Breastfeeding Sucks (aka Adventures in Jaundice)

I doubt it would surprise anyone that I planned to breastfeed 100% of the time. I wanted a pump so that at some point we could bottle feed breast milk (and I could leave the house for more than an hour at a time), but that was about the extent of my deviation from the standard plan.

Chloé was a champion feeder from the start. She opened her mouth super wide, latched well, and has a completely unencumbered tongue. Everyone from M2 to the TEGH nurses all commented on how well we both were doing with breastfeeding. By the time we got home, I felt like I was a true novice, but that I was well on my way to being comfortable with breastfeeding.

Then day 3 happened.

At about 2 am Chloé started refusing the breast. She was upset, crying at me. I kept trying to feed her and she kept refusing. This went on until 10 am. I noticed her lips were dry and chapped looking, and she was exhausted.

M2 came over and quickly determined two things: 1. Chloé had lost more than 10% of her body weight; and 2. Chloé was Jaundice. My milk hadn’t come in, and Chloé wasn’t getting enough in the way of food. Thankfully I had formula in the house from random samples I’d received. (And here I’m going to jump on a soap box for a second. To all you mothers who condemn women for even thinking about keeping formula in the house, my baby was literally starving. We didn’t have a car at the time, so we couldn’t just “drive out and get some” when we actually needed it. Having in the house did not “tempt” me to use it, it just meant it was there when my healthcare provider determined it was necessary to use. Okay, done, moving on…)

We learned how to cup feed and how to use the tube feeding to supplement with formula. It was stressful. Made more so by the need to go and get the level of Chloé’s jaundice tested. And all of that was made worse by the dreaded day 3 hormone drop. Anytime anyone said anything nice to me, I burst into tears. Literally had a wet face from about 2pm that day until about 6pm that night.

While we waited for her results, I went to TEGH’s breastfeeding clinic. I was shown a different way of expressing and sure enough, my milk had come in. Chloé feed well while there. Further, her jaundice blood work came back low enough that she didn’t need UV treatment, but they wanted us back in the morning to test again. I was told to continue supplementing to help pull her weight back up, and we were sent home.

Because Chloé is no dummy, she became super annoyed with breastfeeding. The cup and/or tube was faster and got food to her without any delay. My letdown of milk just wasn’t quick enough and she got impatient fast. Because I was terrified of starving her, I allowed her to eat her preferred way without pressing the breast issue.

The next day I went to the clinic again while waiting for her jaundice results. We talked about other methods of getting her feeding better, and they recommended I rent a pump until I got my own. Both to keep up and increase my supply, and to try and encourage a faster letdown. The lactation nurse also encouraged MFH to finger feed the extra supplement while I pumped after feeding. We found out that her jaundice was clearing, and her weight was up almost 2 oz since the day before.

The finger feeding caused more issues. Chloé loved to finger feed. She loved it so much she would cry if we tried anything else. I was pumping enough to feed her exclusively with breast milk, but she was barely feeding at all at the breast.

M2 came to check on us and we discussed the problem. She gave us time to get through the night doing what we were doing, but then set up a game plan to get her back to breastfeeding. We made a contingency plan to go to bottle feeding breast milk as a worst case scenario. To be honest, over the next 24 hours I was fairly certain that was how things were going to go.

But, armed with a night of relative ease, I spent the day fighting my daughter. The tube got put away. No more finger feeding. She got the option of breastfeeding or the cup. Neither were her preference. There was a lot of crying, from both of us. Then, almost like magic, she got tired of fighting me and fed like we’d never had any hiccups at all.

Even though things were going well, I was panicked that I wasn’t making enough food and her body weight would go back to being too low. It’s such a devastating feeling, to literally feel like you’re failing as a mother. It made me so sympathetic to every woman who’s ever decided–whether personal preference or because she had no choice–to feed formula or bottle feed breast milk rather than breastfeed.

Thankfully, though, at our next home visit M2 determined that Chloé was almost back to her birth weight. We celebrated the success and talked about the book she wants to write (called Breastfeeding Sucks). It would basically be about all the A-type moms who come to find out that breastfeeding is a lot harder then they were expecting, for any number of reasons.

As my preggo friend AB texted so eloquently, “Breastfeeding is hard!”

And even though it wasn’t actually hard for Chloé and me, it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing. I thought I might be done with it entirely several times. And while I am glad that we worked things out in the end, I have zero doubt in my mind that I would have happily gone to exclusively pumping and bottle feeding had it not. And I’m super glad that I had formula in my house when I needed it.

Happy Chloé

My happy, well-fed baby.

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10 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Sucks (aka Adventures in Jaundice)

  1. It does suck, but so worth it. I am glad you two got the kinks out of the system. Week 3 blows because of the growth spurt. Keep protein rich snacks around to keep up your energy. Almonds help ya twice over, they give you the protein and boost your supply.

    For future pumping sessions, lube your breast and flange with a natural oil like coconut oil. I can pump like mad the first few weeks and then it trickles to next to nothing later on because I just cannot pump. Please, please know that what you pump is not all you have. I fell for that lie before (with my first kiddo) and know better now. The Leaky B@@b is a fantastic resource page on Facebook. Tons of mamas go there for advice on BFing and help give it too. Keep at it mama! You are doing well!

    • Thank you for the advice. I’m definitely feeling more awesome at it now, but I really wanted to share the troubles because I didn’t really expect to have any.

      Clo turns 3 weeks on Tues, and I’m already noticing some marathon sessions. I’m taking Fenugreek and Red Raspberry Leaf as well as pushing protein and a TON of water.

      I’ll look into The Leaky Boob as well. 😉

      • We just hit the 6mo spurt over here. They get easier but I still feel drained after a 45 minute nursing session.
        May you have smooth sailing the rest of the way hun!

  2. This reminds me of my situation with Lyla, except we never got back to successful breast feeding. I am totally type A and felt like I was failing my daughter in such an essential way by not producing enough milk. I was worried sick by her weight loss ad subsequent slow weight gain. The problems all started on day 3 when she started treatment for jaundice. I am only becoming comfortable with our switch to formula now at 4 months.

    • I hear you, mama. It’s such a tough, tough thing. And, honestly, I think we set ourselves up for heartache. I think it’s beautiful that you are doing what you have to do to feed your baby.

      I’m glad you’re feeling better about what had to happen as well. Being hard on yourself is so common with our A-types; we’re so used to being “perfect.”

      At the end of the day, formula vs. breastfeeding both have their merits and champions. (Have you seen the recent sibling study showing very little difference in outcomes between formula and breastfed babies?) You did the “perfect” thing for your situation, and you should be commended for that.

      • Thank you. I have read articles about the sibling study, which has helped give me some peace of mind. I was shocked when breast feeding didn’t come naturally for me. I have never really not been able to achieve my goals before and it felt like a personal failing that my body wasn’t cooperating. I felt like a bad mother for it. I felt shame. There’s definitely a lot of societal and internal pressure involved with motherhood.

  3. I totally hear your pain. I was kept an extra day at the hospital because the baby had lost 9% of her body weight and even after pumping (painfully) for 15 minutes I could only squeeze out a drop of colostrum every couple of hours. During the first week, the baby never woke up on her own for feedings – at first, I thought I had a really good baby because she could sleep up to four or five hours without crying on the second day, but was told that that was actually really bad. The nurses also said I had flat nipples, which made it hard for the baby to fit one into her tiny mouth. After multiple nurses helping me with various positions, manually expressing, trying a nipple shield, and pump (not to mention increasingly sore and cracked nipples because my body wasn’t used to suck activities), cup feeding, there was no progress. They shamed me into cup feeding her formula and the colostrum. Nothing like being told that your newborn is starving to make you feel like a terrible parent. It also took nearly a month to get the hang of breastfeeding in general – lots of problems with latching. Got lots of help from nurses, a lactation consultant, and youtube videos. And didn’t help that my husband kept saying we should just give her formula. Hang in there – hard to believe, but it does finally click into place and get easier for the both of you.

  4. Pingback: 1 Month Roundup | Made in Toronto

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