Before Henry was born, people would always ask me, “Are you going to breastfeed?” And I’d answer, “Yes!” everytime.
I never knew the struggles, commitment, time and energy that would come with it. All I knew was that I wanted that bond and my son to have that nourishment if I could produce a good supply (which luckily I have been able to).
When Henry was born (3 weeks and a day early), the nurses and lactation specialist I saw said his mouth was slightly too small to properly latch to my breast. We tried a bunch in the hospital but he just couldn’t successfully latch. I felt defeated. He was frustrated. It wasn’t a good combo.
As a new mom, breast milk was one of the main things I wanted to provide for my child. I felt like it was my duty to breastfeed. But if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would pump. So that’s what I did and that’s what I’ve done now for over a month. Pump and bottle feed. Pump and bottle feed. I never wanted to rely on bottles with my newborn, but I felt like that was my next best option—pumping my breastmilk and feeding him with bottles.
Back on his Day 4 check-in, a lactation specialist suggested I use a nipple shield to ease the latch. She showed me how it worked, he latched on and I burst into tears. He did it! Of course when I went home, it was a lot harder without the specialist there. (I asked if I could take her home and she joked that all moms ask her that.) Sometimes the shield worked for us, other times it didn’t. Every time was different and most times it was frustrating.
As the days went on, I relied more heavily on pumping and bottle feeding. My supply was great but no one told me how much work pumping would be too. Every 2-3 hours, I was at the kitchen table pumping for 20 minutes at a time. I’d have to force myself to do it in the middle of the night when my breasts were engorged and painful. Basically anytime Henry was eating a bottle, I was pumping (or should have been). Yes, I skipped at times…
Henry was getting more and more used to the bottle and less and less used to my breasts. I felt such failure. We couldn’t get the breastfeeding positions down, he would get so fussy when the milk wouldn’t come fast enough, and the shield wouldn’t stick/would get in the way. A superstorm of UGHs.
That’s when I made another 1:1 appointment with a lactation specialist. Within 5 minutes, he immediately latched – no problem – to my breast without the shield. “Ditch the nipple shield!” she said. “He’s got this down.”
I went on to try it on my other breast while she watched on this time and bam!… he succeeded again. I was overcome with emotion and happiness. After 4 weeks, we were going to breastfeed. Bottles, no more. Pumping, nearly as often!
Back at home, I told Sam all about my visit and how great it went. I settled in to show him what I learned.
Well… it wasn’t as easy for us that time around. Back to square one, and this time Henry was wailing for milk. “Faster! Where’s my bottle? What’s this nipple doing in my face?!”
I remember what the lactation specialist told me: “Just give it ten minutes and keep at it. Keep practicing.”
So, I did.
Every time he was hungry, I’d offer the breast and more often than not, we’d end up with the bottle.
Honestly, this journey has been really hard. I thought it would come so much easier for me… for us. I thought it would be instantaneous and I’d never have to fill or warm a bottle for my newborn. But you know… that’s not life sometimes.
I guess the most important thing is, Henry’s getting my breast milk. I have to focus on that and keep trying to get him to latch. Maybe it’ll click, maybe it won’t. But I have to keep trying for us.
I hand it to every mom out there trying her best to breastfeed. Whether you’re breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pumping, using formula or whatever…. keep at it. This journey is unique for everyone. No case is the same. Don’t beat yourself up. Your baby loves you regardless.
I met with another lactation specialist a week after my first consultation and we tried out a few new things (that worked!):
– A larger nipple shield, since Henry’s mouth is bigger now than when he was born.
– Feeding him when he is less fussy/during the earlier hunger cues.
– Giving him a few drops of breastmilk to get him to open wide before latching.
– Pump for a few minutes beforehand to get the milk flowing so Henry doesn’t have to wait as long for the let down (and not get so fussy).
– Practice breastfeeding at every feeding now, even if it doesn’t work out. Just start with it and if I have to use a bottle, then use it.
-Whenever using a bottle, make him open wide and work for the feeding, as if he were latching to the breast. Don’t corkscrew the bottle in easily for him.
So here were my take aways…
I would be using the shield again. Not ditching it quite yet, but that’s okay. And I think I was trying to breastfeed Henry while he was always SO hungry, instead of trying to catch him earlier than that while he’s more calm.
Both have already made a huge difference.
Since this second 1:1, Henry has latched successfully a bunch! It was so awesome.
I guess persistence pays off.
Update after that update:
Henry can’t EVEN with breastfeeding. This journey can be so overwhelming, guys.
I think he prefers the bottle now and honestly, if he’s happier that way and I am too, it’s probably worth it for me to pump and him to bottle feed.
I’ll keep offering breastfeeding sessions but… I really think 6+ weeks in, this may be the best route for us.
I gotta look on the bright side—my supply is still strong, my baby is getting breast milk, and he is happy and growing. (Maybe this means I should be a little easier on myself with this whole thing then…)
Now when I see other moms breastfeeding, pumping, and bottle feeding…. I want to tell them, “YES!!! You got this. You’re doing what’s good for you and yours.” No judgment. No questions. No nothing. I don’t know the journeys they have been on.
Curious to hear your thoughts, trials, experiences, and emotions on this one. Do share!
From one persistent mama to another,