I felt stressed, self-imposed pressure and I was in pain.
The next few times I pumped I collected less and less colostrum. That only elevated my feelings of frustration and inadequacy. Again, though, support people were key. I rebounded each time and persevered.
Ultimately, I had to make the choice to top up Grayson’s feeds with formula. Still upon doing that, the feeding routine didn’t change; it was only altered to include bottle feeding breast milk and/or formula. Thus the incredibly short gaps between feedings didn’t change either.
Sometime in the early morning on Saturday it was mentioned that Grayson may be tongue tied. This is when the tongue is not easily lifted up and/or extended outward due to the frenulum (skin under the tongue) attaching too close to the tongue’s tip. This impacts latch, which impacts ability to feed. We were told it can be corrected but it is no longer done at the hospital and so, nevertheless, we continued with our painstaking feeding routine.
Attempt to latch. Bottled breast milk. Bottled formula. Burp. Settle. Pump. Repeat.
Skipping ahead to our first day home I was so sore that I could I barely stand it. My milk was coming in, but I was having a hard time pumping. But we kept going – believing the advice that the best way to resolve engorgement is to breastfeed, hand express and/or pump.
Upon discharge, the hospital had arranged an appointment for us with a Breastfeeding Clinic that also corrects tongue ties. We attended the Clinic on Wednesday morning. The Doctor we saw was very concerned as I was in a tremendous amount of pain and my breast tissue was very red. We marked the redness and scheduled a tongue tie snip and follow up for the next day, which would result in prescribed antibiotics if the redness persisted/worsened.
While we were at the Clinic the Doctor showed me how to rub out some of the swelling. It was PAINFUL! However, she assured me that it would subside when/if we got the milk ducts unblocked. While we did this, we got Grayson to latch using the help of a nipple shield. HOORAY!
After we left the Clinic, Grayson latched onto the shield each feeding. Then I would pump and rub out the swelling. I continued this for most of the afternoon and night and by the time we saw the Doctor the following day my breast engorgement and pain was almost 100% remedied! YES!!!!!!
Grayson had his tongue tie snipped on Thursday. That was hard to watch. He took it like a champ. Cried briefly and then was able to latch to the shield with his new and improved tongue.
Since the tongue tie was snipped things have been down and are now on the way back up. Initially it seemed the pain under his tongue had created a new barrier to consistently latching. This created a need to intensify the latch, bottle, pump routine. I was feeling the impact. It was wearing on me.
Fortunately, our Family Doctor came for a visit on Friday and we talked through the routine and how I have been feeling and (not) sleeping. We resolved to augment the routine. So now we do as follows: Latch to the shield and feed for as long as possible then top up (if need be) with pumped milk or formula.
As of this afternoon I have pretty well stopped pumping, as this will only intensify the supply and demand, and as a result create repetitive engorgement.
I will be heading back to the Clinic Tuesday. I presume to begin to transition away from using the shield. Another adjustment.
Feeding is hard. Breastfeeding may be the best, but for all the moms out there who struggle to get their baby to latch, I believe we can relate to one another. This sometimes feels impossible and like a standard that is unattainable. It is frustrating and then there are small gains, which are wonderful but sometimes few and far between. I am trying to stick this out, but I can’t say whether that will last. Controversial, I know.
I am grateful to the people who continue to remind me that everyone has different viewpoints about feeding, but ultimately a fed baby, who is gaining weight is a healthy baby.
Grayson (as of Friday) is 8lbs5oz. I will chalk that up as a giant success.