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.