Monday, November 29, 2010

My breastfeeding struggle: Emma's birth story part 2

So, like I mentioned in my birth story natural birth and breastfeeding were two of the most important things to me and what I was most looking forward to. As it happened, neither was in the plans for me. I had a breast reduction about 8 years ago, so I had a feeling that breastfeeding might not come so easily for me. Also, pardon the graphic-ness, but I have inverted nipples. I expressed concern over both of these situations at each of my prenatal appointments and all my doctor would tell me was "we'll just have to wait til the baby is born to find out". Needless to say, this was very disheartening!

All I could do was wait and pray. Well, as I got toward the end of my pregnancy, I remember people asking me if my milk had come in or if I was leaking yet. I wanted so badly to say yes because I knew that these things were supposed to be happening but they just weren't. I never had any signs of milk.

Emma was born. The nurses showed me how to manually express what should have been colostrum, but nothing came out, so they tried to get her latched on naturally but it just wasn't happening. Step two: the nipple shield, "yay!"  I thought, a miracle invention that will let me nurse my baby! Yeah, right. Nothing about the whole situation came easily. Even with the nipple shield, Emma didn't seem to be getting anything. I was so worried, but the nurses kept telling me that even if she wasn't getting anything it would be ok because babies are born with extra fat that they can live off of for a while. That did make me feel a little better, but I was already so ashamed that I couldn't feed my child in the natural, God-given manner!!

I think it was day two that they brought out the breast pump. The nurses wheeled in the pump on a little stand and showed me how to work it. I pumped what I could, which was just a tiny bit of colostrum. I didn't want to resort to bottles yet, so we started tube feeding. We'd run a tube from the little container of colostrum and tuck it into the nipple shield and then get Emma attached to the nipple shield. That way, she was still getting my milk, but it was coming from the tube. It must have been day 2 or 3 when nurses brought in the formula. Just the sight of it made me want to cry! But I didn't want my daughter to starve, so what could I do? By the time we left the hospital she had lost more than 10% of her body weight, so we were referred to the lactation consultant.

We visited the LC about 5 more times in the month following Emma's birth. It was always the same story: couldn't get her latched, couldn't produce enough milk to solely breastfeed. I was so devastated, depressed and felt really lonely. My life was all about pumping, all day long I sat on the couch, pumped, fed Emma, pumped some more, etc. I think the most I ever got in one pumping was almost 5 ounces, that was a good day! I tried everything the consultants recommended, I took Fenugreek supplements and drank Fenugreek tea. I also took a prescription that has an off label use to increase milk supply, and it did, a little. So, my daughter was mostly formula fed with a little breast milk supplement. I kept up the pumping routine until my milk totally dried up when she was about 6 months old. It was the worst feeling ever!

People tell me that I did the best I could and at least she got a little breast milk in the beginning, but nothing anyone did/will ever say can make me feel better about the situation. I feel like a total failure, I couldn't do the most natural thing in the world for my own daughter. Weirdly, though, I don't regret having the breast reduction. Even the surgery wouldn't have changed my inverted nipples and who knows if I would've had the same supply issues or not. Regardless, the surgery was the right thing for me at the time and I'm glad I was able to have it.

So, here I am, pregnant again and hoping beyond hope that somehow, someway a miracle will occur and I'll at least be able to produce enough milk this time to have my baby mostly breastfed. I'm not delusional and I know that I probably won't be able to get a baby latched on and I'll most likely be tied to the pump again, but I'm OK with that, really, what choice do I have?

This is why I am such an avid breastfeeding supporter and I get really upset when I see moms formula feeding thier babies. I know I shouldn't because I don't know the situation and it's a bit hypocritical of me to judge other moms for using formula when I did it myself, but I can't help it, it's my initial, gut reaction. My feeling about the situation is this: I would've given ANYTHING in the world to have been able to nurse my daughter and I think too many people take it for granted and don't use the most wonderful, natural, free, nutritionally perfect resource available for feeding their babies. If you've got it, use it!

1 comment:

Katrina said...

I totally sympathize with you! I had supply issues and tried everything. Luckily I was able to get a latch, but when my son weighed 1lb less than his birth weight at a month old we had to start supplementing. When I would pump I was excited if I got over an ounce from both sides! we finally stopped nursing at 7 months because he was only nursing once a day and not really getting much at all...
But what makes me feel better is that I tried so hard, and I know that even though it wasn't much, that little bit of breastmilk was ten times better than any amount of formula... now that I am pregnant again I am also worried I will have some of the same problems, but now I know more of what to expect and different things to try from the beginning. Hopefully you will have a much better success this time!