Julie - raw, bleeding nipples

Poppy was born in early January 2007 by caesarian-section. She was what they called an IUGR baby…in other words she hadn’t been growing for a few weeks. She only weighed 2.58kgs. She was small but beautiful.

I had always assumed I would breastfeed as that was what I knew to be best for my baby. I had heard it could be difficult so I attended a breastfeeding seminar whilst I was still pregnant. It was a good seminar and gave me an understanding of the importance of baby latching on correctly etc. but there is obviously no way you can practice.

Poppy didn’t feed well from the start. I was at the hospital for a few days because of the caesarian. Every midwife that came in (and it almost felt like I never saw the same midwife twice) seemed to have conflicting advice. One would tell me to stroke her head whilst she was feeding…the next one would scald me saying “don’t do that!” I had the baby blues, I cried uncontrollably, I was exhausted, I was pretty much hospital bed bound and I was unable to stand up for myself. I was trying to look after a vulnerable baby and I had never felt so vulnerable myself in my life.

We couldn’t seem to get the latching on right and I got cracked, bleeding nipples. I saw a lactation specialist twice whilst in the hospital and went home using nipple shields to feed her as that was the only way it seemed to work. My nipples were so raw that sometimes the nipple shield would end up clogged with blood and flesh. The experts said keep going…that won’t hurt the baby.

Poppy was a very sleepy baby and it was difficult to get her to stay awake long enough to have a full feed. I tried all the techniques people told me about but I still couldn’t get a full feed into her. I was advised to try feeding her for half an hour each breast and then express anything I had left so she could also be given milk from a bottle. She had to be fed three hourly. After breastfeeding, bottle feeding, settling her to sleep and expressing it was pretty much time to start again.

Despite this arduous process she was still losing weight. My mother came and stayed and would give Poppy the expressed breast milk after I had breast fed. It was tough but possible.

Then my mother went home and I fell apart. It was completely impossible to do it all on my own.

My partner decided we would top up with formula. I felt incredibly guilty and emotional about it, but he was determined – so we did it. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I wanted to keep breastfeeding…it is an amazing thing to be able to feed your baby from your own body. I grieved for what I lost, but I knew I couldn’t cope if I tried to carry on the feeding and expressing routine on my own.

I felt so incredibly sad that I couldn’t feed her myself and I struggled on as long as I could but Poppy’s dad was firm (and less emotional than me) and we went on to fully formula feeding when Poppy was four weeks old . She was a changed baby. She was immediately more settled and put on weight which did help assuage the guilt I felt.

Poppy is seven months old now and I still have expressed breastmilk in the freezer. My partner has tried to throw it out several times but I just haven’t been able to face it. I know it seems silly but it still brings tears to my eyes even now thinking about throwing that breastmilk away.

 

Emma - syringes, jaundice, weight loss

I had a really wonderful pregnancy, fell pregnant on our wedding night, was healthy, fit, walked everyday, had only minor morning sickness, started eating meat after 15 years of being a vegetarian (this may be appalling to some) and knew all along in our hearts we were having a boy. I felt fantastic throughout and only put on 8 kg. Then, I started to puff up (I thought it was preggy puffiness) and about 5 weeks prior to our baby’s due date things started to go less smoothly. We booked with a specialist to be at the birth as a precautionary measure, you know, just in case we required intervention. I’d planned in my head that this would be the perfect natural birth, afterwards would start breast feeding like a champion, after all, my friends told me I had big boobs, so of course they should be good for something! However, the specialist had other plans and the prognosis was not good. All the planning in the world couldn't stop me contracting pre eclampsia and my baby being delivered by emergency C Section when they realized I was in danger of my kidney and liver collapsing and the baby being in distress.

Our son was born at 6.48pm on Sunday 15th October, and despite the drama, it was the best moment of our lives. Not officially knowing the sex made the moment even more special and my husband and I both cried as our wee man was pulled from me and held up, with his testicles facing us, it was the proudest moment of our lives.

I recall being taken to the recovery room and the nurses trying to attach our wee bubba to my breast. I was totally out of it and felt like I was in another world. Our baby was sleeping and could not be woken to be attached to the breast. They said they would try again once we were back in our room. But to no avail, so whilst I was in a haze of grogginess, my son had his first drink, formula. I still had to sign some form saying it was ok for them to feed him this. I didn't care; just give him something for god’s sake.

The next 5 days were a blur of wonderment, happiness and an overwhelming, total belief that I would be the world's best breast feeder. I recall at one point I had two midwives kneading at both breasts, trying so hard to get a drop of colostrum from me. I recall seeing some of the yellow goo, and laughing with happiness, I had some! Even the hospital’s breastfeeding mentor told me I was a natural. This is despite my 4 week premature son not being able to wake up for feeds, not even waking up when led to the breast, I just had no clue it would be hard. I remember spending those first 7 days crying a lot too, wondering how I would get on at home. All the professionals told me I was a natural, all the while allowing me to feed my son 'top ups' of formula and the minutest amount of expressed milk.

Then he became jaundiced, was losing weight daily and we were not allowed to go home. Still I was told I would be a natural breast feeder, I just didn't know to not believe them, or accept that there were alternatives.

Finally, 10 days after our son was born, my pregnancy midwife came to our rescue and discharged us from hospital. I was desperate to take Lucas (named after 3 days of discussion) home and get settled, rather than being in hospital at the mercy of SO many conflicting opinions.

At home, he was purely breastfed, both via breast and some expressing (like 10 mls at a time) via a sipper cup or syringe. It was becoming absurd and I still didn't know to use the alternative. It was beginning to drive me potty as I tried and tried to get him to latch, it was a hit and miss game as the wee fella struggled to stay awake for feeds.

Finally, after a week at home, our midwife armed us with knowledge and empowered me to take the matter into my own hands, after all, as parents, do you really really care how your baby is fed via breast milk or formula, as long as your darling wee bub is growing? You may not know the answer to that unless you’ve had a low birth weight baby or a baby who continually lost weight in its first few weeks. It’s terrifying and very serious.

So, Labour Day 2006 saw my husband going to our local chemist and getting some Avent Bottles and formula. We didn't know then that you could just buy it from the supermarket and it would still be a great product!!!

From that day, Lucas thrived, he was jaundice free within days, he put on weight within the week and we all breathed easier. By no means was it easy. I still breastfed him first, and then followed with the bottle. Really it was a token breastfeed and a full bottle feed, not a top up as often is the case. My baby was just too sleepy to latch. So this was a double edged sword we battled with everyday; because he was prem, he was sleepy, therefore he didn't often wake to feed, we had to wake him for the first 6 weeks, therefore he didn't latch properly, therefore he never got a good breastfeed, therefore I didn't produce a lot of milk. I only managed a breastfed only feed, once. But I breast and bottle fed for 6 months, until Easter this year when I offered him the breast and he started crying! The time had come, on his terms!

It took me months to forgive myself for bottle feeding. I would only let my husband feed him as well, it was so heart wrenching and guilt laden. I rarely bottle fed in public and cried at my first coffee group as I pulled out the formula. Finally, I saw the light, saw that Luc was thriving, saw that he was one of the happiest and chilled out babies I had ever known and realized that these first few months go by so fast, why spend them cutting myself up about how he was fed. Soon enough they are on solids, learning to crawl and walk and talk. Breastfeeding or no breastfeeding, it really doesn't matter.

Finally, to those that can't or won't breastfeed, don't feel guilty, it is such a small window we have with our babies as little ones, it makes so much sense to put the emotion aside and enjoy them while they are so divine. I managed some breast and some bottle and now I have a happy, healthy as (in fact he’s in the 95% for his height and weight) baby boy who laughs in delight when he sees his bottle, same with when he sees food, toys and his sipper cup filled with water. It's the greatest feeling in the world being a parent, it’s just a shame we are so clueless about parenthood when they are first born, that we beg for others’ opinions. Good luck. x

 

Anneleah - flattening nipples

My wee bundle of joy was three weeks early. Everything went well, no scratches or stitches! The next two days were wonderful and also hell on earth, or so I thought. Being a first time mum I stayed in hospital (Wellington) so I could start healing and get some expert help.

My little boy, Harry, was born at 8.34pm and he was not interested in the breast until I was in the ward and alone. Over the next two days I saw about four different midwives and all of them attempted to latch this little bundle onto my, what seemed enormous, nipples. I remember hands grapping my breasts (not too kindly) and shoving them into the wee mouth of my boy, with words said like ‘you just gotta get the latch and you’re away’, ‘let’s try this position’, ‘no your nipples are not too big’, ‘ every woman can do this’, ‘don’t worry about the screaming, he is just hungry’. So, after hours and hours of trying the latch never happened. I was shown the syringe technique as Harry needed food. Oh my GOD! The amount of work needed to squeeze out a couple of mls was amazing. But at last Harry was having food. Boy did my heart break every time he spat out the whole 2mls!

After two days of trying to latch and syringing off tiny amounts we went home (on my birthday). I was so tired, hurting and excited with hope about getting my boy to latch on. We had never considered that I might not be able to breastfeed and I was still very determined for it to happen. After all it is the most natural thing in the world - that is why women have breasts right? And it gives babies the best start to life. There were other things to learn like how to: put on cloth nappies without them falling off; hold the baby so his head did not wobble, changing cloths without breaking bones and just watching him sleep (such wonderful memories). But the dark side of life was not being able to breastfeed.

My family travelled from Napier to come and visit the new bundle of joy and my oldest sister brought her hand pump. Until then I had been trying (relentlessly) to get Harry to latch on, using the techniques and positions shown to me from the hospital. So my sister showed me how to use the hand pump and to my surprise I could express off 20-30mls (instead of the syringed 2-5mls). I think back to that time and feel really lucky that my husband, David, was so caring. He just did what needed to be done, he learnt how to sterilise bottles and feed our boy.

While I fumbled the screaming baby onto my nipple time and time again, he would sterilise bottles and get everything ready for expressing. We developed a pattern, trying to latch for up to an hour and when that did not work David bottle fed Harry while I expressed off more milk. I managed to get ahead of the cycle and we had a feed waiting once latching failed.

It was one of the worst times of my life. Here was this beautiful new life that just wanted food and here I was trying to stuff my nipple into his mouth with no success. He would scream and cry every time he came near me because he thought I was trying to get a latch. Any parent will tell you how heartbreaking it is to be the cause of your child’s cry. I felt this all day, every day for two weeks. But I kept trying as everyone says that breast is best and once you get the first latch it will be easy. The only people not saying that were my family. They all said just put him on formula and enjoy him.

But no, I was so determined to make my breasts work. The next couple of weeks were all about trying to get the latch, expressing and watching my husband bottle feed my boy who hated being near me. By the way, he was a hungry boy and needed feeding every two hours for the first week and every three hours the next.

By the third week I decided to visit the lactation centre (Karitane Centre, Lyall Bay recommended to us by our midwife) for expert advice as I was sure I was doing it wrong! David came along with me and we were observed while trying to feed. At the end, after being shown a few techniques, the conclusion was a bit of a shock. They said that my nipples went flat each time pressure was put on them. I could not quite believe this as my nipples stood out really well.

I was advised to keep expressing off for months and months and months as breast milk is best, purchase a battery operated expresser and do this for the next child and maybe for the third (if you have that many) you might be able to get a latch. I was, to say the least, shattered! How could I have these large breasts full of milk and fail to feed my baby! When I was alone I would cry and hate myself. How could I not do this simple and natural thing!

For the next month the routine was to sit in a dark room with this loud pump expressing off all the milk I could get out, sterilising bottles and teats and feeding Harry via bottle. His appetite increased and my milk supply depleted, most likely because I was so unhappy! How could I be any more of a failure! I was trying so hard to give my son the best start to life and here I was once again failing to give him the most basic, natural necessity of life – breastmilk. To make me feel even worse about myself I started to resent Harry, as he would often spill the expressed breastmilk at feed times. Did he not know how much work it took to get that amount out of me? But one look at his beautiful face washed away feelings of blame. I focused on insuring Harry was healthy, growing and happy. With the help of my husband, family, midwife and Plunket I worked through my feelings. My midwife and Plunket gave us information on bottlefeeding practises and very helpful hints. I also was going to ‘Baby and Me’ classes run by the South Wellington Parents Group with my antenatal class, which helped me a lot, in dealing with the feelings of failure and resentment. There was only 2 of us out of 13 who could not breastfeed. But that did not stop the breastfeeding Mums from having problems. It was a relief to hear their struggles also.

We had to start topping Harry up with formula to keep him satisfied. David was wonderful, he learnt all about formula. Yet here was another nail in the coffin, Harry preferred formula to breastmilk. He didn’t want my hard-earned breastmilk so spat it out and enjoyed the formula.

My health was in a sorry state and after eight weeks I called it quits. As well as having the usual tiredness, I developed haemorrhoids, which made my life a misery. My breastmilk started to dry up, I was getting less and less each time I expressed. So I gave up! I dropped to the bottom of the food chain! Or so I thought, isn’t that what you are if you can’t/don’t breastfeed? But to my surprise I got my life back and Harry was happy and healthy. Looking back it was the best decision I could and should have made.

My milk dried up and I started to really enjoy feeding my boy. He also stopped crying whenever I was near. I know I bonded with him the second he was born but now he was bonding with me. I could hold him and not force him to do anything. The freedom that came with bottlefeeding was wonderful. David did more than his fair share (I am so lucky).

Harry is now four years old and is a beautiful boy. He always smiles and loves to play. As far as I can tell he is a very normal, healthy four year old. In January 2008 he will be a brother. It has taken me 3 years to feel right about having another one. There have been lots of reasons for the delay and to be honest for the first 3 years I only wanted Harry and no more, if I look deep enough I have to admit that a large part of me did not want to face the breastfeeding problem again, but then I decided he deserved a brother or sister. It’s interesting to think back before Harry was born as I always thought I would have about 3 kids, David always wanted 2. So it was a shock for both of us when Harry arrived and I said for 3 years ’I don’t want anymore’. It took me 3 years of saying no more but feeling guilty about not having more kids (ask David he will tell you how often my mind would change), to sit down with David and discuss seriously having another one. We came up with lots of reasons not to, but realised that we both did want another, so we are. I know I will have to face the breastfeeding issue again, but this time I know that it is not the end of the world if it does not work and I will not hesitate to express breastmilk (hopefully for 2 months) then go onto formula if there is no latch. I will not put myself or the baby through physical and mental agony when we should be enjoying each other.

I hope this true story helps all others who face the bottle instead of the breast. My breasts are broken, but I am the best parent on earth, I love my son and have finally forgiven myself and look forward to meeting the new member of our family!

 

 

Katy - tongue tie

Our son was born four days before my 27th birthday. I was induced because my waters had broken but the contractions never came! My labour was very short at only 3 hours and our son arrived after three attempts with the vontouse and he finally made it out after some help with forceps and scissors … with no pain relief. Eek!

I had always planned on staying in hospital for two nights and that is what I did. During my time in hospital, breastfeeding seemed to be going ok. I was producing colostrum and baby seemed to be able to latch ok with only a little discomfort. Baby was just lovely and so perfect. His wee head was very bruised though and he looked like he had been in a battle!

We went home after 2 nights and it was clear after a few hours into our first night at home that things weren’t going very well. As first time parents though we were prepared for the first few weeks to be a nightmare, so although we were shocked we were also expecting some difficulties during our first night at home alone. I spent nearly all night trying to get baby to latch. At times I would spend up to an hour trying with no break! Baby just cried until he was exhausted and then just slept.

We called our midwife in the morning and she arrived at 12 noon. She saw straight away that our baby was jaundiced and needed to go back to hospital. This, she said, could explain some of the breastfeeding difficulty as jaundiced babies are very sleepy. So we went back to hospital for our baby to go under the lights for the next 3 nights. To make matters more complicated my breasts were engorged and like 2 big concrete mountains which were hot to the touch. We were put on a tight feeding routine by the hospital midwives and our baby needed to be fed 3 hourly.

Our feeding schedule was something like this: 6am – Start trying to breastfeed (only try for 5 minutes to latch baby) 6.30am – Top up baby with expressed milk using a syringe or sipper cup (no bottle allowed) 7am - Start expressing for the next feed 7.30am – Stop and sterilise equipment 7.30am – 9am – Rest 9am – Start as at 6am and go through it again! The most sleep time I would get was 1 and a half hours … I was exhausted. After two nights I broke down in tears and begged my husband to get a bottle for the baby. I was so exhausted and stressed out and was so overwhelmed with the routine which was just so unexpected. Gone were the ideals of walks to the park, sipping lattes in cafes and trailing the shops. I was faced with a lifetime of continuous feeding and expressing. I felt like a milk machine and had lost all sense of normal life. My husband suggested that we keep going until the Monday morning when we could see the lactation consultant. Two days away just seemed like a lifetime to me then but I agreed. The knowledge that I would meet with the lactation consultant on Monday was the only thing that got me through that weekend. My breasts were so engorged and I seemed unable to express any milk off, despite trying hot flannels, showers, massage, oils. We tried everything! I was miserable and worried about post natal depression.

By Monday, I was desperate, my breasts were burning up, I had had very little sleep and the midwives were so concerned about me that my husband was allowed to stay overnight in a room with me! The lactation consultant was our saviour. She immediately could see that the expressing machine was not set-up properly and once she made a change the milk just poured out of me. I was so relieved … my breasts started to feel soft again and I was so hopeful that our baby might finally be able to latch on. She spent about an hour with us and was the first midwife who talked me through breastfeeding instead of the standard grab and shove approach which I had been so accustomed to since our boy’s arrival. She didn’t once touch me and for the first time ever our boy latched on and I was SO excited!

By this point our baby could be taken out from under the lights but we were still on our three hourly routine. I knew our baby could latch on now but he would always fall off after seconds and if we were lucky minutes. Topping-up with a syringe or sipper cup was stressful and time consuming and the Doctors became concerned at our baby’s weight. We could see that our baby had a tongue tie and continually asked every midwife we saw about it. We were always told that it would make it more difficult but not impossible for breastfeeding. My husband was convinced that this was now the problem. Our baby was no longer jaundiced, my breasts were not engorged but a tongue that couldn’t be pushed out of his mouth was obviously causing some difficulty with latching. The tie was so bad that he had the classic w shape on the end of his tongue and it was pulled back in his mouth.

After five further days in hospital (a week in total) we were allowed home. We were used to our three hourly routine and baby had put on some weight. I was latching baby on with the help of a nipple shield – he seemed unable to do so without it. I was really pleased to go home but frightened not to have the support of the midwives. After two more weeks at home of the same exhausting routine I knew something had to give. Baby was three weeks old and there had been no improvement in breastfeeding. We were using a nipple shield and topping-up. I had heaps of milk but it just had nowhere to go!

I made an appointment to visit the Karitane Centre and saw a fantastic Nurse who was the first person to tell me that we could clip our son’s tongue tie at Hutt Hospital. I knew straight away I wanted to do it. We took him out to the hospital and the “operation” took about three seconds. Our boy didn’t even cry! We were told it may make no difference or may take days to make a difference. That night our boy fully breastfed for the first time ever and we never looked back!

It had taken us three weeks to solve a problem that could have been dealt with on the first day of his life! Many women struggle for much longer. I have since met Mothers with babies who have a tongue tie who have had poor advice or no advice! When we were babies the tongue was clipped at birth as a matter of routine but nowadays the practice is out of favour and it is certainly not encouraged. It is difficult to find people to talk to – I feel so lucky that I had good advice. I have since learned that tongue ties are hereditary and discovered from my Grannie that my Father had one which was clipped at birth (in the 50s).

Our baby is a toddler now at 13 months old and I have just stopped breastfeeding. Funnily he has refused to drink from a bottle despite me desperately trying to get him to. I was so pleased to find myself laughing about that! We have had other struggles along the way. Our boy’s first six weeks were difficult. He developed reflux at four weeks of age, was admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis at six weeks of age, and later he started to have seizures which continue today. Our initial experiences with breastfeeding put us in good stead to deal with these problems though and I look back now and know that I would do it all again (maybe in a few years time though!).

I think in some instances, new Mothers may not be given the right amount of care and advice about breastfeeding. Lactation Consultants are precious people and so worth seeing if you are struggling. The most important lesson I learned through this crazy time was to always trust your instincts. Even first time new parents know what it is right for their baby! And ask for help. Even if you have to cry, scream or collapse. People are there to help you and they will. Good luck!
 

Corrie - infection and surgery

I was 30 years old when I had my wee girl and she was our first baby.  Like the majority of new mums to be I had not given much thought to breastfeeding or how difficult it was going to be.  My problems started from day one, my wee girl had difficulties latching right from the start. 

She was getting enough milk from me and putting on weight but my nipples were so damaged and cracked that breastfeeding was not enjoyable, was extremely painful and I quickly began to dread feeding time.  I saw a lactation consultant nearly twice a week to attempt to master the technique of successfully breastfeeding.  I was able to access the lactation consultant free of charge via the Baby Café in Hawkes Bay.  They were extremely supportive and were able to offer lots of advice and support at the time.

The lactation consultant suggested that my daughter was not latching properly as her jaw was out.  I visited a number of people to attempt to correct this and purchased every cream imaginable to assist my nipples to heal. I was willing to try anything to keep breastfeeding. 
 
Cracked nipples caused all sorts of problems.  Once my daughter’s jaw corrected itself, I developed a breast infection and was given antibiotics.  The infection was apparently due to my baby not being able to drain the breast properly and favouring one breast due to her jaw and latching difficulties.
 
When my daughter was 10 weeks old I developed another breast infection in the same breast, which quickly developed into a breast ulcer.  I was admitted to a general surgical ward (with my 10 week old baby) and had surgery to remove the large ulcer.  Following the surgery I asked the consultant if I would be able to continue to feed my daughter off only one breast.  He advised that this was not possible and I would need to keep expressing off the breast to ensure that the ulcer did not reform.  I have since spoken to and read about a number of mums who have successfully fed their baby off only one breast.
 
So... my daughter then fed off my left breast and had expressed milk from a bottle.  After each feed and after settling her I expressed off my right breast.  At no time did anyone suggest that it might be better for mum and baby to consider alternatives. Feeding became a very time consuming process and dominated my entire day.  I was lucky to have a supportive Mum and husband who helped out any way they could.  At the time I did not really realize how unwell I was due to the surgery.  My husband was working full time so my daughter and I went to stay with my parents for 10 days.
 
While I was unwell, my daughter lost weight, as I was not producing enough milk.  It was then suggested by Plunket that I may need to introduce formula to "top her up".  I felt so guilty that she had lost weight but also that I was not going to be able to an "exclusive breastfeeder".  I was extremely upset and felt guilty that my daughter’s growth and development had been compromised while I had been unwell.  I received fantastic support from Plunket who then visited me once a week at home for the next 3 weeks.

So I continued with breast, expressed milk and formula until my daughter was six months old and then made the decision to increase the formula and decrease the breastfeeding.  My main concern was that I would not have the intimate moments with my daughter and that I had been so determined to breastfeed for as long as I could. I didn't want to give up feeding so continued with one or two feeds a day for as long as I could.   But in the end, breast was not best for mum or baby.
 
She is now 15 months old and is a very loving wee girl.  She and has not suffered one bit from not being an exclusively breastfed baby!!
 
 

Carol - nipple issues

Breastfeeding wasn’t best in my situation.  Before birth, I read a book on breastfeeding and went to a breastfeeding class.  When my doctor asked me how I would feed my baby I immediately responded “Breastfeeding”. It was without question what I wanted to do.  When I asked “What if I can’t though?” my doctor said I’d be fine.

 

Here’s my reality.  When I got to the hospital I was 8cm already. I wanted an epidural at that point but the anesthesiologist was not available (he was in surgery).  When I was about 9cm my baby’s heart rate began to drop. My doctor called the on-call ob/gyn to be on hand in the case of a c-section.  Shortly after that I was stripped and rushed into the operating room.  Lying naked on the table, in the cold and sterile operating room, my legs shook uncontrollably as a result of the medications, and I waited patiently for my epidural through extreme back pain.  My husband was not allowed in the room because it was an emergency situation.  I was thankful for the anesthesiologist that held my hand throughout the operation and even tried to distract me with conversation.

 

My husband was allowed in the room when my son was pulled from my body.  His cries caused tears to flow down my cheeks as I was overcome with emotions like relief that he was okay and a joy that I had never felt before.  As it turned out, the cord was wrapped around his neck twice likely leading to his drop in heart rate and the emergency c-section.

 

After being wheeled into a room I kept asking for my baby and my husband.  My baby had to be heated up since he would not warm up even in my arms.  He licked at my breast but did not latch on.  I could not feel most of my body.  I was told I should feel my upper body but I could barely feel my own fingers.  After we were into another room (still waiting for our permanent room), I expressed the desire to breastfeed him.  A lactation consultant came in and spent about 20 seconds with me.  I do not know her name but I will never forget her dismissiveness of me.  We spoon fed my son the colostrum.  Afterwards, she mumbled something about flat nipples and c-section deliveries, and walked out never to be seen again.  I believe her exact words were, “Are your nipples always this flat or is it just the medication?”

 

Later, I received much help from nurse after nurse in our room.  Eventually, and I’m sure many can relate to this, I was baring my chest for anyone who could try to help us get my son latched on.  It was truly a heart-wrenching experience as it would often take 1 to 1.5 hours of attempts with no or little success and a lot of crying.  When he latched on, he would fall asleep immediately or he didn’t seem to be sucking.  We tried everything from wiping him down with wet cloths to poking at him to try to keep him going.  We were truly exhausted as we tried this every 3 hours for the next 3 days.  Nurses that watched the latch said I seemed to be doing everything right and that he’ll catch on and turn things around.

 

We had the option to stay for 4 days due to my c-section, so we decided to stay the extra day to get as much help with breastfeeding as possible even though we wanted to be at home.  My husband had to help me with every single feeding as well as a nurse.  Nursing after a c-section with these kinds of difficulties is truly a challenge.  I had friends who had c-sections and nursed their babies easily.  But it wasn’t going well for me and I couldn’t hop out of bed and try things at any moment.  My movements were limited.  People tend to forget that I just went through major abdominal surgery.  Even my mother-in-law said first thing to me, “Isn’t it great to finally sleep on your stomach?”

 

When the lactation consultant finally came on day 3 – the day before we were leaving the hospital, and she came because my baby had lost over 10% of his birthweight.  I know it is normal for babies to lose weight but mine was not hefty to begin with, he was a 7 pounder at the start.  We were given 3 options for feeding: by cup, by tubing device, and by bottle.  The lactation consultant couldn’t get the tubing device to work, and we were having trouble latching to begin with, so how were we supposed to use that device and latch? Impossible.  We fed my son formula and he pinked up right away and started looking healthier.  We were relieved that he was no longer starving.  Now I could enjoy my baby.  When my son latched on to me, the lactation consultant said, “That doesn’t hurt does it?” I cannot describe to you the pain I was in.  I had blisters on both nipples, which were cracked and painful.  She wanted me to pump my milk for my son.  But I didn’t yet have any milk, and unbeknownst to me my milk was delayed.  I couldn’t understand how she expected any amount of colostrum to be pumped.  I rented a hospital grade pump from her.  She gave me breast shells which really did not help my situation.  At that point in my journey of new motherhood, I burst into tears.  If I could have blinked and made the lactation consultation go away, I would have.  She did not approve of my desire to pump for my baby and discontinue trying to latch on and she had no information for me.

 

At home I pumped milk for my son for 3 weeks.  I started to come to the realization that I could not keep that going forever.  The most I could pump in a session was 2 oz.  If I pumped 4 oz. total I was super excited, and my son was drinking 6 oz. so I could not keep up with him.  By the time I was done pumping, it was time to feed my son again.  It was painful and slow to go up and down the stairs to pump, wash parts, etc.  Something I might have done for longer if I wasn’t healing from major surgery.  To make it worse, I bled from my incision the day I came home.

 

I was lucky because I have 4 neighbors all of whom bottle-fed their babies.  They helped me overcome the guilt and sad feelings I had about not being able to breastfeed my son.  I know it would have been much worse for me without that support.

 

I am still upset that I was not offered nipple shields after everything I went through trying to latch my son.  I bought several and will try them with Baby  number two due next year against advice of a Lactation Consultant or my doctor if necessary.  At my doctor’s office each time I went in the question was “Are you breastfeeding?” which gets really tiring.  The simple courtesy of asking “Are you breastfeeding or bottlefeeding?” would go a long way.  It’s no wonder to me that there is so much depression after birth.  With all the difficulties I’ve had, I have had to face my own reality.  For the first time in my life I felt ashamed of my breasts because I could not do what they were meant to do and what I really wanted to do.  Now, my reality is that my breasts are unique and are a part of me that is beautiful, different and cool.  I am glad that they are what they are, and I am proud to feed my son a bottle.