I was in the middle of typing up the birth story, which, trust me, is a good one. I hoped to finish it when I sat down today to write, but I think it’ll have to wait for another day. Though Maggie is only 9 days old, it seems like her birth was about five years ago. I’m not even thinking of it much these days.
All I think about is feeding her. I don’t even want to write or publish this post, because I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to feel judged. But I need to get it out.
Breastfeeding got off to a pretty horrible start for us. By the second night of her life, my nipples were already cracked and nursing hurt so much that I
wanted to did scream. Of course there’s no LC on duty in the night, so I just figure this is how it should hurt, and suffer. The next morning the LC shows up, takes one look at my nipples, one look in my baby’s mouth, and pronounces her “tongue-tied”. What’s that?
Basically it means (a) her mouth is small and (b) the frenulum, the membrane that is under her tongue, is very far forward, which means that she can’t stick her tongue out that far. She can barely get her tongue over her gums. So the pain I was experiencing the entire night before was her gumming my nipples. Tongue-tie makes it difficult for her to latch-on, and since my milk hadn’t started to come in yet, she was trying and trying, leaving us both frustrated and screaming.
The LC told me that until my nipples healed, and my milk came in (and possibly for as long as I nurse, since her mouth may not get much larger) I should use a nipple shield. That nipple shield is the only reason I did not quit nursing by the third night of her life. It still hurts the entire time she nurses, but it is tolerable, as opposed to those first nights.
Adding yet another layer of suck to the whole thing is this: because of the shape of my breast, I can only nurse her in the football hold. Oh yeah, and it took almost five days for my milk to come in.
That’s how we got where we are now. It’s funny because I was so sure that I would exclusively BF, that I did not even read anything about formula or bottle feeding in any of the books I have. Not one word. Talk about arrogant. I just assumed that nursing would be fine, and yeah, sure, it would be hard, but I would love it, right? I mean, everyone else raves about how great it is and how formula is basically rat poison, right?
Cut to three days after birth: It’s 3 am, I’m still waiting for my milk to come in, we’re at home, no nurses anywhere to help. She won’t sleep for more than 30 minutes because she’s hungry (gee I wonder why?) and every time I try to latch her on, she screams because she’s so hungry and frustrated and has to work so hard just to get a little bit of colostrum.
I keep trying to nurse her; Atticus’ mom goes to the CVS and gets some formula (just in case — I am now getting completely desperate). Next morning: it has been seven hours since she’s eaten. She has cried herself quiet and is now not interested in the breast at all. No wet diapers for many hours. We are all getting worried. We call the doctor whose office is closed because it’s New Year’s Day. So we call the hospital. Eventually we talk to two different pediatricians who both tell us the same thing. Give her a bottle. If the milk’s not in and she’s not nursing or peeing, she is dehydrating.
That’s it. I’m not letting my baby starve for the sake of principle. We offer a bottle and she drinks 3 ozs. at one time, and then is content for the first time in about 48 hours. Lo and behold, she starts having more wet diapers.
I keep nursing, letting her drink as much as she can get, and then offering a bottle when she wakes up hungry 20 minutes later.
Eventually my milk came in, and since then she is able to nurse and then be content for 2-3 hours between feedings, usually — the way it should be. It still hurts the whole time she nurses, but her latch on is getting better. There hasn’t been nipple confusion because I started using the breast shield from day 3 onward, and it is similar to the bottle nipple. She does not have to work so hard to get the milk.
We still supplement with formula at night, so we can take turns getting some sleep.
Maggie is small. She was only 7 pounds at birth, and even now 9 days later, she is still about 4 oz. from her birth weight. I’m not surprised, since she got next to nothing for about 3 days. We had a weight check this morning, and the brilliant pediatrician (not ours – the other doc in the practice) gives me some
great completely useless advice: nurse her more. Apparently every 2-3 hours isn’t enough and I should wake her every hour 45 minutes. Nurse her more? Even with supplementing, I am still nursing her about 6-7 times per day, and since she’s a slow eater, that’s about 45- 1 hour at each feeding. Nurse her more? Oh yes, that’s right, because I’m not a human being, I’m a cow. And since I can only nurse in football hold, that leaves me sitting for about 7 hours a day on my butt, which is still healing nicely from the horrific tear I have (I’ll get more into that when I finish the labor story, but let me just say: forceps were used.)
Oh yeah, and then he tells me to go to a lactation support group. How am I supposed to do that when I’m nursing every hour 45, and it takes me ten minutes (with my husband’s help) to get set up with all the pillows and breast shield (which can’t be applied with one hand)? Nurse her in public? I can barely get it together enough to nurse her at home. Useless.
Then he tells me that “he knows how hard it is.” Excuse me? When’s the last time you lactated buddy? His wife nursed their kids, you see, so he knows what its like. I actually had to bite my tongue in order to NOT say to him, “Oh yeah? Well, why don’t you get her on the phone because she probably has more useful advice for me than you do, fool.”
If you’re reading this right now and are pregnant and planning to bf, please listen to me: buy the most comfortable chair you can afford! I did not, and I’m paying for it now. I nurse on the couch with 7 pillows and I still end up with a backache/sore butt every time. I made Atticus take me to Babies R Us where I picked out the most comfy one that fit my boppy, and now I am just waiting for its arrival. Do not make same mistake I did. Get your chair before the baby comes.
So the ugly truth is this: I really, really, really dislike nursing. A lot. Everyone talks about how its so beautiful, and noble, and they feel like they’re floating when their baby is on the breast. All I feel is stressed out each time I’m getting ready to latch her on, and far from feeling a sense of bonding, I’m just thinking “how much longer until this will be over?”
I don’t feel like this about any other aspect of motherhood so far. I don’t mind the diaper changes (even when she pees on the changing pad three times in one day!). I love rocking her to sleep. I love looking in her sweet eyes when she is alert and just hanging out with us. I love carrying her around in the baby bjorn between feedings and feeling her close to me. I don’t even really mind the sleep deprivation (that much!).
Nursing makes me nervous and somewhat resentful, but not of Maggie. More resentful of what nursing is itself, I think. I don’t know how I would feel about it if we had had an easier time so far. If there weren’t physical challenges that will probably always make it harder for us to nurse, maybe I wouldn’t feel this sense of dread about the whole thing. Who knows. I do know that I hate feeling like a cow rather than a person, and that my sole purpose in life right now is to sit on my butt and wait until it’s time to whip out my breast again. In an odd way, I feel that my body is much less my own now than I did when I was pregnant. Maybe that’s why I’m frustrated with the whole thing. I told you all before that even though I love this baby with all my heart, my heart is dreadfully small. Maybe this trial by fire will help it get just a little bit bigger.
Look at that sweetness — I love her feet!